The season opener could not have started worse for the Boise High football team.
The Braves’ sophomore quarterback threw three interceptions on Boise’s first four drives. They didn’t gain their first first down until the second quarter. And they entered halftime with five turnovers to their name.
But Boise’s defense kept them in the game and ultimately allowed the Braves to pull out a wild 17-15 victory Friday at Dona Larsen Park that featured a goal-line interception with a minute left and Boise taking a safety on purpose.
“We didn’t have a good defense last year, and that’s our biggest part this year,” Boise junior defensive back Ramon Booker said. “We’re going to bring it.”
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Despite five first-half turnovers, the Braves only entered halftime down 10-7 as Centennial struggled to do much with the extra opportunities. Centennial finished with 309 total yards of offense. But Booker and Boise’s defense came up clutch twice in the final 80 seconds.
Boise sophomore quarterback William McMullin settled down in the second half, leading the Braves on a 6-play, 69-yard drive that Josu Bieter-Lete capped with a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter to take a 17-13 lead. Senior receiver Cal Gustavsen, Boise’s quarterback last year, set up the score when he hauled in a 45-yard on the previous play.
“Cal played two plays,” Boise coach Bob Clark said. “He hurt his shoulder a little bit. He’s fine, but we had a rotation going. But he’s just a senior and a baller.”
Centennial answered and marched down the field and looked to retake the lead. That is until Branden Anderson tried to squeeze a pass into Jace DeGrange in the slot, and Booker stepped in front of it and quickly took a knee at the 3-yard line with 1:04 left.
“The slot was wide open,” Booker said. “I got off my receiver and just saw the ball and picked it off.”
Boise couldn’t move the ball out of the shadow of its own goalposts. And facing 4th-and-10 with 9 seconds left, it had McMullin run out of the back of the end zone and take a safety with three seconds left on the clock.
Clark said Boise practiced that exact scenario Thursday and received some cross-eyed looks from his younger players. But that practice paid off Friday.
“All those things you practice, in my entire career, I’m not sure if I’ve ever used it — on purpose,” Clark said.
The move preserved a two-point lead and required Centennial to return the ensuing free kick for a touchdown to win. It nearly backfired though when Sam Rucklos’ free kick rolled out of bounds at the Centennial 10, allowing the Patriots to take over at the Boise 45 thanks to the illegal procedure.
But Booker broke up a final Hail Mary pass to preserve the season-opening win for Boise, and its third straight over Centennial.