Nampa High gave the Capital football team all it could handle for a half Thursday.
But the Eagles’ opportunistic defense came through in the second half, lifting Capital to a 47-28 victory at Dona Larsen Park.
Nampa (3-2, 0-1 5A SIC Pod A) outgained Capital (3-2, 1-0) in yards 456-452, and the Bulldogs racked up 339 yards on the ground, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
But Capital forced a pair of second-half fumbles and converted both into touchdowns as it scored on five straight possessions, turning a tight game into a rout.
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“Those were huge because we didn’t get a lot of stops,” Capital coach Todd Simis said of the turnovers. “I don’t even know how many we got. I’m not sure how many times they punted (twice). You could just feel they were going to grind us. So our possessions on offense were critical. We had to get points. And then the two turnovers were huge.”
Capital closed the first half when Gavin Zickefoose hauled in a 12-yard TD pass from Drew Korf on fourth-and-goal with 5 seconds left to give Capital a 20-14 lead.
The Eagles then started the second half with the ball, and Micah Hagler capped a six-play, 68-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run to stretch the lead to 26-14.
Nampa responded and drove to the Capital 23. But Bulldog quarterback Kooper Wilcox fumbled the handoff, and Capital junior free safety Jessie Healy scooped up the cherry hop and returned it 76 yards for a three-touchdown lead with six minutes left in the third quarter.
“It was a bad handoff to begin with,” Healy said. “Our guys were just going toward it. It was a great team effort, and I just happened to pick it up and get out of the pile.”
Nampa cut the lead to 33-21 when Wilcox hurdled a defender at the goal line for a 6-yard TD run. But Hagler rumbled in a for a 15-yard TD run, and Capital defensive end Conner Sweeney stripped Pedro King of the ball in a scrum on the ensuing possession and returned it to the Nampa 33. Kyle Larson then put the game away at 47-21 early in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard TD run.
“Honestly, as soon as I got it, I sat there and thought, ‘I’ve never gotten this far,’ ” Sweeney said of his fumble recovery. “I almost went the wrong way because I’ve never gotten the ball in my hands. Being D-line, you don’t usually have hands. My heart was pounding. I was just running.”
After starting the season 1-2, the wins lifts Capital back above .500. But more importantly, it starts the Eagles’ pod schedule off on the right foot before taking on rival Borah on Oct. 2.
“That was the talk all week — the preseason is over,” Simis said. “These all count now. Regardless of how you get there, it’s chalked up in the win column.”