Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Chalk this one up to Timpview's defense.
On a rare day when the Thunderbirds turned the ball over three times, Timpview's defense came to the rescue and carried the T-Birds through a sluggish offensive outing to their fourth-straight state title, fifth in the past six years, and eighth in school history with a 35-6 win over the Springville Red Devils in the 4A championship game Friday at Rice-Eccles stadium.
"This one feels a little different because of the patience this one required," Timpview coach Louis Wong said, referring to how the T-Birds began the season 1-2 before rattling off 10 straight wins. "We knew we had a young team and that it would take a while to come together, but patience is a virtue, like they say, and we had it this season and it definitely paid off."
Even though the T-Birds put 35 points on the board, most of those were set up by Timpview's defense, which picked off four Springville passes and recovered one fumble.
"All of those interceptions just kept making the hole deeper for them," said Timpview linebacker Ofa Latu, who had the game's biggest pick of all late in the third quarter when the T-Birds were clinging to a vulnerable 14-6 lead.
Timpview also survived three turnovers of its own, all deep in Springville territory, by holding the Red Devils to only four first downs and seven yards rushing in the first half. Springville had only one gain from scrimmage the entire day that was longer than 11 yards.
"Today was more of settling down to what we do best, and that's decent coverage and a little bit of pressure on them," Wong said. "But I've always preached to be more athletic than the other teams, and to be more physical than the other teams, and I think that was a lot of the difference today."
The T-Birds came out playing typical Timpview football by forcing Springville to punt, and then marching down to the Red Devils' 22-yard line. But on a keeper around the right side quarterback Trevor Brown fumbled and Springville recovered.
But the Red Devils again got nothing going, and Timpview responded on its second possession with an 11-play, 83-yard drive that ended when Brown rolled out on a loaded left side to score untouched from four yards out on the first play of the second quarter.
Timpview next caught Springville off guard by recovering an onsides kick, but then turned the ball over on downs six plays later. But the T-Birds still controlled field position when Red Devils punter Thomas Day fumbled a snap. Six plays later Brown threw a bullet over the middle to Zack Van Leeuwen for a 7-yard TD strike to give the T-Birds a 14-0 lead.
The T-Birds were poised to pour salt in Springville's wound when Latu picked off a Steve Bate pass and returned it to the 15-yard line. But on a fourth-and-two from the seven, Brown fumbled again and the Red Devils recovered in the end zone to trail only by two touchdowns at the break.
"Our defense has played tough all year long and they played tough today," Springville coach Scott Mitchell said. "We just put them in a heck of a bind."
Timpview opened the second half with another march into Springville territory before a fumble by Jeremiah Burr on Springville's 19 killed another scoring chance. This time, the Red Devils cashed in. Eight minutes, 81 yards and 13 plays later, Springville was on the board when Alema Key swept right for a 5-yard TD. A blocked point-after cut the margin to 14-6. The big play on the drive was a 29-yard pass across the middle from Bate to Jordan Sumsion.
"When they came out and scored on us, that kind of put us into a situation that we didn't like," Latu said.
The Red Devils forced Timpview to punt on its ensuing possession and began a drive, with 2:40 left in the third, to possibly tie the game. On Springville's very next play, however, Latu stepped in front of another Bate pass and returned the interception untouched 32 yards to turn the momentum Timpview's way for good.
"As soon as I saw his arm come back, I stepped forward and saw the ball right there so I intercepted it," Latu said.
Taylor Larson intercepted another Bate pass on Springville's next drive, and three plays later Brown hit Josey Trammel out of the backfield for a 2-yard TD catch. Timpview added another score, a 2-yard TD catch by Burr, late in the game to add a little icing on the cake.
"You can't win against good teams when you turn the ball over like we did, and that was the difference in the game," Mitchell said.
Timpview, with a strong team returning, has a good chance to make it five straight next year. But Wong warns it won't come without a lot of work, and a little more creativity.
"People are catching up with us. People are figuring out what are doing. So we need to continue to get better and add some little things to make us more efficient," he said.