PROVO — It sure wasn't pretty – but beauty doesn't always matter, and Alta proved just that. The Hawks dealt with butterflies swarming, a raucous environment and questionable clock management virtually throughout Friday's game against Timpview.
But when the final clock wound down, the Hawks were victorious, 33-31, as the Thunderbirds missed a potential 35-yard game-winning field goal with 10 seconds left at Timpview High on Friday night.
"One of the things we were afraid of coming in (was) three returning starters on offense, none on defense. A lot of these kids haven't had this experience to come out from the start," Alta coach Bob Stephens said. "So, we knew there were going to be nerves and jitters and we made some mistakes. Second quarter they got all those out of the way and started playing better football."
An unknown heading into the opener was the quarterback position for the Hawks. Ultimately, junior Chipper Lucero earned the thumbs up.
On the first series, Lucero forced an ill-advised out-route that Timpview's Tyler Solarzano snagged — his first of two interceptions on the evening — to set the T-Birds up at the Hawks' 27-yard line.
Then, following a personal foul, Gregson Aspinall rumbled up the gut from 12-yards out for the 7-0 lead with 11:35 in the first.
The Hawks (1-0) responded the ensuing possession with a 30-yard field goal by Tanner Valerio after a roughing the kicker call kept the long-winded drive breathing.
"They said, 'You're all right. We need you — forget about it,'" Lucero said about bouncing back after the early interception. "I just knew that I had to pull it together 'cause my team can't do it without me and I can't do without them."
The Thunderbirds (0-1) struck on the following kickoff when sophomore Isiah Holloway turned on the burners and, after avoiding one would-be defender in the open field, made a house call from 95 yards for the 14-3 advantage.
Once again Alta answered the challenge. Lucero feathered a 42-yard post-corner route to Harrison Handley to close the gap to 14-10 with 8:05 left in the half.
Timpview closed the remainder of the half on a 10-3 run for a seven-point halftime cushion.
But the Hawks emerged a different team in the second half.
On Timpview's opening series of the third quarter, a swarm of defenders chased T-Bird quarterback Jake Lloyd to the edge of the end zone for a momentum-swinging safety – slicing the lead to 24-19.
Alta then embarked on a six-play drive that culminated with a 22-yard off-tackle scamper by Max Broman for its first lead at 26-24 with 7:51 in the third.
On the Hawks' next possession, Lucero found Ammon Barker on a short slant across the middle. The speedster did the rest – eluding several defenders on his path to the pylon from 32-yards out – boosting Alta's lead to 33-24 with 3:24 still in the third.That's when things got head-scratchingly confusing.
Despite Timpview nearly capitalizing on several potential touchdown routes across the middle, Alta yanked Lucero for nearly the entire fourth quarter.
"I'm not sure," Lucero said when asked why he was subbed out in the fourth. "They just said, 'nice game.' I don't think they realized how close the game was."
"We were trying to get Dylan (Revis) in to establish some of his running skills and ability to run the clock a little bit and give him a look as well – getting him a chance to show," Stephens said of the decision to make the change with a slim lead. "I've got confidence in Dylan 100 percent. He could start for us as well as Chipper could."
The Thunderbirds' final score came on another post-route when Lloyd hit a streaking Braydon Galland to trim the lead to 33-31 with 2:59 left.
In control, the Hawks questionably elected to pass on second down – saving Timpview, which only had one timeout. With 1:17 left, the T-Birds amazingly had a shot.
Lloyd guided the offense to the 21-yard line but in the end the winning attempt sailed wide-left.
"Please miss it," Stephens said when asked what was going through his head as Timpview lined up for the field goal. "The bad thing is one team's going to come out and be disappointed and we were on the favorable side tonight.
"I'll take it. We had a share of mistakes tonight that we definitely need to get fixed. Definitely coming out on top is a good thing."