Timpview junior Raider Damuni simply has a knack for big plays.
If not for that, it was likely Timpview football’s three-decade winning streak over crosstown rival Provo would’ve ended in front of their home crowd Friday night.
Instead Damuni made a trio of game-changing plays on offense and special teams while also leading a solid defensive effort as the Thunderbirds held off the Bulldogs, 13-7.
“Raider is a proven talent and we love him,” Timpview head coach Andy Stokes said. “He plays on both sides of the ball for us and he is one of last year’s starters. He is so mature that he has been one of our captains. When he is on the field, the other team has to know where he is. That’s the bottom line.”
Damuni’s main offensive contribution came with his Thunderbirds leading 7-0 but facing a fourth-and-12 from the Provo 41-yard line with 33 seconds left in the first half.
“I told the coaches at the beginning that when they sent me in, I always run a fade,” Damuni said. “I said I should run a skinny post. The rest is history. (Junior quarterback Elijah Allen) threw a great pass.”
Allen put the ball on the money across the middle as Damuni pulled away from his defender, scoring the 41-yard touchdown to give Timpview a huge boost going into halftime.
Damuni’s other two titanic contributions came in the form of preventing the Bulldogs from getting a huge break.
The first came in the first half when a Provo punt bounced off a Thunderbird returner and caroomed toward the Timpview end zone. A Bulldog recovery would’ve given Provo a golden opportunity to score.
Instead, Damuni scooped up the ball and got a few yards to keep his team from the costly turnover or being pinned deep it in its own territory.
He had to make a similar play — albeit one that was more difficult in its own right — at a key moment in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs had gotten an interception by senior Ryan Harward and turned it into a 35-yard TD when Harward rifled a halfback pass to junior Ryder MacGillivray, closing to just a six-point deficit.
A fired up Provo defense shut down the Thunderbird offense and forced Damuni onto the field to punt the football.
The snap was around his ankles and again he had to track the ball as it rolled toward his own end zone.
“I was just thinking that I had to get the ball off,” Damuni said. “It’s rolling at my own 2-yard line and I just knew I had to make a play.”
Not only did the Timpview star collect the ball, he got quite a bit of leg into the rushed punt. It cleared the pursuing Provo players and rolled clear to the Bulldog 45-yard line.
“That was so satisfying,” Damuni said. “I was amazed it went as far down there as it did. It put us in position to get a stop.”
The visitors still had a chance to take the lead and moved to the Thunderbird 27-yard line a pass for no gain and three incompletions ended that Bulldog threat.
Timpview then moved back down the field and with just two minutes to play looked to be in position to seal the game.
A horse-collar penalty on Provo on third down move the ball half the distance to the goal and, thinking it was a first down, Damuni started celebrating. His gesture drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag and since it was still third down, it put the Thunderbirds in a hole.
The Bulldogs partially blocked a 40-yard Timpview field goal attempted — their second blocked kick of the game — and gave the Provo faithful hope for one final miracle.
Damuni said he told his teammates before that final defensive possession that he was taking responsibility for his error.
“I told them it was on me, that I would not let them down,” Damuni said. “I was going to to my job and not let them score. I took full accountability for letting my emotions get away. I was just glad we got the stop.”
The Bulldogs had a fourth-down pass fall incomplete and the Thunderbirds were finally able to run out the clock.
“It was relief when we got that last stop,” Stokes said. “I’m so proud of our defense. They stepped up in that situation. With everything on the line, all 11 guys did their job perfectly.”
Provo head coach Tony McGeary said he was proud of the way his Bulldogs battled clear to the end.
“Those guys played like gladiators on defense,” McGeary said. “They stepped up when they needed to. We gave up a couple of big plays but the biggest issue was not having the ball enough on offense. We are better than that. The kids stayed positive. They came in laser-focused and had the confidence to play great. We’ll get better.”
Timpview (1-2) next hosts Kahuku High School from Hawaii on Friday while Provo (2-1) starts Region 8 play by hosting Spanish Fork the same night.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.