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4A high school football championship: T-Birds wrap up perfect season with three-peat

Winning a state title is hard. A repeat is even more difficult, but three straight? As Balki from "Perfect Strangers" used to say, "Don't be ridiculous."

The odds were certainly stacked against them. It may have been improbable, but it happened. The Timpview Thunderbirds completed their second consecutive perfect season, won their 36th game in a row and took home their third straight 4A state championship with a 34-28 win over previously undefeated Cottonwood Friday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"The fact that it is a three-peat, and the fact that this was the best team we have played to win it," said coach Louis Wong of why winning this title was the sweetest. "These guys could match up with us and we still came out and won."

It was certainly different than Timpview's previous two title games. Cottonwood hung with the T-Birds once it got out of the opening quarter and settled down because the way the game started, it appeared the rout was on.

Timpview scored on its opening three possessions and took a 21-7 lead. Levi Te'o finished off all three drives. In the first two, he capped long, dominating scoring drives with short one-yard runs — the first drive was a 12-play, 80 yard monster that took over five minutes, and the second was 11 plays and 73 yards, eating up over four minutes. The third score came when Te'o caught a screen pass and ran untouched 63 yards for the score. It was one of his three catches for 110 yards on the day.

"I got out there and turned and saw a lot of green," said Te'o of the play. "I just started running and was hoping that nobody was going to catch me from behind."

Cottonwood's offense was fairly prolific as well. After getting stopped on its first possession, the Colts scored on their next three. Isi Sofele ran in two scores, and Alo Moli hauled in a 57-yard pass on the other. It led to a 21-21 tie at the break.

"We went in very comfortable," said Wong of halftime. "I told them we were right where we wanted to be, it's 21-21. Let's go out and win the second half one play at a time."

Cottonwood took the lead just three minutes into the second half on a Sofele 69-yard touchdown run. The Colts had the momentum and the lead until Timpview lineman Xavier Su'a Filo made the play of the game. Normally just an offensive lineman, Su'a Filo was filling in on defense because of an injury to starting defensive end Bronson Kaufusi. Su'a Filo was in on special teams as well, and with just over five minutes to go in the third quarter, he blocked a Cottonwood punt.

"I saw a lot of skinny guys and just tried to push through," said Su'a Filo. "I didn't think I would get it, but that's how things work. I just reached up and got it."

Three plays later, quarterback Casey Rumsey scored the tying touchdown.

"Huge," said Wong of the block. "It gave us great field position down there. It allowed us to do what we needed to do — play of the game, no doubt about it."

The T-Birds capped the scoring with 10:56 left in the game on Te'o's fourth touchdown. The defense did the rest.

"We don't really feel pressure," said safety Craig Bills. "We know what we have to do, and we know we have to live up to the expectations, that is what you get for playing at Timpview High School, you have to live up to high expectations."

The expectation level now borders on the ludicrous — a fourth straight title.