EAGLE MOUNTAIN — In many ways, Joe Smith is Orem’s offense.
The senior team captain and running back has been with the Tigers’ varsity team since his sophomore year, and has won back-to-back state titles with the club.
But even he, like the rest of the offense, had a few moments of sputtering Friday night in a Class 5A state semifinal at Cedar Valley High School.
Good thing he had his defense.
Smith scored two touchdowns, and defensive end Joshua Singh had four sacks as the Tigers pulled away from Maple Mountain, 35-7 to advance to their fourth-straight championship game.
“In many ways, you could see he is the offense,” Orem interim head coach Gabe Sewell said of Smith, who leads the team with 447 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. “Everything runs through him a lot, whether it’s our run game or play-action pass game. Then he goes to the defensive side, and he holds that side down well. He’s the leader of that, as well.
“He’s a guy you won’t find often, and when you do, you make sure to feed him the ball.”
The Tigers (7-2) will face Region 7 rival Timpview in next week’s 5A championship, one year after topping the Thunderbirds fo their third-straight state title and less than two months after the regular-season game was canceled due to COVID-19.
“It was kind of rough, but now it’s all good,” Singh said. “We’re back in the ‘ship with them, and it’s all about staying disciplined now.”
Going against a Golden Eagles (9-3) squad that was without their starting quarterback due to injury, Orem held Maple Mountain to three-and-out on each of its first four drives before going up 21-0 on Kolton Brown-Dye’s 4-yard run with 5:42 left in the half.
Micah Fe’a threw his first of two touchdowns with 24 seconds left in the third, a 6-yard fade to Isaac Yokota with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. But Orem’s offense stalled in the final penalty, delayed by penalties and hurt by false starts.
“In some ways, our defense has struggled a bit the last couple of weeks,” Sewell said. “But they had a great week of preparation, they executed well, and they minimized what Maple Mountain was trying to do today.”
That allowed Gene Ho-Ching to pull the Golden Eagles on the board with a 9-yard strike to Aedan Seiuli, cutting the deficit to 28-7 with 5:43 remaining.
On the next drive, Smith put the game away. The veteran picked up a screen pass from Fe’a and juked his way out of three surefire tackles for a 77-yard score that iced the game with 4:32 on the clock.
“He dumped it off to me, and I just followed my blocks to the end zone,” Smith said. “We love the run game, too. People think we have no run game after we lost Noah (Sewell last year). We came back and we showed them. We love our run game.”
7:56 — ORM: Paxton Skipps, 1-yard run (Daley kick)
7:14 — ORM: Joe Smith, 79-yard run (Daley kick)
5:42 — ORM: Kolton Brown-Dye, 4-yard run (Daley kick)
0:24 — ORM: Isaac Yokota, 6-yard pass from Micah Fe’a (Daley kick)
5:43 — MM: Aedan Seiuli, 9-yard pass from Gene Ho-Ching (Krommenhoek kick)
4:32 — ORM: Smith, 77-yard pass from Fe’a (Daley kick)
Final — Orem 35, Maple Mountain 7
Raider Damuni, Timpview defense pitch shutout to oust Salem Hills in 5A semifinal
EAGLE MOUNTAIN — When Timpview running back Targhee Lambson plunged into the end zone with 9:54 left in the half to give his squad a 14-0 lead in a Class 5A state semifinal, it gave the Thunderbirds back-to-back scoring drives with only one play.
A good defense will make that happen.
Raider Damuni scored on a 43-yard fumble recovery, Lambson and quarterback Liu Aumavae added two touchdowns each, and Timpview shut out Salem Hills 37-0 Friday at Cedar Valley High School to advance to next week’s 5A state championship for the second year in a row.
“That’s what our defense does. Our defense gets us going, and it’s downhill from there,” Lambson said. “Without them, I don’t know what we’d be doing.
“We love our defense. They prepare us every week for our opponents’ defense, and we try to get them ready for the opponents’ offense.”
Carsen Ryan collected a 19-yard touchdown strike, and Chaid Allred scored on a 2-yard pass from Aumavae for Timpview (7-4), which rebounded from an 0-3 start to win another state semifinal.
But it all started with Damuni.
The senior who has committed to BYU (where his father Jack is on head coach Kalani Sitake’s staff) picked up a loose ball on the Skyhawks’ fourth play from scrimmage and rumbled 43 yards into the end zone to give Timpview a 7-0 lead with 7:02 left in the first.
“That’s him,” Lambson said of Damuni. “That’s what he does. He’s a ballplayer.”
Like Timpview head coach Andy Stokes says, big players make big plays in big games. Damuni’s big play just happened to be a “14-point swing,” he said.
“We expect our big-time players to make big-time plays,” said Stokes, whose team rode its defense back to the state championship after last year’s loss to Orem. “He comes to the table every week.”
Salem Hills (9-3) punted on seven of their 11 drives, and added a fumble, a turnover on downs, an interception and a muffed punt that set up Lambson’s first touchdown from the 2-yard line in the second quarter.
Timpview controlled the clock during a 7-0 third quarter highlighted by Ryan’s touchdown, while the defense held the Skyhawks to just 10 yards in the quarter. By the time Lambson bolted into the end zone on a 12-yard end-around in the first minute of the fourth quarter, the win — played in biting wind and 35-mph wind gusts on the edge of Eagle Mountain — was in sight.
“This year’s been different,” Stokes said. “Every week we get to play another week is a blessing to my own family and to these guys. We’re just grateful to be here.”
Austin Hallows had an interception for Salem Hills, which played without leading receiver Reed Johnson after the first offensive series.
4:55 — TV: Raider Damuni, 43-yard fumble recovery (Taylor kick)
9:54 — TV: Targhee Lambson, 2-yard run (Taylor kick)
0:00 — TV: Lance Taylor, 44-yard FG
10:05 — Carsen Ryan, 19-yard pass from Liu Aumavae (Taylor kick)
11:06 — TV: Targhee Lambson, 12-yard run (Taylor kick)
5:35 — TV: Chaid Allred, 2-yard pass from Liu Aumavae (kick blocked)
Final — Timpview 37, Salem Hills 0