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High School Football

Inland Empire

In predominantly white Provo, Utah, Timpview High is building a dynasty with a distinctly Polynesian flair

A QUARTER OF the varsity football players at Timpview (Provo, Utah) are of Polynesian descent, which has opened coach Louis Wong up to criticism. He says some parents have accused him of favoring players from Hawaii, Tonga and Samoa because he was born in Oahu, a charge he calls "ridiculous." He also says that rivals have accused him of recruiting from the islands, even though, with the exception of one transfer, all of his Polynesian starters were either born in Utah or have been raised there since they were toddlers.

Wong, an offensive lineman on BYU's 1984 national championship team, can live with the criticisms; he sees them as by-products of the Thunderbirds' success. If Timpview (12--0) defeats 13--0 Pine View (St. George) on Friday, it will have won three Class 4A state titles in four years, cementing its status as one of the best programs in Utah, if not the Rocky Mountain region. "I know our biggest strength is that we have great athletes, and the Polynesian kids have a lot to do with that," Wong says. "But we are successful because we run a program where no kids are singled out. We don't even pick captains."

Timpview is not the only football program in Utah benefiting from a large number of Polynesians. In the last census in 2000, there were an estimated 15,000 Pacific Islanders, fourth highest in the country, behind Hawaii, California and Washington. Many moved there after being converted by Mormon missionaries in the Pacific, starting a trend. "If one member of a family moves here, his brothers and sisters and cousins follow," says senior linebacker Dominique Moe, who moved to Utah from Oahu when he was four.

Timpview has been especially successful at fostering ethnic pride among the players while also giving them a chance to understand and appreciate their differences. Twice teams have traveled to Hawaii for games (including as recently as 2005), but a major attraction was a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center on Oahu. Wong, 45, hosted a luau there and taught the players how to cook in an imu, a giant underground pit oven. Each spring the program holds a luau in the school's cafeteria.

Community service is also emphasized. Players regularly visit the three elementary schools within their district, meeting with kids who have been deemed most at risk. Many of those young kids are Polynesians, some of them sorely in need of role models. "We do activities with them and then later take the kids from all three schools bowling," says Viliami Halasima, a senior defensive tackle. "They look up to us, and they'll listen to us."

Opponents look up at the Thunderbirds, literally. The Timpview offensive line features four Polynesians and averages 6'1" and 270 pounds, including 6'4" junior Xavier Su'a Filo, who is being recruited by LSU, among others. With the line overpowering opponents in the Thunderbirds' spread offense, Timpview has outscored rival teams 495--85, an average margin of victory of 34.2 points.

Right in the middle of it all is senior center Jon Bushnell, the one Caucasian on the line. He's called Uncle Jon by his Polynesian teammates. Explains Moe, "In Polynesian culture you call everyone you are close to Uncle or Aunt."

That's what Wong means when he says Timpview's success is the result of more than superior talent. "We go year-round, emphasizing the team concept," Wong says. "By December we will already have our goals set and all of our community-service projects organized. No matter if a kid is a starter or a scout-team player, and no matter what his background is, everyone understands that we are successful because we work together like a family."

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Friday Night Lights

LAWRENCE (Franklin, Maine) vs. BONNY EAGLE (Standish, Maine), Nov. 17

The last two state Class A champions, both 11--0, will vie for another title on Saturday in Portland. Senior QB Jack Hersom (left) leads defending champion Lawrence; he has 25 TDs this season and threw for 223 yards in the Bulldogs' 27--13 win over Bangor in the Eastern Maine title game. In the Western Maine championship, the Bonny Eagle Scots—state champs in 2004 and '05-beat Marshwood (South Berwick) 49--16 as junior tailback Josh Ruby (right) ran for 210 yards and two TDs.

National Notebook

In a 40--19 win over Albany (Ga.) last Thursday senior RB Chris Clay of Randolph Clay (Cuthbert, Ga.) had the second-highest rushing total in state history (450 yards) and finished his career as Georgia's third alltime rusher (7,695 yards). This season Clay ran for 2,022 yards.

Parkway West (Ballwin, Mo.) senior QB Blaine Gabbert, MVP of the Elite 11 quarterback camp, switched his oral commitment from Nebraska to Missouri last Saturday. He struggled this season with an injured shoulder, completing just 45 of 102 passes for 614 yards, but is still rated a five-star recruit.

Nashua South and Londonderry ran for 662 total yards in last Saturday's New Hampshire Division I semis, won by South 35--31 as David Zocco ran for 201 yards. In the final South will face Pinkerton Academy (Derry), which didn't attempt a pass in its 34--7 win over Manchester West.

SI's Top 10 Power Rankings

1 NORTHWESTERN (Miami) 10--0
Playoffs begin: D must stop Coral Gables (Fla.) offense (30.6 ppg)

2 ST. XAVIER (Cincinnati) 12--0
Clashes with No. 8 Colerain in Division I regional finals Saturday

3 SOUTH PANOLA (Batesville, Miss.) 11--0
Ran the table in regular season for sixth straight year

4 CARROLL (Southlake, Texas) 9--1
Topped 48 points for sixth time with 54--14 W last week

5 KATY (Texas) 10--0
Will cruise past 8--2 Jesuit (Strake) in first round of 5A Division II playoffs

6 HAMILTON (Chandler, Ariz.) 11--0
Needed fourth-quarter stand to beat 4--7 Mesquite (Gilbert)

7 MARYVILLE (Tenn.) 11--0
Faces rival Knoxville West (7--4) in second round of state playoffs

8 COLERAIN (Cincinnati) 12--0
After outrushing Moeller 355 yards to 45, will rely on run—and tailback Dominique Sherrer-to beat St. Xavier

9 BOOKER T. WASHINGTON (Miami) 9-0-1
Five-game shutout streak snapped in 41--7 victory

10 NORTHSIDE (Warner Robins, Ga.) 10--0
Enters playoffs with 25-game win streak on the line

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SMASHMOUTH Greg Unga and the Timpview D shut out Mountain Crest 38--0.