ST. GEORGE — There was a lot of uncertainty going into Saturday’s 4A state championship football game about what the outcome would be. The Sky View Bobcats had gone undefeated on the season and had only played a couple of close contests.
The Pine View Panthers had lost only once and had blitzkrieged through the playoffs to the title match. Pine View came in with the state’s top offense. Sky View came in with the state’s best defense.
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
The Bobcats would walk away with the state title for the second consecutive season, but they had to earn it – pushing through chaos, controversy, contest and everything in between. There were turnovers, late-down decisions and poorly-timed penalties. There were blocked kicks and punts. There were long, momentum-swinging plays. It ended with a 39-33 score, a Bobcats 13-0 record, and a seventh trip to the state finals and a seventh loss for the Pine View Panthers.
“Until the last second of the game, I thought, ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s ebb and flow. You’re going to have some ups and downs and then we’ll be able to come back and execute something and win,'” Pine View head coach Ray Hosner said. “I was never worried about the outcome, I just knew we could get some plays and make some plays. I just wanted the opportunity to do that. We got the opportunity and just fell a little short.”
The Panthers gave the Bobcats as a good a run as anybody else had this season, scoring six more points than any other team. They did so despite turning the ball over four times and being on the other side of the ball enough to surrender nearly 40 points of their own.
Only two other times this season had a team played within one score of Sky View: a 35-27 win over Tooele on Aug. 14 and a 17-14 win over Ridgeline on Sept. 17.
Things started strong for Pine View, who received the first kickoff of the game. Following the touchback, they went 80 yards in just six plays and one minute and 11 seconds, when wide receiver Dominique McKenzie carried the ball in from three yards out on a sweep.
Then the wackiness began with a blocked field goal on the extra point attempt. This alone would have just been an impressive play, but after the Bobcats responded on their first possession with a touchdown of their own, the Panthers blocked their extra point attempt as well, leading to a rare, 6-6, tie early in the first quarter.
Early in the second, the teams traded touchdown blows to run to 13-13 before Sky View took the lead for good on a four-yard rush from Truman Moser. The score of 20-13 held until Sky View’s second possession of the second half. The Panthers had forced Sky View to punt to open the third quarter, but gave the ball back after a fumble on just their third play of the drive deep in their own territory.
Sky View capitalized with back-to-back 11 yard runs, first from running back Walter Collins, then by quarterback Kason Carlsen to get into the end zone. After another unsuccessful point-after attempt, the score was 26-13. It was the first rushing touchdown of Carlsen’s two on the day from 35 runs.
Pine View got it back on their next drive capped by a touchdown pass from Brayden Bunnell to Preston Mann, their first of two scoring connections on the day.
The score stood at 26-20 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, with lots of scoring left to do before the final score was reached.
It started with Carlsen’s second rushing TD of the day, though he got stuffed trying to carry it in on the two-point attempt. 32-20.
The Panthers responded with another 80-yard march on six plays to get within one score, 32-27.
Sky View’s Isaac Larsen squashed the momentum by rushing for 67 yards on the third play of the ensuing drive to put his team back up by 12.
But Pine View took it right back.
McKenzie returned the kickoff to the Pine View 47 before juking his way to a 40-yard touchdown just four plays later. The teams had combined to score four touchdowns in the span of four and a half minutes.
Only two things stalled forward progress on Sky View’s next possession: penalties and poor decisions. They lost 10 yards and watched as Carlsen threw a backward pass over the head of receiver Samuel Thatcher and out of bounds for an 11-yard loss. On 3rd and 29, Carlsen scrambled up the middle for about 13 yards before fumbling the ball on the tackle and turning it over to Pine View.
Right around midfield, the Panthers had possession with just over three minutes on the clock. A touchdown would have tied it, a point after would have given them the lead, and there would have been little time left on the clock for Sky View to respond. With the way their offense had been moving, the advantageous field position and a six-point deficit, they were in the driver’s seat seemingly since the first drive of the game.
So, naturally, Pine View fumbled and lost the ball on the first play of the drive.
Sky View began to run out the clock, and had seemingly secured the win with a first down with 1:39 left that burned Pine View’s second timeout. But then the Bobcats drew a delay of game penalty on third down with 43 seconds to go. They ran it on 3rd and long and took the delay of game before fourth down to run the clock to nine seconds. Then Carlsen took the snap and retreated into the backfield in an attempt to burn the remaining time.
He was successful, but the game didn’t end when he finally went down with the clock at zero seconds.
With a flag down in the backfield, the referees ushered the celebrating Bobcats back to their sideline and met. Then they met with Hosner.
A Sky View lineman took a block in the back penalty. It appeared, at least for a short while, that Pine View would receive an untimed down within their offensive 10-yard line and a chance to tie and maybe win the game after the game time had expired.
After the long conferences ended, Sky View took a snap and kneeled the ball to end the game, only to add to the confusion and building controversy.
Sky View head coach Chase Howell explained the situation.
“They called the illegal blindside block,” Howell said. “It happened during the play, so if [Pine View] accepts the penalty, it backs us up and they get fourth down over. If they decline it, there’s no time left on the clock and it’s game over anyway.”
There is a rule in football that allows for untimed plays as the result of penalties at the ends of halves and games. St. George News has been unable to verify the specifics of this rule and its enforcement in this instance.
Pine View assured that the refereeing did not factor into the outcome of the game. Assistant coach Ben Meier said they have to trust that the officials know the rules.
“You trust in them to know the rules and know what’s going on,” Meier said. “We trust that they made the right call.”
More than anything, it added to what was a championship match for the ages. It pitted the classification’s top two seeds against each other, saw one quarterback throw for nearly 400 yards and the other rush for just shy of 100.
“It was just two great teams playing,” Hosner said. “You’ve got to have one team that doesn’t wind up getting the win. Today that was us.”
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