Traditionally, the 4A Southern Idaho Conference is as dog-eat-dog as it gets in Idaho football.
Throw in all the stutter-stop COVID-19 delays, and you have yourself an even crazier league unfolding this fall.
That played out again Friday night as ninth-ranked Nampa upended No. 1 Emmett, 41-40.
For a third consecutive week, the top-ranked squad in 4A was beaten on its own home field. Bishop Kelly (two weeks ago) and Blackfoot (last week) were the previous No. 1 teams.
In fact, Emmett was the one that upended that Knights’ team two weeks ago with a last-second touchdown.
And the game Friday night came right down to the wire.
Huskies running back Westyn Smith gave Emmett a 34-33 lead on his 9-yard touchdown scamper with less than five minutes remaining.
That left a Nampa offense without its preseason-projected starting quarterback (Colton Seable) and workhorse running back (Ryan Schuler) needing to go 80 yards to regain the lead.
But Isaak Plew, who shared the quarterback job with the injured Seable (now a wide receiver) until this week, led the offense down the field in four minutes, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 5-yard counter run for a 41-34 Bulldogs lead.
“With Ryan getting hurt (with a sprained foot), we had to change our game from running power to running read option,” Bulldogs coach Dan Holtry said. “We got down the field.”
Twelve seconds later, Emmett struck in a big way – on Caden Young’s 72-yard touchdown strike to Jackson Maxwell with 41 seconds remaining.
Huskies coach Rich Hargitt opted to go for the lead – and likely the win – with a two-point conversion try. But on a read-option design, Young never found a running lane going left, tried spinning and tossing a pass to a streaking teammate in the end zone that fell incomplete.
Nampa recovered the onside kick – and headed out of town right in the thick of the 4A SIC title race.
“With some of the teams getting off to slow starts, and others teams already having 2-3 games under their belt, there was an advantage there,” Holtry said. “But the tables are kind of evening out a little bit.”
At LEWISTON 24, SANDPOINT 6
Welcome home, Bengals.
After spending its first four weeks playing road games, including day-of-game reschedules the last two weeks due to air quality, Lewiston (3-2) returned home and unlocked a part of its game that has has its ups and downs in the early season.
That started with the line. Junior Chase Russell “played like a senior,” sophomore Robert Storm “played like a man,” Reuben Thill played every snap of the game and defensive end Alec Eckert had “his best defensive game so far,” Lewiston coach Matt Pancheri said.
“You get four kids who play in a tandem like that and our backers played really well, we didn’t have to manufacture ways to stop their run game, because those guys were doing their job so well,” Pancheri said.
Lewiston said goodbye to the high-scoring shootouts and late-game theatrics.
Quarterback Kash Lang covered two short distance runs early and Jace McKarcher added one more in the second — as well as an interception on a jumped go route. But the story of the game was a Bengals’ front that kept Gerrit Cox and Tag Benefield of Sandpoint (1-3) out of the endzone.
Lewiston led 24-0 at halftime and did not allow the Bulldogs (who shutout Lewiston 30-0 last year) to pull within reach.
SOUTH FREMONT 40, at SNAKE RIVER 19
You can hear the chuckle in Cougars’ coach Chad Hill’s voice when it comes to the absurd playmaking of his quarterback – junior Kaimen Peebles.
Peebles was a big reason why No. 5 South Fremont turned a close first-half showdown with the No. 9 Panthers into a runaway road victory.
He threw four touchdown passes, including one on the biggest play of the game early in the third quarter. He now has 17 TD passes this season in five games.
But first, the Cougars made sure to keep a 21-19 lead when linebacker Jason Coverley deflected a 31-yard field goal attempt with a few seconds remaining in the first half.
“That was a big stop,” Hill said.
And after forcing Snake River into a quick three-and-out to start the second half, Peebles connected with wide receiver Bridger Poulson on a slant pattern that turned into a 61-yard touchdown play – and 28-19 South Fremont advantage.
“That kind of broke their back a little,” Hill said.
After that, the offense rode on the back of Peebles.
