Sandy • Sure, Alta can throw the ball all over the field and hang 45 points on an opponent seemingly at will with a talented quarterback and Division I prospects on the outside.
But offense alone has not led the Hawks to the Class 5A quarterfinals for the first time in three seasons. And it's the defense that very well could be responsible for whether Alta moves on to play at Rice-Eccles Stadium later this month.
That defense may not be as talented, and it certainly doesn't have the athletes that litter the offensive side of the ball. But the Hawks consistently, quietly have put the clamps on opponents all season.
One big reason has been the play of senior defensive end Brock Davies, who ranks among the team leaders in sacks despite missing one-third of the season because of a shoulder injury.
Davies dominated Riverton up front in the playoff opener, recording a sack, another tackle for loss and a fumble recovery in Alta's 27-14 victory.
Riverton coach Mike Miller said his game plan was to run to the left away from Davies as often as possible. Still, Davies was able to pursue the play and insert himself into the fray.
"He was the best one of the bunch," Miller said. "We tried to avoid him a little bit, run away from him, mainly because of his motor. He was a 'Go-Go-Go' guy. He was definitely an impact kid in the game."
That attacking persona on the field quickly is replaced by a humble, respectful personality when the helmet comes off. Davies almost seems uncomfortable receiving attention for his performance, instead diverting the attention to the Hawks' defense as a whole.
It's not him alone limiting the Hawks' past four opponents to an average of 8 points per game.
"I think our whole team has gotten much better in all of our techniques this year," Davies said. "I think we have really good pursuit as a whole team, and that show dominance, our ability to pursue."
Alta coach Bob Stephens called Davies the ultimate team player, one whose work ethic to get better in his second year at the varsity level is reflective of the approach his defensive teammates have taken.
"Brock is the epitome of what a team player is all about," Stephens said. "He can only do the things he does with the team around him, and he recognizes that. He's a very humble, wonderful kid."
Alta's schedule included the top team in the state in rival Jordan and a nationally ranked team in New Jersey's Don Bosco Prep. But Davies and the Hawks will play their most important game to date Friday at unbeaten Syracuse.
It's the same Titans team that upset the Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs a season ago. And it's a game that pits the No. 2 (Syracuse) and No. 3 teams in The Tribune poll, with a state semifinal berth at stake.
Davies said the Hawks remember the pain from a year ago and will be ready for the trip north.
"It'll be a definite challenge," Davies said. "We're going to have to work hard. We played Bingham at Rice-Eccles earlier this year, and it's been a goal of ours all year to make it back there. Hoping we can do it."
D for Dominant
Alta senior defensive end Brock Davies is a big reason the Hawks advanced past the first round of the Class 5A playoffs for the first time in three years.
Davies had five sacks in the regular season, despite missing three games with a shoulder injury.
Davies had a sack, tackle for loss and fumble recovery last week in a victory against Riverton. The Hawks play unbeaten Syracuse on Friday.