SALT LAKE CITY — There was one message yelled by Orem before they took the field for their first game of the 2021 football season: "We run 5A!"
After an explosive first-half performance where the Tigers went a perfect four of four on its offensive drives en route to 27 points, they showed just how dominant they are capable of being with a statement 27-14 win over powerhouse East in the KSL.com Game of the Week.
"I think it is big. East is a great program; they are disciplined, coached well and they got great talent," Orem coach Gabe Sewell, Sr. said. "We kind of opened up there at the end, but bend don't break. Our guys played a great first half and we just got to play through the second half."
Quarterback and Utah State commit Chase Tuatagaloa led Orem's offense in the win. In his first outing with the Tigers, he looked comfortable in the pocket and showed the depth and versatility of his team.
He helped the Tigers to two fourth down conversions in the first half that led to touchdowns on the same drive. Tuatagaloa connected with receiver Roger Saleapaga for two touchdowns and received big performances from Mack Hixon and Kolton Brown.
"Across the board we got dogs. Those guys are playmakers," Tuatagaloa said. "When I need a big play, I can count on one of those guys but can count of any of them."
Although the Tigers were held scoreless in the second half, its defense held the Leopards to only two touchdowns in the game to help secure the victory.
One of East's touchdowns came from a 75-yard run in the second quarter by Amini Amone, but the deficit was already too great for the Leopards to mount a comeback.
Sewell acknowledged his teams' defensive performance but already sees areas his team can improve.
"I think they played to stop," Sewell said. "We got to eliminate the big plays because the big plays have the potential to carry over. But again, the short term memory keeps us in the game."
Both Orem and East seemed to play with opening season jitters as yellow flags got thrown and penalties were called on what seemed like every other play. Sewell understands the importance of limiting those mistakes, saying they could potentially result in the outcome of a game.
"We got to learn just to continue to play fast through adversity … and continue to try our best to play clean," Sewell said. "I think statistics show that teams that make the least amount of mistakes and penalties usually end up victorious."
Orem begins the season 1-0 and will have a home game next week against Mountain View. East (0-1) will travel to Corner Canyon next week to take on the 6A favorites.