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Orem approaching historic levels of domination in Utah prep football

November 15, 2018

Orem wide receiver Puka Nacua (12) runs with the ball as he evades Spanish Fork cornerback Kaleb Lundquist (14) during a game between the Spanish Fork Dons and the Orem Golden Tigers held Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, at Spanish Fork High School. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The majority of this year’s Orem Tigers football roster has been playing together since they were 9 or 10 years old and Jeremy Hill has been their coach.

Hill remembers telling this particular group at their end-of-the-season banquet in fourth grade that if they bought into the process, they could win back-to-back state championships in high school.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Tigers are on the brink of doing just that, facing Dixie on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium for a shot at their second consecutive Class 4A state title.

More than that, Orem has a chance to become one of the most dominant teams ever in Utah prep history.

“The conversation we’ve been having with these kids has been the same all year,” Hill said. “We played a tough preseason. We kind of preach this faceless opponent because we’re more focused on playing Orem Tiger football.”

Orem Tiger football in 2018 has meant domination in every sense of the word.

With the help of Utah prep football historian George Felt, it’s easy to see how dominant the Tigers have been this year.

Orem has accounted for 6,753 yards of total offense this season, which ranks sixth all-time. The top mark is held by East in 2016 (7,438) and it would take 685 yards of offense in the championship game for the Tigers to reach the No. 1 spot.

Orem is averaging 53.3 points per game, which ranks fourth all-time. The record is held by East’s 1919 squad (61.3). The modern record (post-1950) is Dixie at 52.2 points per game in 1972. With the Tigers’ first score in Friday’s championship game, they will become the all-time season points leader in state history. This season, Orem has scored 693 points, one shy of East’s 2016 record of 694.

If the Tigers score 42 points in the title game — well within their capabilities — they will own the all-time record for points scored in playoff games. They are currently averaging 62.67 points per game.

It helps that Orem has three of the all-time Utah greats at quarterback, wide receiver and running back.

Cooper Legas (4,005 passing yards with 43 touchdowns; 1,000 rushing yards and 14 more scores), Puka Nacua (94 catches for 2,154 yards and 24 touchdowns) and running back/linebacker Noah Sewell (618 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, 93 tackles and three sacks) are a nightmare for opponents to scout and prepare for each week.

“All three are phenomenal leaders and athletes, but they’re also phenomenal kids,” Hill said. “They very easily could be prima donnas, more ‘me’ than ‘me.’ All three of them could have a bunch of stats or no stats and they’d be happy. There were two guys on Puka last week and he still caught five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. Those are lower than his usual stats but he was as happy as he could be. I could tell these kids on Friday, ‘We’re going to put you all at three different positions because of the way Dixie is going to play us,’ and they’d all do it for the good of the team.”

Orem posted a 3-1 record against out-of-state competition this fall, beating Century, Idaho (61-19), Canyon Springs, Nevada (41-14) and Trabuco, California (51-46) while losing at national powerhouse Bishop Gorman, Nevada (31-21). The Tigers opened the season with a loss to 6A semifinalist Bingham (39-22) but has otherwise obliterated Utah competition.

Orem has outscored nine Utah opponents (including playoffs) 591-139, which is 65.7 points per game to 15.4 points per game. That’s a spread of 50.3 points per game. In Region 10 play, The Tigers outscored five opponents 309 to 40.

Before the 2017 high school realignment that created Class 6A, Orem petitioned to move up from 4A to 5A but was denied. About a week after winning the 2017 4A title, Hill emailed Utah High School Activities Association Executive Director Rob Cuff.

“I said, ‘This may be kind of (a) crazy question, but could we move up to 5A or 6A? We’d like to compete against the best.’ They told us no. My guess is when the next realignment happens we might be going to 5A. I feel like of all six teams playing this Friday (4A, 5A and 6A), we’re the best team.”

Dixie (11-1) has one of the top defenses in the state. Through 12 games, the Flyers have allowed just 12.2 points per game.

“As I look at our practice schedule this week, we’ve added nothing new on defense or offense,” Hill said. “I feel like we’re very well prepared. Dixie has a good defense and it will be fun to watch that defense against our offense. Their offense executes well and they’re going to try and move the chains slowly against us, try to keep the ball out of our hands. Our last three games, our No. 1 defense has given up just three touchdowns. If we protect the ball and take it away a few times, I feel like we should be in a great spot on Friday.”

And that would put the Tigers in a great spot in Utah prep football history as one of the most dominating teams of all-time.

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