Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
PROVO – Prior to Friday night, the last time Timpview High lost a football game was two years ago, Week 2 of the 2013 season. That night, the Thunderbirds moved a guy named Britain Covey from receiver to quarterback in the second half and nearly came from behind to beat Pleasant Grove.
That Timpview team had a dominating defense that gave up a couple of quick, early scores to the Vikings before completely shutting them down from the second quarter on. Fast forward 24 months and another Region 4 team came to town for an early-season contest, but this time, it was the opponent, Lone Peak, who overcame early big plays before turning up its powerful defense to take over the game.
The Knights coupled a much-improved defense with their dynamic offense and the result was a 35-14 Lone Peak victory that ended Timpview’s 27-game winning streak. The Thunderbirds are still a work in progress in getting back to championship level play on both sides of the ball, particularly along the line of scrimmage, and Lone Peak took advantage.
So, what stood out Friday night on the new playing surface in Northeast Provo? Here are a few of my thoughts.
1) Lone Peak’s offensive weapons
A quick look at the stat sheet does not reveal anything overwhelming on the Lone Peak side of the ledger. In that balance, however, is the real story. This Lone Peak team has a lot of weapons at the offensive skill positions, and its offensive front does a good job giving its quarterback time and creating openings in the running game.
You’re expecting big plays to come from Jackson McChesney, who lines up in the backfield, in the slot or even occasionally spread out wide. Every time the junior touches the football, the excitement builds and you know he will have his share of huge plays this season.
But it’s not all about McChesney. Senior quarterback Talmage Gunther was outstanding against the T-Birds, both throwing it and running it. The Lone Peak signal caller completed 15-of-22 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown, and carried it 13 times for 84 yards and another score.
When the Knights needed a play on offense, Gunther delivered it. Lone Peak also continues to get critical rushing yards from Tyler Kap with the occasional timely carry from Seth Corry, in addition to the running of McChesney.
And when Gunther is not tossing it McChesney’s direction, he mixes in a little Jon Christensen with some Tyson Doman. This is a team with a ton of options.
2) Knights’ defensive front vs. Timpview O-Line
At least at this moment, it was the matchup between Lone Peak’s defensive front seven against the offensive line of the Thunderbirds where the Knights seemed to have the most decided advantage. Defensive line coach Ryan Denney and linebacker coach Brian Hansen have clearly made a decided impact in that area for Lone Peak.
A week earlier, Timpview running back Saia Folaumahina ran it 17 times for 147 yards and four touchdowns in the Thunderbirds season-opening win over West. Friday night, the senior was held to -5 yards on nine carries and his longest run went for just four yards.
Outside of one 25-yard scramble from quarterback Kahi Neves, Lone Peak completely shut down the Timpview running game. In total, the Knights allowed 20 net yards rushing on 21 carries.
3) Third quarter defense fuels Lone Peak surge
The dominance of the Lone Peak defense came into play in a big way at the start of the second half, with the game hanging in the balance and essentially put the Thunderbirds away. The teams came out of intermission with the Knights clinging to a 14-7 advantage, but kicking the ball to Timpview. Just over a minute later, the Lone Peak lead was 21-7.
After a touchback on the second half kickoff, Neves was chased and sacked. He fumbled the ball and one of his offensive linemen got it back at the 1-yard-line. Facing second-and-29 in the shadow of his own goalposts, the Thunderbird passer was rushed and threw one right into the chest of Knights’ linebacker Britton Bettridge, who ran it back eight yards for a touchdown.
The ensuing kickoff brought more disaster for Timpview, after another touchback set it up at the 20-yard-line. After a holding penalty moved the ball back to the 11, Folaumahina ran it twice. Lone Peak linebacker Michael Cannon blew up the first one and dropped the T-Bird runner for a seven-yard loss, and then it was linebacker Tyler Everett’s turn as he pushed Timpview back another yard, to the 3-yard-line.
After Neves’ third-and-27 pass was deflected and fell incomplete, the Knights got a short field after Doman brought the punt back to the Timpview 25. With a 10-yard Gunther run sandwiched between a pair of McChesney carries, Lone Peak was in the end zone again (on an 11-yard McChesney run) and the lead was an insurmountable 28-7 after needing to cover just 25 totals yards for two third-quarter scores.
4) Neves can throw it
Timpview quarterback Kahi Neves, the senior transfer from Brighton, who has committed to play collegiately at Utah, got off to a good start Friday night. While he dealt with pressure as the Knights turned up the intensity up front, he showed that he has all kinds of arm strength as well as the ability to work the ball in the short passing game when necessary.
The Thunderbird quarterback’s biggest play of the night came on his team’s very first offensive snap. After Timpview forced a Lone Peak punt, Neves released a deep ball to Fielding Wallace racing up the left sideline.
In actuality, after that early score and an interception by Will Watanabe the next time Lone Peak had the football, it looked like Timpview had a chance to make it a long night for the Knights, but that’s when the Lone Peak defense raised its game to a new level.
For the night, Neves threw for 217 yards and found multiple targets on the outside. That bodes well for the development of the Thunderbirds’ offense. Wallace caught three balls, Sampson Nacua hauled in three big balls (and just missed connecting with Neves on another long ball midway through the second stanza), while Sterling Evans was a key contributor in the short passing game, and Nejad Arshad also had a couple of big catches, including one for a touchdown.
5) Growing on defense
Though it has not always gotten the same level of credit as the Thunderbird offense and the electric quarterback who piloted it the past two years, the three consecutive state titles this team has won are due in large part to its amazing defense. Gabe Reid, Isaiah Nacua, Devin Kaufusi and Kainoa Tu’ua are gone and Timpview needs to get its all-new defensive line up to speed.
The most established players on this defensive unit are in the secondary, which is led by Keenan Pili and Watanabe, and at linebacker, where Nate Richardson is back as an anchor.
There is work to do, and you can count on this coaching staff rounding this group into shape as the season progresses, as there is plenty of hope. Richardson had 20 tackles against Lone Peak, and that’s an impressive number anywhere.
Timpview (1-1) is at Taylorsville (1-1) next Friday night in its final tune-up before opening Region 7 play the following week at home against Alta (2-0). The Knights (2-0) are at West (0-2) next week before their huge Region 4 home opener against Pleasant Grove (1-1) Sept. 11.