There was no quit in either team Friday night when Wood River and Gooding clashed in an epic early-season match-up of unbeaten football teams before an estimated 3,800 spectators Hailey’s Phil Homer Field.
In a highly entertaining non-conference game featuring six touchdowns scored by each team, Gooding (3-0) escaped with a narrow 42-40 victory in one of the most memorable Wood River Homecoming grid games ever.
The host Wolverines, making a clutch defensive stop and converting a 21-yard Alec Nordsieck-to-Gunner Gibson touchdown pass with 41 seconds left, were stopped inches shy of tying it 42-42 on a two-point conversion run attempt by top rusher Ashton Owens.
Gooding junior Spencer Furgeson made a game-saving tackle that stopped the punishing Owens run attempt less than a football length short of the goal line. Owens finished with 31 carries for 154 yards—the lion’s share of Hailey’s 222 rushing yards for the game.
“The kid (Furgeson) just made a good play,” said Wood River coach Kevin Stilling. “We had been running that same weak-side play to Ashton with a lot of success all night.
“The biggest thing is our tenacity, and we’ve shown it against Jerome, Twin Falls and now against Gooding. Our team just keeps fighting. The kids responded well after being down 20-6 early in the game.”
Wood River (3-1) rallied from a 20-6 deficit after 12 minutes. The second quarter turned into an incredible back-and-forth offensive display—the Wolverines scoring four TDs and Gooding two TDs in the last six minutes alone.
Leading the charge was junior quarterback Alec Nordsieck, who threw for 250 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another 60 yards and a touchdown for the night.
The halftime score was 34-34, each team scoring five times. Wood River announcer Michael David tallied it up and counted a total of 11 kickoffs in the first half alone.
Maybe it was the sheer amount of energy the players expended in the hectic first 24 minutes, but each team scored only once in the second half.
Yet the 40 points allowed by Gooding’s defense was the most a Senator team has allowed in 24 games dating back to a 48-13 loss to Grangeville in the 2011 State 2A quarterfinals. Gooding has a 21-4 record over three years.
“It was like two different football games, the second half turning into a defensive struggle,” said Stilling, who credited his defense but also lamented missed opportunities. “Three times, we had the ball inside the Gooding 30 before we could finally score six points.”
Yet the ability of both teams to move offensively (600 total yards for Wood River, 553 for Gooding) and the tremendous turnout and crowd support were the hallmarks of a night to remember for local football.
“Gooding is a really good offensive team,” said Stilling. The Senators had two players exceeding 300 all-purpose yards—senior back Josh Finley (226 yards, 4 TD) and junior quarterback Wyatt Williams (170 passing yards, 135 rushing yards, 1 TD, 2 TD passes).
Stilling said, “I just can’t emphasize enough about how impressed I was with the crowd—the volume and how boisterous they were. It really helped our kids. They were cognizant of the support and it meant a lot to them.”
It was one of the biggest gates ever, according to Wood River athletic director John Rade, with receipts in the neighborhood of $4,500, and considerable interest by local companies in purchasing tickets for their employees.
What the game meant, going ahead into the rest of the season, remains to be seen.
Stilling said, “Friday’s game stings and hurts a lot. But a lot of time it’s easier to learn from a game like that. We’re still playing a lot of young kids. Gooding has a dozen kids who have played in more playoff games than 10 of our starters have played in varsity games.
“Against Twin Falls and Jerome we got away with a bunch of mistakes and still won. We just can’t keep making those mistakes. As good as it was, the game with Gooding has no bearing on the rest of our season. Our kids have specific goals. We want to win the district title. We want to host a playoff game.”
In the short term, Wood River just wants to win a game at Kimberly, something a Wolverine team hasn’t accomplished since 1993 by a 34-19 score, with Brent Bellon returning a kickoff 96 yards for a score and Hoss Schmidt rushing for 117 yards on handoffs from quarterback Bryan Burrell.
That 1993 team finished 3-5 and at the time was the least penalized Wood River team ever, whistled 39 times for 364 yards in eight games. The current Wolverine squad has been penalized 50 times for 493 yards in four games, compared to 27-for-239 for opponents.
Wood River plays at Kimberly (2-1) Friday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs coming off a bye week after a 55-14 home loss to Declo (3-0). Kimberly won 26-14 at Burley and beat American Falls at home 20-8. The last two years, Kimberly defeated Wood River on the Hailey field 14-6 and 17-7. The ‘Dawgs lead the series 18-12.
