By Jason Turner, Logan Herald Journal
POCATELLO, Idaho — Jon O’Brien saved West Side in more ways than one Thursday night.
O’Brien rushed for 217 yards and a touchdown, and made a head’s up play on defense as the Pirates held off New Plymouth 21-13 in the quarterfinals of the 2A State Football Tournament at Holt Arena.
“Being a senior, you always want to advance and get as far as you can,” O’Brien said. “Coming into here, our coaches prepared us and we were ready to go. We played a little crappy in the first half, but we came out and played tougher in the second half and made up for it.
“New Plymouth is a good team. They stuck with us, they deserve every ounce of our respect.”
Quarterback Trevor Montes rushed for 38 yards and two scores for West Side (8-2), which has won eight in a row and will face nemesis Firth in the semifinals next week.
The Cougars, who handily defeated the Pirates earlier this season, advanced with a 70-6 drubbing over Wendell.
“I’m looking forward to it,” West Side head coach Tyson Moser said. “I don’t like getting beat by people, especially that bad. We got blown out up there, so that’s kind of been a personal goal of mine all year, was to get to the semifinals and try and get a rematch with them and at least show them we can play a lot tougher than we did the first time.”
Kylar Harris threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns for the Pilgrims (7-3), who were held to just 237 yards of total offense — they were averaging 411.2 ypg coming in.
West Side did a good job pressuring Harris, who was sacked five times and intercepted once by Lane Meek after the ball was batted at the line.
“We could have done better, but we did great,” Pirates defensive/offensive lineman Matt Allen said. “I credit a lot to my teammates. They are awesome.”
New Plymouth star running back Dakota Stallions, who had racked up nearly 1,400 yards on the ground coming into Thursday’s game, was held to just 31 yards on 14 carries.
“Our defensive line did a pretty dang good job shutting down their run,” Moser said.
The Pilgrims finished with just 55 yards rushing on 27 carries — an average of 2.03 yards per attempt.
New Plymouth, down 21-13 with about seven minutes remaining in the game, was facing a fourth-and-16 play from the West Side 36.
The Pilgrims ran what appeared to be a double reverse, but the second ball carrier pitched the ball back to Harris, who had a wide open receiver near the end zone.
But before the ball could reach its intended target, O’Brien got to the New Plymouth receiver first and was flagged for defensive pass interference.
Which was just fine with Moser.
“That pass interference was a really, really smart play,” Moser said. “We tell our kids that all the time, but they never do it. We always tell them, ‘If you’re beat in the end zone or close to it, just take a pass interference.’
“It’s easily said, but they always think they’re going to come down with the interception or make a play. For him to take that pass interference could have very well been a game-saving play. It was a very, very smart play, a head-up play by a senior.”
The Pilgrims were awarded a first down at the 21, but only gained three more yards after that. Harris threw three straight incompletions, and New Plymouth turned the ball over on downs. His final pass on fourth down was broken up by Meek.
West Side, which rushed for 327 yards on the night, took over with 6:33 remaining and ran out the remainder of the clock.
“Our line was just more physical, they were ready to go and knew what they had to do so we could win the game and advance,” O’Brien said.
The Pirates were trailing 13-7 late in the second quarter when O’Brien scored on a 62-yard touchdown run to give West Side a one-point lead at intermission.
“I was just following the line,” said O’Brien, who averaged 8.7 yards per carry. “They made a hole, I just started running and hoped they wouldn’t catch me. I thought one of them was going to trip me up, but they didn’t and I just got lucky and made it to the end zone.”
Moser knew how important that touchdown was for his team.
“I was a little worried there when we were down 13-7 with a couple of minutes before the half,” Moser said. “Our kids were confused on some plays, we had given up some big plays and our kids were a little confused on assignments.
“I was a little worried at that point we weren’t going to respond, but we came back with that big play to take the lead going into half and that was huge.”
West Side led 7-0 after Montes scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:37 left in the opening quarter. The junior added a 6-yard TD run in the third.
Harris threw touchdown passes of 14 and 28 yards, respectively, to give the Pilgrims a 13-7 lead with 3:44 to go before half.
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