MIDDLETON — As his assistant coaches addressed the team Friday night, Middleton football coach Bill Brock snuck behind the huddle, and one by one he started congratulating his players.
It may have been fitting that Brock wasted no time to begin heaping praise on his players, as there was plenty to go around in Middleton’s 42-27 win over Bishop Kelly.
The Vikings rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half, scoring 29 consecutive points to take sole possession of first place in the 4A Southern Idaho Conference.
“A lot of situations, that might not have turned out the way it did,” said Brock. “But our kids kept believing and kept playing. So I’m very proud of them and happy for them.”
Middleton (5-0, 4-0 4A SIC) entered the game ranked as the No. 3 team is the latest state media poll. But with the Vikings’ dominant performance in the second half over the No. 2 Knights (4-1, 4-1), they figure to rise this week.
“Our haltime talk, coach really put it into us to believe in each other and play together,” said quarterback Dallas Hagler, who had three touchdown passes on the night. “That’s exactly what we did and we made a great comeback. Everything just fell into place play after play.”
For a while, though, it was not the Vikings’ night. Middleton trailed 19-7 following a 4-yard touchdown run by Bishop Kelly’s Anthony Rizzo midway through the third quarter, without an offensive touchdown on the board.
The Vikings’ lone touchdown in the first half came on a Carson Smith kickoff return, where he spun out of a hoard of Bishop Kelly defenders to break free for the score.
But despite their early offensive struggles, Middleton remained undaunted, picking up points on each of its final six offensive possessions to not only comeback, but put an exclamation point on the win.
“With the first half not looking too good, we had to absolutely step it up in the second half,” said Smith, who had two touchdown receptions from Hagler to go along with his kickoff return. “Even in the locker room, the coaches said the offense was going to work and we made adjustments.”
Things continued to look grim for the Middleton following Rizzo’s touchdown, as the Knights caught the Vikings off guard on the ensuing kickoff. Kicker Jackson Stingley squibed the kickoff, and the ball bounced off a Middleton player in the second row of the kick return team and the Knights recovered at the Vikings 37-yard line.
But the Vikings’ defense didn’t allow the Knights to pick up a first down and got the ball back on another fourth down stop.
From that point on, it was all Vikings.
“We were fortunate to come out on top, but there was still a lot of game left when that was going on,” said Brock. “We looked up there (at the clock) and told the kids there’s a lot of game left. Obviously we can score in bunches and we’re blessed to have some kids that can get that done.”
Middleton marched down the field and scored on a pass from Hagler to Miki Ah You, cutting the lead to 5.
Ah You picked off a Bishop Kelly pass at the Viking 49. Two plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Hagler connected with Smith up the middle for a 41-yard touchdown, giving Middleton its first lead of the game.
On Vikings’ next drive, Hagler and Smith once again connected for a touchdown pass, as Smith broke free down the Bishop Kelly sideline, beating his defender to extend the lead.
After a Bishop Kelly punt, the Knights were able to keep the Vikings out of the endzone, but Middleton was still able to put up points thanks to the leg of Neal Weber, who booted a 37-yard field goal with 7:22 remaining to give the Vikings a 30-19 lead.
Bishop Kelly fumbled its next possession and Nikk Almaraz had the recovery for the Vikings. Two plays later running back Jake Tackett broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run.
Bishop Kelly was able to end Middleton’s run with a touchdown pass from Beau Nelson to Dan Marlow with 2:22 left, but Middleton was able to recover the onside kick and Tackett added another touchdown run to put the finishing touches on the comeback victory.
“It gives us a lot of confidence, but we know we got to keep getting in there and putting in work,” said Hagler. “We got a good team next week, and we’re just focusing on that game.”
Middleton is back at home next week for a game against Ridgevue, while Bishop Kelly hosts Caldwell.