It's not how the season begins that matters.
Who really remembers what happens in the preseason?
The early losses to Pleasant Grove and Alta did nothing to dampen Timpview High School's celebratory spirit.
In Football Title Town, i.e. northeast Provo, it's not how you play in September that stands out, it's what you do in November that defines your career.
There is no better example of that than Timpview linebacker Ofa Latu, who by the end of the season was so dominating that the Daily Herald has named him All-Valley Player of the Year for football.
Latu had two interceptions and eight tackles in the state championship game. One of the interceptions went for a key touchdown in the third quarter that helped the T'Birds pull away from Springville and win their fourth straight 4A title.
"Once we got to the big game, he really showed himself as a player that deserved the MVP," said Timpview quarterback Trevor Brown. "He had four interceptions in the last two games, and his pick-six in the championship game against Springville I thought was the difference in the game; it helped us put them away. Big-time players make big plays on the biggest stage. Ofa did that."
Timpview coach Louis Wong does not like to single out individual players. The T'Birds win as a team and they lose ... well, they don't lose very often, but when they do, they lose as a team. Wong does believe Latu is deserving of postseason honors, however.
"Towards the end of the season, when we needed him the most, he really stepped up," Wong said. "When we played Mountain Crest, he spied (quarterback Alex) Kuresa. When we played Springville, we put him on their tight end. He's a heck of a player. He was probably our most important guy when a team would play a third wide receiver; we would put him on their third wide receiver."
To be All-Valley MVP is even more remarkable considering that Latu was coming off a serious injury.
It's kind of hard to play his position with a torn labrum.
Not impossible, though. Latu believes he tore it in his junior season and he played through the pain then. That was his plan for his senior year: No pain, no gain. That is, until the coaching staff told him it was time to see the doctor.
Doctors have a way of delivering bad news.
Latu missed all of the summer camps and workouts. He didn't even start practicing until two weeks before the team's first game against Pleasant Grove.
Needless to say, the player wasn't ready.
"I didn't really get to help or contribute. It was frustrating," Latu said. "It was hard to run. I wore a brace every day in practice, but was able to take it off in the game. After that (Pleasant Grove game), I tried to step it up. I didn't want to miss any practices and wanted to do whatever Coach wanted me to do."
After that early loss to the Vikings, Latu and Timpview continued to improve. By the end of the season, the T'Birds were so dominant that the closest thing they got to a game in the playoffs was a 38-21 win over Mountain Crest in the semifinals.
When Timpview arrived at the title game against the Red Devils, the T'Birds put the contest away in the third quarter.
"The first half, I missed some tackles and I was bummed out at myself," Latu said. "The second half I told our team that we weren't going to lose. I got that play (interception return) that helped us get the momentum in the second half."
It was the perfect way to end a prep career. Latu has three championship rings, and now the All-Valley Player of the Year award as souvenirs of his accomplishments. How can he top that?
Despite recording 80 tackles and coming up with five interceptions and one sack this season, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker hasn't caught the attention of many colleges just yet, but that could be changing.
Latu said he's getting interest from Utah State, Southern Utah and Snow College.
Those coaches who saw the Springville game had to be impressed by his performance. There was also someone else in the stands who was amazed: Fonua, Ofa's father.
Ofa Latu is a Hawaiian native. He faced a difficult decision when his family moved to Hawaii in February. He opted to stay behind and live with extended family members while he finished his senior year. The Latu family got to watch many of the games because someone put the game tape online, but there's nothing like watching it live.
"I play better when my dad is here," Latu said. "He was so proud of me. He told me he wasn't going to come out, that he would send me money instead, but my mom forced him to come, and after the game, he was so happy he was here."
And why not? Latu put on quite a show.
Now that particular show has come to an end. Everyone likes a happy ending, and no one likes one more than a father.
"It ended a lot like it started. When I was a sophomore, I got in at the end of the game because we were up so much and I returned a fumble for a touchdown. That kind of led to me starting my junior year," Latu said. "Now to get the MVP, I've been pretty surprised by it all."
2009 Football All-Valley team
• Valley Player of the Year: Ofa Latu, 6-2 210 Sr. LB, Timpview
Big-play linebacker led a powerful defense. Finished with 80 tackles and five interceptions. Had two interceptions in the state title game and returned one of them for a touchdown.
• Offensive MVP: Trevor Brown, 6-6 210 Sr. QB, Timpview
In his first year as a starter, Brown accounted for more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage and 40 touchdowns. Ran for 854 yards and 17 scores and threw for 2,180 yards and 23 touchdowns.
