SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not so much how you start a football game, but how you finish it.
Timpview’s No. 1-ranked defense rebounded from a slow start to provide game-changing plays when it mattered most — helping secure the team’s second-straight 4A state championship with a 33-28 win over East on Friday.
“We started out rough there, but we got together and got it done in the end,” said linebacker and team captain Emmett Tela. “I can’t even describe how this feels.”
Friday's championship encounter was billed as a highly anticipated showdown between Timpview's dominating defense and East's punishing, fast-paced offense. The first quarter, however, hardly looked like a showdown.
Missed assignments, untimely offsides penalties and plain getting beat at the point of attack defined the T-Birds' first-quarter effort. The result was a 13-0 deficit and all the momentum on the East side of the field.
To open the second quarter, however, Timpview's defense made its first big play. Defensive lineman Isaiah Nacua busted through the line to force a fumble, which he ultimately recovered.
The play set up the T-Bird offense at East’s 7-yard line, and two plays later quarterback Britain Covey hit Rhett Van Leeuwen with a 5-yard touchdown pass to put Timpview on the scoreboard.
“Our defensive line is awesome and guys like Isaiah Nacua have made plays like that all year long,” Tela said. “We knew we needed to start making plays if we were going to get back into the game and win this one.”
Although Nacua’s play, and subsequent touchdown, got Timpview going, the defense still couldn’t slow down East’s attack for the rest of the first half. Leopard running back Preston Curtis scored on a 70-yard touchdown run on the very first play of the next possession. Curtis followed that up with a 6-yard touchdown run to cap off a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive to put his team up 25-21 at the half.
“We just couldn’t make plays for whatever reason coming out,” Tela said. “Fortunately we fixed some stuff at halftime and started playing better.”
Tela’s statement of what happened in the second half may be the ultimate understatement as the T-Bird defense completely flipped the tables.
East’s first five possessions of the second half gained just 15 yards on 16 total plays, while Timpview snatched all the momentum, and more importantly, the lead.
Ultimately East was able to manage just a field goal in the final half to provide the T-Birds with a 33-28 win and the 4A state championship.
Fittingly, it was a defensive play that effectively ended the game. With just less than a minute remaining — and East facing fourth-and-long at midfield — defensive lineman Gabriel Reid beat his blocker to sack East quarterback Isaac Valles and put the game on ice.
“That play was incredible for me and something I’ll always remember,” Reid said. “I was just fortunate to be the one, but the whole team made plays today when it mattered most. Now we’re state champions. We did it.”
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