In stunning fashion, the Emmett Huskies remained undefeated in Southern Idaho Conference play and moved within one win of a second consecutive SIC championship with a breathtaking 42-41 win over Middleton on Friday.
The critical conference football game had all the makings of a heavyweight boxing match combined with an intriguing chess match. While it appeared Middleton had Emmett caught in check with a couple minutes remaining, leading 41-28, everything wasn’t as it appeared.
Caden Young found Caseyn Pearson in the back right side of the endzone with a 17-yard scoring strike with 65 seconds remaining – Jorge Rivera’s kick made it 41-35. For most of the fans in the stands at Middleton it was still headed to be a Viking win. Emmett only had one timeout remaining so surely Emmett would onside kick. No, the Huskies kicked deep and Middleton started the possession at its own 21.
The Vikings had a win in hand, but due to the complicated tie breaking rules used by the Southern Idaho Conference, Middleton coach Bill Brock knew that his team had to beat Emmett by 12 or more to win a three-way tie breaking scenario with Emmett and Bishop Kelly. He had to unleash his passing attack to get a late score.
After a first down incompletion, Viking QB Kyle McClure was stripped of the ball by Emmett defensive end Michael Sowles. Teammate Chase Warner recovered at the Middleton 19 with 24 seconds remaining setting the stage for the final moves.
Young hit Austin Williams with a 6-yard completion on the sideline. The senior quarterback then raced out of bounds at the 6 for a first down leaving only 4 seconds on the clock. Middleton flooded the endzone with defenders and Young found an opening in the middle of the line to dive over the goal line as time expired.
Rivera’s extra point sailed cleanly through the uprights. Checkmate Emmett.
“It was wild,” Emmett coach Rich Hargitt said – though mostly speechless – after the rally.
“There were so many big moments throughout that game, but I’ve come to believe anything can happen at anytime.” Hargitt said. “Our kids played their hearts out to the very end and forced the break we needed at the end.”
Young, the defending 4A State Player of the Year, made a statement for a possible repeat, scoring five touchdowns on the ground and another through the air. He ran for 280 yards on 30 carries including an 81-yard scamper on the first play of the second half to tie the score at 21-all. He connected on seven of ten pass attempts for 83 more yards. Emmett rolled up 361 rushing yards with Jeffrey Lockett adding 69.
Middleton’s vaunted passing attack took its toll on the Huskies though Emmett held the Vikings to long drives for the most part limiting their often fast-strike downfield game.
The win clinches a 4A state playoff berth for the Huskies, but regular season work remains in home games against Columbia and Vallivue. Emmett needs a win this Friday against the Wildcats to clinch the conference title and the top seed from the conference into the playoffs – something that was critical in Emmett reaching the State championship game last year. The Huskies will likely need to also win against a Vallivue team still alive for a playoff berth if they want to earn a top-two seed for the playoffs. And that top seed is very much on Hargitt’s radar.
“We have perhaps the deepest conference in the State but there are a lot of very talented teams right now fighting it out statewide and there is no room to slip and stay home,” Hargitt said. “We had that advantage last year and we had a battle every night to make it to the finals. I think you have to be home at least the first two rounds to have a shot at winning it all.”
The State playoffs are a 16-team single elimination format. Four teams come from the SIC, eight other spots are guaranteed to the other five Districts with four at-large positions also available. That could mean perhaps five or even six SIC teams making the field which is determined by Max Preps standings.
Each of the five conference winners will earn the top five seeds with the Max Preps formula determining the order for those five (Districts 1 and 2 are combined in one conference) and then the order for the remaining eleven positions. Sunday’s standings in Max Preps would have Pocatello the number-one seed and Emmett number-two. The Huskies are actually number-three in the Max Preps rankings but number-two Skyline, the defending 4A State Champs currently don’t lead their conference so would slide to the sixth seed in the playoffs if they don’t get help.
Projected playoff pairings from the Sandpoint coach sees this first round: Burley @ Pocatello (1); Bonneville@ Emmett (2); Vallivue @ Sandpoint (3); Nampa @ Blackfoot (4); Lakeland @ Minico (5); Middleton @ Skyline (6); Shelley @ Bishop Kelly (7); Twin Falls @ Preston (8). Any number of games over the next two weeks could greatly change this projection. As this stands, four of the five SIC teams making the field would be in the Emmett half of the bracket with Bishop Kelly coming to Emmett in the second round
Should Emmett lose both remaining games, the Huskies would likely be on the road most of the rest of the season. Winning the final two SIC games at home could mean up to three more home playoff games possible.
“You just can’t letdown for a minute,” Hargitt said. “Columbia is a lot better than some people may think. They have the largest linemen we will face all year. Another challenge for our line to step up to.”
Hargitt hopes that Huskie Nation will turnout in large numbers for the final two home games. Friday’s game will feature some halftime play for the Emmett Optimist Football players as part of Youth Appreciation Night.”