SALT LAKE CITY — When Orem was running roughshod through Class 4A to win the past two state championships, fans wondered how the Tigers would do if they moved up to 5A.
That question was answered on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Orem (10-4) bludgeoned Timpview 21-7 in the 5A state championship for the unusual three-peat, forcing five turnovers and riding the state’s top recruit on both sides of the ball.
Noah Sewell — Orem’s 6-foot-2, 270-pound running back/linebacker — rushed 11 times for 103 yards and the game-clinching touchdown and also posted 13 tackles (two for loss) and recovered a fumble.
“This is unbelievable,” Sewell said. “I was talking to my teammates before the season and said, ‘We got to make another run.’ A few weeks later, look where we’re at. It all paid off. This was so fun to get to make a memory with my teammates. This one will forever and always be in my mind. I just can’t believe we did it at Orem High, a three-peat. It’s still kind of crazy to me.”
Sewell then raised his gloves, which spelled out “Oregon.” The five-star recruit said he’s decided to join his brother Penei Sewell in Eugene next season.
“Let’s go Ducks,” Noah Sewell said. “That’s where I’m going to go. The coaches are there, my brother’s there and I know all the players there. It feels like family.”
Orem coach Jeremy Hill said he’s wanted the Tigers to move up to Class 5A for several years.
“These boys have so been resilient all year long,” he said. “They’ve dealt with suspended coaches and injured players and everything. They’ve dealt with the RPI (Orem was seeded 12th) and going on the road (for the playoffs). They are battled tested and a bunch of warriors. 4A, 5A, 6A … we’re thankful we were able to move up and get one more here and show we’re one of the top teams in the state.”
It was a physical, sloppy, flag-filled game as expected, with the two teams both playing rugged defense and combining for 25 penalties for 212 yards.
Timpview had six possessions inside Orem territory but only managed to push the ball across the goal line late in the fourth quarter as the Tigers rose to the challenge.
Micah Fe’a took advantage of a blown coverage in the Timpview secondary and connected with a wide-open Owen Williams early in the first quarter. Williams raced untouched into the end zone to complete a 70-yard scoring play and gave the Tigers and early 7-0 lead.
Sione Moa picked off Fe’a on the last play of the first quarter and returned the ball 43 yards to the Orem 23-yard line. But Timpview went backward and on 3rd-and-17 quarterback Elijah Allen was sacked. He fumbled and the ball was recovered by Sewell.
Timpview had another great opportunity to score near the end of the first half after an interception by Calvin Tonga. A pair of personal fouls on Orem pushed the ball deep into scoring territory and a pass interference penalty gave the T’Birds a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line with nine seconds left. Bereft of time outs, Timpview was forced to pass and Joe Smith easily picked off a fade throw toward Raider Damuni to keep the T’Birds off the board. Orem took the 7-0 advantage to the locker room at halftime.
The clincher really came early in the fourth quarter when Orem was facing a fourth-and-2 at the Timpview 47-yard line. Sewell took the ball, found an opening and sprinted 47 yards for a score and a 14-0 Tigers lead.
“We kind of had that moment of, ‘Do we punt it, do we go for it, what do we do here?’” Hill said. “I looked over and saw No. 2 (Sewell) and said, ‘Go get me one right here.’ He took that ball and does what No. 2 does. What a feeling with that adrenaline rush when he breaks through and helps us take control of the game with a two-score lead.”
Sewell, who fumbled at the goal line earlier in the game, made up for that with his big run.
“I’m not gonna lie, we called a ‘Rip’ play to the right,” he said. “I saw an open gap, shot my shot and it went from there.”
Cayden Viertel made it 21-0 with 3:14 to play on a 5-yard scoring run. Timpview put Moa at quarterback and he scored on a 12-yard scamper with 2:02 left for the T’Birds only score.
Timpview finished with 202 rushing yards — 110 from Targhee Lambson and 100 from Moa — but managed just 20 yards through the air and turned the ball over five times.
“We just played bigger and stronger to stop them up front,” said senior linebacker Joe Smith, who contributed 11 tackles and an interception. “That’s how you win football games. Defense wins championships. We knew we were the bullies from the beginning. It’s just a good win.”
Calvin Tonga contributed 12 tackles and an interception for Timpview (11-4). Cael Richardson and Logan Pili added 11 tackles each.
“At this point I’m just proud of the kids,” Timpview coach Andy Stokes said. “They got here when nobody believed in these kids. Nobody thought they would be here. They worked their tails off. At the end of the day it’s about creating habits to make great men. I think we’re going to send some great seniors out there to be great men. We’re young. The guys coming back will never forget this moment.”