By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Shane Marshall & Kurt Johnson
Timpview is very much at home at Rice-Eccles Stadium, having won the last two 4A state championships and seven of the last 10. That’s a lot of recent history that Roy will be facing when the two teams hook up at 6:30 p.m. Friday night for the state title.
The Royals may not have been here for a while, but their head coach Fred Fernandes is no stranger to championship-level play. He previously coached Northridge to three straight titles. That experience will come in handy when matching wits with Thunderbird head coach Cary Whittingham, who is 11-0 in postseason games as he comes to the end of his third season running the Timpview program.
Whittingham doesn’t think there is much of an advantage anyway.
“I don’t think there’s any secrets to football,” Whittingham said. “The hashes are a little more narrow, the goal posts are a little more narrow. There are a lot of possible distractions, but it’s pretty straightforward.”
These two teams have a lot in common as they like to set up the pass with their ability to run the football. The difference comes in when you look at who is carrying the ball.
The Royals use a two-back set and run both halfback Matty Matautia and fullback Baby Tee Eteuati equally well. All of that sets up quarterback Tyler Skidmore, who likes to move around in the pocket and push the ball down the field to a corps of receivers that includes 6-foot-2 Cody Hobbs who will go up and get anything and speedy Nate Jones.
“The key is play all three phases of the game and play them well,” said Roy head coach Fred Fernandes. “Offensively, I feel really good about our run game and I feel really good about our passing. We’ve had 300-yard passing games, we’ve had 280-yard rushing games. We can do both, we can do both pretty well.”
Timpview runs some with Saia Folaumahina out of the backfield, but the biggest weapon in its running game is the same as the primary piece of the passing arsenal – quarterback Britain Covey. The threat of the elusive 5-10, 170-pounder breaking from the pocket or taking off on a designed run is enough to keep any defense honest.
“Defensively, we’ve been very good stopping the run, and we’re one of the top teams in the state as far as interceptions,” Fernandes said. “We’ve got several players with four or five interceptions.”
It may be that the team who wins this game will do so because of its ability to get down the field vertically.
“I think it will be those big plays,” Whittingham said. “They do a good job setting up their big plays and we run explosive plays as well. I’ve got to think it will be whoever can win at those. If we can limit their big plays, that will give us an advantage as long as our big plays are still happening. If I can identify anything that’s going to decide it, it’s who’s going to get them and who’s going to eliminate them.”
It’s the limiting of those chances where things will be interesting. These teams get a lot of credit for what they do with the ball in their hands, but both really have built their success with defense.
Both enter this game unbeaten largely because they limit your ability to get comfortable on offense, as evidenced by the dominating games of last week, when Roy shut out Corner Canyon and Timpview kept the Woods Cross offense in check after an early touchdown.
Hobbs, Jones, James Martinez and Brandon Storey lead a physical and aggressive Royals’ defense. Their job Friday is to keep Covey from getting out and making plays. They need to match his athletic ability with their own and this is a very athletic defense.
The problem with Covey is that he is an accurate thrower and when he gets your defense running around worrying about his running and his ability to change directions on the fly, it becomes easy to lose contact with your coverage, and that’s when the game gets away.
Likewise, Roy has the ability to strike quickly on offense if you’re not careful. The T-Birds are sure to bring the pressure, but they usually do that with their front four, led by Gabe Reid. That leaves them with a good situation in coverage.
When Skidmore starts to move, it’s generally more about buying time for a throw than it is to run for big yardage, but he is really good at finding his receivers open down field when he is on the go.
“Their running game sets up the home run threat they like to do in the passing game,” Whittingham said. “If they get your defensive backs too worried about supporting, they can get behind you.”
If the game is tight, the Thunderbirds are not afraid to unleash their not-so-secret weapon. They have already used Covey in the return game this postseason and they won’t hesitate to do it again.
“If we want to win the game and we know we’re in for all we can handle, we’ve got to pull out all the stops and be all in,” Whittingham said. “There’ll be times when we might have Brit running the kickoffs back and even punts. That will be a decision at the time, but he’s prepared to do that. We just have to see where it’s at in time. We still have to protect him, but we don’t want to be so careful that we don’t get all we can out of him and win the game.”
With both of these teams capable of running up big numbers on offense, the start will be critical.
“It’s hugely important,” Whittingham said. “Whoever jumps on the other team first is a huge advantage in any game. We want to come out fast and score a bunch of points and get the other team off balance.”