“Kimberly is extremely physical on both sides of the ball. They run the ball and tackle well,” said Stilling.
The Gooding game
Wood River struck first with a crisp 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 55-yard post pattern TD pass from Nordsieck to sophomore Owen Gifford on third-and-11. Owens was the main runner, getting his first start with Champe Kotara nursing a bruised knee.
Finley showed his explosive speed on a 75-yard dash up the middle, and he showed his defensive ability with a hard tackle on Owens that dislodged the ball and Gooding’s Derek Higson recovered at the Wolverine 11. A penalty and a six-yard Williams run made it 14-6.
Wood River’s next 13-play drive stalled at the Gooding 30, and the Senators replied with their own 10-play, 70-yard drive capped by Finley’s tackle-busting 31-yard scoring dash.
Trailing 20-6, Nordsieck unveiled his running and passing capabilities on an 11-play, 74-yard, six-minute drive behind the line push of center Jackson Toothman, guards Dee Jay McMurdo and Parker Bingham, tackles Jens Blackman and Brendan Bingham.
He scrambled for 18 and 11 yards, threw to Hayden Thayer for 15 yards and drilled a six-yard TD pass to Gibson (3 catches, 59 yards) with Finley all over him on the down-and-out, red zone route. That made it 20-13 on Hunter Kern’s kick.
It was “Game On” when Kyle Weller’s high kickoff finally came down to earth and Senator kick returner Damien Kolsen couldn’t field it cleanly, kicking it ahead toward Finley—who was slammed by Wood River’s Hagan Barsch. The ball popped to special teams player Aramys Gallegos, who dashed with delight to paydirt for his first touchdown.
When Owens successfully ran the two-point conversion, Wood River suddenly led 21-20.
Four more touchdowns, two by each team, followed in the next five minutes—Gooding hastily moving in its no-huddle, up-tempo offense on 81- and 80-yard scoring drives, and Wood River mimicking with quick 62- and 65-yard TD attacks to keep pace with coach Cameron Andersen’s Senators.
The Wolverines even had a TD nullified by a personal foul, a 62-yard strike from Nordsieck to Austin Savaria, and still came back to score on a fourth-and-12 play. Nordsieck rolled right and found Gifford for a 35-yard TD pass and Wood River’s last lead, at 28-26.
For the game, Wood River’s defense couldn’t contain the Gooding rushers (42 carries for 350 yards). That might have said something about the ability of quarterback Williams to hide the ball well on his handoffs in the option attack.
Stilling thought “poor angles,” by Wolverine tacklers was more responsible for Gooding’s 8.3 yards per carry attack.
The Hailey defense did better after half and let Gooding slip away just once. That was an apparent busted play in which Williams, pinned down at the right sideline on a rollout, found Finley all alone for a 64-yard TD pass down the middle. Finley had been pass-blocking and released downfield, forgotten by coverage.
Williams’ conversion run put Gooding ahead 42-34.
Led by Jubal Toothman (11 tackles), Travis Swanson (10), Hayden Thayer (8) and Barsch (6), the Wood River defense stopped Gooding at the Senator 15-yard-line and called its final time out with 1:52 left. Gooding punted on fourth-and-16, but it was a low punt that went nowhere and gave Wood River possession at the Gooding 21.
Nordsieck threw a perfect 21-yard TD pass to Gibson. It set the stage for the Owens’ two-point conversion run that stopped just short of success.
Homecoming royalty is announced
The 2014 Homecoming royalty at Hailey’s Wood River High School was announced during halftime of Friday’s home football game:
Homecoming Queen and King: Samantha Sutton and Zach Swanson.
Senior Princess and Prince: Rory Cole and Parker Bingham.
Junior Princess and Prince: Daisy Vargas and Brady Delgadillo.
Sophomore Princess and Prince: Tess Hollister and Kenny Pratt
Freshman Princess and Prince: Ellie Gorham and Jett Erickson.
WRHS Line Score
Gooding 42, Wood River 40
Wood River—Owen Gifford, 55-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (kick failed); 9:30 1st (6-0 WR).
Gooding—Josh Finley, 75-yard run (Chase Ogle kick); 8:18 1st (7-6 G).
