AMERICAN FORK — Football games are often decided by just two or three big plays and Timpanogos proved just that in its 23-6 win over American Fork.
Two long touchdown runs by running back Jacob Hougaard and an improbable third-and-34 conversion from quarterback Kaden Bramall was largely the difference in a game that was otherwise a defensive slugfest.
"We were fortunate to have some good team execution in some key moments," said Timpanogos coach Ed Larson. "Everyone made sure they did those small things that lead to big plays and this was a good win for us."
Neither team was able to get traction offensively through the first half.
The second half saw little offensive production from either side until Hougaard broke free on a 59-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Hougaard was the Timberwolves' featured back in place of Max Hill, who broke his leg last week.
"I was nervous having to replace a great player like Max (Hill)," said Hougaard. "I talked to him a lot about what I needed to do because there's obviously no one better at doing it than him and fortunately things worked out. My line blocked great for me and made it easy."
The touchdown gave the Timberwolves a 9-6 lead, but the Cavemen wouldn't go away. Midway through the fourth quarter, American Fork had Timpanogos backed up to its own 4-yard line in a third-and-34 situation before Bramall busted through for a 45-yard run on a quarterback keeper. On the very next play Hougaard ran the ball off-tackle 51 yards for the touchdown to give his team a 16-6 lead with 7:43 remaining.
Although those three offensive plays highlighted the evening, it was the Timpanogos defense that held strong throughout.
"Except for that one touchdown pass our defense shut (American Fork) down," he said. "Our guys were able to make some big plays defensively and I really like how we're playing on that side of the ball. We still have some work to do on offense, but if we continue to play like we did tonight defensively then we're going to be tough to beat."
Larson believes he has one of the best linebacker groups in the state and they looked every bit the part in the win.
With Timpanogos holding a 16-6 lead late, linebacker Tyler Day busted through the line, sacked Evans and forced a fumble that was recovered by Riley Schwenke on American Fork's 3-yard line. A couple of plays later Bramall scored from 1-yard out to give the Timberwolves their 23-6 final margin.
Fittingly it was another linebacker — Tuku Uluave who ended American Fork's last gasp — sacking Evans on a fourth-down play deep inside Timpanogos territory.
"We're just feeling it," said Larson after the win. "We feel that we have a team that can compete with anyone in the valley right now."
With the win, Timpanogos moves to 2-0 on the year and will take on Pleasant Grove next Friday.