The rain softened the field at Huskie Stadium Friday night but it was a Vallivue defense that provided the biggest challenge to the Emmett football team in its final regular season game. Despite outgaining the visiting Falcons’ offense nearly 2 to 1, three big fourth down stops cost the Huskies an undefeated SIC season in an 8-7 loss.
The loss also softened the position the Huskies hold heading into the start of the 4A State Championship playoffs. When final rankings from Max Preps were posted this weekend Emmett had slipped to the number-four seeding in the playoffs and found itself pitted against conference rival Nampa in the first round. Emmett will host the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. this Friday at Huskie Stadium.
Coach Rich Hargitt told his 7-2 Huskies, the repeat SIC 4A Champions, that he personally took the responsibility for the close loss to Vallivue. “This one is one me,” Hargitt told his team in the end-zone post-game talk. “I apologize to you seniors for losing you your senior night game.”
Hargitt was referencing his decision to forego a potential game winning field goal on two occasions in the fourth quarter and getting stopped on fourth-down both times.
Emmett appeared to be well on its way to completing the conference sweep early on as it drove the field with its opening possession but turned it over on downs at the Vallivue 32. A quick Falcon possession and punt pinned the Huskies to their own 14-yard line but quarterback Caden Young broke free for an 83-yard run and score. Emmett appeared in control.
After another short Falcon possession Emmett ran fourteen plays and ate up 8 minutes on the clock but were eventually forced to punt and neither team could break the end-zone barrier the rest of the half.
Vallivue took the second-half kickoff and strung multiple first downs together for the first time in the game before turning it over on downs at the Emmett 41. That’s when it appeared the Huskies would put it away. They drove the field in just six plays, reaching first and goal at the ten. Consecutive penalties, however, pushed them back to the Vallivue 30-yard line. Three plays got them back to the Falcon three. Hargitt opted not to attempt the field goal which could have stretched the lead to 10-0 and Young was stopped at the one on fourth down.
Vallivue quarterback Santiago Diaz got his team some breathing room connecting on a 29-yard completion from his own endzone and six plays later he raced up the middle from 38-yards out to score. Diaz then punched in the two-point conversion. The Falcons gained over half of their offensive yardage on the night with three plays in that drive.
With ten minutes remaining on the game clock, Emmett still had time to counter. Utilizing a ground focused attack, the Huskies drove from their own 29 with 17 plays, taking over eight minutes off the clock. Facing a fourth and four at the Vallivue 14, Hargitt considering the slick field surface, again chose not to go for the field goal. Young was stopped a yard shy of the first down and Vallivue was able to run out the clock for the win.
Emmett ended the night with over 350 yards of offense. Young ran for 218 yards on 26 carries and Ry Fullerton added another 79 yards on the ground. The Huskies only completed 4 of 9 pass attempts on a wet and breezy night for 40 yards.
An Emmett win may have lifted the Huskies to a third seed in the playoffs but the complicated and mostly unknown formula used by Max Preps for purposes of seeding may not have been any different.
Sandpoint leap-frogged Pocatello to the top seed so should the Huskies win two rounds of home games they could face a long road trip to north Idaho for a semi-final matchup with the Bulldogs.
Hargitt is more concerned with another kennel of Bulldogs – Nampa.
“They are playing as well as anyone in the conference right now,” Hargitt said. “We may be the higher seed but considering how each of us is executing on offense right now I would say we are the underdogs at home.”
Nampa lost to Emmett 40-30 on Sept. 24 but have won four straight since, scoring 39, 55, 52 and 69 points respectively. The Bulldogs stung Emmett for two second-half pass plays of over 50 yards in the Huskie win at Bulldog Bowl.
Ball control and scoring when in the red zone will have to be at the top of the Huskies game plan if they want to slow down the Nampa offense and advance to the second round. Should they get past Nampa the Huskies would host either Blackfoot or Middleton in the second round with top-seed Sandpoint likely awaiting that winner.