After four first-half turnovers, Orem shook off the early struggles and took off in the second half to top Bountiful 35-25 in the second round of the 5A playoffs on Friday.
“It’s OK to get knocked down. Don’t get knocked out,” Orem coach Gabe Sewell said. “That was the mentality we had coming out. We tidied up a few things, made some adjustments and came out away with the (win).”
Bountiful jumped all over the Tigers from the opening kick. Rhett Smith opened the scoring with a 42-yard pick-six, sniffing out an Orem screen pass, tipping the deflection to himself and rumbling for the score in the opposite direction.
Orem’s offense was on the field for only another two plays before a sideline catch was fumbled forward into the waiting hands of Redhawks defensive back Ford Creswell.
Bountiful capitalized the next play as Corbin Cottle drew up the middle and cut outside for a 48-yard rushing score to put the Redhawks up 14-0 with 9:37 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers’ offense settled in and quarterback Lance Reynolds engineered a 12-play drive capped with a 5-yard Tru To’a touchdown rumble to make it 14-7 with 4:12 remaining in the opening quarter.
Bountiful’s offense stalled for a punt, but Orem’s ball security issues appeared again as To’a fumbled at midfield. The Redhawks took advantage and knocked through a 22-yard field goal for the 17-7 lead.
Orem drove inside the 25 yard-line, but another attempted reception tipped to Kaden Mertz. Bountiful suffered its first major mistake of the game in response as Eniasi Matina grabbed a tipped screen for Orem and careened 24 yards for prime field position.
“I just saw the screen and he tipped that and I was like ‘Oh nope, it’s not touching the ground,’ so I took that,” Matina said. “I should have scored, but I was so gassed.”
Cole Johnson waltzed into the end zone from a yard out one play later and the Tigers limited the early turnover damage and narrowed the deficit to 17-14 to close out the first half.
Reynolds tossed the Tigers’ fifth and final turnover of the night before flipping the switch as the third quarter dawned.
After a Bountiful punt, the junior passer responded with a nine-play drive punctuated with a perfectly lofted ball to the back corner of the end zone to Asher Young for a 19-yard touchdown and the first Orem lead of the night, 21-17.
The Orem defense came up with a big play on the ensuing Redhawks drive, punching out the ball on an Owen Geilman scramble. Reynolds capitalized again a short time later, finding tight end Roger Saleapaga with a 20-yard play action fake bullet for the 28-17 advantage with 7:45 left in the game.
“It wasn’t a great throw, but he went out and made the play,” Reynolds said. “Just having trust in those receivers to make the plays, they’re great receivers.”
Bountiful came back to life with a bomb from Geilman to Sam Stevenson before offensive lineman Freddie Fekitoa punched in a 1-yard score. Geilman found Faletau Satuala for the two-point conversion catch to narrow the deficit to a field goal, 28-25, with 5:29 left in the fourth.
The Redhawks defense forced a punt, but muffed the ensuing return to give Orem a short field and the last word on a 4-yard Johnson scoring dive to close it out, 35-25.
As the postseason field narrows to the best teams in the state, Sewell said he’s emphasizing more than ever to focus on blocking out the adversity and surviving to the next play.
“They cleaned up a lot of the early mistakes that we made that allowed for turnovers,” Sewell said. “All in all, I’ll take a win any way I can get it.”