COMMENTARY — As a member of the media, I am definitely part of the hype machine, whether I like it or not. And ever since our Region 9 Media Day back in August, us media types have been anticipating Friday, Sept. 26, as the day the two best teams in the region square off for the region title.
So the fact that the Pine View at Desert Hills game has finally arrived has the town buzzing. The two teams have done their parts as well, with Desert Hills entering the contest undefeated both in region (2-0) and overall (5-0). Pine View dropped a non-region game at Judge Memorial, but has since won four straight and has averaged 46.3 points a game during that streak.
The story lines are fascinating for the game. The most obvious one is the prolific Panthers offense against the incredible Desert Hills defense. Pine View is averaging 580 yards a game the last three contests and has a season average of 40 points an outing. Desert Hills has only allowed 41 points all season. The Thunder have scored four defensive touchdown, plus three more on punt returns by speedy Nephi Sewell. The PV O vs. the DH D is an amazingly intriguing prospect.
Then there’s the whole rematch idea. Last season, these two teams played each other twice. On the first occasion, last Sept. 27, Pine View rallied from a 10-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 16-10 at Panther Stadium. But at a much bigger stadium, Rice-Eccles, Desert Hills got the last laugh by scoring on the final play of the state championship game and securing a 27-21 victory. The Thunder, who had also lost to Dixie and ended up third in region, peaked at the right time, beating both Dixie and PV in the playoffs.
And that is what makes this game important, but not necessarily the game of the year. Desert Hills showed us in living color last season that, while winning the region and beating your rivals in the regular season is nice, the larger goal of winning the state championship is what really matters. Whichever team emerges victorious Friday night will do well to keep things in perspective. Yes, it’s a big game and the emotions will be running high. But both these teams will be in the playoffs next month and it’s highly likely they will meet again, perhaps in the state championship game at Rice-Eccles.
So pack the stands, set your DVRs (KCSG-TV), tune in your radio (106.1 FM) and enjoy the show. But there will be a sequel.
Oh, and speaking of big games, the Hurricane Tigers and the Dixie Flyers have a lot of questions that will likely be answered Friday night. Hurricane has looked great on several occasions this season, most notably the whipping of Stansbury and last week’s OT win at Cedar. But the Tiger defense hasn’t been tested like it will be when Hurricane hosts the Flyers.
Meanwhile, Dixie’s defense has been much maligned, though the Flyers did sack Pine View quarterback Kody Wilstead three times last week. But Dixie struggles to stop the run and that’s what Hurricane does best.
The game plan for the two coaches is pretty clear. Hurricane’s Steve Pearson wants his team to grind it out, running the ball and running the clock, while keeping the ball out of the hands of Dixie quarterback Ammon Takau. Dixie coach Blaine Monkres has some big-time athletes on his offense and his goal will be to get them the ball in space so they can make big plays.
Dixie’s best athletes are at QB, running back and receiver, while Hurricane’s best athletes are at linebacker, which means they will literally meet head to head throughout the game.
Big picture-wise, Hurricane is working on getting into that conversation of elite teams, with Desert Hills and Pine View. And Dixie is hoping to show it can contend as well and that the Flyers aren’t just about offense.
A different set of questions will be answered at Snow Canyon Friday night. The Warriors have lost two straight and they did it in different ways. In the 59-28 loss to Pine View, SC struggled on defense, allowing nine different scoring drives and often leaving Panther receivers wide open. Against Ayala, Calif., the Warriors defense played pretty well, holding the Bulldogs under 300 yards. But the offense sputtered and Snow Canyon had no running game to speak of.
Meanwhile, Payson is 0-5 and folks are saying that they’re just not very good. I disagree, having seen them on film a couple of times. No 0-5 team will ever be considered a contender, but the Lions have some good players and they actually moved the ball against that stingy Desert Hills defense last week (Easton Smith passed for 271 yards against the Thunder).
If Snow Canyon is going to be an upper echelon team in the region this year, this is a must win. The Lions, on the other hand, are fighting for their lives and a team fighting to survive is always dangerous.
This Friday’s games:
Dixie at Hurricane, 7 p.m. — on 890-AM KDXU
Payson at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Desert Hills, 7 p.m. — Triplecast — TV, radio, internet
I covered the Snow Canyon-Desert Hills volleyball match last night with my daughter riding shotgun. We had a great time as these two teams played at a very high level. With Snow Canyon getting the win, led by hard-hitting junior “Crash” Parker, I wondered aloud if this was a shift of power after the Thunder went undefeated in region last year and the Warriors had a down season.
But Parker and her mom, SC coach Alaina Parker, both reminded me that it is early (we’re not even to the halfway point in region) and that the two teams will meet again. However, I think it’s important to not that Snow Canyon has now won at Hurricane (last year’s state champ) and at Desert Hills (last year’s region champ). That makes the Warriors the team to beat, in my mind.
We’ll find out over the next month of games.
Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014
Desert Hills at Canyon View, 7 p.m.
Dixie at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014
Canyon View at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Cedar at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Dixie, 7 p.m.
Three teams, Snow Canyon, Dixie and Cedar, having broken away from the pack and all have one loss in region. The Warriors have played one more game than the other two and so lead by three points, but the region title is still up for grabs with just a couple of weeks left.
With four playoff spots, the three are pretty much assured a ticket to the postseason. But sadly, one of the teams (whoever ends up in third) will have to open up the playoffs on the road.
Meanwhile, Desert Hills has stepped forward as a viable playoff candidate, improving to 4-3-0 in region with a win last night vs. Canyon View. The Thunder are six points (or two games) ahead of Pine View, which nearly snuck in an upset win over Snow Canyon last night before falling 1-0 in overtime.
Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014
Canyon View at Cedar, 4 p.m.
Dixie at Pine View, 7:30 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Desert Hills, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014
Hurricane at Canyon View, 4 p.m.
Desert Hills at Pine View, 7:30 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Dixie, 7:30 p.m.
“This Week in Region 9″ is a weekly column written by Andy Griffin exploring the happenings in Region 9 at all sports venues. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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