Jason Turner, Logan Herald Journal
POCATELLO, Idaho — West Side now knows exactly how Firth felt a week ago.
Six days removed from a thrilling 24-18 overtime victory over the Cougars, it was the Pirates who suffered heartbreak this time around.
Stegan Garner scored his second touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter, giving defending champion Declo the lead for good in a hard-fought, grind-it-out 21-15 victory over West Side in the championship tilt of the 2A State Football Tournament on Saturday night at Holt Arena.
Needless to say, it wasn’t the ending the Pirates (10-2) had hoped for after stringing together 10 straight impressive wins and advancing to at least the 2A semifinals for the fourth consecutive season.
“I’m really proud of them,” WS head coach Tyson Moser said of his squad. “You know, it’s tough to end it like this. You always want to end things the fun way, with a state championship, but you can’t take away the accomplishments these kids have had. The 10 wins (this season), the three straight district championships and the playoff wins they’ve had … they’ve just done a tremendous job.”
Simply put, West Side was a play or two away from capturing its second state title in the last four years. However, it was Declo (10-2), state finalists for the fourth time in the past six seasons, which played a tad bit better and was more opportunistic.
For starters, the Hornets, who ended the season on a seven-game winning streak, found paydirt on all three of their trips to the red zone. Conversely, the Pirates were stopped on fourth and short at the Declo 17-yard line in the second quarter. West Side also failed to dent the scoreboard on two other trips inside the Declo 40.
“To win a championship you’ve got to go take it and I felt like we didn’t take it,” Moser said. “… To win a championship you’ve got to take it and I felt like Declo did a good job. They made plays when they needed to and we didn’t, but it’s just the way it goes.
“Last week it was the other way.”
Another reason the Hornets were able to prevail is because they won the battle in the trenches against the smaller Pirates. Both teams have outstanding rushing attacks and, quite simply, the Hornets got the better of that aspect of the game.
Declo rushed for 232 yards on 46 carries, while West Side finished with 164 yards rushing on 41 attempts. It didn’t help that standout senior tailback Trevor Montes injured his right heel early in the third quarter and was limping the rest of the game.
Montes, the hero of West Side’s semifinal victory over Firth, still gutted it out and finished with a team-best 78 yards on 19 carries.
“I really thought we’d be able to run the ball inside,” Moser said. “(Declo’s) defensive scheme, did they a good job. We were not very effective running the ball inside. I think we were slower this week than we were last week. I think it was pretty obvious that Trevor was pretty dinged up and Jantz (Ebanez) was dinged up.”
Nevertheless, the Pirates still put themselves in a position to capture their fifth state title in school history with a magical third-quarter drive. West Side marched the ball 97 yards in 11 plays to take a 15-13 lead. Coby Roholt capped off the gutsy drive with a 15-yard touchdown reception from Peyton Brown.
“It just says that we’ve got heart and it shows that we don’t quit, we push through even when the tide doesn’t go in our favor,” WS senior Clay Morgan said of that third-quarter drive.
Fortunately for the Hornets, they were undaunted. On its championship-winning drive, Declo gambled a bit and was rewarded on a 6-yard option pitch to Jackson Duncan on a fourth-and-5 play near midfield.
Quarterback Travis Schroeder then ripped off a 28-yard run to the West Side 13-yard line on the ensuing play. Garner capped off the march with a 1-yard run with 5:55 remaining in the contest. The Hornets also executed a successful two-point conversion pass.
The Pirates moved the ball across midfield on their ensuing drive, but Brown’s third-down pass went off the hands of his intended target and was picked off. Garner then powered his way to a 13-yard run on fourth-and-one to ice the game for the Hornets.
All three of Declo’s touchdowns were set up by explosive plays. A 45-yard pass on third-and-nine led to the first score, and Schroeder scampered for 50 yards to set up his 4-yard TD run in the second quarter.
With the exception of a few plays, West Side’s defense was rock solid.
“To hold them to 21 points, as good as they are, I thought our defense did a great job,” Moser said. “… It’s the offense (that struggled) and it’s on me. Fifteen points in a game like this isn’t good enough. … I didn’t get the plays called that needed to be called and we just didn’t capitalize on opportunities.”
The Pirates, who got an interception from Ebanez and a sack from Tristen Cox, had two leads in the game. The first one was seized late in the first quarter after they recovered a Declo fumble.
Wyatt Beckstead broke a tackle and sprinted 28 yards to paydirt with 1:34 remaining in the first. Montes then spun his way into the end zone for the two-point conversion and West Side led 8-7.
Saturday’s showdown marked the final game for West Side seniors Kolter Howell, Jake Lind, Derek Wedel, Jarren Miller, Lane Meek, Karson Alder, Roholt, Montes and Morgan. This group of players helped the Pirates go 38-8 over the last four seasons, making them the winningest senior class in school history.
“Oh, 38 wins, that’s a great run in four years,” Montes said. “I mean, nobody’s ever going to take that away from us. I really think nobody expected us to come this far. I think we shocked most teams that we even made it here.”
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