We can rely on everyone to do their job and we don’t have to go try and play superhero and make a play every down. We know everyone is going to step up and do their job. —Orem DL Cayne Sauo-To'a
OREM — One of the main talking points heading into last week’s 4A semifinal between Orem and Sky View revolved around which defense would be most effective.
The offenses ranked first and third in 4A heading into the game, and whichever defense put its stamp on the game first figured to have the upper hand. It was definitely Orem.
By forcing Sky View into three straight three and outs to open the game, Orem’s defense set the tone and never looked back. Sky View was forced to punt on four of its five first-half possessions, and was forced to play catch-up the entire game.
That defense faces a major hurdle in this Friday’s 4A championship game against Mountain Crest, but Orem’s players are confident in their chances.
That confidence wasn’t always there, especially after a 41-14 Week 1 loss to Bingham.
“When we played Bingham, our spirits got knocked down a little. But we felt like we played hard, and through the year we got better and better,” said Orem defensive lineman Cayne Sauo-To’a.
The senior said what really drove Orem’s defense was the perceived disrespect. All the talk about Orem in the summer was about the offense, and about how the defense would inevitably struggle after 10 players transferred out of the program after last season.
That extra motivation has helped Orem surrender only 16.0 ppg, which ranks third in 4A scoring defense. It has a plus-26 in takeaways as well.
“We can rely on everyone to do their job and we don’t have to go try and play superhero and make a play every down. We know everyone is going to step up and do their job,” said Sauo-To’a.
A lot went into building Orem’s 4-2-5 defense, which isn’t the preferred defense for head coach Jeremy Hill.
With a bunch of linemen all about the same size, 6-foot to 6-foot-2, and then 200 to 235 pounds, and then speed in the secondary, Hill believed the 4-2 was the best fit for his defense.
“We built that knowing we were going to send from different angles, try and get them with speed, but if we did happen to have a lapse somewhere I’ve got five of my fastest kids playing DB that are going to make up for it,” said Hill.
Those five fastest kids were a big uncertainty heading into the season. When Orem had some players leave the program, Hill had some voids to fill on his roster and looked within his own halls to do so.
He convinced twins Ben and Chris Daley, whose first love is baseball and were on the fence about football, to stick with football and they’ve started opposite each other at cornerback all season. Safeties Remi Hill and Shawn Anderson didn’t even play football last year.
Fellow safety Ethan Slade kind of just wanted to focus on basketball this year, but Hill convinced him to stick with football for his junior season and now he’s leading the team in tackles.
“Those five guys almost didn’t play football this year and now they’re having the time of their life and doing a great job,” said coach Hill.
The Daley twins have combined for nine interceptions, while the other three safeties have combined for nine more interceptions. In the trenches Austin Kirkby and Sauo-To’a each have over 12 sacks as they’ve put constant pressure on the quarterback.
Sauao-To’a said the task for the defensive line Friday is pretty straightforward.
“We need to take advantage of our one-on-ones and contain that quarterback,” he said.
Mountain Crest quarterback Brady Hall has passed for 2,866 yards and rushed for 825 yards this season, a dual-threat quarterback that will test both sides of Orem’s stout defense.