We really looked at that and we saw some weaknesses that we could exploit and it showed. We got them twice —Orem coach Jeremy Hill
SALT LAKE CITY — Orem coaches weren't specifically looking for an advantage on kick-block duties during their preparations for Friday's semifinal matchup with Sky View, but they found one. The result was a unique advantage, freeing up some defensive play-calling while keeping the Bobcats at bay during the Tigers' 28-12 win.
The initial focus on special teams preparations was looking how best to defend Sky View's potent kick-return initially, yet after pouring over all the film, Orem coach Jeremy Hill's staff saw something that could give the Tigers an edge.
“We really looked at that and we saw some weaknesses that we could exploit and it showed. We got them twice,” Hill said.
Both blocks came during extra-point attempts.
The first one came toward the end of the first half, with the Tigers taking an eight-point lead into the locker room instead of seven. The second proved perhaps even more significant, as Sky View was faced with a two-score deficit in the fourth as a result, instead of one, given Orem's 21-12 lead with 10:24 left.
“It’s huge. It allows me to call a couple of different things on defense, and even having the eight-point lead there, for a little bit, it let me know they had to score and get a two-point conversion,” Hill said. “That makes it more difficult to do so we were able to dial things up and take a few different chances on defense that I wanted to do.”
Also proving huge was Orem's Ben Daley returning a kickoff immediately after the second blocked extra point. The senior defensive back was able to skirt around Sky View's kick coverage, taking the ball clear to Sky View's 23-yard line to set up a touchdown that pretty much put the game out of reach.
“We kind of went with a different kick return team this week. We put a little more of our starters on there,” Hill said. “Ben Daley, who had that one right there, was awesome. He’d just come out after a long series on defense, but he was able to take that kick return and set us up.”
Sky View had some hope left late, although trailing 28-12, but it was receiver Puka Nacua who stepped in late to knock away a pass to Mason Falslev on a fourth-and-goal situation. Nacua rarely plays defensive back, yet was called upon coaches late to help shut down the Bobcats' prolific receiver.
“Coaches said it’s your job — he’s all yours,” Nacua said. “It was kind of scary out there because he’d been killing all of our (defensive backs), but he made a throw and I was able to get it.”
Nacua then followed up his pass breakup with an interception one series later that sealed the game for good.