The main topic of discussion in the Lakeland locker room following the Hawks’ 29-21 overtime playoff win over Emmett Saturday was what kind of bus they would use to get them to Round 2.
A welcome dilemma considering that for all but the final seconds of Saturday’s contest, the outcome was very much in doubt.
The Hawks survived a Kansas Plan tiebreaker, an Emmett offense that at times gave them fits, and three fumbles to advance to the second round of the Idaho State A-2 football playoffs.
Lakeland (7-2-1), the No. 1 seed from District 1-2, will travel to Weiser next Saturday to take on the 7-3 Wolverines, a 33-0 winner over Moscow (4-6). Game time is 1 p.m. MST.
Emmett, the second seed from District 3, saw its season end at 6-4.
The teams battled on nearly equal terms through regulation, which ended 21-21.
The Huskies won the coin toss to begin overtime and elected to start on defense.
From the 10-yard line, the Hawks took just two plays to score.
After a 1-yard run by junior Harrison Bertsch, Lakeland quarterback Kurt Reese rolled right on play-action and hit Bertsch in the right corner of the end zone.
The Hawks lined up for the extra point, but after an Emmett penalty moved them a little closer, Lakeland coach Terry Kiefer opted for a two-point conversion.
Bertsch made it look easy, running through a huge hole over right tackle for a 29-21 lead.
“We had talked about it earlier (going for two points) and then they jumped,” Kiefer said. “We thought we had a play that would work and we did it.”
But the Hawks still had to stop Emmett, something they had trouble doing for much of the second half.
After an incomplete pass on first down, Emmett quarterback Brian Beitia ran to the 4-yard line.
Facing a third-and-goal situation, Lakeland’s defense came up big.
Beitia hit tight end Kyle Hines in the left flat and Hines looked like he had running room.
But an open-field tackle by Tim Van Valin resulted in a 1-yard loss and on fourth-and-goal, the Hawks knew what was coming.
A Beitia pass to favorite target Jared McKie in the back of the end zone was broken up by junior defensive back Derek Felton.
After a slow start, McKie had burned the Hawks for five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
“I knew the ball was going to him. He’s their big-play man,” Felton said. “When I saw it in the air, I knew I had to knock it down.”
The Hawks jumped out to a 14-0 lead despite fumbles by Bertsch on their first two possessions.
Lakeland’s first score came with 10:42 to go in the first half on a Bertsch 4-yard run, capping a nine-play, 83-yard drive. Five minutes later, Reese found receiver Brad Rasor on an 8-yard slant over the middle.
The Huskies weren’t able to seriously threaten again until just before halftime.
That’s when Beitia found his passing game.
The junior completed seven straight passes in the second quarter, including an 8-yard TD to Dustin Lopez on a fade route to pull the Huskies within 14-7 with 2:20 left.
The Huskies tied the score at 4:02 in the third quarter on a 6-yard pass from Beitia to Lopez.
Lakeland answered on its next drive when fullback Dan Dockter converted on a 29-yard screen pass from Reese. And when Bertsch sacked Beitia on Emmett’s next drive, forcing a fumble which was recovered by teammate Kasey Johnson, the Hawks appeared to be in control.
But Emmett fought back and forced overtime with a 13-yard pass from Beitia to McKie with 4:20 left.
Bertsch atoned for his three fumbles, gaining 112 yards on 21 carries. Kiefer shrugged off the turnovers.
“I never saw disappointment in situations like that all year long,” he said. “Our kids really stepped it up, especially in overtime.”
Lakeland 29, Emmett 21
E 0 7 7 7 - 21
L 4 7 0 8 - 29
L-Bertsch 4 run (Van Valin kick) L-Rasor 8 pass from Reese (Van Valin kick) E-Lopez 8 pass from Beitia (D. Thayn kick) E-Lopez 6 pass from Beitia (D. Thayn kick) L-Dockter 29 pass from Reese (Van Valin kick) E-McKie 13 pass from Beitia (D. Thayn kick) L-Bertsch 9 pass from Reese (Bertsch run)
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo