And a lot of football fans who have watched Timpview play the last two seasons like to debate which Thunderbirds team was strongest defensively. It's a debate that's hard for either side to win, convincingly. Both the 2006 Timpview defense and this year's version have posted some fairly impressive numbers. One thing most agree on, however, is that the Thunderbirds have been the state's top prep defensive team now for two straight seasons.
"Our defense has really evolved into what is with little changes we've made over the past 10 years," Timpview coach Louis Wong said. "But it's a good feeling having people look at our defense and thinking like they do. And right now, I do feel that it is the best defense in the state."
Last year the T-Birds' defense allowed just under six points per game, recorded five shutouts and had a stretch where they held opposing teams out of the end zone for 27 straight quarters. This year, Timpview has four shutouts and gives up a smidgen more than seven points per game. So far, they've given up a total of 20 points in three playoff games. Numerically, at least when measuring by points allowed, last year's squad has a slight advantage. But some say that's only because the T-Birds substituted much more this season in the second half when games were well in hand.
Arguably, no Utah team in recent years has been better at confusing opponents with its defensive schemes — a style of defense that Timpview's coaches call "controlled chaos."
"It's simplified from our perspective, but I think it's confusing if you watch from the opposite perspective and from the offensive point of view," Wong said. "You don't ever know how we're going to line up and you don't know where we're going to be coming from."
But what really makes Timpview's defense so effective is speed and crispness. Most of the T-Birds fastest and most-athletic players specialize in defense, when they could also be stars on offense if given the chance. Only a couple ever play on both sides, and that's even on rare occasions. Linebackers Dominique Moe, Michael Alisa and Blake McKenzie are just as quick and can run just as fast, if not quicker and faster, than any running back they have to tackle. The same can be said of safeties and corners Craig Bills, Jordan Duckett, Clayton Case and Chris Badger.
"If those four guys up front (Benji Bright, Bronson Kaufusi, Viliami Halasima and Kevin Bills) can clog up the gaps left to right and A to D on both sides, those backers are going to take care of the rest," Wong said.
Because Timpview's defenders spend 90 percent of their practice time working on defensive skills and schemes, they're much more prepared come game time and they tend to execute and adjust much better than those who go both ways.
"We're a team that can think on our feet. We can see things defensively and make adjustments and know what's going to happen a lot of times before that snap's even taken," Wong said.
The T-Birds' defensive trademark has been to repeatedly put opponents into long-yardage situations early in possessions. If teams are forced to throw more than they want to or gamble early in possessions, it increases the likelihood for turnovers and allows Timpview to take advantage of its defensive speed.
"Getting teams in a hole has been a strength for us. That makes it pretty tough for them when they have to open up their playbook on second and third down, especially with our speed," Wong said.
Wong won't get caught up in trying to compare his 2006 squad with this year's version, or in trying to distinguish which was better. Besides, he believes Timpview's best defensive team might be a year or two down the road.
"We'll continue to add a few things and make a few changes every year, because if you just keep doing what you're doing teams are eventually going to figure you out. And it's amazing what a little bit of change can do," he said.