TOOELE Tooele began the Region 7 slate as a mystery to many throughout the state and the Buffs drew a tough opening assignment to open league action, meeting a tough Orem squad.
However, with a new coach and inspired attitude, Tooele remained undaunted against the talented Tigers.
The hosts rallied for a pair of late third-quarter touchdowns to erase a deficit and stun visiting Orem 21-14 Friday.
Chris Iorg fired a nine-yard strike to a leaping Jordan Clemente to provide the winning margin in the region opening shocker.
Orem attempted to battle back in the final frame when Tiger field general Josh Hamblin fired a 34-yard toss to Lance Chatterly to march into Buffalo territory with just over three minutes remaining.
But consecutive sacks by Mason Halligan and Marcus Westover pushed the Tigers back and preserved the hard-fought triumph.
Tooele Coach Ray Groth said the victory could have gone either way.
"It was a great win for us," said the new Buff coach. "(Orem) always has a good team and tremendous athletes. We told our kids to play hard and see what happens in the end. These kids really played hard all night and gave us everything they had."
Orem appeared to settle down and take command of the affair after a number of turnovers and costly mistakes early.
The Tigers grabbed the lead in the waning seconds of the second period when Hamblin engineered a scoring drive just before intermission. The Orem quarterback connected with Jordan Egbert on a pivotal fourth down pass to move the chains and fired a 20-yard scoring strike to Mitch Habel with 18.4 seconds left in the first half to spot the visitors a 7-6 cushion at halftime.
The Tigers marched 64 yards in nine plays with the opening second-half kick to extend the lead. Habel bolted for an 11-yard run and Hamblin fired a critical 18-yard toss to Chatterly on third down to keep the drive alive. Habel plunged into the end zone from a yard out to stake Orem to the 14-6 advantage.
However, the turning point of the game came just moments later. Tooele answered the Tiger challenge with a scoring drive of its own and knotted the game at 14-14.
"The game turned in our favor after they scored to open the second-half," said Groth. "We answered right back and it was then that I really feel our kids started to believe they could win the game."
Tooele drove 80 yards in seven plays, ignited by a dazzling 40-yard run by Iorg. Jordan Biorge also helped the drive with four carries for 37 yards. Iorg culminated the drive with a quarterback sneak on fourth and inches and Clement sprinted for the two-point conversion to deadlock the contest.
On the ensuing kickoff, Orem fumbled and Tooele's Austin Schmidt pounced on the ball. Iorg found Clemente in the end zone just minutes later to lift the Buffs to the triumph.
Orem came into the contest with highly touted quarterback Hamblin at the helm. But the defensive front of Bryan Hobson, Taylor Hunt, Kolt Wright, Glen Kummer, Westover and Joel Spendlove harassed and chased the Tiger quarterback all night long.
Hamblin connected on just 11 of 26 tosses for 160 yards and a touchdown. However, Tooele sacked the Tiger senior six times and forced him out of the pocket on a number of other occasions.
Biorge paced the Buff attack with 73 yards on 15 carries.
The game opened on an ominous note for both teams as each squad turned the ball over on its initial drive.
Tooele capitalized on the costly Tiger miscue when Biorge scooped up an Orem fumble and darted nine yards to paydirt and the hosts led 6-0 midway through the opening session.
The Buffs also recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff but relinquished the ball on downs at the Orem 11.
Hamblin triggered a Tiger drive deep into Buffalo territory with an 11-play march. But Orem also relinquished the ball on a failed fourth-down play, a sign of things to come for the Tigers.