Entering the 2007 football season, the Alta Hawks had a known commodity its defense. With eight returning starters, the unit was supposed to be the strength of the team, even carrying the offense for a while as it found its rhythm. As it turns out, the defense has done exactly what was expected.
"Defense. All game. Defense, defense, defense has been our forte all year long. Our defense has carried us," said Hawks coach Les Hamilton after Alta ended its Bingham jinx with a 21-17 win in the 5A semifinals last Friday.
The Hawks defense has been tremendous in allowing just 14 points per game over the year. That impressive stat was good enough for third best in the classification not coincidentally the No. 1 scoring defense in the classification is from Layton, Alta's opponent for the 5A championship. The defense has risen to the challenges presented this season, and the strength of that unit is its linebacker corps.
Jefferson Court was an all-state recipient last season and the Region 2 defensive MVP. He has continued to play at an extremely high level. He has 102 total tackles on the year, including an astounding 15 in the win over Bingham plus a forced fumble and a sack. He is right back on pace to garner end-of-season awards.
"This is 'THE' defense," said Court. "We are the best defense around and we continue to try to show people that we can be the best out there. If we all just do our jobs it makes us look pretty darn good individually."
As impressive as Court has been, Jordan Anderson may have had an even better season. He has 95 tackles on the year, seven in the semifinals, and took Court's position as the Region 2 defensive MVP this season. An opposing coach earlier in the year told the Deseret Morning News, "I don't know if I have ever seen a kid fly all over the football field like he does. He appears to be everywhere at once."
The third piece of the vaunted unit is Boo Anderson. He has 73 stops on the year and is a feared hitter. He has the size and speed to play at the next level and is confident in what the Hawks can accomplish.
"Our defense is the best defense in the state," said Boo Anderson. "We can take any team. We played teams from California nationally ranked and we shut them down. We stopped them on like five or six fourth-down conversions. We learned a lot about stopping the run. We know we can stop the pass after playing teams like Jordan and that. Our defense is finally starting to come together and play to our potential. We are just about there."
With the defensive line doing its job and keeping blockers from getting to these three playmakers, it is easy to see why the team relies on getting stops as often as putting points on the board.
"When you know you have a great defense, it's hard to go for more," said Hamilton of his call in the fourth quarter of the Bingham game. "Late in the game we had a fourth-and-three do we go for it? We decided to punt and leave it up to our defense that has really been the strength of our team all year. We put our defense back out there and let them go out and win the game for us."
That is exactly what the Hawks did when they forced Bingham to turn the ball over on downs and advanced to Friday's championship game against Layton at 2:30 p.m. at Rice Eccles Stadium.
"We have just one more game to go," added Boo Anderson. "We aren't finished yet and I think we still have an even better game in us defensively. Our goal is always a shutout and we have one more chance to go out and get one."