Tucked away about six miles west of Preston is the small football-loving town of Dayton.
It’s a place where, much like the TV show “Cheers,” everybody knows your name, and it’s a special community. I quickly discovered this when I first started working at the Herald Journal prior to the 2003-04 academic year. My first assignment was covering high school football games at West Side and Preston.
Fast forward to 18 years later and West Side football fans are in the midst of something remarkable. You see, the Pirates, under the tutelage of head coach Tyson Moser, have won 32 straight games and are the first 2A program ever in Idaho to capture back-to-back-to-back state championships.
West Side pulled off the three-peat, plus capped off its second straight undefeated season, with a systematic 33-13 victory over Firth on late Thursday night at Holt Arena in Pocatello, Idaho. West Side’s current senior class only lost two games during their entire prep careers — a very competitive contest to Ridgeline’s freshman team in 2018 and a one-point nailbiter to Snake River the following year, which is the varsity squad’s last setback.
Throughout their monumental run, the Pirates have received first-rate support from the greater Dayton/Weston community, which is something that Moser has thoroughly savored.
“Yeah, there’s nowhere like (West Side), honestly,” said Moser, who has helped propel the Pirates to five state titles since taking over the program prior to the 2009 season. “Probably everybody says that, but there truly isn’t anywhere like it, and we get so much support. You know, this community loves all athletics, but in particular football. It’s a football crazy community. They love that sport and it just brings people together like no other. Our superintendent jokes all the time about when the football team does well, donations to the school go up. It’s just a great community and our administration at the school is awesome. ... I’m just really blessed to be a part of this community and a part of this school.”
What Moser has accomplished at West Side is legendary — especially when you consider he was the boys head track & field coach for four state championships teams — and he has received plenty of help along the way. For starters, Moser’s staff is comprised primarily of talented veterans — men who have been coaching at the Dayton-based school for more than a decade.
Moser’s defensive coordinator is Tyler Brown, who has been with the program since the mid-1990s. What Brown and fellow 25-plus-year assistant coach Wayne Henderson — who competed on WS’s 1980 state title winning squad — have done with the West Side defense is astounding. The Pirates have shut out 13 opponents during their 32-game winning streak and have held several others to fewer than 10 points. West Side’s varsity defense gave up seven touchdowns in 11 games this season, and that’s not a misprint.
Moser has two former West Side head coaches on his staff in Lyle Henderson and Craig Buttars. Buttars was at the helm when the Pirates went undefeated in 1983, while Henderson won it all as the head coach in 2004. Moser was an assistant on Henderson’s staff back then.
Other coaches who have been at West Side for more than 12 years are Zane Fredrickson (offensive line) and his son, Casey Fredrickson (OL/defensive line). Zane Fredrickson also won a state tile for the Pirates as a player back in ’83, as did Casey Fredrickson in ’04.
Josh Blaisdell has been coaching the defensive ends and tight ends at West Side since 2014. Coincidentally, Blaisdell has also been on Tyler Jones’ staff with the Preston boys basketball program during its dynasty. The Indians have advanced to six consecutive state championship games and have won four of them.
Former Grace head coach Richard Condie is West Side’s special teams coordinator, while Peyton Brown has coached the defensive backs since returning from his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Peyton Brown was the quarterback on West Side’s undefeated squad of ’14.
Another mainstay on Moser’s staff is Mike Robinson, who runs the youth program and essentially “ties everything together,” Moser asserted. Indeed, having seasoned coaches with strong community ties has undoubtedly helped lift the Pirates to unprecedented success.
“I get asked all the time about what we do that’s different and honestly that’s my answer is that coaching staff,” said Moser, who is also the team’s offensive coordinator. “When you look at high school football, especially in small towns, it’s really hard to keep a staff together, so I’ve just been extremely blessed to have the same guys around me the entire time. When we do get new guys, they’re usually West Side products, which helps a lot. Most of them have won championships here as players or even as coaches. So that’s been a huge part of our success is having that same group of guys around every year. It makes it easy for the kids, it makes it easy for me.”
Of course, having gifted players always helps, and the Pirates did not have a shortage of talent in ’21. This squad was led by six three-year starters in Blaize Brown, Bryler Shurtliff, Cage Brokens, Easton Henderson, Parker Henderson and Cristian Plancarte. Brokens and Shurtliff will surely garner first-team all-state honors for the third straight season.
This talented senior class was a big reason why the Pirates beat teams by an average of 34.7 points this season. West Side averaged 43.5 points per game and allowed 8.8 ppg. The Pirates also forced 30 turnovers this fall, while limiting its turnover count on offense to nine.
The most impressive thing about Thursday’s triumph over Firth is how the Pirates set the tone in all three facets of the game. Offensively, Cage Brokens busted off a 70-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Defensively, West Side held Firth to zero yards on nine first-quarter plays. On special teams, Shurtliff booted all but one of his kickoffs well into the end zone, plus Hayden Robinson came through with a nice kickoff return. The Pirates controlled the field position battle throughout the evening.
“It’s awesome when your kids go out and just execute a game plan,” Moser said. “Defensively, (our kids) just did exactly what they were told to do. I think we had a couple of missteps the whole night, but other than that, they did exactly what they were told to do. Offensively, I thought we had a great game plan and the kids executed it to perfection. And special teams, same thing. I mean, people underestimate that kicking game, but in 2A football, it’s rare to have a kid boot the ball out of the end zone every time. And when a team has to drive 80 yards, their chances of scoring goes down significantly.”
Brokens, who has been West Side’s leading rusher since he was a sophomore, finished with 171 yards on 12 carries. Shurtliff, who has accepted a full-ride scholarship offer to Idaho State, contributed with two catches for 105 yards and a dagger of a 89-yard touchdown, plus recovered a pair of fumbles on defense, in addition to his excellence on special teams.
It was another balanced effort by a West Side defense that got 14 tackles from Parker Henderson — in addition to his two short TD runs — eight tackles apiece from Karson Chugg and Plancarte, and seven each from Brokens and Jacob Stokes. The Pirates did allow 362 yards of total offense, but limited the Cougars to a 3 for 11 success rate on third downs.
Indeed, it was another unforgettable night for a team that is accustomed to making lasting memories, and those players and coaches were able to celebrate with a special community.