• Defensive MVP: Chris Badger, 6-0 190 Sr. S, Timpview
One of the hardest hitters in the state was a feared defender. Finished the season with 77 tackles and three interceptions. Has committed to play for Notre Dame.
• Coach of the Year: Scott Mitchell, Springville
In just his second year, the former Springville, U of U and NFL standout directed the Red Devils to their first state title appearance since 1985, when Mitchell himself was the quarterback.
Tannon Pedersen, 6-3 185 Sr. QB, Lone Peak
Pedersen led a potent Lone Peak passing attack, completing 157-of-256 (61 percent) for 2,332 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also ran for 271 yards and three scores while leading the Knights to a share of the Region 4 title and the Class 5A quarterfinals.
D.J. Doman, 6-1 185 Sr. WR/DB, Pleasant Grove
The only thing Doman didn't do was sell tickets. The senior accounted for three non-offensive touchdowns while catching 10 passes for 193 yards and four other scores. He also had 202 return yards, 38 tackles and seven interceptions.
Travis Still, 6-2 185 Jr. WR/DB, Spanish Fork
On a team full of offensive stars, Still stood out on both sides of the ball. He caught 43 passes for 784 yards and 12 touchdowns, then added 176 rushing yards and three scores on the ground. On defense, Still had 64 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions as the Dons advanced to the 4A quarterfinals.
James Emerson, Jr. RB, Mountain View
Emerson crossed the 1,000-yard mark in his junior year, running 189 times for 1,160 yards and 11 touchdowns. His biggest game came on Sept. 18 when he rushed 44 times for 329 yards and three scores in a 28-26 loss to Westlake.
Kyson Flake, 6-1 194 Sr. RB/LB, Lone Peak
Flake was a knockdown machine for the Knights, accounting for 105 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. He also ran 60 times for 334 yards and four touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 334 yards and five more scores.
John Ursua, 5-9 150 So. QB, Westlake
Westlake was more than competitive in its first season of varsity football, and the shifty Ursua was a big reason. He threw for 1,376 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 590 rushing yards and 10 more scores.
Maka Unufe, 6-1 190 Sr. RB, Provo
Provo's second-place Region 7 finish was keyed by the talented Unufe, who accounted for 1,500 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns. He also added 28 tackles, a sack and six interceptions on the defensive side.
P.J. Inoke, 5-9 170 Jr. RB/DB, Spanish Fork
As quick as lightning and more powerful than his size would indicate, Inoke frustrated defenses all season. He scored 15 touchdowns (11 on the ground and four on receptions) and ran for 981 yards on 126 carries (7.8 yards per carry). He also added 39 tackles and three interceptions.
Jeff Harris, 5-8 185 Sr. RB/LB, Pleasant Grove
The speedy and elusive Harris was a stalwart during an injury-plagued season for the Vikings. He posted nine touchdowns and accounted for 744 rushing yards and 217 through receptions, adding 297 more on kick returns. He also had 24 tackles and a fumble recovery on the defensive side.
Jordan Sumsion, 6-2 183 Sr. WR, Springville
Picking an Elite 11 player from state 4A runner-up Springville was difficult because the Red Devils shared the load on both sides of the ball, but Sumison was the team's top receiver with 10 touchdowns on 37 catches for 584 yards.
Zach Van Leeuwen, 6-0 160 Jr. WR, Timpview
Van Leeuwen was consistently a threat to take a short pass a long way. He finished the year with 60 receptions for 975 yards (16.3 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.
QB Dallas Lloyd, 6-2 205 Sr., Pleasant Grove
RB Cade Zarbock 6-0 227 Sr., American Fork
RB Alema Key, 6-2 191 Sr., Springville
WR Chase Loftin, 6-3 195 Sr., Spanish Fork
WR Marcus Monsen, 6-0 141 Sr., American Leadership Academy
TE Jason Fanaika, 6-4 240 Sr., Pleasant Grove
OL Isaac Asiata, 6-4 305 Jr., Spanish Fork
OL Likio Pope, 6-1 285 Sr., Provo
OL Tyson Tiatia, 6-3 260 Sr., Timpview
OL Kalvin Cusick, 6-3 265 Jr., Timpview
OL Bryce Genther, 6-2 230 Sr., Springville
DL Joe Kruger, 6-7 240 Sr., Pleasant Grove
DL Jeff Gueck 6-3 219 Sr., Springville
DL Peter Quiterio, 6-2 200 Sr., Timpview
DL Sefa Tanoai, 6-3 265 Sr., Pleasant Grove
LB Caleb McCray, 5-11 186 So., Springville
LB Jeremiah Tiatia, 6-2 230 Sr., Orem
LB Mike Tyler, 6-1 215 Sr., Timpview
DB Jacob Hannemann, 6-0 185 Sr., Lone Peak
DB Merik Richardson, 6-0 170 Sr., Spanish Fork
DB Taylor Baker, 6-0 184 Sr., Springville
DB Levi Gifford, 5-11 192 Sr., Lone Peak
KR Ethan Wright, 6-0 165 Sr., American Fork
K Ryne MacPherson, 5-11 170 Sr., Lone Peak
ALL-VALLEY HONORABLE MENTION
American Fork: Sr. LB Tommy Laycock, Sr. DB Josh Brown, So. QB Chase Hansen, Jr. RB Kaiden Worthington, Jr. OL/DL Ryker Mathews, Sr. WR/C Scott Newman.
