A halftime lead wasn’t enough for Preston to hold on at home and earn its first district win as Pocatello scored 26 points in the second half to secure a 29-12 victory on Friday night.
Preston held a small lead of 6-3 by halftime, but despite the lead being small, Preston was the team in charge. Preston’s defense was able to stop Pocatello from getting in the end zone twice in the first quarter, even when the visitors were knocking on the door deep in the red zone.
The first stop led to a missed 34-yard field goal, with the second attempt going through the uprights from 24 yards out. Pocatello was able to move in small chunks through the middle of the field, but found yards hard to get in the red zone through the first two quarters.
The second quarter featured one of Preston’s best drives of the game, including a 16-yard pass on fourth down to earn a first-and-goal opportunity. A couple of plays later, quarterback Brecker Knapp rolled out to the right looking for a receiver, but with no one open, he instead was able to sneak in himself for a 2-yard rushing touchdown and Preston’s first score.
For the most part, Pocatello still hadn’t found a groove on offense, especially in the passing game. However, something clicked in the third quarter and that turnaround helped the visitors have an explosive second half. Pocatello quarterback Zach Park kicked off the third quarter scoring with a 1-yard run to put his team up 9-6, but just a few plays later, the visitors struck again. This time, Park connected for the longest play of the game for either side, a 61-yard passing touchdown to a wide open Casey Bruner.
Preston (2-5, 0-2) went driving after that and made it deep into Pocatello (6-1, 1-0) territory, in large part thanks to a 30-yard pass from Knapp to Hunter Wright. However, the drive was cut short by Knapp’s second interception of the game, this one a tipped ball that ended up in the hands of Hunter Killian. At the start of the fourth quarter, Pocatello possessed a 16-6 lead and was on its way to score again.
A third-and-14 situation for Pocatello on the 34-yard line was the genesis of the team’s third touchdown of the game. It was good coverage in the end zone by Preston, the pass from Park was a jump ball in the corner of the end zone and the Preston corner had good position on Pocatello receiver Krue Hales. Nevertheless, Hales made a terrific catch and pulled the ball in for a 34-yard touchdown catch and Pocatello was up 22-6.
The Indians responded with a touchdown drive of its own, capped off by a 22-yard pass from Knapp to receiver Cole Harris with 5:28 left in the game.
Preston needed a stop or a bit of luck to keep the game alive, but weren’t able to get it. A late fumble turned the ball over to Pocatello in good field position and Park capped off the victory with a 4-yard scoring run with just 53 seconds left in the game.
Park struggled in the first half, but ended the game with 273 yards passing and a hand in all four touchdowns for his team.
Preston will host Snake River next Friday in its regular season finale.