Rich Hargitt isn’t just some football coach in Idaho. He is the quintessential corporate innovator.
Hargitt has not only plunged into a deep-dive study of the “Air Raid” offense, he has developed, authored, lectured and sold a personalized brand of it worldwide – called “Surface to Air.”
Edgy and self-assured, Hargitt isn’t a grey-area personality. Either you like him or you don’t.
And at Emmett High School, his players love him.
After the Huskies won the Class 3A title in 2015, they moved up and joined the toughest 4A league in the state – the 4A Southern Idaho Conference – with the likes of Bishop Kelly, Middleton, Vallivue and Skyview (now in 5A).
And after struggling the past three seasons, Emmett now finds itself in a new position come Friday night with an opportunity to clinch its first 4A SIC championship in school history. The Huskies must win at Vallivue to make that happen.
“These kids have moxie. They have swagger,” Hargitt said. “And they hit you in the mouth.”
One thing is for certain – this marriage has come a long ways in a short amount of time.
Even though Hargitt has coached all over in the eastern part of the United States (Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina), he has small-town roots growing up in Piper City, Illinois – just south of Chicago.
Not surprisingly, Hargitt makes old-school demands of his players: Maintain peak strength and conditioning; give maximum effort in practice; and pay attention to the finer details in prepration.
The goal is for Emmett to be the most physical team on the field any given Friday night.
The one position group that has gone along – and gotten along – best with the third-year coach is the offensive line, led by left tackle Taylor Layne.
Layne will make his 27th consecutive varsity start Friday night. He is the team’s elder statesman. He also remembers what life was like before Hargitt arrived.
“I was on the freshman team (in 2017), and it was definitely a lot different. It was laid back,” Layne said. “Then he met with us in June (of 2018), and was this really expressive guy. I thought, ‘Wow, things are looking up:'”
Emmett went 1-8 in Hargitt’s first season in 2018.
“Yeah, it was hard to be positive after a 1-8 year,” Layne said. “But he was always so positive about everything.”
Layne also fits the Hargitt mold: His father is a logger, so the teenager knows the value of hard work. He’s always held a labor job during the summer, including “40 to 50 hours a week with landscaping and concrete work” during the COVID-19 shutdown.
“Hard work has been ingrained in me by my dad and grandpa,” Layne said. “You have to get down and dirty, and stick out the rough times.”
Which is a big reason why not only Layne has flourished under Hargitt’s hard-line watch, he is one of the few players on the team who can hammer out in-game strategy with the coach, especially at critical junctures.
Case in point: In the final seconds of Emmett’s 40-34 victory over Bishop Kelly, the Huskies were at the Knights’ 1-yard line, threatening to score the game-winning touchdown.
Hargitt initially wanted to pass the ball for the score. But during the timeout, the self-nicknamed “Hogs” – center Layne Dalton; guards Tyler Barry and Tony Lugo; and Layne and right tackle Shane Hilderbrand – offered a different suggestion.
Almost a mandate, in fact.
“When I get fired up, I will be in Hargitt’s ear,” said Layne, who is 6-foot-3, 240 pounds and also plays lacrosse. “I will tell him, ‘Run the ball behind me.’ And he listens.”
Hargitt did that night. Caden Young scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, and that victory is the one that has put the Huskies in the best position to win the 4A SIC on the final week of the regular season.
“They have personality,” Hargitt said. “And they have chutzpah.”
They’ve also learned what it takes to have that type of discussion with their coach.
“You earn your trust in a lot of places besides the 1-yard line at Bishop Kelly,” Hargitt said.
From coach to player, they all know Friday night is a big step toward joining the top tier of 4A programs around the state.
“I think it is a huge moment – and personally a bigger one for me because I played all of that 1-8 season,” Layne said. “Now when I look back at it, I am like, ‘Wow, see how far we’ve come, and set up to go further?’ It is so huge for me to think about.”
(Feature photos by Brian Losness)