It wasn't the start they were hoping for, but the West Side Pirates eventually found their groove and played lights out in the middle two quarters en route to a convincing 43-22 victory over No. 8 Cole Valley Christian in the quarterfinals of the 2A football state playoffs Friday in Dayton.
Top-seeded West Side fell behind 7-0 in the second quarter, but exploded for 43 unanswered points — 35 in the middle two quarters — to move on to the semifinals.
"It was ugly there (for a while)," said West Side head coach Tyson Moser, who has guided his team to the 2A semifinals in eight of his 11 years at the helm. "It did not look good for us part way into the second quarter, it did not look good at all. We couldn't stop them. Our second drive, I think we went three and out. ... But the kids were able to fight back and turn the momentum, and once they turned the momentum, it was over."
It was over for the Chargers (5-5) when they failed to contain the Pirates' potent rushing attack. West Side (9-1) racked up 306 yards on 60 carries and scored all seven of its touchdowns on the ground.
Jaxon Moser led the charge with 133 yards and three TDs on 20 carries. The senior powered his way into the end zone on a trio of rushes from inside the Cole Valley 6-yard line.
Josh Reeder found paydirt on runs of 7 and 3 yards, respectively, and finished with 58 yards rushing on 10 attempts before leaving the game with a broken collarbone in the second half.
Dustin Sparrow gave West Side a 43-7 lead in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard TD scamper. The Pirates, winners of eight straight games, once again showcased their strength in the trenches.
"The offensive line was awesome," coach Moser said. "They did a great job. (Cole Valley) threw some different defensive fronts at us and did some things that we weren't quite prepared for, and our offensive line made the adjustments they needed to make."
When the Pirates did pass the ball, they were very efficient. West Side went 4 for 4 through the air for 83 yards.
Although the Pirates gave up a season-high 22 points, 15 of them were in garbage time. A West Side fumble at its own 1-yard line set up Cole Valley's first touchdown of the fourth quarter.
West Side limited Cole Valley's explosive offense to 158 total yards. The Chargers, who only managed 32 yards on 23 rushing attempts, averaged nearly 36 points during their first eight games of the season. Heading into the contest, the Pirates ranked first among all 2A programs in scoring defense (5.1 points an outing).
Bryler Shurtliff intercepted a pair of passes for the West Side defense.
The Pirates haven't faced a lot of adversity during their eight-game winning streak, but coach Moser was very pleased with how his team responded after the aforementioned shaky start.
"It's good for (our team)," Moser said. "We haven't had a lot of blowout games this year, but we've had decent separation (from our opponents). And it's the quarterfinals, so these games should be tough. This next game, the semifinals, should be tougher, so we needed that. I think we needed that adversity, we needed to be behind and see what that felt like, and then show we could make some big plays and turn a game around."
West Side will square off against No. 4 Melba in the semifinals next week at Idaho State University's Holt Arena. A date has yet to be determined. Melba advanced to the semifinals with a 36-20 victory over No. 5 Bear Lake on Friday.
WEST SIDE 43, COLE VALLEY CHRISTIAN 22
Cole Valley 0 7 0 15 — 22
West Side 0 14 22 7 — 43
WS — Jaxon Moser 5 run (kick failed)
WS — Moser 6 run (2-point run)
WS — Moser 3 run (kick failed)
WS — Josh Reeder 7 run (2-point run)
WS — Reeder 3 run (2-point run)
WS — Dustin Sparrow 2 run (2-point run)