For Desert Hills and Pine View, Friday’s 3AA championship game is a chance for their team to win a title, and become immortalized in school history. Even with the high skates, the feeling surrounding the two squads preparing to do battle on Friday afternoon is one of calm and confidence.
“The kids are confident, they’re confident in our scheme, how we’re playing, and they feel confident in one another,” Desert Hills head coach Carl Franke said. “Regardless of the outcome, it’s been a very successful season. This is just a cherry on top if we can finish this off, and they’re excited for that opportunity, but they know it’s going to take a perfect game.”
Pine View assistant coach and defensive coordinator Brett Gifford senses the same feeling of calm and confidence around the Panthers going into Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“The feeling that we have is confidence, no pressure really, and excitement,” Gifford said. “(The) kids are just happy to have one more week to spend together, and they’re just excited to come up here (to the University of Utah) and play.”
The key to success for the Desert Hills Thunder rests on running back Nephi Sewell’s shoulders. Coming into Friday’s 3AA championship game, the senior back has rushed for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Nephi Sewell is a big threat, he had a really good game against us the first time we played him this season, Gifford said. “He’s an explosive, athletic kid that can break away anytime. Every time he touches the ball, he can make something special happen.”
Quarterback Quinn Kiser has also been effective for the Thunder, throwing for 1,634 yards and 14 touchdowns.
For the Pine View Panthers, the key to victory is running back Jacob Mpungi having an explosive game. Mpungi has rushed for 1,526 yards in 2016, reaching the end zone 15 times. Another dimension to the Panther offense is quarterback Ryan Javines, who has thrown for 2,395 yards and 23 touchdowns so far this season.
Besides stopping offensive threats, Franke has a few more keys to winning the big game.
“I think time of possession is going to be big, obviously special teams is always huge in the playoffs, and turnovers,” Franke said.
Gifford says that come playoff time creating turnovers is huge.
“We need to limit the big plays they have, and we need to try and create some sort of takeaways or get them in a situation where we can get a turnover,” Gifford said. “Offensively, we need to be able to sustain our blocks and pick up some of the pressures that they (Desert Hills) bring.”
Desert Hills and Pine View face off at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Friday. Game time is 11 a.m.