ST. GEORGE – Just about everything went right for the Pine View Panthers Friday night against Ben Lomond. And just about everything went wrong for the rest of the 3AA South teams as fourth-seeded Cedar went down at home, fifth-seeded Hurricane went down on the road and sixth-seeded Snow Canyon went down and out at Ridgeline.
Given the results of the first night of the 3AA playoffs, should southern Utah football fans’ expectations be tempered for the rest of the postseason? And what are the chances a champion is crowned from Washington County this year?
That’s a complicated set of questions, but here’s what we know. The three teams that tied for fourth place in the region with just one win each (against each other, no less) are the three teams that lost in the first round.
Were any of the results shocking? Hardly. Even Cedar, which won the coin toss with Hurricane and Snow Canyon to get a home playoff game, was limping into the stretch run. The Redmen lost star receiver/slotback Drake Lewis early in the season, then played without Mason Fakahua the last couple of weeks after he was hurt on the last offensive play of the game against Snow Canyon.
Many thought Hurricane would get a win at Bear River. But the Tigers have had defensive issues in 2016 and though the defense was not to blame for the loss to the Bears, it certainly was a factor in the Tigers’ five-game swoon to end the season.
Snow Canyon had the opposite problem, bringing a fierce defense to the table, but struggling all year with consistency on offense.
Only Pine View managed to carry the South banner Friday night. Here’s a look at what went down with all four games:
Pine View 58, Ben Lomond 21
Going in, the Panthers knew they would be able to score on the Scots, who were allowing 34 points a game this season (and that’s with extremely weak teams like Carbon, Ogden and Judge on the schedule). So the big question to be answered for the Panthers was whether or not they’d be able to stop Ben Lomond’s high-scoring offense, which had put up 28 points on both Tooele and Stansbury.
Ben Lomond scored 21 points in the first 25 minutes of the game and it was a 14-13 contest after just 16 minutes.
“I thought our defensive line played really good, especially after the little bit of a slow start,” Panther Tyler Heaton said. “I felt like we controlled the line, me, Brooks (Maile) and Solo Katoa. We put a lot of pressure on their quarterback and kept their running back in check.”
After Ben Lomond’s second TD, a short pass set up by a longer pass, the Panther defense pretty well shut the Scots down. Ben Lomond’s third TD came off a kick return.
“Our first priority was to stop their running back (Angelo Rios), who had 1,500 yards coming into this game,” PV coach Ray Hosner said. “Second, we needed to stop their great receiver (Deontay Nish).”
The two combined for just 119 yards from the line of scrimmage. That may seem like a lot, but Rios came into the game averaging 160 rushing yards a game by himself, and Nish was carrying a 120 receiving yards per game average.
It helped that the Panthers ran the ball at will, racking up more than 400 yards on the ground, wth Jacob Mpungi accumulating a career-high 244 yards and four touchdowns.
So Pine View will battle Tooele next week (more on that below), with hopes of a return trip to the state semifinals.
Park City 28, Cedar 21
Cedar was definitely hurting, with Fakahua suiting up, but not able to go once again (he did play a few ineffective downs in the fourth quarter) against the Miners. Braden Garrett filled in admirably at QB the past few weeks, but the truth is that without Fakahua, no one respected the Cedar passing game.
And so it was with Park City, which is a very pass-happy program itself.
But that’s what happened Friday night in a cold rain in Cedar City.
The Redmen led 7-0 at halftime after a scoring pass from Garrett to Derek Ball just before the break. Amazingly, Park City covered 67 of the 68 yards needed to tie the game in just 31 seconds before intermission. But the Miners needed one more second or one more yard. They got neither as Grant Richey saved the TD to keep it at 7-0.
Cedar then used defense to start what looked like a potential blowout. Garrett intercepted PC’s Spencer Zur to set up a Travis Tait TD early in the third quarter. On Park City’s next possession, Jade Bulloch picked off Zur and raced 52 yards to the house to make it 21-0 and the rout was on … or not.
Park City answered with a quick strike from Zur (Spencer) to Zur (Collin) to make it 21-7. Then, in the fourth quarter Spencer Zur made it a 21-14 game on a short pass to Beau Pederson and just like that, it was a one-score game with 8:57 left.
After a three-and-out, the Miners tied the game up on another quick drive. Spencer Zur snuck it in from a yard out with 2:36 left to make it 21-21.
A storybook ending would have had Fakahua lead Cedar to the winning score at this point, but this was no story. Well, at least not for the Redmen.
Instead, Park City forced a punt and the low snap gave the Miners enough time to punch the attempted pooch high into the air. It was picked out of the sky, like an apple at harvest, by Jet Reed, who raced untouched the 18 yards or so with the winning score.
