REXBURG, Idaho — With about 12:36 left in the first half, Ricks College tight end Jonathan Harline snagged a pass on the run and was not pulled down until he was inside the 20-yard line. Moments later, wide receiver Chris Nash hauled in the ball in the end zone.
Ricks College, 7; Eastern Arizona College, 0.
Except for a few tight moments, Ricks College controlled the momentum of what was its final homecoming game of its storied football history, which has included 12 top-10 NJCAA finishes since 1982 under Coach Ron Haun.
And with the Sept. 22 homecoming victory of 35-14, Ricks College moves to 4-0 and No. 5 in junior college gridwire rankings. They are also the reigning academic junior college national champions.
Although Ricks College is now officially BYU-Idaho, the school's intercollegiate teams are preserving the name — Ricks College Vikings — for one final year. After the 2001-2002 school year, intercollegiate athletics will be phased out of BYU-Idaho and replaced with an activities program. (Please see adjacent article.)
It seemed a bittersweet moment as the final seconds of the game ticked away on this sunny first day of autumn in Rexburg. Players and coaches congratulated their opponents, then solemnly knelt in the center of the field, many clutching hands. Many of the crowd of over 7,000 hung around the field, talking to players — many of them parents of players.
"This has been a hard week for us," said Coach Haun after the game. "Every time you walk off the field, you know it's one less time you're going to be on it."
This season being the last for Ricks College football has become the team's rallying cry, Coach Haun said. "It's a great bunch of young men to run a program for. It's really a privilege."
One player's mother, Joanie Sittler, whose son, Ryan, is a junior on the team, said sending her children to this school — by whatever name — is a privilege. Although it is "kind of sad" to see the football program end, she said, "I do believe it's inspired. This is heartbreaking for a lot of people seeing Ricks sports come to an end, so you know there's got to be something good coming up."