HS football: Marsh Valley clinches 1st district title since 2011, drubs American Falls 69-0
ARIMO – What looks so different in Arimo, looks the same to Marsh Valley coach Doug Armstrong.
The Eagles have returned to who they are. Not the 2012-16 teams that sported a combined 4-36 record, but the “tough, hard-nosed, smash-mouth” Eagles of old, who clinched their first 3A District 5 title since 2011 on Friday in resounding fashion with a 69-0 home win over league foe American Falls.
“Three years ago, when I took over as head coach, it was about rebuilding Marsh Valley tradition,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been watching Marsh Valley football since I was 7 years old, and it was about putting things in order, so this team could be successful.”
The Eagles (6-2, 2-0 3A District 5) recorded their largest margin of victory of the year in their regular-season finale. Marsh Valley also had its season-high point total and its second shutout of the season.
Fifth-ranked Marsh Valley scored on 10 of 11 drives. The Eagles could do no wrong, comically squeezing in points until the very last second of the first half with 12 points in the last 35 seconds of the second quarter.
After running back Tate Barker gave Marsh Valley a 35-0 lead on a 1-yard run with about a half-minute remaining in the second quarter, his team got the ball back by recovering the ball on a kickoff. Then, the Eagles set themselves up in the middle of the field for a kick by Leon Craig, who nailed a 40-yard field goal and was carried off the field in celebratory fashion by offensive lineman Conn O’Doherty.
“Leon can make a 50-yard field goal,” Armstrong said. “Leon has as good a leg as there is in the state.”
The Eagles were unfinished as they forced a safety on a kick return at the buzzer before continuing their dominance into the second half, which they entered with a 40-0 lead.
Marsh Valley had not even scored 40 points in a game the previous six seasons. First came a stout defense in Armstrong’s second season in 2017 and now the offense has arrived. The Eagles are averaging 37 points per game – 23 more than last season.
But Armstrong just sees this as a return to Marsh Valley’s roots. The program was not dormant forever as it won a state title in 2004 and was a state semifinalist as recently as 2011. No one is thinking about what happened in between then and now amid this season’s success.
The face of the resurgence is running back Payton Campbell, who had his fourth game of more than 200 yards rushing with 243 on 17 carries. He scored four touchdowns, including an 85-yard run in the third quarter.
Campbell, who has 1,428 yards rushing this season, thanked his offensive line, who was making it to the second level in the run game.
“Our O-line was probably in the weight room every day this summer,” Campbell said. “People think that I do everything, but I don’t. The line does all of it. And I love giving credit to all of those guys.”
The offense was helped by a defense highlighted by Barker, who American Falls coach Cory Hollingsworth highlighted. The junior linebacker helped lead a run-stuffing outfit that allowed 74 yards on 40 carries and 79 total yards. The Eagles’ defense also stopped four fourth-down attempts, including on the first two drives of the game inside American Falls territory.
“That’s what we do,” said Hollingsworth, whose team finished second in 3A District 5. “If it’s within a couple yards, we go for it. If we’re going to win, our offense has got to get a couple yards on fourth down.”
Marsh Valley looks to extend its four-game winning streak in a rematch against District 6 champion Sugar-Salem in the 3A state quarterfinals after a bye next week. American Falls faces Gooding in the first round next week.