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  Semifinal Brothers

Brothers Dan Holtry (Nampa) and Matt Holtry (Homedale) had each of their teams in the semifinals this season.

By: Sven Alskog
Published: 11/7/2018 9:47:02 AM

This weekend when Homedale (10-0) and Nampa (9-2) take the field for their semifinal matchups, more than just impressive records will be shared between the two schools, as Treasure Valley brothers Dan and Matt Holtry look to lead their teams to state title appearances.

Dan is the head coach of the Nampa Bulldogs, a program making its first appearance in the semifinals since 2007. His younger brother Matt leads the way for the Homedale Trojans, who have won eight state titles in school history, but none since 1997. 

Growing up the expectations were always set high within the Holtry family by their parents Kris and Byron, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see all of the success as coaches that has come between the two.

“Our mom and dad have been our rocks our entire life,” said Matt. “They have set high expectations and set great examples for us every step of the way. From their expectations in how we did in school and making grades a high priority, to their high expectations in our commitment to our extracurricular activities, they have always set the bar high for us. We don't know any better than to try and set the bar high for those we work with.”

“I could not have said it any better than Matt,” added Dan. “We have learned so much from our parents and grandparents about leadership, commitment to excellence and importance of family first.”  

The two have learned plenty from each other as well, having played together at McPherson College in Kansas and coached on the same sidelines at both Nampa and Homedale. To this day they are still constantly going to each other for advice. It probably helps that Nampa and Homedale are separated by just 22 miles.

During their time at McPherson the two even roomed together for a semester. Dan says his favorite moment is when Matt caught a game-winning touchdown against rival Bethany College.  

“We talk on a daily basis,” said Dan. “All the way from program philosophy and planning a complete varsity camp [9th-12th grade], to daily pep talks and specific offensive and defensive strategy. There is never a Friday night that we don't call each other and share in the excitement of a win. Especially this season.”

Having been around Dan as much as anyone, Matt says there is more to him than initially meets the eye.

“Dan is a very emotional guy,” explained Matt. “Those that don't know him personally don't really get to see the softer side and the emotional side like I have over the years. We call him the Viking for a reason and that’s because he is one of the most fiery and intense people I know.”

Beyond that, there has been plenty to take away from being around his older brother over the years.

“At the end of the day though I have learned the importance of relationships and the importance of making sure those around you know that you care about them and that you love them,” said Matt. “He has a heart of gold and my younger brother [Alex] and I have been blessed our whole life to have had a big brother watching over us and taking care of us.”   

To be successful within the coaching and education field, being passionate about what you do and the people you do it for is a requirement. For the brothers who grew up watching how their father Byron did things as a coach, principal and teacher, there is plenty of passion for both football and academics.

“He has been an administrator for the majority of my life, and so being able to grow up watching someone like him do a great job of being a successful administrator has served me well,” said Matt, who is the principal at Homedale High School. “He has been a great example for me to learn from and he continues to be a huge resource for me as I do the job to this day.”

There are plenty of other people that Matt also credits for helping to get him where he is today. 

“One is my wife. She has been my biggest supporter and has allowed me to do things to the best of my ability. Taking care of our two kids and understanding the hours and commitment it takes to run a school and to run a successful program is not something your typical person would truly understand and support. She has been amazing through the whole process. Lastly I would say that it is because of who I have been able to surround myself with over the years. You are only as good as the people that are around you. From our superintendent and school board to our teachers here in our district on down to the coaches that we have on our staff. I have truly been blessed to have amazing people to work with that have great leadership skills and that allows me to do more than they typical person might be able to accomplish.”

As both coaches get their teams ready for big games coming up this weekend, you can see the buy-in from each team.

“They have bought in to a combination of old school grit and blue collar Nampa philosophy along with a relentless style of play,” said Dan about his Bulldogs. “We have exciting playmakers that love football and are competitors. The level of talent in the players and coaches, in addition to belief in a common goal, has helped them to be so special and successful.”

It’s much the same for Homedale.

“I would have to say their willingness to play as one,” said Matt. “We have so many talented players on the team, but we have 11 guys on the field that have one goal in mind, and that is to win. It has been a pleasure watching this group grow together and to celebrate each other’s victories as we have been traveling down this path we are on.”

At a school like Homedale where long state tournament runs are an expectation, Matt fits right in.

“The reality for our football program is that the high expectations have always been here. Even when I first came out here and started coaching the expectations were very high. That was one of the reasons I wanted to be here at Homedale High School.”

Expectations have not always been as high at Nampa, where the program has won just one state title in school history back in 1984 and where heading into this year the team was coming off a 2-7 mark from last season.

This edition of the Bulldogs have helped bring the football program right into the forefront of what everyone is talking about inside the hallways at Nampa High School.

“There is a restored Pride in Nampa,” said Dan. “The students walk the halls with their head held high and a smile on their face. The confidence in each student shows as they come to support us every Friday night. The staff and administration are proud of where they work and have been second to none, as they have provided everything that we need for the players and coaches to be successful.”

It’s clear that Dan was ready for the challenge of turning Nampa into a winner and he has done just that. 

For Matt, there have always been high expectations in Homedale, but he has raised the bar for the Trojans despite not having huge enrollment numbers.

“Some people even called them unrealistic expectations being that we are one of the smallest in the 3A classification,” Matt says of when he took over as the head coach at Homedale. 

But now the Trojans are just two wins away from setting aside any doubt to just how possible everything that has been preached over his tenure on the sideline really is.

“We have kept those expectations of the Homedale winning tradition and in the past ten years we have been gradually creeping closer and closer to our goal [of] getting to a state championship where our town and community expects us to be. We are blessed to have the support of our whole town and through that support [and] the hard work of our players and coaches over the past ten years we have been able to reach some great accomplishments.”

For a transfer from McPherson College who went on to play at Boise State University, Matt knows that anything is possible with enough hard work. 

On the other side of things, having watched his brother make his dream of playing major college football a reality, Dan is well-aware of all the big things that come when people buy-in to the philosophy of hard work.

“I was able to go watch Matt as he transferred to BSU,” said Dan. “I remember watching from the stadium and my body vibrating with energy and excitement right before kickoff. Matt was fulfilling his lifelong goal of playing Division 1 football! I think he could feel my excitement as he ran down on kickoff.”

The brothers hope that there is more excitement starting this weekend in the state semifinals. 

Homedale plays in Spirit Lake on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT against Timberlake and Nampa is on the road against Hillcrest at Thunder Stadium in Idaho Falls on Friday at 7 p.m. 

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