SALT LAKE CITY — The Orem Tigers defeated the Sky View Bobcats 28-12 in the semifinal round of the state playoffs. It is Orem’s first appearance in the state championship game in 23 years.
“We kinda feel the weight of Orem on our shoulders.” said junior wide receiver Puka Nacua, “But it’s been fun. I think having fun is the biggest part, being able to come back here and play in this amazing stadium, it’s been fun. I think we just need to enjoy the moment and let it come to us.”
For the first 12 minutes of the game, there was no score for either team. The defense for Orem didn’t allow Sky View past the 50 yard line until the second quarter.
Special teams was big for the Tigers as they punted and pinned the Bobcats on their own 1-yard line. The drive ended and Orem got the ball back within Sky View territory. Orem did, however, turn the ball over on that drive on downs when they couldn’t convert a fourth-and-short on the Sky View 23-yard line.
Both teams played better in the second quarter. Orem put points on the board first after junior quarterback Cooper Legas ran the ball two yards in the end zone on a fourth down play, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead. Five minutes later, junior running back Trevor Rockey punched the ball in from three yards out and Orem was quickly up 14-0.
Facing a double digit deficit, Sky View’s senior quarterback Jackson Siddoway led the Bobcats offense down the field on a nine play, 74-yard drive, and connected with sophomore wide receiver Mason Falslev on a play in which Siddoway dodged a would-be sack and aired the ball out to the end zone. Falslev came down with it but Bobcats still trailed 14-6 going into halftime.
The third quarter was a strange quarter for both teams. Legas found Nacua for the touchdown score, this time from the four yard line giving the Tigers a 21-6 lead.
After a Sky View punt, the Tigers muffed the punt and the Bobcats recovered the ball within Orem territory. However, on the very next play, the Bobcats immediately turned the ball over after Siddoway threw an interception to Orem’s senior safety Shawn Anderson.
In the final quarter, the Bobcats were down by 15 points when Siddoway broke free on a 6 yard touchdown run with 10:24 left on the clock, the Bobcats were down 21-12 and needed to stop Orem for the quarter to mount a comeback. But the Tigers had different plans: stamp their ticket to the state championship. Legas escaped a would be sack and scrambled around the field and miraculously found himself in the end zone, sealing the Tigers’ victory.
“When you have two phenomenal football teams like that, they’re 11-0, they’ve been ranked number 1 for a reason.” said Orem head coach Jeremy Hill, “We didn’t expect to come out here and win by 50, we expected a dog fight, and I think that’s what we got and that’s what’s reflected in the score.”
Sky View came into the game scoring over 35 points a game and was held to a season low of 12 points by the Tigers. The Bobcats were previously undefeated on the season (11-0). The kick off unit for the Tigers had a massive impact, totaling up 129 yards for an average of 43 yards per return. Coach Hill was particularly impressed with his special teams’ effort.
“It started actually with our kick off team.” said Hill, “They’ve done a great job all year with some phenomenal kick returns...hats off to my kick off team they did a phenomenal job.”
Coach Hill was originally on Orem’s last state championship team in 1994. He knows the dedication and work required to make the championship game.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my kids.” said Hill, “I knew the kids I had were loyal. I knew the kids were going to buy into what I said, to what the other coaching staff said. And that’s a difference, we’re not as talented as we were last year, but we’re here playing for a state championship because we have bought into what the vision is.”
Next week, the Tigers (11-2) will take on the Mountain Crest Mustangs (12-1) for the state championship at Rice Eccles Stadium.
“I feel confident every week,” said Hill, “I definitely watched a lot of Mountain Crest in preparation... I like how we match up.”