Wade Denniston, Logan Herald Journal
POCATELLO, Idaho — West Side gave Firth everything it could handle and then some.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, it still wasn’t enough.
Mitch Orme passed for two touchdowns and ran for another score — all in the second half — as the top-ranked Cougars rallied for a 22-14 victory over West Side in the semifinals of the 2A State Football Tournament on Saturday afternoon at Holt Arena.
“I guess you could say it’s a little bittersweet,” Pirates head coach Tyson Moser said. “We wanted to show up and play. Our ultimate goal was to prove to everyone, and ourselves, that we could play with Firth and we did that.
“The kids performed, the kids played hard. The defensive coaches did a great job putting a scheme together to shut them down. The kids executed it well and just did a great job. We came so close, but we had some things happen that hurt us.”
Like losing leading rusher Jon O’Brien to a knee injury in the third quarter. The Pirates (8-3) were down 8-7 when the speedy running back/cornerback left with what is believed to be a torn meniscus.
“Jon played a big part (in our success),” said fellow RB/DB Tate Fuller. “He led us all the way here, I’ll give him credit. He’s a very good defensive back and running back. It’s really sad to see him hurt.”
O’Brien finished the game with 60 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“Losing Jon obviously hurt, but I’m proud of the kids for the way they stepped up,” Moser said. “The kids should be proud of themselves; I’m proud of them. They came to play and gave Firth everything they can handle.”
West Side, which had its eight-game winning streak snapped, also lost running back/linebacker Coby Roholt for 10 minutes during a key stretch in the fourth quarter.
Roholt was removed from the game by the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA) due to a possible concussion.
“One of their fans yelled that he had a concussion, so then the director of the IHSAA comes over and mandates that he comes out of the game for 10 minutes,” Moser said. “It’s ridiculous, an absolute joke. That’s not his job, that’s not his call. … He has absolutely no right to do that, no right whatsoever. That is not in his job description to do that.”
Roholt, who scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give West Side a 7-0 lead in the second quarter, was taken to the Pirates’ bench and had to undergo tests for a concussion.
Roholt left the game with West Side only trailing by two, but a 23-yard touchdown pass from Orme to Kent Jolley gave Firth (11-0) a 22-14 lead with 4:44 remaining.
The Pirates drove into the Cougars’ territory on the ensuing possession, but on fourth-and-1 from the 29, Roholt was stopped short of the first down and West Side turned the ball over on downs.
The Cougars took over with 2:02 left and proceeded to run out the remainder of the clock to advance to next week’s state championship game.
Firth came into the game averaging 45.5 ppg and had scored 62, 63 and 70 in its previous three contests. On top of that, the Cougars drilled West Side 44-18 in the season opener for both teams.
“The first week they blew us out and we wanted to prove that we could play with them,” West Side safety Dylan Turnbow said.
Turnbow intercepted Firth starting quarterback Jake Orme twice in the first half as the Pirates led 7-0 at the break.
“Those were my only two of the year, so the last game I had to step up and do something,” Turnbow said. “Before we came out on the field, we talked about making plays and I just stepped up and made a play.”
Turnbow’s second interception ended the first half. Jake Orme was injured on the play and did not return.
Much to the dismay of the Pirates, who then had to deal with Mitch Orme calling the shots under center.
“That ended up really hurting us because we weren’t ready for Mitch Orme at quarterback,” Moser said. “We were doing a really good job with the things that we had seen, but when he went to quarterback, that threw a wrinkle in the game that we weren’t prepared for. Give them credit for being able to overcome an injury like that, but that ended up really hurting us.”
After the Pirates went three-and-out to begin the third quarter, Mitch Orme led the Cougars to their first touchdown of the afternoon.
On fourth-and-goal, Orme threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Cate. He then added the two-point conversion with a pass to Connor Montgomery, giving Firth its first lead of the game, 8-7, with 4:30 left in the third.
The Pirates went back in front 14-8 when Fuller scored on a 30-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“All the blocking that went on at the line, they blocked it to perfection and I just ran,” Fuller said. “I was headed for the end zone and wasn’t going to let anybody tackle me.”
It took the Cougars just four plays to regain the lead as Orme scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to make it 16-14 with 10:27 to go.
Orme finished with a game-best 120 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also passed for 61 yards.
“He’s a great athlete and playing quarterback, it puts the ball in his hands every time,” Moser said. “He’s a dangerous kid, especially when he’s got the ball every time in his hands.”
McCoy Roberts led the Pirates in rushing with 88 yards. West Side managed just 195 yards of total offense.
The Pirates’ D held Firth to 236 yards of offense.
West Side, which won the state championship in 2010, also finished third a year ago.
“It’s good that we got third place two years in a row,” Turnbow said. “It shows we have a tough program and we’re willing to work for it. It’s not quite what we wanted, but we’ll take it. We gave Firth everything we could, they just beat us.”
Moser was especially proud of this senior class.
“These seniors have been a part of a state championship, two third-place finishes and back-to-back district championships,” the coach said. “They don’t have anything to hang their heads about. They’ve done a great job for us.”
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