GOODING – Through one lens, the senior seasons for Brian and Jack Darcy were nothing alike.
Brian's senior season with the Gooding High School boys basketball team ended with three losses and a 2A state title. Jack's senior season, which concluded a month ago, featured 13 losses, including the third-place game of the 3A state tournament. Brian's 1986 Senators were huge and featured three players, including Brian, who went on to play college basketball. This year's team was vertically challenged and as of now, has one player, Bryson Comstock, who will play at the next level – in football.
Yet both Brian and Jack appreciated the eerie parallels between their finals seasons that lay just beneath the surface. The father and son were both small forwards, and they played for the two most recent Gooding teams to reach state.
It took 31 years for the Senators to end the state tournament drought, and the history meant a little more to the Darcys. Brian, 49, was a key contributor to the 1986 title team, but he preferred his role this season – sitting in Gooding's assistant coach's chair, watching his son help snap the skid.
"As a high school kid, you can’t appreciate what it’s like to be a dad and see your kid do this. That’s what’s even more special to me," Brian said. "The other’s a distant memory. This is here and now. I’m just excited for him."
Jack never felt pressure to live up to his dad's title-winning season. In fact, boys basketball became an afterthought in Gooding, which enjoyed a heavy dose of football success in the meantime.
It took a while for the passion to fade.
Gooding won three 3A titles from 1966 to 1972. The 1986 team was possibly the best in school history. Ty Jones – a Twin Falls graduate and the current executive director of the Idaho High School Activities Association – coached the Senators from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. He said the home crowds were frequently large.
"There were times when a Gooding-Wendell game would fill the gym," Jones said. "You wanna talk about a great atmosphere… There were some games you couldn’t hear yourself think.”
Brian Darcy remembered an old adage that filtered through Gooding whenever the Senators reached state – "Last one out of Gooding, shut off the lights." Few Gooding residents would miss a state tournament game.
But as the state-less drought persisted, crowds became smaller. Some Gooding teams nearly earned state berths, but that wasn't enough to bring 1980s-level crowds to the gym.
By the time Jack made it to high school, the energy at games was almost nonexistent.
"There’d be a few kids in the student section on their phones, and you’d have the old-timers out in the front row, and the parents," Jack said.
Jack was the starting tight end for the Gooding football team, which is a perennial state tournament participant. As Jack and his teammates were gearing up for another state run on the gridiron this past fall, the boys basketball team didn't have a head coach. Last year's coach, Kenley Nebeker, left in September. His replacement, Chris Comstock (Bryson's father), was hired a month later.
“My first two years, we’d always be the first team out in districts. What I did was just look forward to football season," Jack said. "But when Comstock got the job, we were thinking, 'OK, we have to get serious. Being a senior, this is it. It’s time to buckle down.'"
Comstock said Brian helped seal his decision to coach the team. He and Brian have been friends since childhood, and they've coached their sons in various offseason basketball leagues. Comstock is eight years younger than Brian, so he never experienced a state tournament as a player.
For most of the season, it didn't look like Comstock or Brian would get to state as coaches, at least not in 2017. Gooding began the season 5-10 and was the third seed heading into the Sawtooth Central Idaho district tournament.
After a blowout loss to Buhl to open district tournament play, the Senators circled around to the district title game, where the Indians awaited. In front of a suddenly massive Gooding crowd at CSI, the Senators shocked Buhl with a 51-48 overtime win.
The Senators rode that wave a day later to a 60-39 win over the Indians in a winner-take-all district title game. The drought was over.
Brian and Jack found each other shortly after the blowout win. The tearful father and son shared a long hug as they watched the other Senators cut down Buhl's nets.
"We were all smiling. We had our nets in our hands. We felt like one," Jack said.
The 31-year drought and its surprising end didn't hit Jack and Brian right away. The 1986 and 2017 seasons could never be perfectly symmetrical, but a 2017 state championship could make it close.
After beating Parma in the first round of the 3A tournament, Gooding fell to Sugar-Salem in the semifinals and Kellogg in the third-place game.
The anticlimactic conclusion, while painful, didn't fester in Gooding. As time elapsed, the symmetry became clearer.
"For it to happen the way it did, it just seems like there was some sort of divine intervention, some sort of bigger plan than we had control over," Chris Comstock said.
Although one Darcy will graduate this spring, another will fill his shoes this coming fall. A.J. Darcy is currently in eighth grade.
After state, A.J. jokingly said to his family, "Great, now the pressure's on me."
"I feel like I have to complete the trilogy," A.J. said.