Emmett had a mark on its calendar for a road trip to Nampa last week. It was made a year ago shortly after the Bulldogs came to Emmett and got out of town with a 41-40 win – the only blemish on the Huskies Southern Idaho Conference title run.
In the balmy autumn breezes at Bulldog Bowl Friday night too many of those memories kept popping up. But this time it was Emmett that held on, stopping a late two-point conversion to escape with a 40-30 win.
It keeps the Huskies at the top of the league standings, tied with Middleton at 3-0. With winless Caldwell coming to Emmett this week for Homecoming perhaps the biggest challenge for coach Rich Hargitt is going to be keeping focused on the Cougars with the Vikings next on the horizon.
“We are going to have to keep our minds clear and our eyes on the goals,” Hargitt said Friday night to his team after an intense see-saw battle with Nampa. “We have to be in the playoff mentality now – or we won’t get where we want to be in five weeks.”
Emmett entered the game with Nampa, ranked number-one in the State 4A Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs didn’t appear impressed early on.
Taking the opening kickoff, Nampa drove 69 yards in ten plays, scoring on an 18-yard scamper by quarterback Gabe Navarro for a 7-0 lead. The Huskies countered, however, going 58 yards with 12 plays, the final one an 18-yard pass and run connection between Caden Young and Caseyn Pearson.
With kicker Jorge Rivera missing the game due to an illness, Emmett had its PAT blocked, and Nampa responded immediately. A mix of pass and run took the Bulldogs 80 yards and they cashed in when the Huskies defense stiffened and Nampa settled for a 32-yard field goal.
While the defense was struggling with Nampa’s offensive quickness, the Emmett offense just shifted into low drive gear. An 80-yard drive on their second possession ended with a Young one-yard keeper and a ten-yard pass connection between Young and Tanner Wilkerson put the Huskies up 20-10 at the break.
Emmett got the second half kickoff but couldn’t make it four scoring drives in a row. Nampa again rode the wheels of Navarro into the endzone from five yards out to pull within three. That’s when Emmett shifted into four-wheel drive behind Young and running back Jeffery Lockett. An 18-play, 73-yard drive ended with Young again in the endzone with a five-yard dive.
Now Nampa decided to go to the air, and much like a year-ago in Emmett, they got quick results. Navarro hit speedy wide receiver Trais Higgins for a 65-yard score. The extra-point kick pulled the Bulldogs to within 26-24 with about 9 minutes left in the game.
Emmett didn’t strike back quite as quickly but Young raced 20-yards for his third rushing touchdown on the night to make it 32-24 with six and a half minutes remaining on the clock.
Nampa again, took to the air, getting to the Emmett four with a 49-yard pass from Navarro to Brett Sund. Navarro then pushed in for the score and Nampa set up to go for two, and the tie. Last year it was Emmett that scored late, trailing by one, and went for two to win and came up short. This time the Bulldogs were the ones coming up short of the conversion line. But still 6:12 remaining.
That’s where Hargitt’s mantra of playing playoff football all league season long comes into play. “You have to play every play and every series like it might be your last,” Hargitt explained.
So back into the hands of Young and Lockett. After an onside kick attempt failed for Nampa, Emmett started at its own 45 and methodically ate up five minutes off the clock, scoring with 69 seconds left on a Young two-yard stretch at the goal line. With only an eight-point lead and time remaining on the clock, Young called his own number again and dove over with the two-point conversion to give Emmett a cushion it almost needed.
Nampa got the ball back deep into Emmett territory but couldn’t get in again before time expired.
Young ended the night with a hand in all six touchdowns, rushing 31 times for 180 yards and four scores, completing 7 of 8 passes for 95 yards and two scores. Lockett provided the counter punch on the ground, gaining 137 yards on 27 carries. Emmett ran for a total of 355 yards in the game with additional rushing yards coming from Pearson and Ry Fullerton.
While a playoff berth has not been clinched, the Huskies are certainly in control of their own fate to achieve a second straight SIC title and a homefield advantage for the playoffs. Three of the Huskies final four games will be in Emmett, starting with Homecoming against Caldwell this Friday night.
The final road game the following week looms large, however. Middleton is also 3-0 in the SIC, 4-1 overall with their lone loss a narrow decision to Minico who held the State 4A Media Poll number-one ranking going into the week. Middleton is at Bishop Kelly this week and a Viking win could put a lot on the line next week in Middleton.
But as Hargitt was quick to remind his players – “you have to keep the focus on one game at a time – you don’t, you lose, and then you need help. Champions shouldn’t need help.”