“We wanted to run the ball, but we just didn’t get anything going,” Hill said. “So we abandoned the whole thing … and Kaimen was awesome tonight. I mean, incompletions were right on the money. He was tough.
“It was the best game he played all year.”
WEST SIDE 7, at BEAR LAKE 0
It wasn’t easy, but the defending Class 2A champions extended their winning streak to 15 games in a row with a road victory.
Christian Plancarte scored the game’s only touchdown on a 4-yard run to start the second quarter, and the West Side defense forced five turnovers – including three interceptions – and held Bear Lake to 130 yards.
The 10th-ranked Bears did cross midfield in the final minute, but their last drive stalled at the West Side 40-yard line as time expired.
“This has been a good game for us the last few years,” West Side coach Tyson Moser said. “They have a good defensive scheme, and a great quarterback (Owen Teuscher) who throws it a mile.”
The No. 1 Pirates made five red-zone trips, but only had the one touchdown to show for it. The biggest culprit? Thirteen penalties for 110 yards. They also turned it over twice.
“Tonight was frustrating because I felt like the kids worked hard, and played very well – and it didn’t show on the scoreboard,” Moser said. “But it is a good learning opportunity. Battling to the end is better than a blowout win.”
CAREY 40, at WOOD RIVER 16
Even at opposite ends of the classification spectrum of in-state football, Carey coach Lane Kirkland has often wondered what would happen if Blaine County’s two schools played in a game against each other.
The wrath of COVID-19 allowed that to happen.
Carey, one of the West Region’s top eight-man programs, took on 4A school Wood River on Friday night in a “hybrid county championship” game – meaning the two schools would play both brands of football.
When Carey was on offense, both teams played with eight players. When Wood River was on offense, the teams played with 11 players.
“Eight-man teams are scrappy,” Kirkland said. “Wood River was a bigger team than us, but we got to them in a lot of different ways.”
Kirkland said the two schools had conversations about trying to come up with a game – and a format – a month ago in anticipation both programs would across coronavirus-related cancellations.
Neither team played last week, and was not scheduled to play again this week. But both coaches – Kirkland and Wood River’s Shane Carden, the former East Carolina quarterback – resumed those talks to solidify the matchup.
Two other format changes that were in play: One, there were no kickoffs; and two, if a team opted to punt, the other offense would take over 40 yards away.
Given that Carey had never played 11-man defense before, it was stellar, forcing three turnovers and giving up 295 yards. Linebacker Vallin Parke had 14 tackles.
Connor Simpson led the No. 1 Panthers with 128 rushing yards on 15 carries and a score.
And an extra game from Thursday …
DECLO 32, at GOODING 12
Even in the Hornets’ two losses, they piled up respectable rushing totals – which gave coach Joshua Stewart hope this offense could sustain long drives against the favored Senators.
And 2A’s eighth-ranked Declo did just that in handing 3A’s second-ranked Gooding its first loss Thursday night.
Declo rushed for 287 yards – 208 coming from quarterback Gabe Matthews, who ran for three touchdowns.
But it was his second touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter that subdued the Senators.
Up 19-6, Declo drove to the Gooding 25-yard line. And Matthews sucked the Senators’ defense in on a play-action pass, and threw to Derek Matthews on a post wheel route all alone along the sideline.
Derek broke a tackle at the 5, and waltzed in on a 25-yard score.
“That is what our passing game is,” Stewart said. “We only threw seven passes, but completed four of them – for 83 yards.”
Stewart credited the play of his guys up front – defensive ends McKade Vail and Elijah Koyle, and defensive tackles Miguel Juarez and Jovani Gomez – for holding Gooding to its lowest yardage total (200 yards) of the season.
“They’e just gotten better, and did a great job,” Stewart said. “They kept the (Gooding) running game from hurting us too much.”
Declo also forced three turnovers, including a fumble recovery by Juarez early in the game that set up Gabe Matthews’ 25-yard scoring run to give the visitors a quick 6-0 lead.
Matthews second rushing touchdown late in the first half gave the Hornets the lead for good.