East Idaho All-Star game provides one last shot

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  • Trojans' Austin Good and Braden Youngstrom celebrate a touchdown as Rigby takes on Hillcrest at Thunder Stadium, Friday, October 06, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

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    Grizzlies' Head Coach Scott Berger yells at players as Skyline High School takes on Minico High School during the 4A Idaho state championships at Holt Arena on Friday, November 17, 2017. The Grizzlies defeated the Spartans 40-14. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

  • Trojans' Austin Good and Braden Youngstrom celebrate a touchdown as Rigby takes on Hillcrest at Thunder Stadium, Friday, October 06, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

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    Grizzlies' Head Coach Scott Berger yells at players as Skyline High School takes on Minico High School during the 4A Idaho state championships at Holt Arena on Friday, November 17, 2017. The Grizzlies defeated the Spartans 40-14. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Salmon’s Robel Clifton had to drive two and half hours Thursday to practice at Skyline High School. Teton’s Chad LaRose drove about an hour from Driggs just to go head-to-head against Idaho Falls’ Todd Payne during defensive line drills.

A culmination of players across District 6 — from Salmon to Rigby to Ammon — traveled to Skyline Thursday to prepare for this year’s east Idaho All-Star football game. The light practice saw a diverse selection of players overcome personal grudges, and cobwebs, from last fall to play one more high school football game.

The All-Star game is Saturday at Snake River High School. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

“I feel like competition really breeds athleticism and better playing,” said LaRose, who will play defensive end for Rocky Mountain. “So I guess I’m just really grateful to be here … There’s definitely a lot more skill. It’s definitely tough, but I’m liking it.”

“I was a little skeptical about it at first, I wasn’t sure if I was gonna like everybody because we’ve been rivals for a while, but we got here and a lot of the kids are cool,” Rigby safety Bradley Hahn added. “It’s a lot of ‘remember when I hit you at that game,’ and everybody’s like, ‘Yeah,’ and it just kind of goes from there. Everybody’s cool after that.”

With participation fluctuating throughout the years — Madison won’t participate due to graduation, Highland has declined to participate, fans won’t see players from schools North Fremont or Bonneville this year — this year’s squads will be more balanced, at least in theory.

A year after Blackfoot joined the District 5 team (now just the “South” team), Shelley and Firth will also play against District 6 (now the “North” team). A year after winning 41-8, this year’s All-Star game may see a closer outcome than usual.

Mostly a lopsided game in favor of District 6, the North’s coaching staff said the game may be closer than year’s past.

“There’s a certain expectation,” said Scott Berger, who’s now coached the District 6 team for four springs. “And we plan on keeping it going. We have some real talented kids.”

Some of the region’s best players like Tommy Togiai (who’s at Ohio State), Highland’s Garrett Crane, Shelley’s Mason Price, Skyline’s Daniel Helsley and Rigby’s Braden Youngstrom won’t play.

Despite some of east Idaho’s best not in attendance, Berger still believes this year’s squad is still one of the best he’s coached.

“Look at the Clayton (Tanner Clayton) kid! Look at the Teton (LaRose) kid!” Berger said jubilantly Thursday, as players were warming up. “Todd Payne! He can play on my team any day of the week … talent wise, last year’s team was pretty special, but every year you get some dang good kids.”

Regardless of who shows up Saturday in Moreland, east Idaho will get one more football game before the summer begins.

“It’s been a while,” South Fremont’s Daniel Coverly said allowed after a three-player collision.

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