MURRAY — What a difference a good practice makes when it comes to game time.
The Cottonwood football team was about as effective as a squad could be in the Colts' 52-23 blowout of sixth-ranked Pine View Friday night. Players and coaches agreed that the difference between their efficient and effective effort this week and their close-call last Friday at Layton was better practices prior to taking the field.
"We had a great week of practice," said running back Isi Sofele, who was almost unstoppable, gaining 122 yards rushing in just the first half alone. He finished with two touchdowns, one of which was a 71-yard punt return in the third quarter. He finished with 190 yards on 25 carries.
So exactly what makes a practice great?
"Intensity," said offensive lineman John Martinez. "Last week practice was not that great."
Sofele added, "We need the second team guys to play all out."
Coaches echoed the sentiment.
"The kids had great focus all week long," said Cottonwood coach Cecil Thomas. "They knew what we had to get done."
No one expected the game to be so lopsided, but Thomas said he has players capable of great things when they play to their abilities.
"We've got some great playmakers on that side of the ball," Thomas said of his offense, which finished with 291 yards passing and 228 yards on the ground. "(Quarterback) Steve Romero has been our guy all year. He's playing some great football. We're like a two-headed monster with Isi back there."
And then there was the Colts' defense.
"I thought they played great," said Thomas. "That's an offense that can explode on you."
The Colts' defense nearly shut down the Panthers' passing game with Pine View earning just 75 yards in the air. Much of Pine View's offensive yardage came in the second half on a couple of big plays. Senior running back Villiami Hafoka had an 80-yard touchdown run and senior quarterback Justin Ence scored the team's first touchdown on a 68-yard run. Ence managed to connect with receivers just a handful of times.
Cottonwood had some huge plays of their own and Romero ran the offense with confidence and precision. He said personal coaching from assistant Marshall Parnell has made a huge difference in his mental game.
"I had some anger issues," Romero said. "If I had a bad play, I'd hang my head and then I'd let it bother me on the next play and one after that until I had a good play. Then maybe I'd feel better. He's helped me a lot."
Sofele scored the first touchdown on a two-yard run and then Romero scored on a 10-yard run. Then, still in the first quarter, Romero connected with Alo Moli, who caught the ball over a defender in the end zone, for a 28-yard touchdown.
Sofele's punt return came in the third quarter, and then Pine View kicker Mike Stephenson kicked a 22-yard field goal to make the score 38-10.
Moli caught another pass from Romero and then Jason Lundquist caught a 70-yard pass from Romero for the team's final touchdown. Colt kicker Chris Curtis was perfect on extra points and nailed a 26-yard field goal, as well.
"I figured if we came out and took care of business, we could do well," Thomas said.
UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow and USC offensive line coach Pat Ruel both attended Friday's game to watch Martinez play.