Three Utah Valley high school football teams have made it to their respective final games of the season, the ones they dreamed of playing in all year.
All three have dynamic playmakers who can wow the crowd with their flashy abilities.
But make no mistake ... state championships hinge on who gets the dirty work done at the point of attack and all three teams know it.
“Anyone who knows the game knows that it is won in the trenches,” Orem head coach Gabe Sewell said in an interview earlier this week. “If you can control that, which is all about physicality, you chances go up exponentially of taking care of business. I think your chances are pretty good in that area.”
The Tigers — who are three-time defending state champs, including beating the Thunderbirds in the 2019 5A championship — will be facing a Timpview team in the 5A championship that embraces the challenge of a tough, physical contest.
“We saw it happen last year,” Thunderbird head coach Andy Stokes said. “It was brutal. It was a heavyweight fight. Unfortunately for us we had a multitude of turnovers. They embrace being physical and playing football that way — and we are on the same page. We love it. It’s going to be that same thing.”
The two teams were scheduled to meet during the regular season but the game was canceled due to COVID-19 issues. Still, these teams know each other really well.
“I love playing Timpview,” Orem senior linebacker Paxton Skipps said. “They are the kids up the hill and we are down the hill. It’s just a rivalry. There is brotherly love and brotherly fights. We’ve got to trust each other and be good teammates. We have to do our jobs and help out our teammates because that when you accomplish great things.”
Timpview senior linebacker Logan Fano grinned as he talked about taking on the Tigers.
“We know they are a physical, physical team,” Fano said. “We saw really physical teams in our first three games this year, so we’ve seen it. With us being a physical team too, it’s going to be a physical game. That’s what football is all about. It’s a physical sport and we’re looking forward to it.”
Both teams said the key will be playing how they want to play at a high level.
“We look to play our game with them and not worry too much,” Stokes said. “We know what they are and they know what we are. Our best option at this point is to be the best us we can be. We believe in ourselves.”
Sewell said a key for his Tigers will be to not help out Timpview with silly mistakes.
“We need to play a clean game,” Sewell said. “We had nearly 200 yards in penalties in the semifinals. We can’t help Timpview out. They don’t need an extra 200 yards. We want to take that and get 200 extra yards for ourselves. If our kids stay disciplined and focused, I think we will be alright.”
Like Timpview, Lone Peak will be trying to end a dynastic run when the Knights battle Region 4 foe Corner Canyon in the 6A title game.
The Chargers won state titles in 2018 (Class 5A) and 2019 (Class 6A), and are currently on a 39-game winning streak.
While those numbers are impressive and certainly deserve to be respected, don’t expect Lone Peak to be intimidated.
“Going back to last season, we had them down and in the last few minutes they had to score twice to beat us,” Knight defensive coordinator Ryan Denney said. “We played them in the semifinals last year and it was a tight game. This year, we led them at halftime but things get out of hand in the second half. We’ve played them as well as anyone has.”
But the Knights know they can’t afford to make mistakes against Corner Canyon, especially on defense.
“I don’t know in my years of coaching high school that I’ve seen an offense with this many weapons,” Denney said. “Coach (Eric) Kjar does a great job regardless of talent but the latent he has makes a coach’s job much easier. We know we have our work cut out for us.”
The 5A and 6A state championship games will be played at Cedar Valley High School in Eagle Mountain today. The 6A game will start at 11 a.m. and the 5A game will begin at 3 p.m.
Admission will be limited and restrictions will be in place as part of efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ticket details can be found on the school websites for Timpview, Orem and Lone Peak.