ST. GEORGE – Warriors head coach Mike Esplin wants to change the culture at Snow Canyon. Friday night, the second-year coach believes his team took a big step in getting there by beating Pine View 27-20.
“The only way you can turn the corner and create a winning tradition is to beat the teams that everybody else is talking about,” Esplin said. “Tonight we closed out a game against a team that has dominated us in the recent past. We told our team that Pine View has beaten us 11 out of the last 13 games. I guess now it is 11 out of the last 14.”
Pine View started the game ugly by fumbling and losing the ball twice in its first five offensive plays. On the first drive of the game, after a penalty opened the game, Pine View coughed up the ball. It bounced into the hands of Brock Nowatzke, who raced 22 yards for the first score of the game.
“We teach our players in every practice to strip the ball,” Esplin said. “Good teams win the turnover battle.”
On the Panthers next possession, they again fumbled the ball over to Snow Canyon. The Panther D came through, however, and got the ball back. Then the Panthers went to work. They chewed up 64 yards in 12 plays. Running back Jacob Mpungi accounted for 40 of those yards. But it was running back Austin Peterson who got the final 2 yards on a dive over the right side. With the extra point from Connor Brooksby, the score was tied 7-7.
On the Warriors next possession, they were hit with the turnover bug. A fumble gave the Panthers field position in Snow Canyon territory at the 37-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Ryan Javines found Mpungi in the right flats. Mpungi put a move on his initial defender then got a big block downfield to spring him for the touchdown. Pine View had its first lead, 14-7, with 2:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Warriors responded on their next possession. Taking over at their own 17, Warrior quarterback Austin Staheli directed the offense 83 yards for a touchdown. Sixty-two of those yards came on a pass from Staheli to Brooks Sampson to the Panther 3-yard line. Running back Carson Holyoak took the pitch on the next play to pull the Warriors to 14-13. The try after the touchdown was unsuccessful when Staheli was sacked.
On the ensuing possession, the Panthers were helped down the field by four consecutive Warrior penalties. After a pass interference was called to take the Panthers to the Warrior 33-yard line, a personal foul was called for a late hit. Subsequent to that, two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties took the Panthers all the way to the 7-yard line. But there the drive stalled. The Panthers had to settle for a Brooksby 24-yard field goal to put them up 17-13.
Staheli went to work on the next possession. First, he found wide receiver David Dillard for a 38-yard reception. After a holding penalty took them back 10 yards, Staheli later found Andy Day streaking up the Panther sideline. Panther corner Paulline Vondincklage was with him step for step. Vondincklage jumped with Day for the ball and it got tipped but continued forward, where Day regathered himself, kept his focus, pulled in the ball and ran the rest of the way for the 52-yard touchdown reception.
“(Vondincklage) did a good job in coverage,” Day said. “I am not sure who tipped it, but the ball went forward and I was able to find it before it came down. There was no one between me and the goal line once I had it.”
With Day kicking the extra point, the Warriors took a 20-17 lead into the locker room at halftime.
In the third quarter, the defenses stiffened. Neither team threatened until the fourth. At the beginning of the fourth, Pine View had the ball deep in Warrior territory. A timely tackle for loss by Warrior defensive end Spencer Snow forced the Panthers to settle for the game-tying field goal.
After a three-and-out by the Warrior offense, Pine View once again drove deep into Snow Canyon’s side of the field. However, on a second-and-10 from the Warrior 14-yard line, Javines was intercepted by linebacker Alex Kennedy.
Seven plays later, Staheli once again found Day with a 28-yard strike for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:23 remaining. When Staheli let go of the ball, it appeared that it would go long. But Day ran underneath it in the end zone.
“Austin (Staheli) has thrown that pass to me a thousand times,” Day said. “I knew I would get to it.”
Pine View still had the ball, time on the clock and three timeouts left to find the end zone. However incompletions and an untimely penalty found the Panthers facing a 4th-and-19 near midfield. Javines dropped back for the pass. Mpungi had slipped out of the backfield and was running up the Panther sideline all alone. Javines threw a high arcing pass. Warrior safety Wyatt Parry raced from midfield just in time to deflect the pass and force the turnover on downs.
“I was supposed to be covering (Mpungi) over the top,” Parry said. “But I blew the coverage. Luckily he threw the ball high and I was able to race over and get the deflection before he could catch it.”
Snow Canyon took a knee on the final two plays to seal the win.
Pine View outgained the Warriors 393-320 yards. The key turned out to be the 3-1 edge Snow Canyon held in turnovers. Two of those turnovers led to Warrior touchdowns. Individually, Pine View’s Mpungi gained 194 yards on 25 carries. For the Warriors, Staheli threw for 220 yards, completing 10 of 17 passes.
With the win, Snow Canyon moves to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in Region 9. The Warriors will have a bye next week and host Cedar on Sept. 29.
Pine View falls to 3-2 and 0-1 in the region. The Panthers will host Dixie next week.
Snow Canyon 27, Pine View 20
Desert Hills 37, Cedar 13
Hurricane 16, Canyon View 3
Madison (Calif.) 24, Dixie 14
Next Week’s Games
Canyon View @ Desert Hills
Cedar @ Hurricane
Dixie @ Pine View
Snow Canyon (bye)
Region 9 Standings (Region, overall)
Desert Hills 2-0, 3-2
Dixie 1-0, 4-0
Snow Canyon 1-1, 4-1
Cedar 1-1, 2-3
Hurricane 1-1, 2-3
Pine View 0-1, 3-2
Canyon View 0-2, 0-5
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