ST. GEORGE — For years, Pine View has been known for its offense. Thursday night, the Panthers' defense took center stage as Pine View held rival Dixie to 152 yards and picked off three passes en route to a 27-6 victory over the Flyers.
"Undefeated is what we want to be," said Pine View defensive lineman Jorden Gary. "We played tough tonight. We feel like we earned it."
Gary intercepted a pass on Dixie's first possession and returned it to the Dixie 5-yard line, setting up a Justin Ence 1-yard TD run just two minutes into the game.
"All I could think about was holding onto the football," Gary said. "I wanted to score, but mostly I just wanted to hold onto the ball."
The Panthers, 8-0 overall and 2-0 among Region 9's 4A teams, led 14-0 at the half and turned the tables on Dixie in the second half by pounding the ball up the middle and playing ball control.
"That's just the kind of game it was," Pine View assistant coach Dale Stott said. "We wanted to take what they gave us, so we ran the ball."
Dixie pulled to within 14-6 midway through the third quarter when Nate Carter (23 rushes, 127 yards) took it to the house from 6 yards out.
But the Panthers responded with a 12-play, 81-yard drive, capped by a 5-yard TD rush by Ence, to push the lead to 21-6. Travis Tait added his second score of the game late in the game for the final margin.
"Ence is amazing because when he's in the game, everyone knows he's going to run the ball, but he succeeds anyway," Stott said. "Travis Tait ran he ball hard as well. We turned the tables on them in the second half."
Hard-throwing quarterback Nick Marinko attempted just 19 passes in the game, completing 12 for 148 yards. The real story was the Panthers defense, which allowed Carter 127 yards, but the rest of the Flyers a total of 25 yards. Dixie quarterbacks Macrae Heppler and Chunner Nyberg combined to go 1-for-15 for four yards passing in the game.
Pine View also converted on a key fourth down in the first half. With the score 7-0 and the half winding down, the Panthers faced fourth-and-26 at the Dixie 35 after a pair of Dixie sacks. Marinko was flushed out to the right side and on a dead run found Robert Evans at the 12-yard line. Evans broke a pair of tackles and dived to the 6, setting up Tait's TD run.
The Flyers, 4-3, face Snow Canyon next week, with the loser missing out on the playoffs in their first season in 4A. Pine View will be the No. 1 seed from Region 9.