By Don Dopf.    Photos from: Tri-Valley Titan Cheer Facebook Page

A near “perfect storm” descended on the field at Salmon River High School in Riggins Friday night and it had little to do with the driving rain storm that miraculously ended a few minutes before kickoff between the Titans and the Savages.

The stage was set. Tied for first place in 1A, Division II eight-man, Salmon River and Tri-Valley were about to butt heads in a key Long Pin matchup. Both teams were undefeated, Tri-Valley overall, and Salmon River in league play only.

Playing in the river canyon is always a somewhat ominous affair. Salmon River has several state championships under their belt and they’ve pumped out some pretty impressive teams over the past few years. They’ve been a stumbling block for Tri-Valley, and playing in their house on this cold, rainy evening would be a challenge. Tri-Valley fans turned out in huge numbers expressing their faith that the Titans could, and would, pull off the win.

The Titans set the tone early. Salmon River took the opening kickoff and quickly went three and out following a couple of monster sacks by Parker Cornwell. Just moments later on the Titan’s first possession on a 3rd down and three, Tri-Valley’s O-line opened a gaping hole and Jayden Mink took the snap over center and scrambled 43 yards to paydirt. Teddy Ertel swept the left side for the PAT and the Titans were up 8-0.

Both teams failed to score on two possessions each in the second quarter and this match looked like it was going down as a major defensive struggle. Time after time SR’s Canyon Harper tried penetrating that stubborn Titan defense, and time after time he was frustrated. Harper also played a key role in the Savage defense from his position as Safety.

Near the ten-minute mark of the third period on the Titan’s first possession, Teddy Ertel set up his own scoring plunge with a nice 45-yard run to the Savage two-yard line. The conversion failed, but the Titan’s were up 14-0 and looked hungry for more.

Salmon River’s ensuing possession came to an abrupt end at 9:17 when Chip Mitchell drew some more blood on a 60-yard pick-six, followed up by Teddy Ertel’s extra-point conversion. The Titans were getting some hard-earned breathing room at this point, now up 22-0. 

At the seven-minute mark in the third quarter, Jayden Mink tossed a beautifully thrown aerial to Chip Mitchell as he sprinted down the Savage sideline to the end zone. Then following a motion penalty on the extra-point conversion, Mink passed a seven-yarder to Orion Southwick and the Titans were rolling, now up 30-0.

The Savages were threatening with about three minutes left in the quarter. Deep in Titan territory on a 4th down and about four yards, D-lineman DJ Jordan stuffed the SR quarterback for a sack and that threat ended quickly. The 22-point third quarter ended with the Titans firmly in the driver’s seat.

Salmon River tried some gadget plays in the second half, but the Titan coaching staff had those pretty well planned for. One such play spread their line to both sides of the field on a center-eligible play on a third and long. Sure enough, the QB dropped back and lobbed a pass over the middle to his center. The play did indeed get SR the first down, but it came hard-earned when Chip Mitchell rocked the recipient’s world with a head-on blast that stopped him cold in his tracks. The receiver’s helmet flew off and this was one of those plays where instant replay with go viral.

Following an Orion Southwick interception at the ten-minute mark in the final, Collin Kindall plowed through the line from two-yards out and the Titans went up 36-0. At this point, a shut-out was becoming a strong possibility with only eight minutes remaining.

With 6:43 showing, Jayden Mink connected with Chip Mitchell on a beautiful 40-yard pass play that Chip took to the two-yard line where Collin Kindall put the final nail in the Savage coffin with another run over the middle. The Titans were up 42-0.

Now I mentioned earlier that this was a “near” perfect storm. The first-string Titan defense had yet to be scored on this season and Tri-Valley was right on the edge of protecting that distinction. With 2:20 left in the game and the sweet fragrance of a shut-out wafting through the air, the Titan’s gifted the out-of-gas Savages with a five-yard offside penalty on a 4th down and four midfield. On the ensuing first-down play, Canyon Harper found a receiver open and passed for a SR lone touchdown with the extra points. Final score: TITANS 42—SAVAGES 8.

Coach Johnson said, "This was a great win against a quality opponent in an atmosphere that had all the emotion of a playoff game.  I was very pleased the way our team performed, especially in the second half." 

This Titan defense has been nothing short of amazing this season and oftentimes the stats just don’t reflect the hard work being done in the trenches. It’s important to note and remember that the D-line is in on EVERY play and these guys get a workout like no other. The Salmon River game had so many stars on defense that it’s hard to highlight them all. The Savages were held to just 58 yards of offense in this game.

Orion Southwick took honors on defense with nine tackles, four for losses, and an interception with an eight-yard return. Teddy Ertel had an equally good effort with nine tackles, a pass tip, and an interception with a 40-yard return. Logan Reyna chipped in with eight tackles and a key fumble recovery while Chip Mitchell had eight tackles, a pass tip, and an interception return for a touchdown. Cody Nixon had six tackles with three for losses while Parker Cornwell, Collin Kindall, and DJ Jordan had five tackles each.

Other linemen, more often than not the unsung heroes, who have been playing inspired football are Isaac Besel, Jay Langer, Joseph Rodgers, Brock Johnson, and Hunter Clinton. Their contributions have been nothing short of phenomenal all season and their work on both sides of the ball is not going unnoticed. 

On offense, Teddy Ertel led the ground game with 107 yards rushing and a touchdown and two extra-point conversions, backed by Collin Kindall’s two touchdowns and 31 yards, and Jayden Mink’s 41 yards rushing and a touchdown.

Jayden Mink connected on five of thirteen pass attempts for 103 yards to receivers Chip Mitchell for 79, Parker Cornwell for 16, and Orion Southwick for eight, including an extra-point conversion.

Next up for the Titans is Cascade, scheduled to play in Cambridge next Friday night at 7:00. Currently there is some talk that the Ramblers won’t be fielding a team for this one. Stand by on that one.