It's been several years since the American Fork Cavemen have put a championship-quality team on the football field. This year's squad, however, is off to an impressive 4-1 start, and the mostly senior players have a lot of confidence in their ability.
"They've played some big games already and have held their own, so they're not intimidated by anyone," coach Davis Knight said.
Unfortunately for the Cavemen, on a year when they have their best team in years they also play their two biggest games on the road. They play at Timpview tonight before traveling to Spanish Fork next week.
"It looks to me like their region hopes will be decided in their next two games," Timpview coach Chad Van Orden said.
The T-Birds, Cavemen and Dons appear to be the three teams who will fight it out for the Region 6 crown. Timpview has owned the league for the past several years.
"If we're going to knock (Timpview) off that position of No. 1 we're going to have to go in there and do it at their place," Knight said. "The winner will definitely be in better position for the region championship."
Van Orden agrees that tonight's game will put one of the teams in the Region 6 driver's seat.
"This almost has a playoff-game atmosphere, and we'll both get a better feel of how we stack up from this game," he said.
Even though the T-Birds are again playing stellar football, this year's squad has a different flavor than the teams of years past. Take last week for example. The T-Birds gained less than 100 yards passing and still blew out the Springville Red Devils by 30 points.
Knight said the Cavemen will have to contain quarterback Stephen Covey and not let him run from the pocket. Timpview also has a double threat in receiver/back Luke Ashworth and a power game in fullback Harvey Unga.
"You just can't try to stop them from throwing, you've got to stop them from running. They're a very effective running team, and they always seem to bust out the big play," Knight said.
American Fork also has been a big-play team this year, scoring several times on the long run. It has a balanced running game in speedy backs Devin Wilson and Brandon Stucki, and quarterback James Moore plays with a lot of smarts. But Knight said ball control will be the key to his team's chances.
"We've got to get first downs. We have to take some time off the board," he said.
Timpview has an outstanding defense, but Van Orden said the Cavemen have the size and speed to pound out some long drives.
"They did just about whatever they wanted last week against Payson," the Timpview coach said. "So we know we'll have to play our best game if we're going to keep our edge."
Rayburn's prediction: Timpview
Orem (3-1) at Lone Peak (1-4)
The winner of this game will have the upper hand in Region 7. People are already forgetting the Knights first four games.
Rayburn's prediction: Lone Peak
Lehi (3-2) at North Sanpete (3-2)
Thanks to Delta's victory over the Hawks last week, this is no longer a must-win game for the Pioneers. Good thing for Lehi. That game will come in two weeks.
Rayburn's prediction: North Sanpete
Springville (1-3) at Provo (0-5)
This is a game the Bulldogs could win. But they'll probably have to wait until Mountain View comes to town.
Rayburn's prediction: Springville
Mountain View (0-5) at Pleasant Grove (2-3)
The Bruins are getting better each week, but they're catching the Vikings on a week when they have a lot of frustration to vent.
Rayburn's prediction: Pleasant Grove
Spanish Fork (3-1) at Payson (0-5)
The Dons are loaded, while the Lions are battered, bruised and reeling after last week's blow-out loss. Round 2 is tonight.
Rayburn's prediction: Spanish Fork
Timpanogos (2-3) at Emery (0-4)
An intersquad scrimmage might be better practice for the T-Wolves than this game.
Rayburn's prediction: Timpanogos
Rayburn's record: Last week (5-2); season (27-10)