There was a lot of anticipation at the Highland High School football stadium Friday night.
The host team was still waiting to play its first game under new coach Kautai Olevao after being forced to cancel its opener due to a positive COVID-19 test within the program, while on the other side of the field, the Pine View Panthers have their sights on a special season.
With plenty of talent back from last year’s 12-2 team, the Panthers are the Region 10 favorite and hope to play again a few miles further north at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where the 4A semis and finals are again scheduled in November.
The outcome Friday ended up being determined quickly as Turner Williams returned the opening kickoff 91 yards for a score and the Panthers never let up to earn a 35-0 victory.
Williams set the tone just 15 seconds into the game, but it was junior quarterback Sawyer Woods who started turning this contest into a rout, taking over after halftime and steering his squad to a pair of touchdowns.
With the momentum always on their side, the defense then got involved and Jacob Sersansie returned an interception 25 yards for another score.
“The kickoff (return) really got us off to a strong start, and then we kept up the pressure,” said Pine View coach Ray Hosner. “We set the tone and never gave it up. We never let them have any (big plays).”
The Rams, who frustrated Pine View several times with their triple-option attack when they were both 4A championship contenders, revealed the spread offense under Olevao, but had little offensive success.
Now a 5A school, they netted just 100 rushing yards — on 37 carries — and quarterback Ashton Zwick completed 12 of 21 passes but for only 70 yards.
Highland’s biggest offensive play was an 18-yard run by Ashton Olevao early in the game. The Rams also had a long kickoff return in the second half by Maea Giles, but it was negated by a penalty.
It was a forgettable night, Olevao admitted, but he was still happy the Rams got a game under their belt.
“At least we’ll have film to watch, and we can teach from that,” he said.
Pine View, with former BYU coach Gary Crowton calling its plays, threw for 274 yards between Woods and Abe Rosenland, who moved up on the depth chart after Tyler Brown was hurt early in last week’s win over Salem Hills.
Rosenland showed an impressive arm, but Woods developed a passing rhythm — with seven straight completions at one time — that led to scores on consecutive drives.
Both players were helped by the receiving talents of Dominique McKenzie, who had five catches for 105 yards, and the running of Keith Adams, who got most of his carries in the second half as the Panthers tried to kill the clock and get back on the bus to try to return to St. George before sunrise.