Sugar-Salem's Sam Parkinson runs past several Snake River defenders in the Diggers semifinal win over Snake River.

Sugar-Salem’s Sam Parkinson runs past several Snake River defenders in the Diggers semifinal win over Snake River.

Despite playing in the semifinal game Saturday, Sugar continues to roll. On Saturday, the Diggers crushed Snake River 52-14 to earn a spot in the state title game for the second year in a row.

Sugar started the game with good field position when they stopped Snake River on fourth down to take over on the 29-yard line. Three plays and 29 yards later, running back Sam Parkinson scored on a four yard run.

The Diggers stopped Snake on another fourth down conversion to get their second possession.

“They had two fourth downs,” said Sugar-Salem head coach Tyler Richins. “Fourth and like one, fourth and real short that they weren’t able to convert on and our defense just said we’re not going to let you push us around. Getting those fourth and ones, getting those turnover on downs were really huge. I think defense really set the tone for us that way.”

Sugar scored again minutes later this time on a three-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tanner Harris capping an 8-play-41-yard drive. Harris ran it in again early in the second quarter this time from 11 yards out capping a 51-yard-7-play drive.

Snake River scored their first touchdown after a 73-yard-10-play drive to cut the Diggers’ lead to two scores. Then Crew Clark hit 25-yard and 20-yard field goals to give Sugar a 27-6 lead going into halftime.

“I think going into halftime, we felt pretty good about where we were at,” Richins said. “Snake River the last few games it seems like they were pretty content with big, long drive trying not to make mistakes. I think our defense kind of set the tone for us and kind of knew with the way we were playing on D we’d be able to keep the scores more low.”

Early in the second half, Sugar’s defense came up big again when Ryley Thurber intercepted a Cole Gilbert pass. Nine plays later, Crew Clark hit a 27-yard field goal to extend the Diggers’s lead to 24.

Harris rushed it in again from a yard out, passed to Schulties for a gain of 10 and a touchdown then Sam Parkinson ran one in from ten yards out in the fourth quarter. Snake scored in garbage time but it was too little too late.

Sugar played a balanced passing and running game with Tanner Harris going 15/36 behind center for 156. Crew Clark caught five passes for 44 yards, McKay Schulties caught four passes for 35 yards, Keayan Nead caught three passes for 37 yards and Hadley Miller caught a pass for 24 yards.

Parkinson ran the ball 14 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns, Miller tan the ball six times for 80 yards, Harris ran the ball 12 times for 48 yards and three touchdowns and Browning Bennion ran the ball six times for 28 yards.

“I think we want to spread the ball out and balance it that way,” Richins said. “We just tried to keep things going inside and outside. Just trying to keep getting the ball to different kids, throw the ball a little bit, run the ball a little bit just to try and keep them off balance. I thought we ran the ball well tonight. I thought we threw the ball tonight pretty well tonight too. All in all, it’s good to see us be pretty versatile that way.”

Sugar is going back to the title game after winning it last year. Richins gives much of the credit to his players.

“They’re just awesome competitors,” Richins said. “Just their ability to compete week in and week out, continue to work and grind. There’s not a lot of kids still playing football at the end of November and for us to be able to keep playing football and be able to stay motivated is really big for us and our program.”

The Diggers will play Homedale at Holt Arena after beating them 30-22 in the title game last year.

“Our kids are excited for the opportunity to play Homedale again,” Richins said. “We wouldn’t have it any other way. I think people consider it to be between us and them for the top team in the state and that’s how we want it to go down. We want to play the best. We’re excited for the opportunity.”

Homedale and Sugar are like mirror images of one another.

“They’re a lot like us,” Richins said. “They’re very athletic and they’re big up front and physical. It’s one of those situations where you just say, ‘look in the mirror.’ They have really good kids and good athletes. They have a stingy defense. They don’t give up a lot of points. They have a quarterback who’s back from last year. The Uranga kid. He does a great job. And they have a good group of kids back. A lot like us, they lost a good group of kids but they also had group coming in from behind. Like to run a little bit of tempo. So, they’ll run some no-huddle type stuff. But, that’s okay we’ve seen it before. We saw it against Gooding and other teams that we’ve played. We’ll be ready for it. We’re excited we know it’s going to be a physical game and probably be a tight one.”