It's a fairly rare occurrence when state powerhouse Timpview has reason to be excited to play an opponent during the regular season.
That says a lot about the strides Westlake has quickly made as a football program.
The highly anticipated Region 7 showdown between four-time reigning 4A champion Timpview and second-year school Westlake takes place Friday night, and the Thunderbirds are fully aware that this will be their toughest league challenge.
"We're looking forward to it," said Timpview coach Louis Wong. "They've (the Thunder) proven themselves, and they're undefeated. We have to make sure we take care of business."
The Thunderbirds know that taking care of business won't come as easily as it usually does. The Thunder, although they haven't played the toughest schedule in the state, are unbeaten. They feature one of the state's most exciting players in quarterback John Ursua, who has already accounted for 26 touchdowns in just six games.
Ursua has a playing style and a skill-set similar to Timpview quarterback Christian Covey.
"From what I've seen on film, they're very good," Wong said. "Their quarterback is very good. He's elusive. He's very competitive, and he wants to win. We have to be prepared for him. We'll have to be on our toes."
Westlake seems to be building its program into a mini-Timpview. The Thunder are coached by Jason Walker, who was an assistant at Timpview and worked with Wong for approximately 10 years. The Thunder's schemes on offense and defense are similar to Timpview's.
Walker will obviously want to put his own touch on his program and step out of Timpview's enormous shadow. Wong said he is "absolutely" pleased to see his former assistant doing so well with his new program.
"You always want your guys to do well — just not against you," Wong said. "When your guys move on and do well, it's a positive reflection on their mentor."
The Thunder may still be a few years away from competing with Timpview. Of the Thunder's six wins, only one has come over a team with a winning record. The teams Westlake has defeated have a combined record of 10-26.
Timpview, meanwhile, is rolling as usual.
No team has come within two touchdowns of the T-Birds in their five wins. Covey has accounted for 15 touchdowns in five games, and he has several big-play receivers to throw to. Timpview is without standout running back Bryson McKenzie, who is rehabbing a knee injury, for a few more weeks.
One area the T-Birds are looking to improve on tonight is getting off to a strong start. They've been hampered by slow starts all season, which is a big change for the program. Timpview likes to come out of the locker room on fire, with the goal of quickly breaking its opponents' will.
"I'm happy, but I'm not satisfied," Wong said. "We have things we still need to work on. We've had slow starts the past couple of games, and I don't think we can afford to do that. We've had good second halves, but against great teams a good second half won't be good enough."
HANSEN RETURNS TO A.F.: Timpview-Westlake isn't the only football hot spot in Utah County tonight.
All eyes will be on Lone Peak quarterback Chase Hansen when the Knights play at American Fork. Hansen was American Fork's starting quarterback as a sophomore last season before transferring to Lone Peak during the offseason. He was originally denied eligibility for the season by the Utah High School Activities Association, but the decision was later overturned.
Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary said his team is trying to just focus on playing the game.
"We haven't put a lot of emphasis on that (Hansen playing his old team)," he said. "We've addressed it a little bit. We're just encouraging the kids to take care of each other out there."
The Knights are coming off a big win over Alta and are the odds-on favorite to win Region 4. The Cavemen have steadily improved since a shocking loss to Cedar to open the season. They upset Jordan two weeks ago, and McGeary is aware of what they're capable of.
"We're certainly not taking them lightly," he said of the Cavemen. "They always get up for Lone Peak."
ALSO FOR FIRST: Timpview-Westlake isn't the only game where first place will be on the line in region standings tonight.
In Region 6, East and Bountiful — both of which are tied with Highland for first — square off in Bountiful. The Braves, who were shockingly drubbed by previously winless Viewmont last week, have beaten the Leopards six straight times.
First place is also up for grabs in Region 12 when Richfield and Juab play. The Wildcats and Wasps share first place with Delta. In 2A East, top-ranked San Juan and North Summit play for the top spot.