Although there is no official 3A Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference championship game, the way the season unfolded provided one.
Because Kimberly and Gooding were each unbeaten in conference action heading into their final regular season game against one another, the Bulldogs and Senators were playing for an unofficial title, but one that would impact the playoff seeding for each team.
Neither team could be too upset, regardless of the result, given that they were both locks for the playoffs. But, with seeding spots on the line and a sense of conference superiority in the air, there was almost a playoff feel to the contest throughout.
The game went on as a heavyweight slugfest between two teams who had hovered near the top of the 3A state rankings all season is expected to go. Each side made big defensive plays-an early interception from Gooding, a big sack from Kimberly to halt a drive. Then each high-powered offense found its rhythm.
The game was tied at halftime and both teams had to feel that, if the proper adjustments were made, it would be theirs. Gooding head coach Cameron Andersen came out onto the field shouting at his players “how fun is this football game?”
“Fun” would hardly come close to truly describing what happened in the second half of that game.
A 64-yard pass from Gooding junior Shane Jennings to Cade Morris set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Jennings himself, giving Gooding the lead. Kimberly answered back with a big play of its own, as senior Braxton Hammond hit sophomore Brett Bronson for 61-yard score.
Junior McKade Huft took a screen pass from Hammond 16 yards for a score on the next Bulldog drive, turning the tides and giving Kimberly a lead this time. Of course, Gooding answered back, as Jennings orchestrated a 16-play, 83-yard drive, ending with a 19-yard lob that dropped into the hands of junior Andrew Prince for a score. Tie ballgame, again.
The back-and-forth affair needed a proper ending, and it got one.
With the ball back, having run just one play on a potential game-winning drive, Kimberly turned to Huft, who ran into traffic, appearing set for only a short gain, only to appear outside the pile of bodies, scampering down the sideline for 44 yards. Within striking distance, Kimberly began to work the clock.
With 12 seconds left on the clock, instead of giving the ball to Huft, the Bulldogs turned to their junior defensive lineman and occasional short-yardage back, Brant Etherington, to deliver the final blow. He did just that, fighting through the line of scrimmage for the one-yard score.
After Etherington powered in the go-ahead score, the Senators didn’t have enough time to hit back, as Jennings’ final pass attempt was batted away and crazy celebrations from the Kimberly sideline followed.
After the game, Huft said he had told the coaches to give the ball to Etherington, because he knew his teammate would get the job done. Huft was particularly emotional, fighting back tears as he cited how big it was for his team to win the conference in that way. Then, he delivered one of the most matter-of-fact, yet still intriguing quotes of the season.
“We ain’t done yet,” Huft said.