ST. GEORGE — Payson coach Jeremy Chapman’s plan was simple: Grind out the ball and the clock and keep Pine View star quarterback Kody Wilstead off the field. And it worked … for a little while.
Pine View’s offense took advantage of its few moments on the field in the second half and pulled away for a 32-3 victory over the Lions. The win guarantees the Panthers the No. 2-seed from the 3AA South Region and a bye the first week of the playoffs. Coupled with their regular season bye next week, the Panthers won’t play a game again until the state quarterfinals Nov. 8.
“You know what, we’re going to go bowling and swimming and go have some fun,” PV coach Ray Hosner said. “We’ll get focused up in about a week. We just wanted to get up a few and just run the clock and get out of here. We’ve got a bunch of kids banged up and hurt and we want to get as much rest as we can for those kids.”
With QB Easton Smith nursing a knee injury, Payson turned to running back Kyle Moffatt and a game plan that would chew clock and churn out three or four yards a play. The conservative plan worked in some ways. The game stayed close in the first half with Pine View holding an 11-3 lead. The only scoring came on a Pano Tiatia 9-yard TD run for the Panthers, plus an Ethan Baer field goal and a safety after a bad snap. The Lions’ three came on a 31-yard field goal from Dallin Rowley.
Meanwhile, Payson had held the ball for 15 of the first half’s 24 minutes. With the kickoff headed their way to start the second half and down just eight points, the Lions had to have been feeling pretty good. Unfortunately for them, the Pine View defense held for a three-and-out and forced a punt. Three plays later, Tiatia scored his second TD to make it 18-3, making the Payson plan obselete.
“Once we went up two scores, we weren’t worried about that anymore, so we stayed in a cover-4,” Hosner said. “We figured if they were okay with running out the clock, we were okay with them running out the clock as well.”
Despite the 15-point deficit, the Lions stuck with the plan, going on a 13-play, 49-yard drive on their next possession. But it again ended with no points as the Panthers stopped Payson on downs at the PV 28. Two plays later, Wilstead hit a streaking Triston Duran with a 63-yard bomb that made it 25-3. In the fourth quarter, Wilstead capped his day with a 57-yard TD to Jack Bangerter that capped the scoring in the game.
“Once we were up, controlling the ball and field position were huge,” Hosner said. “We made them try to sustain long drives and obviously they had a hard time doing that.”
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To Payson’s credit, the Lions did win the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 31 of the game’s 48 minutes. Moffatt, who had carried 74 times in eight games this season, had 38 rushes for 135 yards against Pine View, 3.6 yards per carry. But Moffatt was pretty much the only offense. The rest of the team, including QBs Smith and Sam Reynoso, combined for just 50 more yards.
In the end, Wilstead did get his yards. He found a new favorite target as well. After completing 17 passes to Bangerter last week, he hit Preston Allen with 10 completions for 103 yards vs. Payson. Allen came into the game with just seven catches on the season, but was given more opportunities with Colton Miller and Bladen Hosner both out with injuries.
“Kody just put the ball in there and made my job a lot easier,” Allen said. “I caught the balls I was supposed. I figured my teammates would back me up.”
Of course, Bangerter had his usual good numbers, picking up six receptions for 112 yards. Duran finished with high honors, making his four grabs count for 119 yards.
Pine View led early after a muffed punt return gave the Panthers the ball on the PHS 30-yard line. Tiatia’s 9-yarder made it 6-0 with 4:31 left in the first quarter. It went to 8-0 after a shotgun snap cleared Reynoso’s reach and bounced into the end zone. Reynoso pounced on it to save the touchdown, but surrendered the safety. The Panthers drove 59 yards after the safety punt early in the second quarter and Baer hit from 26 out to make it 11-0.
Payson’s lone score came just before halftime when Rowley capped a 14-play, 66-yard drive with a 31-yarder.
Tiatia finished with 111 rushing yards on just seven carries, a whopping 15.9 yards per carry. He scored twice for PV, which finishes the regular season on a four-game winning streak. The Panthers, 7-2 overall, finish 3AA South Region play with a 5-1 record. Pine View had 456 yards of offense and defensively, Thor Katoa had three tackles for loss with Wayne Staheli picking off a pass.
Wilstead will finish the season as the top passer in the state in all classifications and Bangerter should hang on to his lead as the top receiver in yards and catches in Utah. Wilstead passed for 3,235 in 2013 (360 ypg) and Bangerter had 74 catches for 1,185 yards on the year.
The No. 2-seed in the region has a bye in the first round of the playoffs (along with the top-seeded Dixie Flyers) Nov. 1 and will play the winner of the 4-5-game at home in the quarterfinals Nov. 8. That’s 23 days from the Payson game until PV’s playoff contest.
“It’ll give us time to work on what we need to work on and our weaknesses,” Tiatia said.
The Lions, 1-8 and 0-5, still have dim playoff hopes as they battle Cedar at home next Friday. The Redmen have one region win (over Hurricane).
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