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Declo quarterback Kai Garner scored on a pair of one-yard runs to lead the Hornets to a 22-12 victory over Firth in the Class 2A championship football game on Friday.
In a battle of unbeatens, the Hornets (12-0) took advantage of two big plays and a Firth mistake en route to their touchdowns. The Cougars (11-1) also used the big play, but struggled to sustain anything offensively all game.
"We were a little out of sync," noted Firth coach Keith Drake. That was to be expected with the loss of starting quarterback Jake Orme in the semifinals one week earlier.
Still, Drake praised the play of sophomore quarterback Jackson Thompson, who shared signal-calling duties with running back Mitch Orme.
"Jackson fought hard; I'm proud of him," Drake said.
Declo took early control of the game when Jackson Duncan sprinted 50 yards to paydirt on a punt return. The point-after kick failed. That came with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
Firth tied the score with 6:44 left in the second quarter when Thompson scored on a five-yard run. The Cougars' two-point conversion attempt failed. Mitch Orme set up that touchdown with a 62-yard dash.
It was his only big gainer as he finished with 88 yards on 12 carries.
"We shut down the best running back in the state," noted Declo coach Kelly Kidd. "It's sad that the other Orme kid didn't play, but we've been there, too." He noted the Hornets lost their starting center late in the season during another state championship run.
"The whole game our goal was to tackle Orme," Kidd said. "Fortunately tonight we tackled him all but once."
Declo went ahead for good four plays into the fourth quarter. Garner escaped several would-be tackles on a 49-yard run which highlighted a 9-play, 78-yard drive. He scored on a fourth-and-goal play from the one-yard line. Hayden Hanson caught Garner's two-point conversion pass.
The Hornets got a big break three plays later when Hanson intercepted a Firth pass near midfield. Declo marched 62 yards in seven plays with Garner scoring from the one again. He then ran for the two-point conversion to put Firth in a 22-6 hole with 5:48 left in the game.
Firth responded with a 59-yard march of its own. Liem Lucas started things with a 16-yard run, then capped the drive with a 27-yard catch of a Mitch Orme pass. The Cougars' two-point conversion attempt failed again.
Hanson ended Firth's hopes when he intercepted another pass, his third of the night, with 1:24 remaining in the game.
"I thought we had a good defensive scheme because they had a lot of explosive players," said Firth's Drake.
"This loss shouldn't take away from what the kids accomplished," Drake said.
Neither team had stellar offensive numbers. Declo had 48 rushes for 195 yards and two pass receptions for another 63. The Hornets' total offense was 258 yards. Firth had 175 yards on 35 rushes and 71 yards on 9-of-17 passing. Their total offense was 246.
Firth's Connor Montgomery rushed eight times for 38 yards and caught six passes for another 38 yards. Nick Andersen had five rushes for 34 yards.
Declo 6 0 0 16 - 22
Firth 0 6 0 6 - 12
D-Duncan 50 punt return (kick failed), 5:25
F-Thompson 4 run (run failed), 6:44
D-Garner 1 run (Hanson pass from Garner), 10:11
D-Garner 1 run (Garner run), 5:48
F-Lucas 27 pass from Orme (pass failed), 4:25