They've combined for five state championships in the last three high school football seasons, and finally two of the state's superpowers will face each other tonight.

It's the Night of Champions at Alta High as the 5A champion Hawks host 4A champion Timpview. Their fans have bickered over which state champion team was better the last couple of seasons. At least in 2009, they'll settle it on the field.

"It will be a great atmosphere," said Timpview coach Louie Wong. "It'll be standing-room only. It'll be good competition. There's a lot of respect for both programs, so it should be a great environment."

It'll be the first time Alta and Timpview have played each other in football since 1994. The wait may be worth it for high school football fans, but it sure would have been nice to see the two teams play in 2007 or 2008. This year's matchup may have lost a little luster following defeats for both teams and a disastrous injury for the T-Birds.

Alta is coming off a loss to Bingham in which it blew a 14-point halftime lead. Timpview had its state-record 36-game winning streak snapped by Pleasant Grove in its opener. The T-Birds suffered an even costlier loss last week when all-state defensive end Bronson Kaufusi was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

Losing Kaufusi was as big a personnel loss a high school team could suffer, as he was a Mr. Football candidate and a two-time all-state pick.

"It's a big loss," Wong said. "People would have to do different things against us because of him. They would run away from him. They would have to adjust their game plan for someone like Bronson. It's a big loss."

There's a lot of pride in Timpview's program and this is a game the T-Birds have been looking forward to even with Kaufusi out of commission. Timpview won the 4A championship last season with Kaufusi sidelined with an injury, so it knows how to adjust to playing without the BYU commit.

"We're still going to battle," Wong said. "We'll still give Alta a run for their money."

That's exactly what the Hawks are expecting, as they'll try and rebound from their humbling loss to Bingham. Alta's defense certainly has something to prove after allowing the Miners to score 24 points in the second half while giving up big nights to running back Harvey Langi and quarterback Ty Hannay.

"I think we'll find out a lot about ourselves on Friday night," said Alta coach Les Hamilton. "We're trying to bounce back and it'll be hard against Timpview, arguably the best program in the state. Their record speaks for itself."

Hamilton doesn't believe any of the luster has been lost for tonight's showdown.

"It's going to be an exciting, fun game," Hamilton said. "We'll still have a great turnout. Both teams will play with a lot of heart, determination and pride. That hasn't changed because both teams lost a game early on. Both teams will want to represent their classifications and schools."

This year's long-awaited showdown almost didn't happen.

Both programs were in negotiations to participate in a Utah vs. The Nation event and play against out-of-state teams tonight. Instead, they decided to play against each other. They were later in negotiations to play at Rio Tinto Stadium, and tentatively had it slated to play there on Saturday at 1 p.m. Those plans were shelved when a United States-El Salvador World Cup qualifier was scheduled at Rio Tinto on Saturday.

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BATTLES OF THE UNBEATENS: Alta and Timpview didn't make it to their showdown with perfect records, but three other matchups tonight will pit unbeaten teams against each other. Those games are Beaver at Milford, Morgan at Wasatch and West Jordan at Provo.

Three of those six unbeaten teams are enjoying turnaround seasons. Milford, Provo and Wasatch have matched their win total from last season. Milford and Provo are 2-0 for the first time since 1994. Beaver is 2-0 for the first time since 2002.

REGION 1 CONTINUES PLAY: While some leagues continue preseason play for a couple more weeks, Region 1 will have its second week of league action tonight. The big game is Syracuse-Viewmont, and the matchup could go a long way in determining the Region 1 champion. Layton plays its first league game against Northridge, and looks to bounce back from a 52-26 loss to Jordan last week.

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com