SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah — In typical first-game fashion, tempers and yellow flags flashed in and out, but backing up 138 penalty yards didn't keep a young visiting Cottonwood team from rolling over a tough but vulnerable Westlake High squad Friday, beating the Thunders 36-13.
"A lot of our guys let their emotions get out of hand and we made some idiotic mistakes tonight," said Cottonwood's second-year head coach Josh Lyman. "But we're going to learn from and it. And it'll be fixed next week."
But most of those mishaps were seemingly limited to spotty moments in quarters 3 and 4, because the Colts played the opening quarter, and most of the second, like a well-trained hit squad on both sides of the ball.
Junior quarterback Cooper Bateman, a 6-foot-3, 16-year-old who thrives at lobbing passes over reaching defensive hands, immediately drove his offense into the endzone on the team's first three possessions of the nonregion opener. Using a no-huddle offense strategy, the 5A Colts scored their first six against their 4A opponents in fewer than three minutes into the battle.
Between offensive strikes, the Colts' defense, often led by junior stand-out linebackers Elijah Tupai and Dorien Banks, spent plenty of time rumbling around Westlake's backfield, giving 170-pound senior quarterback Todd Montandon fits.
Some trouble with holes in the Thunder's offensive line was only amplified when several balls were snapped too low to recover and pass or run with. This caused quick losses of needed yards — and momentum.
Westlake suffered from about negative nine yards in rushing; Cottonwood rushed for about 156.
At one point, Cottonwood's Bateman showed an especially cool-under-pressure poise by long-passing his way out of a two-successive-penalty deficit. Deep behind both neon-orange sticks, Bateman was forced to toss a 30-plus yarder from the back door of his collapsing pocket over two defenders on third down. He connected with senior wide receiver Hunter Hanks, who turned around on his fly route just in time to catch the ball, while running backwards, to complete the 42-yard play.
"It was an awesome feeling," Bateman said about the initial first few drives of the game. "Our no-huddle tempo did it. We called the plays right there as we were on the line to keep it quick."
But after the Colts scored on that unstoppable drive, Westlake coach Jason Walker, a known defensive whiz, apparently made some adjustments and things settled down for Cottonwood's quick-strike force.
Thunder struck when Westlake's Montandon found his own wide receiver running a similar fly route up the sideline during the next series. Senior Austin Morgan was able to shake his Cottonwood defender and take it all the way, a 51-yard performance, to score his first of two touchdowns for the evening.
Westlake's cornerback, Daniel Nugent, jumped and snagged an interception worth bragging to the girls about when he and his teammates start their school year on Tuesday. But Westlake couldn't capitalize on the short series and, after a long punt, they witnessed Cottonwood march down the field, once again, and put it in the hands of Gabe Hosea for the Colt's fourth touchdown.
Westlake only allowed 10 points in the second half, and they scored six while doing so, suggesting they could have competed at a higher level had they not been sluggish and Colt-shocked during the first 20 minutes of the game.
Next week, Westlake faces Timpview, which started strong against Alta Friday night with a 14-0 lead, but fizzled after the Hawks went on an unanswered 35-point run.
And Cottonwood will travel to take on Logan next week. Logan was firing on all cylinders against Bear River Friday night, scoring 49 points in the first half and not allowing Bear River a first down until later in the second quarter.
"Logan's a great team," said coach Lyman. "We've gotta hit practice hard if we're going to ready for them."