Gooding—Wyatt Williams, 6-yard run (Chase Ogle kick); 7:35 1st (14-6 G).
Gooding—Josh Finley, 31-yard run (kick failed); 11:32 2nd (20-6 G).
Wood River—Gunner Gibson, 6-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (Hunter Kern kick); 5:51 2nd (20-13 G).
Wood River—Aramys Gallegos, 18-yard fumble return (Ashton Owens run); 5:41 2nd (21-20 WR).
Gooding—Josh Finley, 2-yard run (pass failed); 4:04 2nd (26-21 G).
Wood River—Owen Gifford, 35-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (Hunter Kern kick); 2:33 2nd (28-26 WR).
Gooding—Derek Higson, 21-yard pass from Wyatt Williams (Williams run); 0:56 2nd (34-28 G).
Wood River—Alec Nordsieck, 1-yard run (kick failed); 0:05 2nd (34-34).
Gooding—Josh Finley, 64-yard pass from Wyatt Williams (Derek Higson, pass from Williams); 0:47 3rd (42-34 G).
Wood River—Gunner Gibson, 21-yard pass from Alec Nordsieck (run failed); 0:41 4th (42-40 G).
|Time of possession
|1st downs, rush
|1st downs, pass
|1st downs, penalty
|1st downs, total
|Yards per carry
|Yards per completion
|Sacks by, yards
|Total yards gained
|Third down efficiency
|Fourth down efficiency
|Yards per punt
INDIVIDUAL LEADERS—Wood River
Rushing—Ashton Owens 31-154 (5.0 yards per carry), 6 1sts, 1 conv.; Alec Nordsieck 11-60, 4 1sts, 1 TD; Austin Savaria 2-5; Travis Swanson 1-5; Chris Lentz 1-2; Owen Gifford 2-0.
Passing—Alec Nordsieck 10-20, 250 yards, 4 1sts, 4 TD; Owen Gifford 0-1.
Receiving—Owen Gifford 2-90, 2 TD; Gunner Gibson 3-59, 1 1st, 2 TD; Austin Savaria 2-62, 1 1st; Cam Benson 1-17, 1 1st; Hayden Thayer 1-15, 1 1st; Ashton Owens 1-7.
Kickoff returns—Austin Savaria 3-82; Owen Gifford 3-38.
All-purpose yardage—Alec Nordsieck 310.
Fumble recoveries (2)—Aramys Gallegos 1 with an 18-yard TD return; Ashton Owens 1.
Interceptions (1)—Chris Lentz 1.
Sacks (1)—Hans Heaphy 1-7.
Tackles (68)—Jubal Toothman 11, Travis Swanson 10, Hayden Thayer 8, Hagan Barsch 6, Chris Lentz 6, Hans Heaphy 5, Gunner Gibson 5, Cam Benson 3, Taylor Douthit 3, Caleb Morgan 2, Parker Bingham 2, Wyatt Johnson 2, Austin Savaria 1, Izaac Easterday 1, Owen Gifford 1, Ashton Owens 1, Alec Nordsieck 1.
Rushing—Josh Finley 17-226 (13.3 yards per carry), 5 1sts, 3 TD; Wyatt Williams 16-135 (8.4 yards per carry), 8 1sts, 1 TD, 1 conv.; Derek Higson 5-5; Dylan Reeves 1-6.
Passing—Wyatt Williams 10-16, 170 yards, 4 1sts, 2 TD, 1 conv., 1 interception; Clay Cockerham 0-1.
Receiving—Josh Finley 2-78, 1 TD; Derek Higson 5-73, 3 1sts, 1 TD, 1 conv.; Jake Faulkner 1-14, 1 1st; Bryson Comstock 2-5.
Kickoff returns—Damien Kolsen 2-38.
Punt returns—Josh Finley 1-2.
All-purpose yardage—Josh Finley 306, Wyatt Williams 305.
Fumble recoveries (1)—Derek Higson 1.
Sacks (2)—Spencer Furgeson 1-6; Wes Reeves 1-4.
Tackle (53)—Jed Pierson 14, Spencer Furgeson 7, Walker Mink 7, Landunn Koyle 5, Josh Finley 4, Cole Millican 4, Koy Tsetsakis 3, Clancy Cockerham 2, Zach Beard 2, Derek Higson 2, Wes Reeves 1, Damien Kolsen 1, Garron Aguado 1.