COMMENTARY – During the last two weeks, Pine View’s football team has been pretty much unstoppable. The Panthers have scored 111 points (55.5 per game), gained 1,104 yards (552 per game) and scored touchdowns on 14 of 21 possessions.
During that same time, the Desert Hills defense has been pretty much immovable. The Thunder have allowed 28 points (14 per game), given up just 270 yards (135 per game) and allowed touchdowns on just 4 of 24 possessions by their opponents.
If the thought of these two units going head to head Friday night in the 3AA championship game doesn’t excite a person, someone might want to do a two-finger check on their carotid artery, ’cause they’re probably dead.
For generations, football fans have argued over the old axiom,” Offense wins fans, defense wins championships.” Friday night, we get at least some anecdotal evidence on whether or not that axiom is true.
The Panthers have embraced the true spread offense, directed by offensive coordinator Scott Anderson and put into motion by quarterback Kody Wilstead. PV averages nearly 40 points a game for the season and Wilstead has thrown 430 passes and completed 272 of those this season. His 4,058 yards this year are second all-time in the state of Utah, just 384 yards short of Jordan QB Alex Hart’s record of 4,442 in 2009. Wilstead’s top receiver, Jack Bangerter, is seventh all-time in receptions (88) and ninth in receiving yards per game (120.6).
The Thunder have embraced the philosophy, “No points for you!” Directed by defensive coordinator Nick Hansen and put into motion by speedy Gabe Sewell and tackling machine Tucker Cowdin (among many others). DH allowed just 10.3 points all season and sacked opposing quarterbacks 54 times. Twelve teams have taken the field against the Thunder and in six of those games, they left the field with a touchdown or less. Twice they left the field with a goose egg on the scoreboard. Only 1A Duchesne allowed fewer points this season. DH’s 123 points allowed is 88 points fewer than the next closest 3AA defense.
So, the million-dollar question, of course, becomes which will prevail, the unstoppable offense or the immovable defense?
No man can answer that, at least not until Friday night.
Trying to predict this one is tricky. Predictions are usually based on statistics, trends and past history. As I just laid out, the statistics for these two teams are pretty bold. And the numbers are in stark contrast to one another. In other words, figuring out a winner based on the numbers just won’t work.
As far as recent trends, both teams have been playing very well. For the Thunder, beating Dixie, a team that had beaten them by 20 earlier in the season, says a lot. But it still leaves questions. Is Desert Hills that much better than it was seven weeks ago? Did Dixie overlook the Thunder? What changed to make the startling difference? And in the quarterfinals, the Thunder gave up 14 points to Stansbury, a team it had shutout early in the year. But DH also scored 31, nearly 20 points more than that first Stansbury meeting.
For Pine View, the recent trend of scoring a bunch of points (63 on Hurricane and 48 on Juan Diego) has been phenomenal. PV scored just 34 on the Tigers in their first meeting just over a month ago. But the Panthers had just seven at halftime against the Soaring Eagle and actually trailed Hurricane 21-13 midway through the second quarter two weeks ago. So what caused the offensive inconsistency in the first half vs. Juan Diego and part of the first half vs. Hurricane? And is PV’s offense really 298 points better than it was just a month ago?
As for the history of these two teams, well, that’s where it gets really interesting. On Sept. 27, the two battled at Panther Stadium with Pine View pulling out a 16-10 win on their Homecoming. Both teams committed four turnovers in the game and there were more than 200 combined penalty yards. There were also 11 punts in the game.
As a refresher, Desert Hills led that game 10-3 after a 92-yard swing pass from Nick Warmsley to Bridger Cowdin late in the third quarter. Pine View tied it with 7:52 to go in the game on a pick-six by Colton Miller. After a Thunder punt, the Panthers drove down and Wilstead rushed it in from 4-yards out for the win.
Pine View had 345 yards of offense in that game (244 passing), second lowest of the year. Desert Hills had 323, with Warmsley passing for 240 of those.
The Thunder beat Pine View a year ago, but Pine View leads the all-time series 3-2. The composite score between the two teams before this year’s game was 65-63.
So, with all this evidence, again, who will win? Which team has the advantage?
Hmmm, well, anybody got a crystal ball?
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