BOISE — Donavan Estrada shrugged his shoulders. This is one confident kid.
“Yep, I made the call,’’ the Nampa senior quarterback said after his fourth-and-7 44-yard touchdown pass to Jace Mann proved the difference in a 35-28 4A quarterfinal victory over the Bishop Kelly Knights. “I’ve got confidence in my man, Jace, here. We’ve done it all year long. Why not do it tonight.’’
Nampa coach Dan Holtry, whose 8-3 Bulldogs host Blackfoot, a 42-14 winner over Minico on Friday, is equally confident in Estrada, who finished the game hitting on 7-of-11 passes for 210 yards, 146 of those yards to Mann.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in these boys. I just asked them ‘do you want this?’ I just looked Donavan in the eye and I could tell,’’ Holtry said of Estrada, who finished with 105 yards rushing with two scores. “He is just such a competitor. He wants the ball in those type of situations. He wants it in his hands. And I’ve got a lot of confidence in Jace’s abilities.’’
Estrada, who had four touchdowns (two each rush and pass) in Nampa’s 40-20 victory over the Knights to open the season, was coming off a historic 361 yards rushing in the Bulldogs’ 55-48 first-round playoff win over Century. The senior finished with six rushing touchdowns, including an electric 71-yard score on a fourth-and-3 play with 32 seconds remaining.
And again against the Knights, it was the final ticks that determined who would host next Friday’s semifinal against the 8-3 Broncos.
Following Estrada’s 44-yard hookup with 5:44 left, the Knights and quarterback Beau Nelson answered with a 17-play drive to the Nampa 10-yard line with 36 seconds remaining. Nelson, who led the Knights offensively with 123 yards rushing and three touchdowns while throwing for 92 more, missed on first down and a bad snap on second down lost three yards for BK.
A third-down incompletion set up the decider with 10.3 seconds to go. Nelson looked for 6-foot-3 wideout Nate Johnson on a fade to the left sideline but the Bulldogs sideline exploded when Santiago Reyna went up with Johnson and knocked it away.
“He’s got such tenacity. He’s a fighter,’’ Holtry said of the 5-9 corner. “He just wants to make plays and he made one there.’’
So it’s back to the semifinals at home for the Bulldogs, who lost to eventual champion Hillcrest last season.
“It feels great,’’ Estrada said of his second chance. “It feels so good. We lost last year in this round but we’ve got a chance again to do something. We can’t wait.’’
“I’m just ecstatic. I’m so proud of the boys, the staff. They’ve made a lot of sacrifices this season and it’s paid off,’’ Holtry said. “I’m so happy all our work is paying off, and now we get to go one more round at home. It’s a great feeling.’’
The Knights kept the ball away from Estrada’s offense early by keeping him on the sideline. Bishop Kelly started the game with a pair of ball-control drives (16 plays and 12 plays) to take a 14-0 drive midway in the second quarter. The Knights controlled the clock with 112 yards on the ground prior to half before Estrada could bring his team back.
Estrada’s 38-yard toss to Mann sparked the Bulldogs offense before hooking up with Isaak Plew on a 28-yard strike for a 14-7 score with 5:42 on the clock. The Nampa defense forced a three-and-out and the offense responded with 55-yard drive with Estrada, who had 49 yards rushing in the half, zagging the final four yards for a 14-14 score at half.