ST. GEORGE — The high school football season kicks off in one week, and the No.1 team in 4A is eager to get back into action.
The Pine View Panthers have been hearing a lot about how good they are, and after coming up just short in the state championship game last year, expectations are high as they enter the season.
But none of that means anything to their head coach.
“I don’t read the newspapers, I don’t watch the news, I don’t worry about outcomes,” head coach Ray Hosner told St. George News after a team scrimmage at Pine View High School Friday night.
“The only thing we can do is focus on getting better as a team, day by day, that’s it,” Hosner said. “Whatever everybody else says about us, it doesn’t matter, they’re not here with us working. So my goal is just every day, we do what we do to get better.”
With one week still left before the first game, the Panthers were inconsistent in the scrimmage. Some nice plays were made and it’s obvious that Pine View boasts a deep roster of talented players, but there were also a lot of miscues and quite a few dropped passes.
“We’ve just got to get better out of our alignments,” Hosner said. “We’re not lining up quick enough. So we just got to spend a little more time on that. I love the way our defense played, our ‘D’ flew around and got after it.”
With nine of 11 returning starters on that side of the ball, Pine View can count on its defense being the strength of its team.
“Without a doubt,” Hosner said. “I mean, offense is going to be the strength too, we will get good at offense, I’m not worried about that. But we do have a lot of returners on defense so obviously they have a good feel for what they’re doing right now. Great leadership out there.”
The offense at times was able to move the ball. Senior running back Keith Adams looked good both running and catching passes out of the backfield, and senior wide receiver Dominique McKenzie hauled in a couple of deep passes for touchdowns.
“It was an awesome day. You know, offense just trying to get used to in-game play,” McKenzie said. “Personally, I just want to be able to catch all the balls thrown to me, even the hard ones.”
Dominique and his twin brother Marcus McKenzie finished first and second, respectively, in the 100 meter sprint at the state track championship last year, so they bring great speed to both sides of the ball for the Panthers.
“Overall we’re looking great,” Dominique McKenzie said. “We’re moving the ball really fast. We’re going to be lethal in the short game, far game. No one can cover us in zone and man-on-man we’re winning everything, so I’m really confident with our offense.”
The offense is bolstered by a big, physical, experienced offensive line. Senior tackle Peter Falaniko has already committed to play at Brigham Young University next year, and senior Bradeon Nomee expects to have a big season as well.
“Yeah, they’re big guys,” Hosner said. “They are. Tonight we wanted to push them for 45 minutes and that’s what we did, so they were tired.”
The Panthers have won the region in undefeated fashion the past two seasons, and the Deseret News preseason coaches poll ranked them No.1 in 4A, just ahead of defending state champion Sky View.
But like their coach, the Pine View players are not looking ahead.
“Always stay humble,” Dominique McKenzie said. “You need to focus on one game at a time, and Salem Hills is next.”
That non-region game will be on the road at Salem Hills Aug.13.
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