West Side High School
Conference: 2A South East Idaho Conference
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Head Coach: Tyson Moser
Years as Head Coach: 8th Season
Previous Experience: 8 years as JV/Freshman coach at West Side
Record Last Year: 7-2
State Titles: 1980, 1983, 2004, 2010, 2014
Nate Priestley, Center, 12
Tate Buttars, RB/DB, 12
Branson Hatch, RB/LB, 12
Braxton Smith, DL, 12
Braydon Crouch, WR, 12
Key Players lost from last year:
Peyton Brown, QB – 3-year starter
Josh King, TE/DE – 3-year starter
Written by: Matt Harris (@IdahoSportsMatt)
West Side Pirates football is known well around the 2A classification in Idaho for two reasons: hard nosed, smash mouth football and deep playoff runs seemingly year-in and year-out.
Last season was a slight aberration on those two points.
Playing with the target on their back all last year as the defending state champions, West Side quest for a repeat title ended about three rounds before they wanted it to. A thorough 44-22 beating at the hands of the North Fremont Huskies on a cool Halloween evening in the 2A play-in round stifled the Pirates hopes of bringing another Milk Bowl banner back to Franklin County. It also marked the first two-game losing streak for West Side since August of 2012 and the first time the team would not make at least the semifinal round since 2009.
The loss, in a way, also brought a conclusion to the best passing game the school has ever seen. Three-year starting quarterback Peyton Brown exits the team due to graduation and with him go all of the school passing records. Now, head coach Tyson Moser will look to re-tool and re-tailor his offense once again to the skills of the players at his disposal.
“We just want to get back to running the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage,” Moser said, now in his eighth season leading West Side.
Moser noted the loss of another key piece for the Pirates over the last three seasons – the now-graduated Josh King, who started at tight end and defensive end.
“We are going to miss Josh’s athleticism on both sides of the ball,” he said.
But with change in personnel comes a chance for new and familiar names to rise and shine. Center Nate Priestly is back for his senior season. The skill positions are loaded with senior running backs Tate Buttars and Branson Hatch ready to help assume the offensive load. Senior wide receiver Braydon Crouch will be a downfield target.
While the coach didn’t name a starter at quarterback, the Pirates will have plenty of help for the new signal caller as they shift to a more run-oriented offense. With West Side averaging 26.0 points per game last season, it will be tough to tell as of now if they can increase that number with the change in offensive philosophy. But know this: West Side wants to pound the football like they have in years past.
“Being able to run the football is an ‘X-Factor’ to our success,” said Moser.
West Side is known to be a very physical team – they love to hit. And their defense has been excellent historically. Last season, the team gave up only 18.5 points per game in nine games. If you take out their last two games of the year (against Aberdeen and North Fremont), that number drops to 11.7 points per game overall.
The key to that success, however, starts in the ground game.
“We hope to improve in stopping the run this year,” Moser said. In the two aforementioned losses, both Aberdeen and North Fremont ran over West Side and took multiple trips to the end zone via the run game. The thought of giving up that many yards in the run game has surely stung the Pirates coaching staff and players all summer long.
Senior defensive lineman Braxton Smith returns to anchor the front seven along. Hatch will roam around at linebacker while Buttars looks to lead the secondary.
While the proverbial target may not be on West Side’s back this season, they are still going to get the very best from every school they face. The Pirates open the season on the road with their annual game against Firth in what has become a stellar rivalry between the two schools. West Side then welcomes perennial Utah Class 1A title contender Rich High School to Dayton before taking on the new-look Marsh Valley Eagles.
The conference schedule for the Pirates then gets underway with two consecutive road games: at Soda Springs on Sept. 23 and at Bear Lake on Sept. 30. Then, West Side gets their much anticipated rematch with Aberdeen – the team that ended their 19-game winning streak last season. They then close out the regular slate with a non-conference game at Declo followed by a home date with Malad.
“Aberdeen is the district champions until someone beats them,” Moser said of the prospects for the South East Idaho Conference. “Bear Lake could have a breakout year as well.”
With regards to the prospects of his own team, Moser was excited for the challenge that lay ahead.
“We have a good group of kids that hasn’t seen a lot of success on the football field, but the potential is there,” he said. “I think we will improve each week and hopefully surprise some people.”
Moser noted that offseason workouts have helped get the team on the same page and off to a good start.
“The work ethic and attitude have been great. They are a very coachable group.”
One way or another, West Side always seems to be in the conversation once November rolls around. Don’t be surprised if that’s the case once again this fall.