EAGLE — Last time Grangeville met Gooding, the Bulldogs may as well have pitched a tent in the Senators’ end zone — they took a 14-0 lead and scored 48 points in a playoff rout at the Kibbie Dome in 2011.
Last Saturday, Oct. 26, they battled tooth-and-nail, with the Bulldogs scratching out a 24-17 victory over the Senators, who had been ranked among the 3A best, with a last-second goal line stand.
“We know it was going to be tight,” Bulldogs coach Jeff Lindsley said.
During the stand, Alex Koberstein, Wyatt Dewey, Cody Robinson, Jasper Sabatino and Eli Eackles got in on tackles despite Gooding’s 6-5 two-way tackle Cole McGinnis.
“That was a great stand, especially going up against McGinnis,” Lindsley said. “Gooding decided to run behind him and must have felt like that would be a pretty high-percentage play.”
The Bulldogs fell behind on Gooding’s first drive — a bruising series that burned up 83 yards and most of the first quarter. But four plays and barely two minutes later, Grangeville got back in the game with a 75-yard touchdown run by linebacker-turned-quarterback Michael Wilson. The point-after kick went barely wide.
Gooding led 7-6 and turned it over on downs late in the first quarter, but Grangeville gave the ball back on a fumble by Wilson two plays into the second.
Then the Senators paraded down to the Grangeville 12 — converting two fourth downs in the process — before turning it over by way of Wilson’s interception.
All of 15 seconds later, Wilson sent a lightning bolt to Josh Dame, who pulled away from all pursuit for a 90-yard score. Adding a conversion pass from Wilson to Austin Parks, Grangeville led 14-7 with 6:45 left in the first half.
But Gooding’s time of possession advantage grew — and Grangeville’s lead shrank — as the Senators marched 80 yards in 18 plays to punch in a 1-yard run. By stuffing a run on second-and-11 from the 12 yards out with 50 seconds left, the GHS defense squeezed the Senators against both the yardstick and clock — but ineptly traded an incompletion on third-and-long for a roughing the passer penalty that put Gooding first-and-goal from five yards out.
Gooding started with the ball in the third quarter, only to give it up to Parks on an interception. Grangeville advanced inside the Gooding 10 before Dame kicked a field goal.
Gooding’s next series ended in a fumble recovered by GHS junior Wyatt Dewey. Three plays later, Grangeville fumbled it back, setting up a 40-yard Senators field goal.
Gooding tried and recovered an onside kick, and had the ball at the Grangeville 40 starting the fourth quarter. The Bulldog defense stopped them on fourth down and Grangeville ran three plays before Wilson-to-Dame struck again.
Facing second-and-nine near midfield, Wilson connected with Dame for a 47-yard score and a 24-17 lead with 7:47 to go.
Gooding nearly answered with a precise pass of its own, but Parks stripped the ball from the wideout and Wilson returned it 17 yards to midfield.
“We repped getting the ball out in practice,” Lindsley said. “Parks had the sense to go for the ball rather than the tackle, and Mike was in good position to pick it up. A lot of kids at this level would just fall on it, but Mike had the presence of mind to grab it and run it back.”
The turnover produced a 43-yard field goal attempt for Dame, which might have ended the intrigue with 3:26 to go, but the kick was wide left.
Per high school rules, Gooding took over at its own 20, and reached Grangeville’s 24 with 1:15 left.
“Special teams is often the only difference between teams this time of year,” Lindsley said. “We have to be able to execute on these plays.”
The Senators converted a fourth down with a pass to the Bulldogs’ two-yard hash with 53 seconds left.
Grangeville prevailed against the run three times and saw the clock expire barely before the Senators could snap it on fourth-and-goal at the five.
Coming — Grangeville (6-2) will play at 6 p.m. Friday night at home.
The early start is at visiting Nampa Christian’s request for travel reasons, Lindsley said.
“They have size and speed,” Lindsley said. “They use a Wing T formation, which is typically used to run the ball, but they have the kids to throw it.”
Nampa Christian (3-5) has wins over Glenns Ferry, Marsing and McCall.