Two teams currently sitting on opposite ends of the Idaho high school football spectrum will square off on Friday night when Buhl travels to Declo.
On one side awaits the defending state champions and likely candidates to replicate that feat in the Declo Hornets (3-0). They are the unanimous No. 1 team in the 2A media poll, have the 2017 Times-News 11-man player of the year in running back Keegan Duncan and boast a plethora of other standouts within the ranks.
The visiting Buhl Indians lost their opening two contests and face an uphill climb against one of the state’s best teams. However, they are well rested after a bye week, have some banged up players getting back to 100 percent and are eyeing an upset on Friday night.
“When it comes to Friday nights, it’s a fumble here, an interception there that can make the difference in a game,” Buhl head coach Seth Blick said on this week’s episode of Magic Valley Sports Podcast. “What we’re talking about with Declo is just making sure that we put ourselves in a position to have something special happen.”
While the Indians had the week off, the Hornets were beating up on Buhl’s conference foe in Kimberly, proving their ability to knock off teams from the division above for the second time this season. Declo already defeated 3A’s No. 3-ranked team, Sugar-Salem (No. 2 at the time), in week one.
Declo coach Kelly Kidd said on the podcast that his team has great respect for Buhl athletics, as the Indians tend to always put up a fight when the two meet. The Hornets won’t expect to roll past Buhl just because of past results, such as their 53-18 win last season in Buhl.
One particular thorn in Kidd’s side is the way Buhl consistently stifles his preferred Wing-T offense. However, in recent weeks, Kidd has looked to deviate from what opponents might expect from him, which is a ground game headlined by Duncan.
Along with Duncan, the Hornets have capable backs in seniors Nathan Duke and Traver Larson, and a quarterback, senior McKay Breshears, who can beat the Indians both on the ground and through the air.
“They have to give up something,” Kidd said. “If they don’t overmatch us in the box, they can’t stop Keegan or any of our running backs. We’ll go to the perimeter. We’ve got some new wrinkles.”
Blick conceded that the Hornets “can hit you from anywhere,” but he wants his team to win the battle in the trenches. He commended the skill players on Declo’s offense, but was particularly impressed with the ability of the Hornets’ linemen on both sides of the ball.
From his viewpoint, controlling the line of scrimmage will allow his team to play fast, which would go a long way in keeping up with the multi-faceted Declo attack.
“Staying balanced on defense, knowing your scheme and your position and your responsibilities allow us to play fast against kids that are very talented,” Blick said. “If you aren’t able to play fast against kids that are very talented, it usually goes in the other guys’ favor.”
Blick sees the Declo contest as an opportunity for his team to go head-to-head with a physically strong opponent. He believes it will serve as important preparation for upcoming battles with the other three teams in the Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference.
If something special happens, the Indians will be thrilled. Regardless of the final score, Blick believes his team will receive a major confidence boost if they at least play a good game. On the other sideline, Kidd will be wary of the fact that “anybody can beat anybody on a given day,” he said.
Kidd said any complacency or assumptions made toward Buhl’s level of play would result in his team getting “hijacked” and taking a loss the Hornets “can’t get back.”
Plus, despite victories over top teams in both the 3A and 2A classifications in the first three weeks (Aberdeen in week two), the coaching staff and players at Declo don’t believe they’ve hit their top gear in any of those performances, Kidd said.
That first time they do so could potentially come at Buhl’s expense.
“They’re driven, knowing that we haven’t played well yet,” Kidd said of his players. “Driven to have that game that we really play well and we execute. That’s what they’re looking forward to, and they’re not going to be happy until that happens.”