Provo • Near the far corner inside the Timpview football center, tacked onto the dark cement wall, is a banner with a common refrain: Defense wins championships.
In the middle of the room, easing back in a blue plastic chair barely big enough for his hulking frame, Thunderbird senior defensive lineman Isaiah Nacua reveals another truism: So does he.
Isaiah Nacua file
Position » Defensive end
Height » 6-foot-3
Weight » 255 pounds
Sacks » 20.5
Nacua transferred to Timpview before the season from national powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nev.). State titles are not wished for there, he explained. They are not the ache of a preseason dream. Rather, they are expected: The Gaels have won four Nevada Class 4A state titles in a row and five of the last six.
So Friday, when the Thunderbirds take on East for the Utah’s Class 4A state title, Nacua will have a chance to cap a perfect career — four titles in four years.
"There are a lot of emotions," Nacua said. "It’s not just another game. You’ve worked this far, and just knowing it’s your senior year with the boys you played with all season. The relationships you’ve built with them and the coaches and families is something you can’t really explain."
Perhaps the Thunderbirds, the reigning state champions, didn’t need it, but Nacua brought some of Bishop Gorman’s swagger with him.
"He takes care of one side of the field for us," Timpview coach Cary Whittingham said. "He puts a lot of heat on the quarterback and makes those big plays happen. In games, you need those big plays, obviously. They’re game-changers."
Nacua is genial and polite, but the confidence lashes from his tongue as he begins to discuss the terror he has wrought on opposing offenses this season. He’s racking up more than 20 sacks and leads a talented defense that’s given up just 12 points a game.
"I hope to [intimidate quarterbacks]," he said, sitting up straight in his chair. "I want the fear in them, knowing I’m coming for them and that it’s not going to be easy for them, thinking they’re just going to sit in their little pocket and throw it up to their wide receivers. I want to know that they feel a little bit uncomfortable."
Nacua, who decommitted from BYU before the season and has interest from multiple Pac-12 schools, acknowledges that Friday will be a fitting way to end a decorated prep career. Standing in the way of his fourth ring is an East offense that averages more than 50 yards a game and is headlined by Wisconsin commit Ula Toluta’u, who has rushed for 2,344 yards this season.
He nods as those numbers are recited. He smiles, unfazed.
"We’ve prepared ourselves for it," Nacua said. "We’re ready for what’s going to come."
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