KUNA — Sherm Blaser isn’t one to discount “underdogs.’’
Remember the Kuna football coach was once a member of a certain Boise State football team in a certain Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma a few years back.
And the Kuna coach wasn’t going to let his top-ranked Kavemen forget it. And it showed.
Despite Pocatello entering Friday’s 4A first-round playoff with a 5-4 mark, Blaser’s now 10-0 Kavemen were far from complacent, coming out on fire from the opening kick on their way to the convincing 56-27 victory.
“Yes, we did talk about it all week. You know when you’re undefeated and we’ve had a couple lighter games the last two weeks, it concerned us,’’ said Blaser, whose team will host Vallivue in next Friday’s quarterfinal. “We just told them, we’re 0-0. It’s a whole new season.
“And they listened. They were excited tonight and it showed.’’
Pocatello (5-5) won four of its last five this season to make playoffs as the fourth and final seed out of District IV-V, but Kuna was not going to let the Indians carry any of that momentum into the postseason.
The offense scored on its first four drives of 85, 63, 18 and 56 yards behind a balanced Kavemen offensive attack.
Kuna quarterback Sean Austin chucked the ball 26 times in the first half, connecting on 18 of those for 210 yards and two touchdowns as the Kavemen rolled to 35-7 at the break.
Blaser’s confidence in his team shown bright from the outset. Twice in the first half, the Kavemen, who came out in no-huddle from the start, faced long fourth-down distances, but the former BSU tight end didn’t blink for a second.
“I was very happy with the offense. We were very balanced run and pass and I think we play better with the hurry up,’’ Blaser said. “We play better faster. It helps us because they have to play a more vanilla defense. It makes it a lot easier for us.’’
Austin agreed with his head coach.
“This feels great. The first time we’ve done this in awhile,’’ said the junior of Kuna winning a first-round playoff game. “The whole week we did not overlook them and I think we showed up ready tonight. Those first couple drives were awesome tonight.’’
Austin finished the night hitting on 21-of-31 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns before Blaser started subbing liberally. Jonathan Edwards’ 73 yards and two touchdowns led the ground attack which rolled up 256 yards on the ground.
Blaser was equally excited about his defense which held Pocatello to 343 yards of total offense, much of those coming after the contest was decided.
“Our starting defense, I thought played very well,’’ said Blaser, whose program honored Kuna former coach Gerry Nutt, whose 1991 Kavemen captured the schools lone state championship at halftime. “I’d give us an A minus. They did very well against a good quarterback (Jadyn Downs). He’s an athlete and can escape a lot of tackles.’’
Blaser feels that defense will be key when the rematch with District III foe Vallivue returns to Kuna on Friday. Vallivue, which downed Skyline 41-0 in its first-round game Friday, fell to Kuna 34-28 in the regular season this year.
“I think that defense will be the difference, I really do,’’ Blaser said. “I’m thinking our two offenses are the top two in the state. It’s going to come down to the defenses; who can get the stops; who can get off the field; who can make a play.
“It’s going to be a good one. I know it’s going to be a good one.’’