Thirty minutes before the season opener for Kuna football, competing loudspeakers fight for attention. The stand speakers attract early arrivals with open seats. The festival speakers set up by the concession stand with face painting booths attract the youngsters that have made this Friday night the place to be in Kuna. Partly cloudy with the sun beginning to peek out from underneath the late summer clouds, TV cameramen and newspaper photographers arrive.
They are there to shoot Boone Bartlome and Elija Minnick before the game. Both Kavemen seniors suffered injury and sickness last year and wanted to publically thank those that helped them before the first kickoff of this first game. Boone honored Kip Dribnak, the Kuna High School athletic trainer who was first on the field to help after Boone’s neck broke during last year’s Bishop Kelly playoff game. Elija honored those nurses and doctors who nursed him back to health after a strep infection nearly cost him his life last December.
Boone, who still wears his jersey and is considered a part of the team, stayed on the sidelines for the entire game, rooting his teammates on during what was to become a grueling fight for the win.
Kuna won the toss but elected to kick. Emmett decided to run the entire first drive marching down the field before turning over the ball with a fumble. Kuna, unable to move the ball gave it back to the Huskies where they promptly passed and pushed the ball in for the first score.
Shouts of “Shake it off” came from coaches and assistants on the sideline to the players. Kuna answered fairly quickly, but a bobbled snap allowed the extra point to be blocked.
With 9:04 left in the second quarter, Emmett scored again. As typical with the first game of the season, both teams looked a little fresh. There was some timid playing the first half with plenty of mistakes by both teams. Penalties played a part for both teams, most especially on critical plays where either team needed yards, but the play was sabotaged by a penalty.
Kuna received the ball the second half with a run to begin their drive on their own 35-yard line. The sun was down and the wind had shifted giving everyone a fresh aroma from the dairy next door. Kuna opted for a speed offense, going with no huddle for their first few plays. This caught Emmett off guard a bit and Kuna pushed down to Emmett’s 21-yard line.
While Kuna had come out of the locker room with a little more fire than when they went in, they did not manage to push it in for a score. Getting within 1st and goal, a quarterback sack pushed it back to 4th & 16, eventually turning the ball over to the Huskies on downs. Just a few plays later, Emmett fumbled turning it over again in this high turnover game.
A pass to Jake Johnson for a touchdown with 5:20 to go in the third quarter brought Kuna within two points. After what seemed to be the jitters that special teams get during their first games of the season, a loss of five yards on the extra point to a penalty for too many players on the field pushed it back to the 8 yard line. Going for two, the pass was completed to Jake Johnson, but he was brought down on the one yard line. Score: 12-14.
A great runback to Kuna’s 44-yard line on the kickoff and a series of runs and passes allows Emmett to get to the 4 yard line, especially after a Kuna facemask. Emmett muscled it in for another TD after the seesaw with penalties on both sides in the red zone with 1:32 in the third. 12-21.
With 10 seconds to go in the third, Kuna passes to Jake Winn for the touchdown. Kuna had trouble with the two previous extra point attempts but this one was good. 19-21.
Kuna attempted an onside kick but it was touched before it went 10 yards and gave Emmett great field position on Kuna’s 47-yard line. Fortunately for Kuna, Emmett couldn’t do anything with it and turned over on downs. There were some great carries and passes by Kuna backs and receivers, but penalties kept setting Kuna back. Back and forth the ball went until a pass to Jake Johnson with 4:06 left in the fourth put Kuna ahead for the first time all game. The extra point was good. 26-21.
Now came the slog to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard. At just under two minutes, the stands came alive. A sea of black Kuna shirts was standing as a pass interference call gave Emmett a first down on Kuna’s 40-yard line. With 1:32 left people started stomping their feet in the stands, vibrating and shaking the metal. Third and ten. Fourth and four, a Huskie jumps offsides. Fourth and nine. Emmett held a Kuna player for the penalty. Fourth and 27 yards on their own 43-yard line with 33 seconds left. A razzle-dazzle trick play attempt by Emmett failed with an incomplete pass.
Kuna takes a knee for the next play running out the clock. Que fireworks. 26-21.