Over the last 11 years, West Side’s football program has vanquished opponent after opponent in Idaho’s 2A classification.
The Pirates have advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs nine times and have captured three championships during that timespan. Indeed, West Side has run roughshod over the competition time after time, with one notable exception.
Since 2013, Declo has knocked out West Side in the semifinals or finals of the 2A state tourney on three occasions. Additionally, the Hornets are the last team from any classification to beat the Pirates in Dayton, and that was in 2017.
It’s fair to say West Side head coach Tyson Moser is hungry to buck that trend. Moser and the top-seeded Pirates will get that opportunity when they host the No. 4 Hornets in the semis of the 2A State Championships on Friday at 1 p.m. at Lyle S. Henderson Field.
Another milestone on the line for West Side is the first 20-game winning streak in the program’s storied history.
“I try not to think too much about the win streak, but obviously we’ve hit 19 four different times and every time we’ve stumbled at 20, so I hope that’s not a sign of times to come or a curse,” Moser said. “But we’ve definitely had a history with Declo. I know they’re the only program in 2A that we have a losing record against, so for whatever reason over the last several years they’ve had our number and that’s something that I kind of take personal and something that I want to fix.”
On paper, this is another very intriguing West Side-Declo showdown. It pits the most explosive offense at the 2A level in the Hornets (40.1 points per game) against the most stingy defense in the classification in the Pirates (6.1 points allowed an outing).
West Side (9-0) has shut out eight teams during its 19-game winning streak and has allowed eight or fewer points an impressive 17 times during that timespan. Meanwhile, Declo (8-2) has exploded for 50 or more points in its last four games and is coming off an impressive 50-14 beatdown of No. 5 Melba last week.
“It’s still a spread offense, but it’s kind of like a single wing,” Moser said of Declo’s offense. “It’s just direct snap the ball to their best player and let him run, or he’ll hand it off to one of those other Matthews (players). ... It’s a run-heavy spread offense.”
That “best player” Moser is referring to is Declo quarterback Gabe Matthews, who has rushed for a whopping 1,778 yards and 25 touchdowns in nine games this season. The Hornets, winners of seven straight, beat Wendell by forfeit. Matthews doesn’t throw the ball a lot as he has completed 40.2 percent of his passes for 536 yards and six TDs, vs. five interceptions.
The other two athletes Moser is referring to are Derek and Brogan Matthews, who have accounted for 1,257 rushing yards. Derek Matthews, a defending state wrestling champion, has also caught 15 passes for 261 yards and four TDs. Derek Matthews is arguably Declo’s best defensive player as he handily leads the team with 116 tackles from his linebacker position.
“They’ve got three, I don’t know if they’re brothers or cousins, by the name of Matthews, and we’ve got stop all three of them,” Moser said. “They’re exceptional athletes, might be the best three athletes we’ve faced all year and they’re all three on one team, so we’re going to have our hands full that way.”
The Hornets have amassed an impressive 3,222 yards on the ground in nine contests and are averaging 10.3 yards per carry as a team.
Likewise, the Pirates have one of the top rushing attack at the 2A level, although quarterback Blaize Brown has enjoyed a very proficient season throwing the football. After all, Brown has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 923 yards and 17 touchdowns, vs. only three INTs.
Cage Brokens is West Side’s No. 1 threat at running back with 842 rushing yards and 13 total TDs. However, the Pirates have other very capable weapons in their wing T attack in Josh Reeder, Parker Henderson, Cristian Plancarte and Easton Shurtliff.
Bryler Shurtliff, West Side’s 6-foot-4 all-state basketball and football player, has seven touchdown receptions and has picked off five passes during the 2020 campaign. As potent as a weapon as the junior is as a receiver, West Side’s No. 1 priority Friday will be running the ball.
“The weather conditions probably are not going to be great, so both teams are going to be looking to run the ball, and that’s what the game’s going to come down to is who can run the ball and who can stop the run,” Moser said.
Linebacker Taze Stegelmeier anchors a very good West Side defense — one that has only yielded 181.7 yards of total offense per game this fall. The senior has battled through some injuries and has contributed with 74 tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one INT.
Declo has won the 2A title four times since 2012 and hasn’t lost to West Side at state since 2010. In order for the Pirates to prove they are the premier program at the 2A level, they must dispatch of the Hornets on this stage.
“We’re ready,” Bryler Shurtliff said following last week’s 28-7 victory over Grangeville. “We’ll take on anyone we’ve got (in front of us) and we’ve got Declo, and we’ll prepare really hard this week. And we’re going to get the win. We’re going to do our best, work as hard as we can and the last time we lost here was to Declo, so that’s not going to happen again this week.”