After pulling out a thrilling 36-35 victory against Snow Canyon at home earlier this season, the Pine View Panthers wanted to make a statement in Friday’s 4A semifinal game.
And, boy, did they ever.
After Snow Canyon took a quick 7-0 lead on an 82-yard drive to start the game, Pine View scored 48 unanswered points to cruise to a 48-7 victory at Panther Stadium.
“I’m so proud of our kids and I’m so happy for them,” said Pine View head coach Ray Hosner. “This was a team win and everyone on both sides of the ball stepped up and played lights out. We’re going to enjoy this win for a bit, and then turn our attention to next week’s game.”
The Panthers will take on top-ranked Sky View in the 4A championship game next Saturday at Dixie State University. Pine View will look to win its first-ever state title, as the program has gone 0-6 in championship games with several last-second and heartbreaking losses.
“It’s exciting to make it to the championship game, and (it) has been something that our team has been looking forward to all season,” said junior wide receiver Dominique McKenzie. “We are going to stay humble and focused and hopefully make the most of this opportunity.”
Despite having the ball for just 13 minutes, Pine View used a balanced attack to rack up 380 yards of total offense in the win.
Senior quarterback Brayden Bunnell completed 17 of 29 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns, while running backs Enoch Takau and Ryan Jordan combined for 140 yards and four touchdowns on the night.
- Watch replay: Pine View 48, Snow Canyon 7
Bunnell’s favorite target was McKenzie, who had nine catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns. The junior simply couldn’t be stopped and also added a touchdown on the ground in the victory.
“We have a lot of weapons, and Dominique is one of them,” said Hosner. “He’s so fast and had a huge game for us.”
McKenzie nearly had four touchdowns on the night, but his 45-yard touchdown grab was ruled just short as officials said he stepped out of bounds near the goal line.
“I promise I didn’t step out,” McKenzie said with a big smile. “There was a lot of one-on-one coverage and I couldn’t help but smile before I ran my routes. It was a lot of fun.”
Snow Canyon’s 82-yard touchdown drive was capped off by Braxton Hickman. The 6-foot-3 senior hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Landon Frei to give the Warriors the lead.
After forcing a three-and-out for Pine View, Snow Canyon drove down the field once again and looked well on its way to extending the lead to double digits, but Pine View’s defense came up with a big red zone stand as the Panthers partially blocked a 25-yard field goal attempt that hit the crossbar before bouncing out.
“That certainly helped change the momentum of the game,” said Snow Canyon head coach Mike Esplin. “Pine View is a great team, and once they got that momentum, they ran with it.”
In fact, it took the Panthers just four plays to tie the game thanks to Takau’s 45-yard run down the sideline and McKenzie’s 29-yard touchdown catch.
Pine View took its first lead of the game midway through the second quarter as Ryan Jordan took the handoff up the middle and then hurdled over a defender to run untouched into the end zone.
From that moment on, it was all Pine View as the defense allowed just 88 yards the rest of the game and tallied five sacks. While much of the attention goes to Pine View’s fast-paced offense, it was the defense that took control of the game and helped turn the momentum around.
“The defense has been playing great all year, but tonight was really fun to watch,” said Hosner. “We’ve played two really great teams over the past two weeks, and to be able to hold them to seven points each is pretty impressive. If you can do that every week, you’ll win a lot of games like that.”
Frei completed 21 of 31 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown and senior running back Bretton Stone added 80 total yards in the loss.
Next up for Pine View is chasing that elusive state title. Despite being 0-6 in championship games, the Panthers have come close to winning it all several times now. However, a number of last-second scores have derailed those title dreams over the years. Is this finally the year?