FIRTH — When the Firth Cougars finished putting away the North Fremont Huskies 28-0 Friday night in a battle of the top two teams in the Nuclear Conference, part of the celebration included a one-word shout on the field, repeated over and over.
Firth is now the lone undefeated team in the league after a tough, physical battle between two intense rivals who seem to have a habit of squaring off when a conference title or a state championship berth is on the line. Both teams are now 5-2 overall, but in the league standings the Cougars’ fourth win in a row gave them a 3-0 conference mark while the Huskies are 2-1.
The staggering thing is that fourth-ranked North Fremont, once the top dog in the 2A state media rankings, has now been shut out in two straight games after being blanked 24-0 by Aberdeen the week before.
While points are suddenly hard to come by for the Huskies, the Cougars seem to be hitting a nice stride as state playoff time nears after getting off to a bit of a shaky start in the non-conference portion of the regular season against tough teams like West Side and Bear Lake.
“Our non-conference season we knew was going to be very tough,” Firth coach Rigo Vasquez said after Friday’s win. “You go with West Side and Bear Lake, they’re 1-2 in the state right now, you’ve got North Fremont. It prepared us for it. We can’t be happier for the kids.”
The win over the Huskies should help make observers around the state sit up and take notice of the Cougars again at a good point in the season.
“Maybe people don’t quite see and notice what’s going on, but us as a coaching staff we knew what we had,” Vasquez said. “At 2-2 I thought we were set right where we needed to be, I was hoping to be 3-1 but 2-2 is where we were at and that set us up for our conference season. We’re now clicking at the right time, getting things going. I think our skill players are reading and running the ball well, our line’s hitting in front of us and defensively we’re just flying around the ball. In all phases I think we’re clicking at the right time and I’m hoping we continue that.”
Offensively, North Fremont got off to a decent start in the game, mostly behind the running of Carson Packer. But then fumbles started plaguing the Huskies on two straight series, and the complexion of the game changed. The first turnover was a fumble recovery by Firth’s senior linebacker Wyatt Nelson who chugged 69 yards for a touchdown with 5:20 left in the first quarter. The extra point kick by Gage Vasquez went wide left making it 6-0.
The fumble bug hit again on North Fremont’s next series, turning it over at the Huskies’ 18. Penalties were hurting North Fremont as well, helping to set up a four-yard scoring run by Vasquez on a keeper to the left side. He was thrown down hard in the end zone and had the wind knocked out of him for a while. Alex Vasquez came in temporarily at quarterback and ran in the two-point conversion at the 2:59 mark of the opening period and it was 14-0.
Firth’s defense stepped up again in the second quarter after the Huskies went into a hurry-up offense and drove down to Firth’s 12, but Packer was stopped short as the first half ended.
That was the closest North Fremont got to scoring. Firth’s defense was that tough.
In the third quarter, Gage Vasquez scrambled to his right and hit Alex Vasquez as he was falling backward on a 14-yard scoring pass with 1:19 on the clock to widen the lead even more. Early in the fourth quarter, senior Kyle Jacobsen showed some power running as he broke into the open on a 53-yard TD run for the final score, pretty much putting the game away.
“I’m definitely proud of the boys,” coach Vasquez said. “When you have North and Firth it’s always a big rivalry. The last couple of years they’ve been able to get us in the regular season and we’ve been fortunate enough to get it in the postseason. It’s fantastic for us to come out and get these senior boys a win in their last game here, winning against North Fremont is always a special thing.
“North Fremont is a great program. (Coach) Ben (Lenz) and his staff, they always have those boys prepped and ready to go. One thing with North, they’re always very physical. Our mentality was make sure we stay disciplined, make sure we own the line and we are more physical than they are. The physicality had to be there today and I think we showed that today.”
North Fremont closes the regular season at home against Ririe on Friday, while Firth ends its regular season on the road at West Jefferson Friday.