3AA Championship Preview: Panthers (9-2) vs. Thunder (10-2)

Desert Hills at Pine View, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2013 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, St. George News

GAME PREVIEW CAPSULE
Pine View (9-2) vs. Desert Hills (10-2), Rice Eccles Stadium, today, 6:30 p.m.
Previous Meeting: Panthers 16, Thunder 10 (Sept. 27, 2013 at PV)
Broadcast: KJZZ TV, Channel 14; ESPN SportsRadio 106.1 FM, Mike McGary, Andy Griffin and Devin Dixon on play by play

PANTHERS
Pine-view-smClassification: 3AA, South Region
Coach: Ray Hosner (13th year, 110-39 overall)
Offense: Spread
Last game: Beat Juan Diego 48-42 in overtime
Players to watch: Superlatives are easy to come by when describing the year for QB Kody Wilstead. The hard-throwing and accurate righty has had the second-biggest passing season in the more than 100 years of prep football in Utah. And that’s if he doesn’t throw for 384 yards tonight (which would make him the all-time passer in state history). WR Jack Bangerter has averaged eight catches and 120 yards receiving per game this year. Fellow WRs Colton Miller (54 catches, 850 yards) and Bladen Hosner (43-629) are also having incredible years and RB/WR Triston Duran has 546 receiving and 479 rushing yards, pushing him over 1,000 yards this year. LB Kaden Creager is banged up (knee) and is doubtful for the game. He is one of the team’s top tacklers and will be missed. CB Jaden Ah Quin had three INTs in PV’s first meeting with DH.
PPG: 36.4
PAPG: 22.8
Trend: Points, points and more points. The Panthers have scored 111 of them the past two games. But don’t forget about the defense. During PV’s 3-2 start to the season, the D gave up 25 points per game. Since then, the defense has trimmed that down to 21 a game, and that includes the 42 surrendered last week to Juan Diego. The Panthers’ last loss was Sept. 20 to Dixie. A six-game win streak includes victories over two teams that were undefeated at the time, Desert Hills and Juan Diego. Pine View has topped the 450-yard mark in offense in four straight games, with D-Hills (345) and Cedar (299) the only teams all year to keep the Panthers under 400. Getting Miller and Hosner back from injuries has forced teams to worry about more than Bangerter. Wilstead has passed for more than 400 yards in three of the last four games.

THUNDER
Desert-Hills-smClassification: 3AA, South Region
Coach: Carl Franke (2nd year, 18-6 overall)
Offense: Spread, pistol
Last game: Beat Dixie 21-14
Players to watch: DE Jake Wagner had 2.5 sacks last week and has 8 in the last three games. Wagner has more sacks (16) individually this season than Pine View has as a team (15). The Thunder have forced 19 turnovers and recorded 64 sacks (5.8 per game). LBs Tucker Cowdin and Sil Bundy combine for more than 24 tackles a game. DH is plus-8 this year in turnover margin. Bridger Cowdin topped the 1,000-yard mark against Stansbury and has 1,340 combined rushing/receiving yards and 14 TDs, plus a pair of two-point conversions. CB Braden Reber has 36 tackles, 15 pass break-ups, 6 INTs and forced two fumbles. He also averages 18 yards per punt return. QB Nick Warmsley has rushed for 267 yards the past three games and has 564 on the season. KR Zach Fuchs has only returned three kickoffs this year, but his average is 53 yards per return, including last week’s 91-yarder.
PPG: 22.9
PAPG: 10.3
Trend: DH avenged one of its two losses this year with the defensive gem vs. Dixie. Now the Thunder get a shot at the only other team to beat them. Since the back-to-back defeats to Dixie and Pine View, Desert Hills hasn’t allowed any opponent more than 14 points while compiling five straight wins. It’s worth noting that the Thunder trailed in both of the last two playoff games, 14-10 at the half to Stansbury and 14-7 (very briefly) to Dixie. DH outscored Stansbury 21-0 in the second half and topped Dixie 14-0 in the last 12:07 of the game. Incidentally, Fuchs, who erased Dixie’s short lead with that huge KO return, is not a late season addition from the junior varsity. Though just a sophomore, the athletic Fuchs has played varsity all year and had rushing (14), receiving (58) and return (159) yards, plus 30 tackles on defense.

GAME OUTLOOK
It’s the big-play offense against the big-play defense. PV leads the state in passing, DH leads the state in sacks and fewest points allowed. Pine View has scored 111 the last two weeks. Desert Hills has allowed 28. There has been m a ton of hype about this heavyweight O vs. D battle. But what about the other units? The Thunder offense scored just 10 the first time vs. Pine View and really only produced one TD last week against Dixie (the other two scores were by the special teams). The Pine View defense, meanwhile, gave up more than 500 yards to Juan Diego and Hurricane scored four TDs on them. But then again, DH’s offense is built to milk the clock and PV’s defense is on the field a lot with the Panthers O usually scoring quickly (i.e. — there were 188 plays in the PV-Juan Diego game). So maybe the Thunder offense and the Pine View defense aren’t as bad as the numbers make them look. The bottom line is Pine View will move the ball with ease if Desert Hills fails to get pressure on Wilstead. And the Thunder will move the ball well if Pine View can’t stop the running combination of Wrmsley/Cowdin/Gabe Sewell. It should be a fantastic game.

STGnews (record) PREDICTION
Andy Griffin (49-9) — Pine View
Darren Cole (45-13) — Desert hills
Parry’s spread: Pine View by 3

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Desert Hills at Pine View, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2013 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, St. George News
Desert Hills at Pine View, St. George, Utah, Sept. 27, 2013 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, St. George News

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