Nampa High foot­ball team ex­tends his­toric turn­around

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL LYCKLAMA mly­ck­lama@ida­hostates­ NAMPA

No mat­ter whether it played at the 5A or 4A level, the Nampa High foot­ball team has long held a spot at the bot­tom of the South­ern Idaho Con­fer­ence.

But not these Bull­dogs. Nampa routed crosstown ri­val Columbia 4019 on Fri­day night in the 4A state quar­ter­fi­nals, ex­tend­ing its his­toric turn­around and lift­ing the Bull­dogs into the state semifinals for the first time since 2007.

“It’s huge for the school. (We were) 2-16 in the last two years, and we’re 9-2 right now and in the state semis,” Nampa se­nior quar­ter­back Braden Mi­nor told re­porters. “It’s in­cred­i­ble. It’s a great jour­ney.

“But we al­ways knew we were one year away, and it fi­nally hit.”

Nampa (9-2) will travel to No. 1-ranked Hill­crest (10-1) at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Idaho Falls’ Thun­der Sta­dium, with a spot in the state cham­pi­onship on the line.

Nampa raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first half af­ter Don­avon Estrada re­turned an in­ter­cep­tion 75 yards for a touch­down. The Bull­dogs con­tin­ued to rely on their ball-hawk­ing de­fense to cre­ate havoc, forc­ing four turnovers Fri­day to bring their 4Alead­ing to­tal to 35 this sea­son.

“That’s just part of our M.O. and what we’ve hung our hat on,” Nampa coach Dan Holtry said. “We prac­tice it every week and we have a cir­cuit that we do. It kind of gets mo­not­o­nous for the boys, but it shows on Fri­day nights.”

Nampa also show­cased its of­fen­sive bal­ance in a two-quar­ter­back sys­tem. The Bull­dogs racked up 361 yards, but no one ac­counted for more than 100 yards pass­ing, rush-

ing or re­ceiv­ing un­til se­nior quar­ter­back Braden Mi­nor broke off a 95-yard touch­down run with 1:37 left.

Mi­nor led Nampa with 119 rush­ing yards and two TDS. Estrada threw for 40 yards, caught three passes for 28 yards, ran for 33 and a TD, and nabbed two in­ter­cep­tions on de­fense af­ter a starter went down with an in­jury.

Brian Car­rillo ran for 79 yards and a TD on 12 car­ries, and Alex Ber­nal ran for 37 yards and a score.

“You’ve got to be on your toes and ex­pect any­thing and ev­ery­thing,” Mi­nor said. “Be­cause we can do a lot of things and mix up a lot of things with our of­fense.”

Few ex­pected much of Nampa to start the sea­son. The Bull­dogs tied with Columbia for fifth in a pre­sea­son 4A SIC coaches’ poll thanks to their decade-long strug­gles. Nampa went 9-27 dur­ing its four-year stint at the 5A level, but it also floun­dered in the 4A SIC, go­ing 4-14 the two years be­fore mov­ing to 5A.

While every team starts the sea­son with dreams of play­ing for a state ti­tle, Estrada ad­mit­ted that he just set his sights on snap­ping the pro­gram’s eightyear play­off drought. Three months later, the Bull­dogs have sur­passed that goal and then some.

A win next week would put Nampa in the state fi­nals for the first time since 2007 and give it a shot at its first cham­pi­onship since 1984.

“I might get too far ahead of my­self talk­ing about the state game, but I be­lieve we can make it there,” Estrada said. “But we’ve got to take care of busi­ness.”

The win also ended a sto­ry­book sea­son for Columbia (6-5). The Wild­cats won their first play­off game, qual­i­fied for the play­offs for the sec­ond time and fin­ished with a win­ning record for the third time in the pro­gram’s 13-year his­tory.

Se­nior run­ning back Al­la­mar Alexan­der turned in an­other work­horse per­for­mance, run­ning 38 times for 192 yards and two TDS. He fin­ishes the sea­son with 2,114 rush­ing yards and 33 TDS.

“That’s what I told the se­niors: They left (the pro­gram) in bet­ter shape than they found it,” firstyear Columbia coach Jon Hel­man­dol­lar said. “I think we can use it as a build­ing block mov­ing for­ward.”

WILLY HAR­RIS Good Dog Pho­tos

Nampa’s Alex Ber­nal lunges into the end zone for a first-half touch­down Fri­day night against Columbia.

WILLY HAR­RIS Spe­cial to the Idaho States­man

Nampa quar­ter­back Braden Mi­nor nar­rowly es­capes a safety at the hands of Columbia’s Michael Cox dur­ing Nampa’s 40-19 win Fri­day in the 4A state quar­ter­fi­nals.

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