Printed on: November 17, 2012

Firth tastes the sting of defeat in 2A title game

By Paul Lambert
plambert@postregster.com

POCATELLO -- Walking off the Holt Arena turf Friday night, Firth High School senior Kent Jolley could barely speak.

Silver trophy in his left hand, blue helmet in his right.

Heartsick in the middle.

Jolley and the Cougars had just lost 22-12 to Declo in the 2A state final, giving Firth its second runner-up finish in as many years.

"They kept pounding it at us and we fought hard, but they came out with the win in the end," Jolley said. "We just didn't get it done."

Both teams were getting it done on defense through three quarters, tied 6-6 with just one offensive touchdown between them.

Firth's run defense was particularly stiff, allowing the explosive Declo rushers 3.9 yards per carry and just one run over 10 yards in the game.

Declo's defense was similarly stingy against the run with the notable exception of a 62-yard second-quarter jaunt by senior Mitch Orme that set up Firth's first touchdown.

But it wasn't Firth's running game that spelled its doom. It was its passing game.

Playing without starting senior quarterback Jake Orme, Firth pressed three players into service behind center, each of whom threw an interception to Declo junior Hayden Hanson.

"I've never had three, not even in (youth football)," Hanson said. "Firth was tough, but we just dug deep and were able to get going late."

Declo broke the stalemate early in the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Kai Garner punched the ball over the west goal line on fourth down from the 1-yard line.

Garner repeated the 1-yard feat midway through the fourth quarter, a score that gave Declo a commanding 22-6 advantage with 5:48 remaining on the championship clock.

"We had a good defensive scheme, but it's hard with a team like Declo because they have so many explosive players," Firth coach Keith Drake said. "Declo blocks well and we did a pretty good job, but we just gave up a couple big plays."

Firth answered on its next drive when Mitch Orme hit freshman Liem Lucas on a 27-yard strike with 4:25 left.

Declo (12-0) followed with a three-and-out, and Firth (11-1) followed with a final interception to Hanson that sealed the win for Declo -- its first state football title in school history.

"I'm just so happy I can't even describe it," Hanson said. "No one has ever done this in our school history, and for us to be the first ones to do it means a lot."

Declo opened the scoring with a 54-yard punt return by sophomore Jackson Duncan, who took the kick from the south sideline to the north en route to the game's first score.

Firth's first score came two series' later when sophomore quarterback Jackson Thompson kept the ball on an option, edging around the right side for the score from 4 yards out.

Without its starting quarterback, however, Firth was a team working out passing game kinks on the fly against a stout Declo defense that had five shutout wins, including a 36-0 blanking of Marsing in the 2A semifinals.

"You can't ever replace a guy like Jake Orme, but I thought Jackson Thompson stepped up and played well," Jolley said of the sophomore quarterback. "This hurts, but I am just grateful for this opportunity to have played with such great kids and for these coaches."

Drake was similarly philosophical after guiding the Cougars to the state championship game in each of his two seasons behind the Firth clipboard.

"This is going to hurt, and I think it's one of those things that will hurt your whole life," he said. "What makes it most painful is knowing how hard these kids worked, but they shouldn't have any regrets. They gave it everything they had."