Most fans and spectators know the Hillcrest football team can run the ball.

But Friday night against Nampa looked more like a lopsided track race — the Knights beating the Bulldogs 41-20 at Thunder Stadium to advance to this year's 4A state championship game thanks to it's bruising rushing attack that scored four first half touchdowns.

Hillcrest would finish with 579 total rushing yards Friday — 21 rushes going for 10 yards or more — to advance to its first state title appearance since 2008. It passed three times, yet finished with three 150-yard rushers (Oakley Hussey, Kyle Austin and Trae Henry).

"We knew this game was going to be our way, you know we had a really good week of preparation," said Hussey, his black face paint smeared all over the bottom half of his face. "As we say: our preparation is our separation. I just think we came out and we were ready to roll and hitting on all cylinders."

Hussey added that the Knights' commanding, three-pronged rushing attack was due to an offensive line that opened holes early and allowed Hussey, Henry and Austin to get to the second level of Nampa's defense.

"They're dang good," Hussey said "You can't do anything without your offensive line and I know we have a great offensive line."

Following Nampa's opening-game touchdown, which saw the Bulldogs go 80 yards in three plays in 38 seconds thanks to a 63-yard run by quarterback Braden Minor, the Knights halted the Bulldogs' two-quarterback offense on five-straight drives.

And while the Knights' defense stood their ground, the Knights' offense got their feet moving early.

Hillcrest led 28-7 at half thanks to two rushing touchdowns from Hussey and Austin — a dynamic combo that's helped Hillcrest win 10-straight. Hussey finished Friday's game with 202 yards on 20 carries. 163 yards of those yards came before halftime.

Austin finished with 160 yards on the ground on 15 carries. Henry had 168 yards and two touchdowns on 14 rushes. None of them rushed the football in the final six minutes of Friday's blowout.

"You know weren't able to establish a run that we usually establish," Nampa coach Dan Holtry said. "We weren't able to throw the ball like we usually throw the ball so things weren't clicking. They ran the ball great and they had a good system going and it was difficult for us to get anything going."

Following a seven-yard touchdown run by Trae Henry to start the second half, the Knights had already put the Bulldogs in the dog house.

Nampa did score two scores in the final quarter — a 65-yard fumble return by Braden Dramper and a 72-yard catch and run from Donnie Estrada in the waning minutes — but by that point, Friday night was clear: Hillcrest is heading to Boise to play Bishop Kelly in this year's 4A state title match.

The Knights aim to win their first state title since 2008, as Nampa, amidst a Cinderella run of its own, ends its first semifinal appearance in over a decade (2007) with frustration.

"Ah, man, it's been an awesome experience," Hillcrest kicker Gutama Haws said, as his teammates jubilantly danced inside the locker room. "We're really happy. We got a couple people that are hurt, but everybody is stepping up right now."

Nampa's season ends at 9-3. Estrada finished with 120 yards receiving.

"I'm just real proud of the boys and the coaches and everything we've done and I feel like they did everything we asked and, yeah, we came up a little bit short but I'm really proud of everything that we did," Holtry said.

Luke O'Roark is a reporter for the Post Register. He can be reached at 208-542-6772. You can also follow him on Twitter: @LukeORoark 

Sports Reporter

A sports reporter interested in a variety of topics — sports (duh), television, hip hop, philosophy. Has been working at the Post Register for a over a year.

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