The banner in the Emmett High weight room has taunted Mason Farnsworth long enough.
It displays the numbers “13-12,” referencing the score that bounced Emmett in last year’s 3A state semifinals in an upset loss to Fruitland.
Underneath the numbers reads the phrase, “Is this who we are?”
“We look at that every single day in the weight room to motivate us,” said Farnsworth, a senior running back for the Huskies. “It shows the reality of it, the playoffs. If you lose, you’re done. And we’re not going to let that happen.”
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It hasn’t yet. No. 1-ranked Emmett (9-0) has rolled through the regular season and the state quarterfinals, setting up a 1 p.m. semifinal game Saturday at Emmett against Sugar-Salem (9-1).
Both teams are riding two of the most productive running backs in the state.
Farnsworth has 1,296 yards and 20 TDs in nine games, averaging 11.2 yards per carry. Sugar-Salem senior Derek Ostermiller has 1,915 yards and 23 TDs in 10 games, averaging 8.7 yards a carry.
Both rely on dominant lines, pack their own punch when taking a handoff up the middle, and can turn a sliver in the defense into back-breaking runs with their speed.
“You can tell he has a motor on him,” Sugar-Salem coach Tyler Richins said of Farnsworth. “He’s a physical back, runs hard, doesn’t go down easy. He’s somebody we’re going to key (on) to tackle, to control. But he looks good. He looks as good as any back we’ll face this year.”
Farnsworth earned first-team all-conference honors last season as he ran for 784 yards and 14 TDs, despite a torn hamstring from the spring track season. This season, Emmett coach Mike Schroeder said the 5-foot-9, 188-pound back is focused on limiting side-to-side cuts, and has turned into a dynamic north-south runner.
“He’s been focusing on that for over a year now, and it’s paid dividends,” Schroeder said. “Because he doesn’t need a lot of room to get upfield, once he gets upfield and hits another gear, he only needs to make small, minor cuts.”
Schroeder said Farnsworth’s stats actually underplay his talent. Because Emmett has blown out so many opponents, the he only played 12-of-20 quarters in conference play.
“His stats are very under inflated, not over,” Schroeder said. “They’re true stats, meaning he’s been out of a multitude games early. Even last week against Shelley, I don’t think he played much in the fourth quarter at all.
“When you talk about rushing yards, he could have had this thing doubled by now.”
Ostermiller is producing his own jaw-dropping numbers as the workhorse in Sugar-Salem’s run-first, run-second, run-third Wing-T offense. The 6-0, 205-pound Mountain Rivers Conference MVP has topped the 200-yard mark four times this fall, including a 458-yard, five-TD performance against South Fremont, a 3A quarterfinalist.
“He’s a man amongst boys against some of the teams they’ve played, some of the defenses they’ve played,” Schroeder said. “... They’ve done a good job utilizing him and making some plays off of him, using him as a decoy. I personally think that’s why they are where they are right now — they are following his lead.”
Both Emmett’s and Sugar-Salem’s defense know who they’ll have to stop. And whichever unit can accomplish their goal will make school history.
Sugar-Salem hasn’t reached the title game since 1988. Emmett has no record of playing for a title, Schroeder said.
And after looking at that taunting banner in the weight room all year, Farnsworth said he and his teammates are out to show the rest of the state who they are.
“I remember that bad feeling, how bad it felt,” Farnsworth said of last year’s semifinal loss. “And we’re just not going to let it happen again. We’re going to get the ‘W.’ ”
Emmett’s Mason Farnsworth and Sugar-Salem’s Derek Ostermiller have racked up the rushing stats this fall, leading their teams into the 3A semifinals.