Nothing, not even a full-force gale, could spoil the Panthers’ night.
Pine View hosted Cedar Tuesday, amid swirling gusts, attempting to win a region title for the first time in seven years.
As is custom prior to kickoff, the Pine View squad paraded its seniors out in front of the home crowd for their last home region match.
However, it was junior Michael Wade who set the night off with the first goal in a 2-0 win over the visiting Redmen.
“It’s exciting for the kids,” PV head coach Sam Johnston said. “A lot of hard work put in, it’s nice to see the end; we kind of fulfilled one of our goals, and it’s nice to see the guys understand that, and they’re celebrating.”
Pine View and Cedar battled evenly through the first period until just less than five minutes to go. Wade settled a ball at the top of the 18-yard box, just right of center, and needled in a pass to Michael Cardenas, who stood left of Cedar goalkeeper Kaeland Osborne.
Cardenas sent the ball to the far post, past Osborne, but hit iron, and the ball found its way back to Wade.
“I remember I was behind a few defenders, and it hit the post,” Wade said. “I saw it bouncing back, and I knew I needed to finish it; it was right there. I just pounded it back to the right side of the goal and the goalkeeper dived to the left.”
Osborne got a glove on it, but his momentum carried him the other way, and Wade hopped, skipped and jumped back to midfield after helping his team to a 1-0 lead.
The wind picked up in the second half, but seemed less of a hindrance for the Panthers than in the first.
Both teams fought over possession in the early stages of the match, but Pine View seemed less under control. The Panthers watched a lot of balls kicked high into the air float out of bounds.
“The wind was swirling,” Johnston said. “It seemed like every single flag we looked at, it was going a different direction. We came out (in the second half) wanting to keep more possession. Once you have a little bit of a lead, you want to keep the ball away from your goal as (much as) you can.”
While Cedar continued to fight, Pine View did keep the ball away from Justin Jones in the goal. The Panthers connected passes and kept the ball on the ground and under control for the majority of the second half.
But Cedar didn’t give up many opportunities.
“Their keeper and their defense were both really tough, especially their keeper; he plays really fast,” Wade said. “He’s really quick. He can get low and high. It’s kind of hard to beat him.”
But, again, with the clock running down at the end of the half, the Panthers cracked the code.
Midfielder Keith Collins fought for a ball in the corner, and thought it went off his foot, the line judge signaled a Cedar defender pushed him. Just a step inside from the corner, Collins set up the ball and delivered a cross into the heart of the 6-yard box, where a patch of red-tinged hair emerged.
“Me and Keith, we always make eye contact, and he tries to put it right on my head,” PV captain Braden Johnston said. “That one, I was just there. It was a quick ball, and I just ran past the guy. He lost me. I just pounded it into the back of the net, right off my head.”
In a matter of seconds, Collins’ cross and Johnston’s header had the Panthers 2:34 from realizing a four-year goal of winning the region title.
“We’ve worked up from our freshman year, going 2-10, and now we’re region champs, gradually getting better each year, so we’re hoping to carry it on to state,” a jovial Braden Johnston said.
The last time the Panthers won a region title was in 2007, the same year they also collected a state title.
“It’s been a long time coming for Pine View,” coach Johnston said minutes before his team emptied the Gatorade cooler on him. “I don’t think we’ve won region since ’07, so maybe this is a good sign for us.”
Johnston and Wade picked up yellow cards in the match, as did Cedar’s Noah Hill. Justin Jones earned the clean sheet for Pine View, while Jose Rivera also contributed minutes in goal.
FLYERS 2, WARRIORS 0: While Dixie missed out on the region’s top seed, the Flyers did clinch the No. 2 seed with a 2-0 win over Snow Canyon Tuesday. McLane Keenan and Ceasar Perez each notched second-half goals for Dixie, while Hayden Matthews picked up the shutout.
THUNDER 3, FALCONS 2 (2 OT): No details reported.