Dax Raymond watched his coach throughout the game. Cary Whittingham was wearing short sleeves, shorts and high socks, unwilling to break a superstition and bundle up in arctic conditions at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
To Raymond and his Timpview team, it was a message: If I can brave the cold, so can you.
"Our coaches got it into our brains that the snow wasn't going to affect us," Raymond said. "It didn't."
The Thunderbirds delivered Friday against East in one of the most anticipated high school football matches of the year, topping the No. 1-ranked 4A team with a potent passing game and a tough defense that had a knack for picking up fumbles. The result was a 32-14 win that sent Timpview, a team that has faced all kinds of adversity this year, into next week's final.
Quarterback Jake Lloyd looked very much the part of a championship-caliber quarterback, throwing for 266 yards and four touchdowns while running for another. By the time the Thunderbirds cranked up for 19 unanswered points in the second half, the Leopards seemed to be out of steam.
It was sweet revenge over the team that knocked out Timpview in the semifinals last year.
"It was pretty fun to me; hope it's like that next week," Lloyd said. "We talked about last year, we were a bunch of little boys last year playing against men. â¦ This year, we're physical, we're running fast. We're playing like men."
But the offense wasn't alone in its execution. Although East managed 161 yards, the Timpview defense took advantage of turnovers. The Thunderbirds recovered four fumbles and caught an interception, making up for their own fumble on the first kickoff return of the game.
The Leopards made dents, scoring two first-half touchdowns with Ula Tolutau and Niel Robbins. But fumbles got the better of them in the second half, when the team was held scoreless. Timpview also had a pair of sacks and seven total tackles for a loss in the game.
"Our kids battled their hearts out," Whittingham said. "They did a good job. I couldn't ask for anything more."
The Thunderbirds carried themselves well, belying a year's worth of drama: a coach who was forced out after an audit of the school, a season's worth of wins vacated from last year, and several other forfeits this year.
But that was behind them, as are the Leopards. Timpview is back in the finals for the first time since 2009, and the T-birds want to win.
"We have a sloppy couple last years, but I think this year it's really big for us because of so much adversity," Lloyd said. "It's emotional because of the things we've had taken away from us. When you have things taken away, to build back up is just amazing."
R Jake Lloyd goes 17 for 24 for 266 yards and four touchdowns, while also running for another score.
• Dax Raymond leads all receivers with 101 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
• The Leopards lose four fumbles and an interception, helping turn the game in Timpview's favor.