Expectations are always high here. It’s something you just learn to deal with and it’s just part of playing for and coaching here. We’re expected to be one of the top programs every year, if not the top program, and we accept that. —Cary Whittingham, Timpview coach
SALT LAKE CITY — Woods Cross hasn’t played there since 1993, while Timpview could very well consider the place its home away from home.
Rice-Eccles Stadium, host of the 4A semifinals, is a very familiar stop for the Thunderbirds, who have played there 11 times over the last seven years. Timpview is a program expected to be there, and anything less is considered a massive disappointment.
“Expectations are always high here. It’s something you just learn to deal with and it’s just part of playing for and coaching here,” said Timpview coach Cary Whittingham, whose team faces Woods Cross in the 4A semis Thursday at 6:30 p.m. “We’re expected to be one of the top programs every year, if not the top program, and we accept that.”
For Woods Cross, the hope is to make Rice-Eccles both a familiar and expected stop.
“It’s been awhile, that’s for sure, but I think early on we could see, as coaches, that this team certainly had the potential to be where we are currently,” said Woods Cross coach Justin Spencer. “So yeah, we expected to have arrived at this point, and the credit goes to the players and the work they’ve put in.”
Getting to the semifinals is one thing. Advancing to the championship game is another — particularly against a team like Timpview. The Thunderbirds romped through their region schedule and into the playoffs, where they disposed Timpanogos and Sky View by scores of 62-14 and 49-17, respectively.
Timpview features a stellar defense that hasn’t allowed a team to score more than 20 points since yielding 28 to Alta on Sept. 6.
“That defense — there’s really no weak spot,” Spencer said. “With most teams you can see a weak link or an area you can exploit, but I don’t see that with Timpview. It’s a team that plays straight up — they don’t have to blitz or get out of themselves since they don’t have to cover for any weak areas. That’s a tough defense to go against and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
On offense Timpview features quarterback Britain Covey, who has proved able to beat a defense with both his arm and his legs.
“I don’t know how you simulate a guy like Covey, and everything he’s capable of in practice,” Spencer said. “It’s impossible to be completely ready for what he does, but we’ve done our best to prepare to contain him and hopefully we can to some degree. He improvises so well. He’s so smart with his decisions. It’s going to be very tough containing him.”
Woods Cross certainly presents challenges of its own and certainly didn’t gain a semifinal berth by accident. The Wildcats have won eight straight since dropping a game to East on Sept. 13. The margin of victory has been an impressive 20.9 ppg during the span.
“We’ve been able to do well against some very good teams and I think that’s worked to our advantage heading into a game against Timpview,” Spencer said. “Our region is very tough from top to bottom, so I think we head into the game battle-tested for what will be our biggest test of the year.”
Woods Cross features a balanced attack led by quarterback Clay Kidman and running back Braxton Gunther. The defense has allowed more than 21 points just once this season and is solid from top to bottom.
To beat Timpview, however, Spencer believes his team will have to play its best game to date.
“Hopefully our players aren’t overwhelmed and will have a calmness about them when they take the field this Thursday,” Spencer said. “We’ve done some great things this season and if we just stay within what we do well, I think we have a chance.”