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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — It doesn't matter how Orem played in the regular season, they've won four-consecutive state championships and still have titles they plan to defend.
Coming into the playoffs as the No. 21 seed and underdogs in 5A, Orem marched over No. 12-seeded Brighton during Friday night's contest to run away with a 42-22 upset victory.
"The message I share with (my team) is it doesn't matter where we got seeded; it doesn't matter what we've accomplished or what we've done wrong throughout the season," Orem head coach Gabriel Sewell said. "What matters is what happens from here moving forward."
The game was a tale of one half; and all the Tigers needed was 24 minutes and four possessions to make it a 28-0 lead to put the game away and create a deficit too large for the Bengals to overcome.
Kolton Brown started things off for the Orem offense when he received the initial kickoff and returned it back to Brighton's 29-yard line.
In less than two minutes and four plays later, Cole Johnson scored his first of four touchdowns on the night from a 2-yard run, giving the Tigers an early lead they never lost. Johnson continued to muscle his way through into the end zone on the next two Tiger possessions, coming in and cleaning up the short-yard runs.
When a perfect 3-for-3 on first half possessions seemed great going into halftime, the Tigers' offense wanted to do just one better.
With 1:37 left in the second quarter, quarterback Chase Tuatagaloa connected with Lance Reynolds for a 74-yard touchdown. He was chased down by three defenders but out ran all of them into the end zone.
In the second half, Brighton came out and scored a touchdown, but the Tigers offense continued to flow. The defense also continued to rattle the Bengals into looking like a team out of sync with fumbled and mishandled snaps, and incomplete passes that had no chance of reaching the intended receivers.
"We know that this is not a sprint," Sewell said. "We're trying to play the marathon, methodically, move the ball, and take what they give us."
In the last three region games of the season, Orem struggled defensively and gave up 48 points to Alta, 43 points to Timpview and 38 points to Lehi, which resulted in a three-game losing streak. Brighton likely assumed they would have the same luxury of easily scoring, similar to what the Bengals did against opponents in Region 6.
But the defense held the Bengals scoreless in the first half and gave up only 7 points for the majority of the second half before Brighton connected on late-minute touchdowns.
"(The defense) put time in the film room; they put the time inside of meetings, and they focused on the little things," Sewell said about his team's defensive adjustments ahead of Brighton. "I think that made all the difference."
With the upset, the Tigers keep their hopes alive of defending their title and will advance to the second round of playoffs where they will meet No. 5 Provo, who finished third in Region 9.
"I'm gonna let the kids enjoy tonight, but 12 a.m. hits, it's onto the next."
Other scores around 5A playoffs
- Alta 54, Uintah 13
- Box Elder 22, Tooele 14
- Park City 27, Skyline 10
- Bonneville 28, Northridge 26
- Wasatch 55, Maple Mountain 20
- Olympus 49, Payson 21
- East 35, Cedar Valley 7
5A second-round bracket
All games played at home sites on Oct. 29.
- No. 1 Springville v. No. 17 Alta, 6 p.m.
- No. 24 Box Elder v. No. 8 Timpanogos, 6 p.m.
- No. 4 Bountiful v. No. 20 Park City, 6 p.m.
- No. 21 Orem v. No. 5 Provo, 6 p.m.
- No. 2 Timpview v. No. 15 Bonneville, 6 p.m.
- No. 10 Wasatch v. No. 7 Lehi, 6 p.m.
- No. 3 Stansbury v. No. 14 Olympus, 6 p.m.
- No. 22 East v. No. 6 Spanish Fork, 6 p.m.