MOSCOW, Idaho — Even with a loss Saturday, Vanden High football coach LeVon Haynes said he’d do it all again.
As it was, the Vikings fell 35-34 to Highland of Pocatello, Idaho, Saturday at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho, in the second game of the Idaho Classic.
In a game that went back and forth throughout, Vanden (2-1) held its own against a team that plays much of its schedule against out-of-state teams.
“It was very narrow,” Haynes said.
In fact, the Vikings rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit to take a lead into the fourth quarter.
An ill-timed interception took the momentum away from Vanden and set up Highland’s final touchdown.
“They scored and went for two and they got it,” Haynes said. “We put together a great drive with some great running by O’Shea Bryant. We scored, but (on the extra point) the snap was bobbled and and we were trying to scramble around; and we just came up short.
“But to play a team with the history like these guys have, and lose by just one, that says a lot about our kids and their character,” said Haynes. “It was a great experience for them. We had people watching from all over the world. It’s an experience that some of the kids will never have (otherwise). I have kids on my team who had never flown on an airplane in their lives. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Vanden actually drew first blood, when J.J. Hong hauled in a 44-yard pass from Ben Scott less than 3 minutes into the game.
Highland tied it with 39 seconds left in the first quarter, before Vanden went ahead again on a 1-yard rumble by Bryant early in the second quarter.
Two unanswered touchdowns by the hosts left Vanden down 21-14 at the break.
The Vikings went back to work in the third, holding the Rams scoreless, while taking a 28-21 lead into the fourth on scores by Christan Basden and Cody Holbein — both on 3-yard passes from Ben Scott.
A pair of Rams TDs to open the fourth put the Vikings down 35-28, but Holbein got his team within one when Scott found him for a 17-yard scoring pass, setting up the ill-fated conversion attempt.
“Our run game was better this week than in the past couple weeks,” said Haynes. “We ran the ball very well today. It’s a positive for our kids. If I take one thing out of it, that would be it. As long as we get better at doing that each week.”
As far as the facilities at the Kibbie Dome, the University of Idaho’s home field, Haynes said he was impressed.
“This is a wonderful field,” he said. “From the outside it doesn’t look that big. But you get inside, and they have the whole football facilities, and the track. It’s just unreal.”
The Vikings got to practice inside the dome for about an hour Friday, Haynes said, which helped the players adjust to the lighting and to catching the ball against the roof, rather than the open sky at George A. Gammon Field.
“It was a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything else,” said Haynes. “I’d definitely do it again. It’s a different part of country I probably never would have found myself in otherwise.”
Haynes said the hospitality of the host team and the University was “fantastic.”
“It really felt like home,” he said.
Two other Northern California teams are participating in the four-game Idaho Classic: Rio Linda and Whitney of Rocklin.