ST. GEORGE – Will 2014 be the year that Pine View, five-times the bridesmaid, finally gets the ring? Or will it be another year of heartbreak for the Panthers?
That has been one of the hottest topics this summer, but the Panthers just want to focus on the season that lies ahead.
“My biggest goal is that the journey is what’s most important,” PV head coach Ray Hosner said. “If we enjoy the journey with each other, that’s made the difference. If it’s just the last game of the season that determines the journey, then the journey wasn’t worth it. I’m proud of every kid who played in every one of the state championships.”
Last year’s close call had the Panthers motivated this summer.
“It was a close game,” senior wideout Bladen Hosner said. “We both played hard, but it left a chip on our shoulder coming that close.”
Hosner said the team has been preparing for the season and they are ready.
“We’ve worked harder in the weight room,” tackle Harrison Goebel said. “A little extra conditioning. Things like that.”
The Panthers return many key players from last year’s state runner-up team, most notably quarterback Kody Wilstead, a four-year starter who committed this summer to play at Brigham Young University.
Coach Hosner said: “I’ve talked to Kody about (his decision to commit to BYU). He’s happy. He’s comfortable with his decision. The biggest thing is he didn’t want the focus to be on him. He wanted it to be on his teammates. He said, ‘Coach, I want to make my decision this summer. That way the focus can be on Pine View football.'”
Even with the decision made, Wilstead will generate plenty of conversation this season.
He threw for 4,395 yards and 36 touchdowns last season. With another season like that, Wilstead could reach 10,000 yards passing in his high school career.
He was picked by the local media as the 3AA South preseason MVP and is a major reason why the media also picked the Panthers to win the difficult 3AA South region.
But the Panthers won’t win behind Wilstead alone. The Panthers also return Pano Tiatia, their star running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 10 TDs. The Panthers are optimistic he will be even better this season.
Last year, Tiatia missed the first part of the season while traveling with Team USA to box in the Ukraine. It was a great experience, but it also set him behind in his grasp of the Pine View offense.
After a full summer with the Panthers this off-season, Tiatia’s familiarity with the offense will allow the Panthers to employ more complicated running schemes for him.
“We were super limited in what we did running-back wise last year,” coach Hosner said. “Now having Pano with us full-time, it’s been great. You already see the difference. He’s got the pop in his step. His jump cuts are amazing. I’m excited to see what he’ll do for us this year.”
The Panthers’ most talented player may be on the offensive line. Senior left tackle/long snapper Harrison Goebel has an offer from Colorado and has been recruited by Penn State and Alabama.
Raymond Fiame will anchor the right side of the line.
“Basically, in our offense, we need two good tackles, and we’ve got that,” coach Hosner said.
On the inside of that line, Isaac Reed, Jayden Smith, Noa Moeai and sophomore Tyler Heaton are battling for playing time.
The Panthers expect Goebel and Fiame to be solid, and if the interior part of the line gels, they should give Wilstead plenty of time to find his receivers.
Bladen Hosner will play the slot. Preston Allen, Steve Bangerter and Colton Miller will play the other wideout spots.
The unit showed well in seven-on-sevens, as Pine View advanced to the semifinals at BYU, San Diego State University and Utah, beating heralded Arizona powerhouse Chandler Hamilton along the way.
The offense will put up points, so if the defense can hold its opponents, Pine View could be in for a banner season.
Along with their time on the offensive line, Goebel and Fiame will see time at the defensive end position for Pine View. Meanwhile, the interior defensive line will feature two stud sophomores, Heaton and Dillan Robertson.
C.J. Braaten, Jaden Peterson and Miller will feature on what should be a good linebacking corps.
“This is the deepest we’ve been at linebacker in my 14 years here,” assistant coach Todd Shaw said.
In the secondary, Drew Hansen and Michael Long will start at the corner, and Blake Ence returns to play safety.
Gage Afatasi, Pioneer Asaasa and Bangerter will also be key contributors defensively.
“I’m pretty excited about what we have coming back defensively,” coach Hosner said.
Pine View Panthers 2014 Schedule
• Aug. 22: at Judge Memorial, 7 p.m.
• Aug. 29: vs Legacy (Nev.), 7 p.m.
• Sept. 5: vs. Lehi, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 12: vs. Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 19: at Dixie, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 26: at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 3: vs. Cedar, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 9: vs. Hurricane, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 15: at Payson, 7 p.m.
Fall Sports Previews
Part 6 of 8
Next up: Snow Canyon