GOODING — For the South Fremont and Gooding football teams, it must have felt like déjà vu.
Just as it had in November, the game rested on the right foot of South Fremont’s kicker with less than a minute remaining. Unlike November, this kick was true. The extra point gave South Fremont a 42-41 win over Gooding in the teams’ season opener Friday night at Keller Field.
Gooding ended South Fremont’s 2015 season with a 34-33 victory in the 3A state playoffs, the Cougars missing a field goal wide-left in the waning seconds.
“They made one more play this time, and they made the kick,” said Gooding coach Cameron Andersen. “Same score, just the other way around this time. But we love games like this because they make us so much better. You don’t measure yourself by a loss, you measure yourself by how you react to one, and now’s our chance to see what we have.”
It was the first game in Gooding’s gauntlet nonconference schedule that, on top of a talented South Fremont bunch, also includes longtime 3A powers Fruitland and Shelley. Even though the Senators lost, they left the field optimistic about the season, if disappointed with the loss.
There were plenty of reasons to stay upbeat, beginning with new starting quarterback Tyler Visser. The senior, who Andersen referred to as maybe the second-best quarterback in the 3A ranks last season behind Gooding starter Wyatt Williams, proved his mettle by throwing for five touchdowns and rushing for a sixth.
“I missed a lot of throws in the first half and I’ll be disgusted with myself for that (in film review), but the team rallied around me and believed in me, and the second half was a lot better,” said Visser. “We won’t sweat this one too much, because we’re a real positive group in the locker room.”
The back-and-forth game swung each direction, but neither team led by more than one score. The teams combined for 33 points in a wild final quarter decided when Reece Yancey hit Steven Rundel for the tying score with 36 seconds left and the Cougars converted the extra point. It was the third time Yancey connected with Rundel for a passing TD – Yancey threw for 285 yards and four scoring passes and rushed for two more.
Visser finished 15-for-26 with 273 yards passing, and he added 102 rushing yards. Mike Needham complemented him by running for 70 yards, while Cayden Loveland caught two touchdown passes as part of a 6-catch, 115-yard receiving effort.
“It’s been this way for the last 10 games, it feels like. I’m pretty sure I’ll die 10 years younger because of these games, but they’re so fun,” Visser quipped, referring to the “cardiac” nature of Gooding’s recent football history.
Offense typically has the advantage this early in the season, but Friday’s game did not have even one momentum-shifting defensive play. It was a simple matter of the team that scored last was the one that won.
It wasn’t for a lack of opportunities, however, even though the teams’ defensive rust showed. The only turnover of the game came when Visser was sacked and fumbled near the end of the first half, but South Fremont couldn’t cash it into points.
Gooding’s work-in-progress D had opportunities for big plays – Chris Harbaugh and Sam Funkhouser both narrowly missed interceptions, and South Fremont put the ball on the turf four times, recovering its own fumble on each of those occasions. Jake McGinnis had two sacks and a batted pass from his defensive tackle position, but Gooding couldn’t string together those types of plays to get a stop when it needed one.
Twice South Fremont scored on fourth-and-goal plays, including the decisive touchdown, and the Cougars converted a handful of other fourth-down attempts in the course of the game.
“We had chances, but the ball just wouldn’t bounce our way. You hope those even out over the course of the season,” said Andersen. “We knew the defense would take some work; we only have one guy back who started in his same position on defense from last season. The boys played hard, and it’ll get there.”
South Fremont 42, Gooding 41
G – Loveland 30 pass from Visser (run failed) 8:05
SF – Yancey 1 run (Danielson kick) 0:56
G – Harbaugh 46 pass from Visser (Comstock kick) 0:00
SF – Yancey 1 run (Danielson kick) 4:01
SF – Zundel 20 pass from Yancey (Danielson kick) 1:12
G – Comstock 45 pass from Visser (Visser run) 10:15
G – Darcy 7 pass from Visser (Darcy pass from Visser) 2:01
SF – Bartschi 9 pass from Yancey (Zundel pass from Yancey) 10:07
G – Visser 29 run (kick blocked) 8:53
SF – Zundel 24 pass from Yancey (kick failed) 5:51
G – Loveland 50 pass from Visser (run failed) 3:59
SF – Zundel 5 pass from Yancey (Danielson kick) 0:36