Both Franklin County high school football programs capped off the regular season portion of their schedules with road victories.
West Side finished off its second straight undefeated regular season and extended its program record winning record to 29 with a 62-18 drubbing of district rival Malad, while Preston gutted out a hard-fought 17-14 triumph over non-district rival Snake River.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded to have a loss sometime in the year before district play, just to expose some things,” West Side head coach Tyson Moser said. “I honestly think a loss is good for you, so I don’t strive to go undefeated. I mean, obviously it’s nice, I guess, but it’s also nice to lose a game and have somebody expose some weakness every once and a while, too. But we can’t do that now, so now our only choice is to keep on winning. But anyway, I’m proud of the kids. They’ve worked awfully hard and they have earned themselves the No. 1 seed and get to host the playoffs, and that’s our goal, that’s what we want.”
The Pirates (8-0, 4-0) actually trailed in a game for the first time since their home- and season-opening victory over Firth. Malad (2-6, 1-3) burned West Side on a 75-yard touchdown pass on the first series of the contest.
To their credit, the Pirates’ response was swift and decisive. West Side found paydirt on seven of its eight possessions in the opening half and took a commanding 49-6 lead into the locker room.
“Well, (our kids) definitely responded well,” Moser said. “For some reason, that just tends to happen to us over there (at Malad). I don’t know why, but they always seem to score first. You know, they caught one good pass and we were there, just didn’t make the play. And I thought it was actually good for our kids to be down for a minute and have to respond. That doesn’t hurt us.”
Like many opponents this season, Malad had no answer for West Side’s vaunted rushing attack, which accumulated 410 yards on 39 attempts and accounted for seven TDs. West Side quarterback Blaize Brown also did a superb job of keeping the Dragons honest at he completed all but one of his 12 passes for 102 yards, which included a 5-yard scoring strike to Parker Henderson.
Parker Moser rushed for touchdowns of 1 and 22 yards for the Pirates, who also got rushing scores from Brown (5 yards), Cristian Plancarte (65), Cage Brokens (26), Easton Henderson (7) and Gavin Waechtler (6).
Bryler Shurtliff, who verbally committed to Idaho State earlier this week, contributed with a 28-yard pick-six for West Side, plus he broke up three passes. Additionally, West Side’s defense got an INT from Hayden Robinson. Owen Nielsen also shined defensively for the two-time defending state champions as he recorded four tackles and 2.0 sacks, and broke up a pass.
The Pirates have only turned the ball over three times in eight games this season, but two of those turnovers occurred Friday.
West Side will receive a first-round bye in the playoffs, which starts next week.
Meanwhile, Preston (6-3) earned its fifth victory of the 2021 campaign by seven or fewer points.
“I think our players are so used to being in close games that they would probably be uncomfortable if it wasn’t a close game,” PHS head coach Eric Thorson quipped. “So, the maturity, having a strong senior group and a group that doesn’t get on each other, that really pays off.”
Snake River (4-4) did an outstanding job of bleeding the clock and keeping Preston’s offense off the field. Case in point: The Panthers limited Preston’s offense to eight possession and a measly 40 plays.
Nevertheless, Preston’s defense was also up to the challenge. Snake River scored its lone TD of the first half a few plays following a muffed punt by the visitors, and the hosts didn’t find paydirt again until there were less than three minutes remaining in the contest.
“Just really good resilience by the players to tough out a defensive game, and it’s been a great season,” Thorson said. “You know, this is a special group of kids to be working with.”
The Indians took a 7-0 lead on a 18-yard pop screen from Brecker Knapp to Chevy Nelson in the first quarter. The Panthers took advantage of their aforementioned short field as they marched 35 yards for a TD at the end of the first half, plus were successful on the ensuing two-point conversion.
Preston regained the lead — — this time for good — — in the third quarter on a 32-yard field goal by Owen Pearson. The Indians then extended their advantage to 17-8 midway through the fourth quarter on a 2-yard plunge by Emery Thorson. A trick play 32-yard pass from Thorson to Knapp set up Preston’s final TD.
Emery Thorson led the way offensively for Preston with 65 yards rushing, plus he chipped in with eight tackles and picked off a pass on the other side of the ball. Charles Iverson finished with a team-high 11 tackles for Preston, which got eight tackles apiece from Ashton Madsen, Jaden Perkins and Corbin Winward — — a noteworthy accomplishment for a nose guard. Nelson and Owen Judd also had INTs for Preston.
Preston will find out about its playoff destination on Saturday evening. There’s a relatively good chance the Indians will finish in the top eight in the RPI, meaning they will be at home next week in the opening round of the 4A state tournament.