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BOUNTIFUL — Chaos reigned down on Bountiful's field during the quarterfinal round of the 5A state football tournament.
Orem and Bountiful were locked in a heated game that featured five turnovers, three blocked extra points, a 90-yard kick return touchdown, an interception, four touchdowns of 50-plus yards, and 858 total yards of offense.
But it all came down to the fourth quarter. With under eight minutes remaining in the game, Orem faced a third-and-long deep in their own territory. The Tigers sat knotted up with the Redhawks 33-33 and in need of a big play to keep the drive alive.
They got that in the form of a reverse when senior running back Kolton Brown-Dye for the Tigers picked up a first down. It was the first of three third-and-long scenarios for Orem, which capped off the drive with a 9-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Mack Hixson with 2:51 left in the game.
The Tigers defense stood strong to closeout the game to seal a 40-33 win over the Redhawks.
"That was a 12-round heavyweight fight that went back and forth to the last minute," said Orem head coach Gabe Sewell. "Hats off to our coaches for preaching mental toughness and our kids for buying in and not letting any mistakes linger long term. I'm proud of this group."
With the win, Orem is one step closer to their fifth straight state title, a feat that has only been accomplished by three other schools in the history of Utah high school football.
The Tigers have 17 straight playoff wins since 2017, but that streak looked to be in jeopardy coming into the postseason. Orem limped into the playoffs at 4-5 and lost their final three games of the season. But the Tigers have been able to claw themselves back into the thick of the playoffs by rattling off three straight road playoff wins.
"We sat back after those three losses and took stock of our performances," Sewell said. "I think the added adversity of trying to do it on the road has served as a little more fuel to the fire that's helped us go on this run".
A huge catalyst for the Tigers' surge has been quarterback and Utah State commit Chase Tuatagaloa, who credits the team's three-game win streak to having a short-term memory when it comes to game results.
"Coach always tells us the sun is going to rise tomorrow and it's back to work the next day," Tuatagaloa said. "We know a loss doesn't define us, so we just move on for them."
The future Aggie threw three interceptions, but when his team needed him to lead them down the field he responded every time.
"My teammates were there to pick me up and they had my back when I was down," Tuatagaloa said. "They reminded me we all make mistakes and that stuff happens, so it's up to us to go out and respond".
Sewell said he talked with his quarterback throughout the game and credited that opportunity to break the game down in real time that helped his team come away with the win.
"I said to him: 'Don't make these playoffs games more than they are; it's a game no matter what the stage is,'" Sewell said. "We watched the film on our sideline, made some quick adjustments, and Chase finished the game off great."
Bountiful got a strong performance from their star running back Corbin Cottle, who bounced back from a fumble on his first carry of the game to run roughshod through the Orem defense for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Bountiful quarterback Owen Geilman, who became the starter midway through the season due to an injury to Max Barker, also had a gritty performance and accounted for three of the team's touchdowns. Both Geilman and Cottle will be back for the Redhawks next year as the team looks to build off a strong season.
The 21st seeded Tigers will advance to take on the No. 1-seeded Springville Red Devils in the semifinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday at 11 a.m. MT