Bear Lake vs Firth football

Bear Lake’s Tiagan Criswell (15) scores a touchdown with Firth’s Trent Telford defending in the third quarter of their 2A playoff game Thursday night at Holt Arena.

POCATELLO — When Bear Lake couldn’t finish drives, string big plays together or even drain the clock late in the game, the Bears defense came through — all the way through the last play.

Cason Culver’s sack of Gage Vasquez capped a dominant performance for Bear Lake’s defense, which led the Bears to a 14-0 win Thursday against Firth in the first round of the 2A state playoffs at Holt Arena.

“Defensively, outstanding game,” Culver said. “That’s been our game all year.”

Culver’s game-sealing sack finally sucked the last gasp from Firth’s offense. The Cougars (4-5) had possession on Bear Lake’s side of the field five times, but never broke through. The offense committed three interceptions, had four turnovers on downs and gave up four quarterback sacks. Bear Lake also blocked two punts.

The closest Firth got to the end zone was its own 5-yard line. The Cougars drove to Bear Lake’s 31 on their first possession of the third quarter, but Dalton Moss snagged Jace Erickson’s third interception of the game to cancel the threat.

It was the fourth shutout this season for Bear Lake (7-2), which held Firth to 161 yards and 2.9 yards per play.

“That’s a big deal,” Culver said. “(Assistant) coach (Troy) Lloyd talks about, ‘We’re a bunch of farm kids, so we play tough and defense is our thing.’ We protect our end zone, and that’s our No. 1 goal.”

It wasn’t all so smooth for Bear Lake’s offense, however.

The Bears had five plays gain more than 10 yards and had to rely on the pass late in the game. Firth bottled up Bears ball carriers for minus-6 yards rushing on 28 rushes.

“We had them up front. Our line was beating up on their line,” first-year Firth coach Jordan Bartlett said. “But our secondary just came up a little short.”

Quarterback Owen Teuscher kept Bear Lake’s offense afloat, completing 12 of 20 passes for 117 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. With a 14-0 lead, Bear Lake milked the first 3 minutes, 30 seconds off the fourth-quarter clock, thanks to Teuscher going 3 for 5 with hookups of 14 and 22 yards.

“Offensively, I don’t think we had our best game,” Culver said. “Our run game wasn’t there. Passing was good, Owen’s really good at what he does.”

Firth still outgained Bear Lake, 161-111, but the Cougars’ turnovers and missed chances in enemy territory proved costly.

“Kids just gave everything they had,” Bartlett said. “They came out, didn’t leave anything on the field. That’s all we can ask for.”