Prep football: Alta beats Timpview 35-14 (with photo gallery)
Alta, which had a rough start last year, has a rough start in opener but storms back to win.
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Sandy • The Alta Hawks have made it clear: Last year was last year. But, briefly, last year was Friday night. It was in the three first-quarter turnovers and the two-touchdown deficit to Timpview.

When the Alta defense was beaten on a 56-yard touchdown pass, one team leader swore at a group of his teammates: "This is last year's [stuff]."

And then, just as quickly as it seemed like last year, the Hawks found their rebirth. Alta, which started last year 0-4 en route to an uncharacteristic 4-6 season, overcame a two-touchdown deficit in the first quarter to beat the 4A powerhouse Thunderbirds 35-14.

"It was like the epitome of last year," quarterback Tyson Blackner said. "It felt just like last year." He was talking about explosive running back Bryan Engstrom dashing for a 20-yard gain on Alta's first play from scrimmage. And of the pass that caromed off the hands of BYU-committed tight end Steven Richards, off the helmet of a defender and into the hands of Timpview linebacker Josh Burr.

All Alta wanted to turn over was a new leaf, but they could stop giving the football to Timpview, which beat the Hawks last year in Provo.

"We didn't change anything," first-year Alta coach Bob Stephens said. "We just told them to quit putting the ball on the turf."

For not changing anything, things sure, well, changed for the Hawks. Timpview had scored on consecutive possessions in the first quarter and, to start the second, was back in the red zone. But a bad snap was recovered by Alta.

The Thunderbirds appeared rattled, and Gregson Aspinall fumbled on Timpview's next possession.

A turnover caused, not committed, by the Hawks, and it led to a 55-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Engstrom. He finished the game with 115 yards and two touchdowns.

"We just needed a chance," Engstrom said. "We never felt like we weren't moving the ball. We just needed a chance to score."

After that, the Thunderbirds offense was stymied, failing to notch even a first down in its next three drives. Meanwhile, Alta was rolling. It scored just before halftime on another workmanlike drive, led by Blackner. The senior completed 23-of-38 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns.

Alta last year struggled through a rotation of quarterbacks. One of them was Blackner, an unsure, interception-happy junior. Friday, that player was gone, replaced by a confident, precise pocket quarterback.

Alta scored on three of its four possessions to start the second half, including two on passes by Blackner, the second confidently heaved to receiver Jordan Urrutia after Blackner evaded the blitz. The quarterback took two long steps forward and found Urrutia over the middle.

You ever go to a football game, and come away a witness to an exorcism? Blackner and Engstrom sat on the bench in the fourth quarter, earlier replaced by the junior varsity, laughing as they relived plays from this game — their first significant victory in far too long.

"I'm very proud of the team in general," Stephens said. "We needed it."

boram@sltrib.com —

Highlights

R After starting last season 0-4, Alta wins its opener against 4A powerhouse Timpview.

• Senior quarterback Tyson Blackner throws for three touchdowns and Bryan Engstrom runs for two more.

• After taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, Timpview never threatens in the second half.

• Alta faces rival Bingham next week at Rice-Eccles Stadium.