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2A State Championship Preview
West Side wants a second consecutive championship, but the Cougars are looking to end the Pirate's win streak
Published: 11/19/2020 1:16:34 PM


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Fourteen years separate the Firth Cougars and the 2A state championship trophy. As for their Saturday opponent, the West Side Pirates are on the hunt for their second title in two years. 

The Cougars, who have four titles to their name, last tasted the hope of victory back in 2017. In that season, Firth rode a five-game winning streak en route to the championship but fell 47-6 to Declo to close out the year. Not since that mark has Firth traveled this far in the playoffs, with two consecutive first-round exits in 2018 and ‘19.

-CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP LIVE

Firth’s three losses are the fewest since that second-place finish in 2017, and once again the Cougars face a past champion with a history of long playoff runs. But should Firth want to take home that coveted blue trophy, the Cougars will need to prevent a repeat of history. 

The first of Firth’s three losses on the season came to the very same Pirates taking the field at Madison High School Saturday. West Side stomped Firth 33-6, the sixth consecutive Pirate victory in the series. 

Firth Head Coach Jordan Bartlett said the key to snapping that half-decade long losing streak comes down to field a balanced offense. The Cougars like to spread the ball around, with four different players accounting for at least 200 yards throughout 2020. 

"If we can be relatively successful through the air and on the ground, we will keep West Sides’ defense from getting comfortable,” Bartlett said. 

Gage Vasquez will be in charge of establishing the passing game. With 797 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air, Vasquez will face one of the toughest secondaries in 2A. West Side was just one of two teams to hold the Cougars to a single score, with North Fremont corralling Firth to six and seven points in the two games the pair played this season. 

On the ground, three different backs will look to keep the Pirates guessing. Sam Park, Jason Tucker and Vasquez account for more than 1,500 yards rushing. Vasquez leads the charge, rushing 123 times over the course of the year for 616 yards. 

West Side Head Coach Tyson Moser said preventing Firth’s offensive weapons from reaching the second level will be crucial. The Cougars have the speed to turn busted plays into big gains, he said. 

“Firth has some dangerous weapons that can knock out a big play at any time,” Moser said. “We need to make open-field tackles and stop the big play.”

West Side is no stranger to stopping electric offenses. The Pirates hold opponents to an average of five points, the best not only in the 2A classification but in the entire state. West Side has posted five shutouts this season, with another three games holding opponents to a single score. 

That dominant defensive front is what has propelled West Side to 20 consecutive wins, with linebackers Blaize Brown and Taze Stegelmeier leading the charge. In that time span, nine teams failed to put up a single point. 

That kind of consistency takes a world of pressure off the Pirate offense, not that they need it. Declo and Bear Lake are the only two teams to keep West Side from scoring multiple touchdowns.

“Defensively we will need to rely on our front line to win the line of scrimmage and prevent West Side from establishing their play-action-pass attack,” Bartlett said. 

Brown will look to take advantage over the top, leaning on the rushing attack of Cage Brokens and Josh Reeder.  

"Firth has a great defense and has given us problems over the years running the ball,” Moser said. “We will need to be able to win the battle in the trenches and run the ball.”

Saturday’s 2A state championship kicks off 3 p.m. (MST) at Madison High School. IdahoSports.com will live audio broadcast the game. Click here to listen. 

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