American Leadership Academy: Sr. DL/OL Tony Pulu, Jr. QB Hunter Morley, Jr. RB/LB J.J. Pulu, So. RB/LB Chris Haynes, Jr. WR Riley Lewis, Jr. LB Jace Anderson, Sr. DL Cade Taylor.
Lone Peak: Sr. RB/LB Jared Fenton, Sr. WR Ryan Savage, Sr. OL/DL McKay Murphy, Sr. LB Sae Tautu, Sr. OL/DL Ray Nelson, Jr. OL/DL Tanner Larsen, Sr. WR Russ Walker.
Pleasant Grove: Sr. TE/LB Bryan Sampson, Sr. LB/RB Jordan Hymas, Sr. OL/DL Bryce Walker, Jr. LB/RB Austin Heder, Sr. K Winston Sorhaitz.
Mountain View: Jr. RB/LB Bennett Maxwell, Sr. OL/LB Taylor Story, Jr. LB Addison Shurtz, Sr. DB Scott Laxton, Jr. DE Jonah Wong, Sr. WR Zach Taylor.
Orem: Sr. RB/DB Keenan Karrati, So. TE/DE Joe Jensen, Sr. OL/DL Quinn Lawlor, Jr. TE/LB Brett Orgill.
Timpanogos: Sr. WR J.D. Ashman, Sr. RB/LB Parker Almeida, Sr. OL/DL Tanner Brown, Sr. OL/DL Lexin Rockwood, Jr. OL/DL Mike Dockendorf, Jr. RB/LB Esi Havili, Sr. QB Brooks Fowler.
Westlake: Jr. RB/LB Tre Ofahengaue, Jr. WR Brandon Aldsfeldt, Jr WR Nate Jensen.
Lehi: Sr. RB/LB Colby Massa, Jr. QB Palmer Page, Sr. WR Steven Lew, Sr. DL Taylor Savio.
Provo: Sr. RB/LB Kyler Hamilton, Sr. RB Keoki Unufe, Sr. QB Matt Griner, Sr. DL/OL Monte Naoupu.
Spanish Fork: Sr. TE Jordunn Mattinson, Sr. RB/LB Richie Kunsman, Sr. RB/LB Trevor Reynolds, Sr. RB/LB Michael Stone, So. QB Hayden Nielsen.
Payson: Sr. QB Colton Cannon, Sr. RB Jeremiah Guzman, Jr. WR Brady Loveless, Sr. RB Cris Robbins, Sr. LB/OL Tyler Kearl.
Maple Mountain: So. QB Jace Edmunds, Sr. RB/DB Brennan Hyatt, Sr. WR/DE Chris Clark, Jr. LB Colby Jeffers, Sr. LB Austin Cowdon.
Salem Hills: Sr. QB Josh Adams, Sr. RB/LB Kolapa Wolfgramm, Sr. OL/DL Nathan McNaughton, Sr. WR/DB Josh Fifita.
Springville: Sr. DL Aaron Turley, Jr. DL Landon McKell, Jr. DL Brody Swanson, Sr. DB/WR Todd Gillies, Sr. QB Aaron Gray, Sr. LB Brandon Harris, Sr. TE/DE Brandon Boyer, Sr. OL/DL Paul Garfield, Sr. OL/DL Sam Sargeant, Sr. OL Jake Barker, Jr. QB Steve Bate, Jr. RB/DB Marcus Case.
Timpview: Sr. DL Mike Tyler, Sr. DB Kapena Clark, Jr. OL Tevia Tolutau, Sr. WR Jacob Hatch, Sr. RB Jeremiah Burr, Sr. LB Reuben Christianson, Sr. OL Alex Moon, Sr. DL/TE Bronson Kaufusi, Jr. RB Bryson McKenzie, Jr. RB Josey Trammel.