The stunning ending, was summed up perfectly by Park City coach Josh Montzingo.
“What a crazy, fantastic finish,” he said. “We had a little bit of everything with our team tonight. We managed to find a way at the end.”
Park City (6-5) will try and solve 3AA North champ Stansbury next Friday in the state quarterfinals. The Stallions beat them on Sept. 27 by a score of 32-13.
And the Cedar Redmen are left to try and figure out what the heck just happened to their playoff run.
Bear River 20 Hurricane 13
Only a loser makes excuses, right? But the weather conditions certainly were a huge factor in the Tigers’ loss. The two offenses handed out more gifts than Sub for Santa, combining on a total of seven turnovers.
But the biggest gift in the game came on the last drive for Bear River. With the score tied at 13-13, the Bears went from their own 30 to the Hurricane end zone in 2:10 to take the lead with 2:14 to play.
On the drive, Bear River ran three plays for 5 total yards and threw an interception. How is this possible?
Penalties, penalties, penalties.
The Tigers were called for a personal foul to start the drive (moving the ball from the 30 to the 45). The next play, a facemasking penalty was called on Hurricane, moving it to the 43 of the Tigers. After a holding on BR moved it back to the 50, the Tigers intercepted a Zur pass … but were called for pass interference, and the ball went to the 35 of Hurricane. Next play: pass interference again, putting the ball on the 20.
Perhaps saying enough is enough, the Tigers got called for an unsportsmanlike conduct, which put the ball at the 5-yard line. Gage Koneko took it in from there (no flag?!) and the Bears had the lead.
A late interception sealed the deal, but Tiger fans have to feel like they got home-cooked.
And now they’re done.
Bear River will advance to play Dixie next week, while the Tigers will try and shake off the cold and the bitterness of the road loss.
Ridgeline 26 Snow Canyon 0
Defense kept Snow Canyon in most of its games in 2016. But with the offense giving the Riverhawks a short field all evening, it was too much to ask this time around.
Ridgeline scored on a 5-yard run in the first quarter that was set up by a Warrior fumble (total drive for RHS was 25 yards). The Riverhawks struck again in the second quarter when Payton Thomas raced 95 yards on an interception return to make it 14-0.
A field goal in the second quarter made it 17-0 and a safety made it 19-0 in the third quarter. The final nail in the coffin came on a short run after Snow Canyon turned the ball over on downs at its own 37 in the fourth quarter.
The four scoring drives for Ridgeline totaled less than a 100 yards of offense combined.
The defense was strong once again, allowing just 217 yards and forcing three turnovers. But the offense left the field feeling nothing but frustration. SC had just 144 yards and committed five turnovers, a lethal combination that is the perfect recipe for a shutout.
There’s no doubt Ridgeline is a tough defensive team. It was their second shutout of the year and their fifth time allowing eight points or fewer in a contest this season.
But the offensive woes for SC were just too much to overcome. It was a difficult trend for the Warriors, who didn’t top 21 points in any of the last six games, five of which were losses.
Snow Canyon finishes 3-7, while the Riverhawks, 8-3, will take that tough defense and try its luck against Desert Hills next Friday. Don’t expect many points for either team in Thunder Stadium in that one.
So this is how the playoffs shape up right now:
First Round results (with seedings)
N5 Park City 28, S4 Cedar 21
N3 Ridgeline 26, S6 Snow Canyon 0
N4 Bear River 20, S5 Hurricane 13
S3 Pine View 58, N6 21
Quarterfinal matchups (with seedings)
N5 Park City (6-5) at N1 Stansbury (9-1)
N3 Ridgeline (8-3) at S2 Desert Hills (7-2)
N4 Bear River (6-5) at S1 Dixie (6-3)
S3 Pine View (8-2) at N2 Tooele (9-1)
The games next Friday are defaulted to 4 p.m. by the UHSAA, but if coaches and administrators for both teams in each matchup agree to a time change, it is permitted. In fact, all four games may end up at 5 p.m. (we’ll keep you posted).
One other note: The state has not committed to a location for the semifinals just yet, presumably to allow wiggle room if one of the semis ends up with two southern Utah teams. The only way that can happen now is if Pine View and Dixie both win next week.
And lastly: It’s no secret now that the balance of power may have shifted a bit when it was discovered that Dixie quarterback Jacob Barben has a broken foot and will miss the entire 2016 playoffs. Barben, a junior who passed for 2,248 yards and 20 touchdowns, led Dixie to the 3AA South title in his first year as a varsity player.
3AA Playoff bracket (via UHSAA.org)
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