Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Mountain Crest running back Alex Knowles (5) leads the high-scoring Mustang's against the defending 4A champs.
In 2008, the 4A state football semifinal clash between defending champion Timpview and challenger Mountain Crest was a classic, one that wasn't decided until late in the fourth quarter.
An incompletion on fourth down by the Mustangs and a big third-down conversion by the Thunderbirds in the final minutes preserved the 37-35 victory for Timpview.
Now the two teams are back to meet in the same place – Rice-Eccles Stadium in Thursday's 4A semifinals – with another trip to the 4A state championship on the line.
It's the fifth time in six years that the Thunderbirds have reached Rice-Eccles Stadium, but even with the familiarity Timpview is still excited to be there.
"Our goal is to get there to the semis, then win that game, then get to the championship and win that game," said Timpview head coach Louis Wong. "It's what we work for. It's great to get there to Rice-Eccles Stadium but we're not satisfied by just doing that. We're satisfied if we win the title."
The Thunderbirds recognize that they're going to have to play a solid football game if they want to knock off the Mustangs once again.
"That's a team that we have a lot of respect for," Wong said. "They played us really tough in the semifinals last year. They have a good staff and some very skilled players, so defense is going to have to be on the ball."
The Thunderbirds struggled to keep Mountain Crest quarterback Alex Kuresa in check last season. With even more experience, Kuresa will be even harder to contain.
"He's more seasoned," Wong said. "He's a mobile quarterback that throws better on the run than he does sitting back in the pocket. We can't let him get outside; we have to force him to step up and throw."
While Kuresa and the Mustang offense has poured on the points this season, averaging almost 41 points per game (second in Class 4A to Timpview's 42.6 ppg), the Mountain Crest defense has quietly been impressive as well.
"If look at the game last week against Highland, that was a high-powered offense," Wong said. "They really limited them and that speaks a lot for the defense."
The Mustangs and the Thunderbirds have both been tough to score on, with Mountain Crest allowing 15.8 ppg while Timpview has allowed 13.9 ppg.
Both squads also faced some early adversity against 5A opponents as the Mustangs lost to Lone Peak in the second week of the year while the Thunderbirds fell to Pleasant Grove and Alta. But with each passing week, the two teams have kept getting better.
"We're peaking at the right time," Wong said. "The offense picked up the pace and is doing a good job scoring points. Players are more confident with their execution and are doing it without hesitation. This is where we want to be overall."
Wong believes that with two good teams squaring off, the difference will come down to avoiding mistakes.
"It's execution for us on offense, defense and special teams, and then turnovers," he explained. "The team that turns it over will be hurting, especially if the other team can capitalize. That probably will be the deciding factor."
The contest is scheduled to kick off at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 6:30 p.m.
with the winner moving on to meet the winner of the Springville-Dixie game in the 4A championship on Nov. 20.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
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Timpview leads the all-time series 5-3, all in the playoffs … This is the third consecutive 4A semifinal meeting between these teams, with Timpview winning 38-0 in 2007 and 37-35 in 2008 … Timpview is appearing in its fourth consecutive semifinal and its seventh in eight years. It is seeking a fourth straight state title … Is tied with Northridge for the second longest playoff winning streak in state history at 14. Skyline holds the record at 23 … Mountain Crest is in its third straight semifinal for the second time in school history and it's seeking its first state title since 2005.
Timpview coach Louis Wong: This is his fifth season as a head coach, all at Timpview. All-time record is 55-6. All-time playoff record is 15-1, including a 3-0 record in the semifinals.
Mountain Crest coach Mark Wootton: This is his 19th season as a head coach, and sixth at Mountain Crest. All-time record is 122-76. All-time playoff record is 16-13, but he's just 1-5 in semifinals going 0-3 at North Sanpete at 1-2 at Mountain Crest.