Jacob Mpungi simply couldn’t be stopped.
The junior running back rushed for a career-high 233 yards and four touchdowns to lead Pine View to a 58-21 victory over Ben Lomond in the first round of the 3AA playoffs at Panther Stadium.
“It felt really good tonight to have a game like that and I owe it all to my lineman, ” Mpungi said. “The opened up all of the big holes and I just ran.”
Did he ever.
But despite having the best night of his young career, Mpungi focused all of the attention on the seniors who played their final game at Panther Stadium.
“I love our seniors and they deserved to go out like this tonight,” he said. “They’ve been here for me and have helped me out a lot, and to help them win their final game at home is pretty special.”
One of 16 seniors on the team, defensive tackle Tyler Heaton still couldn’t believe it was his final home game.
“It’s bittersweet because I’ve been playing on this field for four years now,” Heaton said. “I have a lot of great memories here that I’ll never forget and although I’m happy we won, it’s sad knowing that I won’t play another game here again.”
Heaton’s teammate, Solo Katoa, got things started after he sacked Ben Lomond quarterback Kenyon Harris to force the Scots to punt on its opening possession. Dallin Brown then returned the punt 50 yards to set the Panthers up inside the red zone. Mpungi the did the rest as he plunged into the end zone to give Pine View a 7-0 lead.
But the Scots answered right back with a touchdown as Harris connected with Connor Barrow in the corner of the end zone on a broken play. The touchdown was set up by the Scots defense after they stripped Pine View receiver Lance Mandrigues from behind after he ripped off a huge run on the Panthers’ second possession.
But Mandrigues would get the last laugh as he took a short pass over the middle on Pine View’s next possession and didn’t look back as he raced into the end zone to put the Panthers up 14-6 just before the end of the first quarter. It was one of two touchdowns on the day for the senior.
After both teams traded punts, the Panthers scored on its next three possessions to go up 35-13 at the half. Mpungi had two of those scores, highlighted by a 54-yard touchdown run. The second touchdown was the result of an interception by junior linebacker Austin Peterson, who returned the ball inside the red zone. From that point on, all Pine View quarterback Ryan Javines had to do was hand the ball off and then go and celebrate with Mpungi in the end zone.
“I love it. I met Jacob in eighth grade and he just gets better every year,” Javines said of Mpungi’s career day. “He’s special and when we need a big play, we turn to him and he always delivers.”
Javines looked sharp for much of the game as the junior completed 13 of 18 passes for 150 yards and also rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Mandrigues chipped in with 128 all-purpose yards and two scores.
After giving up two scores in the first half, the Panther defense stepped up in the second half with a safety and a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.
“That was big,” Pine View assistant and defensive coach Brett Gifford said.”We knew they had a really great offense and so we made some coverage changes at the half and the kids stepped up and executed it. We were already getting great pressure from our defensive lineman (Solo Katoa, Brooks Maile and Heaton), and so with the changes in our coverage we were able to slow down their offense.”
Next up for for the third-seeded Panthers is a 3AA quarterfinal game against No. 2 Tooele. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. next Friday.