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Tonight's for the title

by MARK NELKE
Sports Editor | November 19, 2010 8:00 PM

The top-ranked Coeur d'Alene Vikings were understandably excited after upending the second-ranked Capital Eagles last week in the semifinals of the state 5A high school football playoffs, but Vikings coach Shawn Amos knew one thing was missing.

"A lot of people were talking like the semifinal was the final, but we didn't get a trophy after the game," Amos said.

A trophy will indeed be awarded tonight, when Coeur d'Alene (10-1) faces fourth-ranked Centennial (9-2) at 7 p.m. at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow in the state championship game.

"It's not like Centennial's going to be sneaking up on anybody," Amos said. "People have said down South, they are playing the best football out of the South."

Coeur d'Alene has won eight straight games, and is trying to win its first state title since 1985, and third overall. The Vikings last played in the title game in 2004.

"They have very, very skilled athletes." said Centennial coach Lee Neumann, in his 21st season as Patriots coach. "I haven't seen as fine a group of wide receivers and defensive backs in some time."

“They have a nice passing game, and their running back is tremendous,” Neumann added.

Centennial has won nine of its last 10, including five in a row. The Patriots have won four state titles, three under Neumann, since opening in 1987, and are playing in their seventh state title game — but first since ’03.

While the Vikings can run and throw equally well, Centennial would prefer to run the ball, with quarterback Trent Godsey, tailback Mike Kirby and fullback Garrett Garner.

Kirby has rushed for 1,799 yards and 30 touchdowns. Godsey has rushed for 654 yards and seven TDs, Garner for 593 yards and four TDs

Godsey has passed for 1,262 yards and 13 touchdowns, with eight interceptions.

“They have a giant offensive line, and they just pound it at you,” Amos said. “On defense, they send a lot of heat, and they have a lot of different ways of doing it.”

If that’s the case, their defensive philosophy sounds a lot like Coeur d’Alene’s. And the Vikings have held their own against more physical offensive lines.

“Our defense, we’ve seen it all,” Amos said. “Our defense has certainly answered the bell every time; they’ve found a way to succeed.”

The Vikings are led defensively by Jake Cheesman (87 tackles), Jake Matheson (nine interceptions) and Deon Watson (6.5 sacks).

“They’re not big, but they put pressure on you because they blitz so much,” Neumann said. “We have to pick them up, even in the run game.”

Offensively, junior quarterback Chad Chalich has passed for 2,654 yards and 30 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions. Drew Turbin has 60 receptions for 709 yards and four touchdowns, and Matheson has 48 catches for 864 yards and seven TDs.

Running back Zach Keiser, cleared to play earlier this week after having his bell rung vs. Capital, has rushed for 1,144 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“We try to match up (defensively) with what they do best,” Neumann said. “But with Coeur d’Alene, they can do both, so we have to be balanced.”

Amos recalled that Centennial “beat us up” last year in a 41-13 Patriots victory in Boise, but Neumann said the Vikings are “very different” this year.

As for common opponents this year, Centennial beat Vallivue 42-12 and split with Rocky Mountain, losing 16-13 during the season and winning 35-33 at home last week in the semifinals.

Coeur d’Alene beat Rocky Mountain 34-22 at home and won 37-20 at Vallivue.

And last week’s semifinal at Bronco Stadium in Boise was just the latest in a series of tight games the Vikings have played in this season.

“It helps us that we have seen pretty much everything (this season),” Amos said. “We will be prepared, and our kids will show up to play.”

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