The Emmett football team could have cashed in its season when Nampa quarterback Donavan Estrada raced around the left end on a third and 24 play and scampered 83 yards for a touchdown Friday night.
Reminiscent of the entire season, however, the Huskies didn’t give up the fight before finally falling 35-17 to the sixth-ranked team in the State.
“I am proud of the way we had effort every game, every play, this year,” coach Rich Hargitt said after seeing the EHS season end with a 3-6 record – one win short of making the State 4A playoffs. “We still need to fix a few more attention to detail moments – that’s my job.”
Those moments, often mental lapses or miscues, seemed to keep the Huskies from get over the hump much of the season against the six teams they lost to. All are playing in the post-season beginning this week. That was also true on Friday against the Bulldogs.
Emmett got a break to start the game, recovering a fumble at mid-field on the opening kickoff return. A punt to put Nampa deep in its own territory seemed to be a promising situation as the Huskie defense had the Dawgs pinned at their own 17, facing third and long. Enter Estrada. Or should we say, exit Estrada. The wily senior QB side stepped a couple of tackles, skirted the left end and was gone.
Each time the Nampa offense seemed to face a difficult down and distance, Estrada answered. Each time Emmett appeared to have momentum on its side, a dropped pass, a rash of penalties, or a missed assignment stymied the effort.
Emmett kept the Bulldogs on their heels early in the game, mixing a rushing attack with a smattering of passes. The Huskies traded four possessions with Nampa to end the first quarter. They got the ball at their own one-yard line to start the second quarter and drove to the Nampa 40 on nine consecutive positive yardage plays. Two penalties and two dropped passes turned the ball over to Nampa which then used two more Emmett penalties to fuel a drive ending on a two-yard Estrada score.
The next Emmett possession ended with an interception at midfield when a pass glanced off the intended receiver’s hands. An Estrada pass completion set up a four-yard Estrada run to make it 21-0 at the intermission.
“It probably should have been 14-7 at that point,” Hargitt said. “They are a good team with 24 seniors and they did a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities.”
Emmett took the opening kickoff to the second half and moved to midfield on two running plays only to turn it over with a fumble that Nampa then converted into points three plays later.
Though the prospects of upsetting Nampa were now pretty dim, the Huskies stayed in the game – mentally and physically. A 15-play, 70-yard drive put Emmett on the scoreboard when Tanner Brown darted a pass over the middle to Kayden Owens for a score.
Nampa scored again on a short field one-play drive with ten minutes left in the game and then the Huskies controlled the rest of the fourth quarter. Emmett drove 79 yards on 22 plays but got stopped at the Nampa one. The defense, however, forced a three-and-out and Westyn Smith ran into the endzone from eight yards out to finish a five-play 21-yard drive for the final score.
Smith, a junior, posted another solid rushing performance, gaining 117 yards, but on 30 carries. Quarterbacks Caden Young, a sophomore, and Brown, a junior, combined for another 86 yards on the ground and 101 yards through the air.
Hargitt acknowledged the experience difference between the young Huskies and the five veteran-laden SIC teams who advanced to the 4A playoffs this week. But he told the team on the bus ride home that youth is no longer an excuse.
“As of tonight, you are no longer at an experience disadvantage. As of tonight juniors are now seniors and sophomore are now juniors,” Hargitt said. “2020 begins in the morning.”