DAYTON – It was business as usual for the Pirates Saturday afternoon at Lyle S. Henderson Field.
West Side advanced to the 2A state football semifinals with a convincing beat down of Grangeville. The Pirates picked off a pass on the second play of the game, and on the third scored a touchdown. It would turn into that kind of day for the hosts, who rolled to a 48-8 win.
“The key sometimes is to take advantage of a team that has to travel a long way like that,” WS head coach Tyson Moser said. “We’ve done it. It’s tough to take a 12-hour bus ride, spend a night in a hotel. Our goal was to come out fast, especially coming off a bye week where you tend to sometimes be rusty. It couldn’t have worked out better.”
There was very little rust on either side of the ball.
The Pirates (9-0) came up with five interceptions by five different athletes. West Side also had 11 different players carry the ball as the reserves saw extensive time on both sides of the ball in the second half. In fact, the lone score by the Bulldogs (3-6) came with 15.6 seconds to play on a fourth-down play.
“We knew we had to get on them quick,” Pirate senior Cage Brokens said. “ … We have been working on playing even. We started well, but had some ups and downs before realizing what we had to do.”
Brokens had a big game for the hosts, rushing for 156 yards on just three carries and scoring one touchdown. The TD came on his first touch of the day -- a 65-yard untouched run to paydirt.
“I can’t complain about that,” Brokens said of his first carry. “The line did a great job, the best hole I’ve seen.”
“That’s just a tough senior runner,” Moser said of Brokens. “That’s a three-year varsity starter. He knows his time is winding down and he is giving it everything he’s got.”
No. 26 also got into the act on the defensive side, as he was one of the five Pirates with a pick. His interception set up West Side at the Grangeville 35, and the Pirates found the end zone.
“We have struggled with getting turnovers in the past, but this was a good game for us,” Brokens said.
The total team win was the 30th straight for West Side, as it extended the school record.
The Pirates finished with 419 yards of total offense with 339 of those on the ground. West Side averaged 6.5 yards per carry for the contest. Parker Moser gained 69 yards on 11 carries.
Quarterback Blaize Brown completed 6 of 8 pass attempts for 80 yards and two TDs. Wide receiver Bryler Shurtliff caught five of those balls for 69 yards and the two TDs. The signal caller also rushed for 56 yards on nine carries.
“We don’t throw it a lot but that’s what opens it up a little bit,” coach Moser said. “When we do throw it, it seems to open up, especially with that play action. Blaize had a great game running the ball too, which we don’t often use him that way. Passing game did what it needed to do.”
Grangeville finished with 152 yards of total offense with 58 of those coming on the Bulldogs final drive of the game. The Pirate D was stingy all day.
Parker Henderson led West Side with 10 tackles. Jacob Stokes made eight stops, including the lone sack of the game by the hosts. Brokens finished with seven tackles.
The five interceptions were by Henderdon, Cristian Plancarte, Owen Nielsen, Brokens and Crew Sage, who drew big applause from the Pirate faithful. Sage is just a freshman and came onto the field late midway through the fourth quarter as West Side only had 10 defenders. Sage was able to break up a pass attempt and then come down with the ball.
“Against Malad we had nine different kids score, so having five different guys get interceptions is pretty good,” coach Moser said. “... That was a great play by our freshman. Proud of our kids and coaches for being prepared after a bye week.”
Brokens praised the offensive line for opening big holes all day. On his 65-yard TD run in the first quarter, he was not impeded at all. The starting O-line consisted of Fielding Mumford, Angel Montano, Trae Priestlley, Easton Henderson and Colton Gunderson.
It couldn’t have started any better for West Side Saturday.
Henderson made a nice athletic jump to intercept the first pass of the day, giving the Pirates the ball on the Bulldog 27. On the very first play, Brown faked a handoff and dropped back to find Shurtliff all by himself at the goal line for a 27-yard TD just 49 seconds into the game.
“I just felt the momentum was on our side and the field position made me want to go for it (touchdown) right now,” coach Moser said. “It just felt right, and luckily it worked out.”
After both teams traded punts, West Side took over on its own 35. Brokens got the call and responded with his long TD run that started a stretch of six scoring possessions -- excluding one just before halftime after Nielsen came up with an interception near midfield with 31 seconds before the break.
Brown made it 21-0 with a 1-yard QB plunge early in the second quarter.
After Neilsen tipped a pass, Plancarte made his pick when the Bulldogs were driving. West Side went 72 yards in 10 plays, capped by the second Brown to Shurtliff pass, this time from 19 yards out. Plancarte booted the extra point, and the Pirates took a 28-0 lead into the break.
West Side got the ball to start the second half and covered 70 yards in seven plays. Parker Moser juked his way to a 5-yard TD run.
Moser scored his second TD of the game after Brokens made an interception. Moser scored from three yards out to give the hosts a 41-0 lead with five minutes left in the third.
The final scoring drive was finished off by the reserves. West Side drove 80 yards in 16 plays, converting three third-down plays. On fourth-and-goal from the 5, Easton Shurtliff was able to follow the line to the end zone with 6:41 to play.
“It’s always good to get kids in because they come out and work hard in practice and give it their all,” coach Moser said.
Now the Pirates move on to the semifinals where they will face a familiar foe in district rival Bear Lake. The Bears beat Nampa Christian 14-6 Friday night. West Side will most likely host the game in Dayton.
“District games are always tougher,” coach Moser said. “I always prefer to play somebody I don’t know. I don’t know how they (Bears) feel about it. Whenever you are overly familiar, weird things happen. I know they have improved a ton.”
West Side won the regular season game against Bear Lake 42-8 on Sept. 24, at Montpelier.
“I’m sure they (Bears) have improved,” Brokens said. “We can’t overlook them. Bear Lake is a good team. They will be just as hungry as we will be, so we will have to go play. It will be a game for sure.”