ST. GEORGE – It was Mpungi time Friday night at Panther Stadium and Ben Lomond had a front-row seat.
The Scots defense could only watch helplessly as Pine View senior running back Jacob Mpungi rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Panthers to a 58-21 victory in the first round of the 3AA playoffs. With the win, Pine View advances to a quarterfinal game next Friday at Tooele, which is 9-1 on the season.
Mpungi, quiet and humble off the field, spoke volumes with his play on the field. He seemed to have an extra gear that no one else on the field could match on a couple of his TD runs.
“When I see open grass, I just start to run faster,” Mpungi said. “I don’t know what it is, or why. I just do. And it helped that I was able to get to the edge and then my receivers were blocking for me, too.”
Pine View clearly wanted to focus on running the ball behind a beefy offensive line and the quick feet of Mpungi. Mission accomplished as the Panthers had an astonishing 482 rushing yards on 45 attempts – 10.8 yards per carry.
“We changed some things this week in practice on the O-line and then we just wanted to fly around and hit some people,” said Panther tackle Tyler Heaton. “It’s definitely fun watching Jacob run. He’s got that mentality that no one’s going to catch me, that mental thing that says, ‘No one’s going to get me, I’m going all the way.'”
Even though the game ended up as a blowout, it actually started out as a tight contest. A run of four straight touchdowns late in the second quarter and early in the third turned the contest in Pine View’s favor.
Early on, though, it was close. Mpungi scored his first TD, a short 2-yard dive, after a 53-yard punt return by Dallin Brown in the opening minutes of the game.
After another punt, it looked like the Panthers were headed for paydirt again, but Lance Mandrigues was stripped of the ball in the open field after a long completion. That turnover led to a Kenyon Harris TD pass to Connor Barrow from 21-yards out to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:50 to go in the first quarter.
Mandrigues made up for the miscue by scoring on a 31 yard catch-and-run on a pass from Ryan Javines to put PV ahead 14-7 with 1:19 to go in the first.
Ben Lomond pulled to within 14-13 moments later when Harris found Deontay Nish from 7-yards out. The extra point was no good.
Pine View answered the Scots score with one of its own later in the second quarter as Mpungi scored his second TD on a 54-yard run that made it 21-13 with 4:22 to go in the second.
After a Scots punt, PV had another one-play drive as Mandrigues scored his second TD with a fly sweep score around the left end from 57 yards to make it 28-13 with 2:05 left in the half.
But the Panthers weren’t done. Austin Peterson intercepted Harris at the BL 35 and returned it to the 15-yard line. Three plays later, Mpungi powered in from a yard out to make it 35-13 with 56 seconds left in the half.
The four-TD run was complete in the opening seconds of the third quarter when Mpungi scored his fourth touchdown of the game on another one-play drive, this time the speedy back going 61 yards to the end zone. That made it 42-13 with 11:36 left in the third and turned the game into a blowout.
Nish scored on a 98-yard kickoff return to cap the scoring for Ben Lomond and Pine View got second half TDs from Michael Moten and Javines, plus a safety by tackling BL’s Angelo Rios in the end zone, to make it to the final score.
The Panther defense settled down after giving up those early TDs.
“We knew they had some explosive players, but we just needed to do our jobs,” Peterson said. “We knew they wouldn’t be able to run the ball on us. They made some plays early in the pass game, but we fixed it and took care of things after that.”
Pine View held Rios, who has more than 1,600 rushing yards this year, to just 37 yards on 17 carries.
“We knew they had some pretty good athletes, but we just stayed disciplined,” PV linebacker Christian Reis said. “I met No. 15 (Rios) in the hole a couple of times and I was like, I don’t care if your a big-time running back. I’m going to meet you head up.”
The Panthers offense, meanwhile, looked like it was running unguarded drills at times. PV finished with a whopping 632 yards, with Mandrigues and Javines rushing for more than 80 yards to compliment Mpungi’s big game. The Panthers averaged 10 yards per play.
With the win, Pine View keeps its season alive and will travel to Tooele in the state quarterfinals next week.
“We’ve just got to do our jobs and just go 100 percent at it,” Pine View defensive lineman Brooks Maile said. “It should be a battle.”
Pine View, 8-2, will battle the Buffaloes, 9-1, at 4 p.m. Friday.
Ben Lomond finishes the year with a 5-6 record, having made the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Stats: Pine View 58, Ben Lomond 21
3AA Playoff bracket (via UHSAA.org)
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