ST. GEORGE — Expectations are sky-high this year at Pine View.
With a quarterback who has already committed to play at “Quarterback U,” a running back/linebacker who is a world class athlete and a receiving corps that has three significant contributors back from last year’s state runner-up team, there’s no doubt the Panthers will be good. Good enough to make a return trip to the title game? Probably. Good enough to win it this time? That’s anyone’s guess, but Pine View coach Ray Hosner is quick to point out that winning a championship is never easy.
“Someone’s going to win, someone’s going to lose. Obviously when two great teams play, the outcome could go either way,” said Hosner, who was the head coach in four of Pine View’s five championship game losses. “We played some pretty great teams in each of the losses. I’m never going to be disappointed not winning a game because I’ve had a great journey the 14 years I’ve been at Pine View.”
Hosner did not diminish the fact that PV has been so close so many times without finishing the job. But he also added that putting the sole focus on the title can rob his players of the special experience of being a high school athlete.
“My biggest goal is that the journey is what’s most important,” Hosner said. “If we enjoy the journey with each other, that’s what made the difference. If it’s just the last game of the season that’s going to determine the journey, then the journey really wasn’t worth it. We really focus on the journey. I’m proud of every kid who played in every one of those state championships.”
With the bulk of Pine View’s high-flying offense back for another go-round, the journey should be a lot of fun in 2014. PV is led by quarterback Kody Wilstead, who passed for nearly 4,400 yards and 36 touchdowns his junior year, missing the state single-season passing record by about 40 yards. Wilstead has verbally committed to play for BYU, where his dad was an All-American in baseball.
Wilstead will have good company in the backfield. Pano Tiatia, who represented Team USA in a world junior boxing event in the Ukraine last fall, will be around for the full season this year. Hosner said Tiatia is quicker, stronger and more ready for his role this year, which will include time at linebacker.
“You look at Pano Tiatia and what he’s able to do,” Hosner said. “He’s starting on defense for us. he’s starting at running back for us. The kid is a playmaker. You watch him in the scrimmage and he’s spinning and making cuts and doing all sorts of things. To have that on the field at all times, you just never know when he’s going to break it.”
Pine View also has an impressive group of receivers back, including coach’s son Bladen Hosner, plus Colton Miller, Preston Allen and Blake Ence.
“We came so close last year,” Wilstead said. “We’re going to miss (PV leading receiver) Jack Bangerter, but these guys, Bladen, Colton, Preston and Blake are looking great. They’re tearing it up.”
They’ll need to with Bangerter’s amazing high school career over. The former Panther had 93 catches last year, including an astounding 17 for 268 yards last October against Hurricane. Steve Bangerter, Jack’s younger brother, will also be a part of that receiving unit for PV.
The biggest concern for Panther fans should be the defense, which has just two returning starters and lost stars like Thor Katoa, Dylan Draper and Jaden Ah Quin.
With Tiatia playing both ways, the pads should be popping. Goebel and Ray Fiame will play defensive end, with Tyler Heaton and Dillon Robertson playing inside. Joining Tiatia at LB will be a group that includes Miller, Jaden Peterson and CJ Braaten.
The secondary should be decent with Ence, Bangerter, Drew Hansen and Michael Long all contributing. Gage Afatasi and Pioneer Asaasa will also be key on defense.
“On the defensive side of the ball, the kids have been flying around, getting after it,” Hosner said. “Drew Hansen’s been doing a nice job, Mike Long and obviously Colton Miller. Colton’s now playing defense like he did when he was a young kid, flying around and making plays. It’s been fun to watch him. And Ence has been playing terrific.”
Pine View may also have the top kicker in the region with senior Ethan Baer (55 points last season) back to handle the placekicking duties.
Pine View opens the season Friday at Judge Memorial for the second straight year. The Panthers also had a late add to their schedule. Until a week or so ago, PV had two byes scheduled and was having a hard time finding non-region opponents. But Hosner said Agassi Prep (Las Vegas) has agreed to host the Panthers in Week 2. Pine View opens region Sept. 12 with a home game vs. Snow Canyon.
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