By Mark Barnes
There was electricity in the air last Friday night at the Kuna High School football stadium. Students, parents and fans were excited not only for Homecoming but for the matchup that would make or break either Kuna’s or Emmett’s hopes for the playoffs. You couldn’t script it better.
Emmett and Kuna were coming in to the game tied for third with both teams losing to second place Skyview and first place Bishop Kelly earlier in the season. Emmett had the number one defense in the conference and Kuna the number two offense.
The fall chill brought out the blankets, coats and sweaters. The cheerleaders were sporting pink breast cancer earmuffs. The entire football program was suited up, freshmen through varsity. The numbers of black-suited gridiron warriors warming up on the field outnumbered Emmett’s players four to one. And they were pumped.
This time of year, the sun is down before the game starts and as the landing lights of the Friday Night Lights Channel 7 helicopter flew in for a landing to start the evening’s games across the valley, this one, right here in Kuna, was the top game for the 4A conference this week.
The Huskies won the toss but declined to take the ball giving Kuna first possession. In what was to become a defensive brawl, Emmett kept Kuna on the first drive to four downs. Emmett then proceeded to eat up almost seven minutes in a downfield drive but Kuna stopped them at the three in motivating goal line stance. Back and forth through the first quarter both teams battled. Emmett finally put the first points on the board on a pass down the middle followed by a 40-yard touchdown run but failed on the extra point kick.
It was noticeable that Kuna star running back Spencer Trautman was in the Huskies crosshairs as Emmett shut down any runs to the outside.
With the defensive battle playing out, it took the entire second quarter for the Kuna’s Spencer Trautman to finally run in a 56-yard touchdown. With a good extra point kick, fans got their breath back as the teams went to halftime 7-6.
“They knew where Spencer Trautman was at all times,” said Coach Lee Leslie, “but that run before halftime was all him.”
At halftime, not only were the fans treated to the Kuna Gold Marching Band, who is winning marching band competitions across Idaho with their show and is getting better every performance, but homecoming King and Queen were crowned. Missing out on the halftime coaches chat, Spencer Trautman was crowned King along with Kaitlin Tookey as queen. The homecoming court brought regality to the field while the hardcore football fans wondered what was going down in the locker room.
“We just regrouped,” said Coach Lee Leslie when asked what he said to his team at halftime. “Their two defensive ends were as good as we’ve seen all year and they shut us down a little bit.”
Sometimes a defensive game can be quite boring, but as the teams retook the field for the second half, everyone knew that the future of the season was on the line. Every play had the chance to break a run, or to set back the offense. Just as momentum would build for one team’s offense, the defense would shut it down. Many times during the game either team was facing more than 10 yards for a first down after losses on plays. Both teams had two sacks each with JC English credited for both of Kunas. People’s guts were in their throats.
“They were a really tough defense,” said Coach Lee Leslie. “They’re not really deep, but man-on-man they’re some of the toughest kids we’ve seen in a long time.”
“We went to ground and pound,” said Coach Leslie. “We were a little bit predictable but we had a couple little wrinkles that really opened up for us. When we put Jacob Kellog in motion and hit him on a swing, he went down to the 1-inch line.”
Trautman capped off Jacob Kellog’s 50-yard run with a 1-inch touchdown. With a good extra point, the 14-6 score would carry Kuna through the final seconds, but the game still had many minutes to go, and lots of possibilities.
With 2:14 left in the fourth quarter the Huskies had their last chance. Everyone on the field and in the stands were on their feet when Emmett came up inches short on a big 14-yard must needed fourth down play in mid-field. As Kuna took over possession, the wind shifted and the smell of Kuna took over the field saying to fans, “This one’s over.” Actually, it was a northeast breeze bringing the aroma of the nearby dairy, but it was a moment people noticed. Kuna made best use of the clock and played out the next four downs preventing a last minute miracle by the Huskies.
They played tough,” said Spencer Trautman who rushed for 122 yards. “Those guys played hard; they played tough. They are a very talented team and worked hard, getting it done any way they can; all the props to them. We were fortunate to come out on top.”
This win puts Kuna in third place and most likely the third playoff berth behind second place Skyview and first place Bishop Kelly. To clinch the first post-season for Kuna since 2007, Kuna needs to beat Caldwell next week while away and Skyview needs to beat Nampa, both very likely due to Caldwell and Nampa’s records. But as with football, nothing is ever certain, a creedo that Kuna hopes to bring with them into the playoffs where they will face Biship Kelly in a rematch.