The Tooele football team saw exactly why Orem is the defending Class 4A champion firsthand on Friday afternoon, falling 68-12 to the Tigers in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Orem High School.
The loss brought the 2018 season to a close for Tooele (3-8), which made the playoffs as the No. 4 seed from Region 11 and thus drew the difficult assignment of having to play the Region 10 champion on the road in the first round. The Buffaloes found themselves down 61-0 at halftime, thanks in large part to Orem’s five defensive touchdowns.
The onslaught began when quarterback Kulani Iongi’s pass was intercepted by Orem’s Jake Wuergler, who returned it 65 yards for a touchdown just 49 seconds into the game. Jaden Ah You returned a Tooele fumble 20 yards for the Tigers’ second score, and Trevor Rockey’s 9-yard run made it 21-0 with 3:32 left in the first quarter.
Jake Pedersen caught a 5-yard TD pass from Cooper Legas early in the second quarter, and Kade Brown returned another Tooele fumble 10 yards for a touchdown 56 seconds later. Rockey scored on a 2-yard run with 6:29 left, and Jakob Robinson and Ethan Slade had back-to-back 50-yard pick-sixes to make it 54-0. USC commit Puka Nacua caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Legas with 2:23 left in the half for the Tigers (9-2).
After Legas added a 61-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Tooele’s Nukuluve Helu got the Buffaloes on the board with a 66-yard run. Helu added a 50-yard TD run with 4:13 left.
Helu led the Buffaloes’ offense with 172 yards on 15 rushing attempts on a day when not much else went right. Iongi, who had been largely accurate for most of the season, was just 5-for-21 for 64 yards and four interceptions. Austin Meoño had three catches for 56 yards and added a team-high six tackles on defense.
Orem had 419 yards of total offense, running for 183 and throwing for 236 more. Nacua had five catches for 166 yards and Legas was 11-for-15 for 236 yards, two TDs and an interception.
The Tigers will face Mountain Crest in the quarterfinals Friday.