MERIDIAN — A clash of 5A football powerhouses delivered an instant classic Friday night at Rocky Mountain High.
But for the hosts, the thriller ended in heartbreak. Rocky Mountain lost a late fumble at Rigby’s 9-yard line, and the Trojans then converted a clutch third-down pass play to seal a 34-27 win.
Senior receiver Brady Packer was the hero for Rigby, reeling in seven catches for 152 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with 3:40 remaining and the clinching first-down conversion.
“We weren’t surprised they threw it — they have a really good quarterback, they’re well-coached, and they trust him,” Rocky Mountain coach Chris Culig said. “They executed it.”
Rigby (10-2) advances to play Meridian next weekend in the 5A state title game at Albertsons Stadium.
Rocky Mountain (10-2) got big production from senior running back Art Williams (19 carries, 130 yards, two TDs) and senior quarterback Tegan Sweany (17 for 25, 277 yards, two TDs), but the Grizzlies were stung by three lost fumbles and 110 yards in penalties.
“It comes down to turnovers,” Culig said. “We battled hard, but when you play a really good team like Rigby, you’ve got to make fewer mistakes than they do.”
These two teams have won the last four 5A football titles (Rigby in 2019 and 2021, Rocky Mountain in 2018 and 2020), and the heavyweight bout lived up to its billing.
Rocky Mountain started with a bang, hitting two big plays to move to Rigby’s 10-yard line in the opening seconds. But Zxaeb Falevi forced and recovered a fumble on the second big gain to thwart the scoring chance. The Trojans capitalized two possessions later, driving for a 2-yard TD run by Sam Gamino and a 7-0 lead.
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The Grizzlies’ offense found some juice in the second quarter. An impressive drive capped by a 17-yard strike from Sweany to Jaryn Ikebe tied the game, 7-7. Rocky Mountain forced a fumble on the ensuing Rigby possession, with Ty Page recovering. The Grizzlies quickly cashed in, with Williams rumbling in from the 1-yard line for a 14-7 lead.
Rigby responded just before the half, driving the field in less than three minutes for a 3-yard TD run by Lucas Mikkola (15 carries, 88 yards). The extra point sailed wide and Rocky Mountain took a 14-13 lead into halftime.
The second half brought fireworks aplenty, as Rocky Mountain opened by recovering a surprise onside kick and racing down the field in three plays, capped by Williams’ 6-yard run for a 20-13 lead.
Rigby quickly answered with a 1-yard run from junior quarterback Luke Flowers to tie the game, but the Grizzlies once again roared downfield, capping another quick drive with a 7-yard pass from Sweany to Luke Luchini to take a 27-20 lead into the final quarter.
Rigby tied the game on another 1-yard run by Flowers in the fourth, and the Trojans' defense stepped up with a key stop, turning Rocky Mountain over on downs at the Rigby 39. Flowers then marched the Trojans to the go-ahead score, hitting Packer in the front right corner of the end zone from 6 yards out.
Rocky Mountain’s final drive was a rollercoaster ride. Sweany converted on fourth-and-six, then hit Luchini on a 40-yard bomb. A Rigby interception in the end zone was erased by penalty, but on the next play, the ball popped out as Sweany fought for extra yardage at the 9.
“I love playing in close games like this against the best players,” Williams said. “It’s really all you can ask for; we just came up a little short.”
After two run plays went nowhere, Flowers (24-for-32, 326 yards) rolled to his right and fired a perfect, game-sealing strike to Packer for 19 yards.
“We feel like we have the best quarterback in the state,” Rigby coach Armando Gonzalez said. “We believe in him, and there was no doubt we were going to throw it there. We didn’t want to play it safe — we wanted to go for the win.”