By Scott McIntosh
For the Kuna Melba News
It was all about the seniors, as the Kuna varsity football team notched a 42-9 win over Caldwell on Senior Night Friday night in front of another packed house at home.
This year’s seniors have had a tough slog these past few years, no doubt, but Kuna now has a very good chance for a 5-3 winning season, after a stunning turnaround.
“It was great for us, great for the seniors to go out with a win,” said senior Dustyn Beaman, who blocked a punt and fell on the ball in the end zone for one of Kuna’s six touchdowns on the night. “The last few seasons have been a disappointment, but this season we came out with a good comeback, we played strong. We’re a good team, we’re ready for playoffs. No one wants to play us right now.”
It may be a stretch, but Kuna (alone in fourth place in the conference at 4-3) is still within striking distance of third-place Skyview, who is 5-1 but still has to face undefeated Middleton (who defeated Bishop Kelly in double overtime last week) and Columbia.
Kuna did all it could do to help its cause by beating Caldwell as it faces winless Mountain Home for the final game of the regular season this week.
Kuna came out slinging against Caldwell, with a no-huddle offense and conference-leading senior quarterback Kayden Votroubek throwing and scrambling.
“We went into playoff week mode, which is no huddle and I was calling in audibles out to them,” head coach Lee Leslie said. “Honestly, we’re so good at that right now, I wouldn’t want to play us in the playoffs. It’s kind of sad we’re hitting it right now, but I thought they looked great. … It’s nice to come in as a Kuna coach and expect wins.”
Senior Landon Croft set the tone on the opening kickoff, putting Kuna in good field position to the 40-yard line.
Votroubek then threw to Spencer Trautman, Jade Palmer and Croft to get to Caldwell’s 15. Then Votroubek bobbed, weaved and scrambled his way to a 15-yard touchdown.
Caldwell made progress on offense, but senior JC English sacked the quarterback on third down, forcing a punt to Kuna’s 39. Votroubek took to the air right away with a 43-yard pass to senior Triston Youngblood. On fourth down from the Caldwell 15, Votroubek escaped tackle after tackle before finding Trautman in the end zone. A fake kick and run by senior Randy Emery put Kuna up 15-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Senior Austin Silsby took over on defense, penetrating the backfield on fourth down, giving his offense the ball back on their own 41. Votroubek hit the air again, this time finding Emery all alone up the middle for a 30-yard pass. Votroubek scrambled to the Caldwell 16, then threw a touchdown pass to senior Steven Doughty. A fake kick and pitch to senior Anthony Lopez didn’t work this time and the score stood at 21-0 with 9 minutes left in the half.
Caldwell effectively used an inside handoff and a quick pass to the wideout to march 61 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 score with 3:20 left in the half.
Kuna threatened again after a reverse to Croft put Kuna on the 7-yard line. A scrambling Votroubek got stripped of the ball at the 9, deflating Kuna.
But after Kuna’s solid defense forced a three-and-out, Beaman blocked the punt and scored Kuna’s fourth touchdown for a 28-7 lead at the half.
On Caldwell’s opening drive of the second half, senior Travis Spengler forced a fumble and recovered the ball, setting up a 71-yard drive that included a 45-yard pass to Palmer. A Palmer run put Kuna on the 15, Trautman got it to the 9, and Emery finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown.
After another three-and-out, Kuna got the ball at the 50, and Palmer and Trautman took over again, culminating in a pass up the middle to Trautman, who broke a tackle, ran to the outside and scored a 29-yard touchdown. Colton Kesling barreled his way through the line and stretched past the goal line for the two-point conversion for 42-7 lead.
A botched Kuna pitch late in the game led to a Caldwell safety for the 42-9 final score.
Kuna’s dominating defense ended fittingly with an interception by Cody Ball — a senior.
Kuna plays Mountain Home on the road at 7 p.m. this Friday.
Senior defensive lineman and team leader JC English suffered an apparent neck injury with 4:20 left in the third quarter at midfield on a third-down running play.
After about 20 minutes, English was placed on a backboard and was taken off the field in a Kuna ambulance.