DAYTON — West Side’s season-opening 28-18 home win over Firth won’t win any beauty pageants, but for Pirates head coach Tyson Moser, that’s not what he was shooting for.
“Being 1-0 is always a good thing,” he said. “You work all offseason, you work all summer, three weeks of practice. Going 0-1 sucks, so going 1-0, no matter how ugly it was is a good feeling.”
West Side’s victory came largely on the back of the nigh one 200 yards gained on the ground (195 to be exact). Cage Brokens led the Pirates in the rushing effort, gaining 98 yards with a touchdown on 15 carries.
Though Brokens tallied the most yards, it was Jaxon Moser who started the scoring for West Side on a 7-yard run on the team’s first drive of the game. Moser’s end zone plunge with 6:20 left in the first quarter was set up by a fourth down conversion two plays earlier. Needing three yards, quarterback Wayne Beckstead delivered 22 by finding Thomas Shurtliff inside the 15-yard line.
Later in the quarter, Shurtliff again came through for West Side by returning a punt 60 yards to the house, securing a 14-0 lead after the first 12 minutes. The early lead set the tone on both ends of the ball.
“I was very happy with the way we started the game offensively and defensively,” Moser said. I’m not very happy with the way we executed at times, but it was a great start. We’ve just got to figure out how to maintain that all the way through a game.”
Firth finally came alive in the second quarter or, more accurately, the end of the first. After West Side’s second touchdown, the Cougars shot themselves in the foot with a special teams mishap on the ensuing kickoff that led to them starting on their own 8-yard line. Unperturbed by its self-inflicted misfortune, Firth proceeded to march all 92 yards to the end zone. The first 51 were picked up solely on the ground before Jace Erickson took his team 40 of the remaining yards on just two passes — one of which was Firth’s first score of the game — a 21-yard pass to Canon Carpenter.
West Side’s very next drive responded perfectly to Firth’s opening score by constructing an eight-play, 70-yard drive, capped off by a 39-yard run that represented Brokens’ lone touchdown on the day.
Having regained a two-score lead with 4:44 left in the half, the Pirates were poised to enter the break with that same lead after forcing Firth into a short, four-play drive. But West Side’s attempts to run out the clock, or better yet, add to its lead, was disastrous. Beckstead was sacked three times in three plays, with a holding penalty thrown in for good measure.
So with exactly one minute left on the clock before halftime, West Side had to punt out of a fourth and 46. One short punt and well-executed two-minute drill later, and Firth scored with just four seconds left on the scoreboard, moving it to a one-score game.
On their first drive of the second half, Firth tested the mental fortitude of the Pirates even more, with Erickson throwing his third touchdown pass of the game. The Cougars failed on their two-point try for a third time on the night, but a 14-point hole suddenly became a much less sizable two-point gap with just under five minutes left in the third quarter.
With the chips down and needing something other than a short, futile drive, West Side produced an old-fashion Pirates drive, taking over five minutes off the clock and, more importantly, finding the end zone. Once again Moser, the running back, battered his way past defenders, this time on a 1-yard score.
West Side’s offense again rose to the task after their defense stood up Firth. The Pirates drained another seven minutes off the clock, only giving the ball back to the Cougars on a fumble in the end zone by Moser. Still, Firth had less than two minutes to score twice.
“We’re a ball-control offense,” coach Moser said. “That’s what we do. We’re not too flashy. Those two big drives in the second half, even the one we didn’t score on, still ate up a lot of clock and that’s what we want to do.”
Moser the running back finished second on the team with 62 yards on 14 carries, with two scores. Beckstead only attempted five passes on the night, but completed each one for a total of 42 yards.
West Side’s second game of the season will see the team travel to Snake River. The Panthers won their opener over Kimberly, 42-14.