We already knew that (Covey was capable of Friday’s performance). That little kid is small, but the heart in there is unreal. —Timpview senior defensive lineman Isaiah Nacua
SALT LAKE CITY — Timpview quarterback Britain Covey shared the field with some of the state’s best football players Friday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
And the 5-foot-10 junior outplayed them all as he led second-ranked Timpview to a 4A state title with a 33-28 victory against undefeated, top-ranked East.
While Covey’s grit and competitiveness may have surprised some, his teammates said he was simply the same guy they had played with all year.
“We already knew that (Covey was capable of Friday’s performance),” said senior defensive lineman Isaiah Nacua. “That little kid is small, but the heart in there is unreal.”
Despite taking some bone-jarring hits in the first half from East’s heralded defense, Covey bounced back with even more resolve in the second half.
“I knew these guys were big boys, and I was going to get hit some,” Covey said as his teammates accepted the championship trophy a few feet away. “But I actually think I have a concussion now. I don’t even remember who scored on that last drive. I think it was me. (I) took some big hits, but it was all worth it, unless I have permanent brain damage, which I’m really praying not to have.”
Covey did score the game-winning touchdown with a 9-yard run that looked like it would end at the line of scrimmage, buried beneath the impressive East defensive line. Somehow, though, Covey managed to squeeze through the slightest opening and sprint into the corner of the end zone to give the T-Birds the game-winning six points.
Timpview head coach Cary Whittingham admitted that he was concerned enough that after halftime he asked Covey’s father to check his son out, in addition to having the school's athletic trainer examine him.
“We were kind of concerned about him,” Whittingham said. "He took some hits. ... He said he was OK, but I wasn’t quite sure. I wanted his dad to come down and talk to him and make sure — let his dad really figure out if he thought Brit was Brit. His dad said he was good.”
Covey, of course, assured coaches, trainers and his parents that he was fine.
“He’s a competitor,” Whittingham said. "Anything and everything we could ask of him, he did. He literally commanded that offense, like a field general doing everything the coaches wanted him to do. He made very few mistakes, being real smart, being real athletic and doing it all.”
It was Covey’s playmaking ability, along with a much more effective defensive effort in the second half, that swung momentum in the T-Birds' favor.
East jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, but Covey found senior receiver Rhett Van Leeuwen for a 5-yard passing touchdown in the second quarter.
East’s Preston Curtis showed off his speed with a 70-yard rushing touchdown on the next series, after which Covey answered by finding Van Leeuwen again — this time for a 67-yard TD pass — that made it a 19-14 game in the Leopards' favor.
“They jumped right up on us,” Whittingham said of East’s quick start. “To our kids’ credit, they didn’t panic. We knew it was going to be a long game. We knew we were here for all four quarters. So nobody panicked.”
Covey threw an interception in the first quarter that led to an East touchdown. Whittingham said he told his quarterback that there was a lot of football left to play and to forget about it.
Covey said that with the help of his teammates, that’s exactly what he did.
“We knew that no matter what happens, there is always going to be a chance, and there is always going to be times to be better,” said Covey, who finished with 273 yards passing (14 of 24) with two touchdowns, and 120 yards rushing with two touchdowns.
The T-Bird defense came up huge in the second half, holding East’s prolific offense to a single field goal. Curtis finished with 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while senior running back Ula Tolutau rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Isaac Valles ran for another 110 yards and a touchdown. The team only managed 12 yards passing, however, and Valles was sacked three times.
“We made some adjustments,” Whittingham said of the difference between the first half and second half. “The kids kept playing hard. In the first half, we missed a few tackles, had some things happen, missed assignments, and that kind of bit us. The second half we played much cleaner. ... They just came out and played every play as hard as they could.”
Nacua and Covey said the players also talked among themselves about what they needed to do differently in the game’s final two quarters.
“We kept our composure,” Nacua said. “The second half, we looked each other in the eyes and said, ‘This isn’t T-Bird defense here.’ We needed to step it up. ... It feels great. It feels great to know it was a great game. We put everything out this week and it’s a great feeling.”
High school football: 4A championship
Britian Covey discusses Timpview's 4A state championship win against East Friday, Nov. 22, 2013.