SALT LAKE CITY — Might as well call next week’s Class 5A football state championship game “The Bruise Bowl.”
Timpview and Orem both feature big, turf-pounding running games and hard-hitting, physical defenses.
Make sure the trainers are fully stocked with plenty of ice and bandages: It’s going to be a battle.
The Thunderbirds (11-3) earned their first state championship berth since 2015 with a powerful 35-7 victory over Lehi on Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in the 5A semifinals, setting up a title matchup with fellow Region 7 foe Orem. The Tigers flexed their muscles by dominating No. 1 seed Salem Hills 51-14 in the other semifinal.
“We played with passion, we trusted each other and had fun out there today,” said T’Bird junior linebacker Cael Richardson, who had eight tackles and a fumble recovery against Lehi. “They (Orem) have a good line and a good running back, but I believe in our defense and I think we got them. We can take them.”
Timpview junior running back Targhee Lambson spearheaded his team’s running game with 210 yards and four touchdowns on 22 carries.
“I swear, we’re the hardest workers in the state, man,” Lambson said. “Coaches tell us, ‘look at Provo. Provo said we couldn’t run on them. Then Springville said we couldn’t run on them, and we ran on them.’ It feels good, man.”
Just like Orem’s win against Salem Hills earlier in the day, this one was decided by early in the second half. Leading 21-7 at halftime, Lambson put touchdown No. 4 up on the board midway through the third quarter, bouncing off a Lehi tackler and outracing the defense for a 61-yard touchdown and 28-7 Timpview lead.
At that point, Lambson had 20 carries for 199 yards and teammate Sione Moa added 13 for 103, giving the T’Birds 302 yards rushing midway through the third period. They finished with 358 yards on the ground.
On Lehi’s next possession, Raider Damuni stepped in front of a Pioneers pass attempt and scored on a 27-yard interception return for a 35-7 Timpview advantage with 4:18 to play in the third quarter.
The T’Bird defense forced four turnovers and held Lehi to 213 total yards, most of that coming in the fourth quarter after the game was decided.
“Our defense is loaded with special players, good kids and hard workers,” Timpview coach Andy Stokes said. “They go out there and do their jobs. I think we’re doing a good job up front. Solo (Langi) and Weesi (Waisale Mauvesi) and those guys are doing a phenomenal job up front. We’re able to drop a lot of guys in coverage because those guys are winning one-on-one matchups. We’ve got eight people dropping and we’re getting pressure with three.”
Lehi started the game with two turnovers — a fumble that was recovered by Richardson on the Pioneers first offensive play and an interception by the T-Birds Calvin Tonga. Timpview turned that second turnover into a score, with Lambson rolling 11 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 T’Bird lead at the 3:55 mark of the first quarter.
After forcing a Lehi punt, Timpview found the end zone again on a 21-yard run by Lambson for a 14-0 advantage early in the second quarter. Lambson scored again just minutes later, sprinting 42 yards for his third first-half touchdown and a 21-0 T-Birds lead.
Lehi caught a break on its next possession, taking advantage of four Timpview penalties (three personal fouls and a pass interference) to move deep into the red zone. Carson Manookin busted over from two yards out and the Pioneers trailed at halftime 21-7.
Lehi (10-4) couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half until it was too late.
“We didn’t do offensively what we needed to do,” Lehi coach Ed Larson said. “We needed to move the field, get two or three first downs and just keep them on a long field. Our defense was playing lights out but you can’t turn it over and you can’t go three and outs like we did. We just never got in a rhythm offensively. Credit their defense and our inability to get the ball going. It cost us.”
Senior linebacker Jacob Vasquez totaled 16 tackles and senior defensive lineman Ryder Hatch added 12 for the Pioneers.
Orem — which won the past two Class 4A titles before moving up to 5A this season — topped Timpview 28-10 in their Region 7 meeting on Oct. 4.
“We’re grateful to be in the state championship right now so we’re not comparing ourselves to them,” Stokes said. “They are who they are and we are who we are, and I think both of these teams are phenomenal football teams.”