Prior to this prep football season, few would have figured tonight's regular-season finale between Mountain View and Orem would have much significance — other than the typical fire of a bitter cross-town rivalry.
However, the Region 7 title and possible unfavorable post-season seeding is on the line at Tiger Stadium. Orem can win the title outright and Mountain can grab a share of the crown. The Bruins could possibly come out alone on top if a victory by them is combined with a Lone Peak loss.
Both the Tigers and Bruins could also drop significantly in seeding with a loss — Orem as far as the No. 3 spot and Bruins as far as No. 4.
"We have to take care of our own business and not worry about what happens with Lone Peak or Timpanogos," Mountain View coach Doug Meek said. "To a point, we control our own destiny. Our guys realize what's riding on the line here."
The rivalry alone is a motivator for both squads. Last year's contest was so heated that it ended a bit prematurely because of repeated late-game fisticuffs.
"The kids always get pretty fired up to play Mountain View," Orem coach Robert Steele said.
The Tigers, probably the most athletic and physical team in the region, present a new look for Mountain View. The Bruins haven't played a team this season that runs the true triple option like Orem.
"We have to be a little more prepared to defend all three phases of that," Meek said.
Quarterback Nate Jones is Orem's catalyst, and the Tigers seem to go as he goes. They also have dangerous running backs in Blake Steele, Ryan Hogue and Cade Adams. When Jones decides to throw, Alex Call is a feisty and sure-handed receiver. Defensively, the Tigers don't give up much.
The Bruins are mainly quarterback Don Lovelace's team. A good portion of Mountain View's offense relies on his decisions. He rolls out on many plays where he's a threat to run or pass, and he seldom reveals which he'll do until the defense is vulnerable to one or the other. Three targets, Evan Astle, Andrew Bateman and Peter Tuitupou, give him a variety of reliable targets.
"Lovelace throws the ball better than anyone on the run, so we're going to have to do some things to contain him," Steele said.
Mountain View also plays tough on the defensive side and is difficult to move the ball against.
"From watching film of Mountain View play the other teams in the region, I'd say they've improved a great amount each week," Steele said.
Rayburn's pick: Orem
AMERICAN FORK AT PROVO: This game is huge for the Bulldogs. They can go from the last year's basement to the league's No. 2 seed. The more-seasoned Cavemen, however, are fairly formidable obstacle.
Rayburn's pick: American Fork
TIMPVIEW AT PAYSON: Without Blake Francom at quarterback last week the Lions put up their first goose egg of the season. Scoring against the T-Birds won't be any easier. Look for a lopsided final, that hopefully won't leave any more Lions wounded.
Rayburn's pick: Timpview
SPANISH FORK AT SPRINGVILLE: The Red Devils want the league crown outright, and the Dons want to avoid all of the play-in games that lie ahead should they lose. Springville basically took last week off, but the Red Devils will show up for this rivalry.
Rayburn's pick: Springville
LONE PEAK AT TIMPANOGOS: These two squads have been hard to figure. At times, both look great. At times, both look mediocre at best. Both have been hampered by injuries. The Knights, however, are a deeper team and should be healthier having last week off.
Rayburn's pick: Lone Peak
LEHI AT EMERY: Lehi will cruise. The only thing the Pioneers are thinking about right now is the North Sanpete/Delta game. They might be rooting for Delta, which would cost them a No. 1 but would give them a first-round home game at the No. 2 seed.
Rayburn's pick: Lehi
RAYBURN'S RECORDS: Last week — 5-0. Overall for 2004 — 48-12.