4A football: Lineman's 2OT sack hands Timpview the win

T-bird lineman Taumoepenu started playing football only a year ago.
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Pita Taumoepenu lay flat on his back on the turf, staring up at the night sky over Rice-Eccles Stadium.

"Enjoy it," a Timpview coach told the senior.

It's not often Taumoepenu finds himself in that position. Usually that's the view he gets of opposing quarterbacks.

With Mountain Crest facing a fourth down in double overtime, and Friday night's 4A championship on the line, it was Taumoepenu who broke through the Mustangs' line, wrapping up quarterback Jamison Webb to seal a 38-31 victory.

"The only way I can describe [the game] is stressful," Timpview coach Cary Whittingham said. "That was a hard-fought game. It could have gone either way. That's a very good team. We made one more play than them, I guess."

Breathing hard from recording 10 tackles in the game, Taumoepenu was overcome with emotion as his teammates celebrated their win.

"That last sack, I put in my heart," Taumoepenu, an immigrant from Tonga who learned how to play football only last year, said. "It's my senior year, and I want to leave — I want to leave a champion."

As with English, the defensive lineman is still learning football. But in his senior season for the Thunderbirds, Taumoepenu led the state with 25 sacks, including four in the title tilt.

"Pita is my No. 1 man. I love him," said junior linebacker Pio Stowers, who also recorded a sack in the second overtime. "He may not speak English well, but he's a hell of a player."

Taumoepenu, the teen with a blond star bleached into the side of his hair, has impressed Whittingham with his progress.

"He's still learning football," he said. "He's explosive. He's fast. He's strong. He's got everything. He should have a successful future."

Taumoepenu has already received one offer to play at Hawaii, but Whittingham thinks more could be on the way.

"He's pretty raw," the coach said. "He has a high ceiling. I got to think he's earned himself some scholarship offers tonight. I hope he has."


Twitter: @aaronfalk