4A football playoffs recap: Snow Canyon, Pine View win at home, will meet again in semifinals

ST. GEORGE — Snow Canyon and Pine View both won their quarterfinal football games at home Friday night, making them the last two Region 9 teams left standing in the 4A playoffs. They’ll meet up in the Utah High School Activities Association’s 4A state semifinals next weekend in a rematch of a closely-contested game earlier this season that came down to a last-second field goal attempt. Meanwhile, the Cedar Reds, the other Region 9 team represented in Friday’s quarterfinals, fell on the road to No. 1 Sky View. Here are recaps of Friday night’s action:

Snow Canyon 20, Stansbury 19

At Snow Canyon, the third-seeded Warriors rallied to score the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, then held on to defeat the Stansbury Stallions in the 4A quarterfinals, 20-19.

Stansbury, the tournament’s No. 6 seed, scored the game’s first TD, with Nate Bushnell making a 2-yard scoring run early in the first quarter. A few minutes later, Snow Canyon quarterback Landon Frei threw a 52-yard TD pass to Will Warner. Jacob Wittwer’s PAT kick was good, tying the score 7-7.

Later in the first quarter, with the Warriors backed up deep in their own territory, Frei got sacked in the end zone, giving the Stallions a two-point safety that made it 9-7.

Logan Mendenhall makes a touchdown catch, putting the Warriors ahead 20-19 in the fourth quarter. Stansbury at Snow Canyon, 4A football quarterfinals, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

That score stood until the closing seconds of the first half, when Stansbury capped off a quick scoring drive with a 5-yard pass from Kru Huxford to Cayden Clark, giving the Stallions a 16-7 halftime lead.

Stansbury received the ball first to start the second half and promptly drove downfield, only to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Kolton Loertscher. 

Snow Canyon then responded with a scoring drive of its own, culminating in an 8-yard TD pass from Frei to Jordan Wade. Wittwer’s PAT brought the Warriors within five points, 19-14, with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth, the Stallions advanced the ball to the Snow Canyon 25-yard-line, only to lose it on a fumble during a tackle with 11:18 remaining.

The Warriors then took over and turned that momentum into what would end up being the game-winning drive. Frei threw a 25-yard pass to Logan Mendenhall, who made a diving catch at the goal line for the go-ahead score, putting the Warriors up 20-19 with 6:51 remaining. Snow Canyon went for the two-point conversion to try to go up by three, but the pass to Wade on the other side of the end zone was incomplete.

Stansbury at Snow Canyon, 4A football quarterfinals, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

During their next possession, the Warriors opted to punt on fourth down rather than try a field goal. The first punt attempt would have pinned the Stallions inside their own 1-yard-line, but that play was nullified due to offsetting penalties. Snow Canyon’s next punt went out of bounds on Stansbury’s 15-yard line, meaning the Stallions would need to cover 85 yards of territory in under two minutes, or at least try to get within field goal range.

Stansbury did manage to get a few quick first downs and make it to midfield, but the Stallions burned up a couple of time outs doing so. Then, on fourth-and-10, Wittwer stepped up and intercepted the Stallions’ final deflected pass attempt, sealing the win for the Warriors.

Snow Canyon head coach Mike Esplin said afterward that he hadn’t anticipated such a hard-fought, defensive battle. 

“We really didn’t expect this game to go like this,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter. A win counts the same, no matter what the score is.”

Esplin added he was proud of his team’s defensive effort.

“Stansbury is a really good team, very physical,” he said. “It seemed like at first, almost everything that could go against us went against us. So, that was some adversity we had that was hard to control.”

“I’m proud of the way we finished and proud of their dedication,” he added.

Jordan Wade of Snow Canyon makes a catch from Landon Frei, Stansbury at Snow Canyon, 4A football quarterfinals, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

Esplin said he was also proud of running back Bretton Stone for coming back from severe leg cramps and muscling his way to a few key first downs that helped the Warriors run time off the clock late in the game.

“We really needed him and he came up big,” Esplin said. 

Snow Canyon defensive tackle Jacovey McKeever said his coach’s halftime speech could be succinctly summarized as, “Don’t give up.”

“After halftime, we came out and played hard and didn’t give up,” McKeever said. “They came out and got that field goal, but we came right back and scored a touchdown.”

Esplin said he’s already looking forward to next week’s semifinal matchup against region rival Pine View. When the two teams met during the regular season on Oct. 2, also at Pine View, the Panthers prevailed 36-35 as the Warriors missed a game-winning FG attempt in the closing seconds.

“I think we’re in a good place,” Esplin said. “We’re playing another Region 9 team that’s very good. We’re excited.”

The exact date and time of next weekend’s semifinal game (No. 3 Snow Canyon at No. 2 Pine View) has not yet been officially finalized, but will likely be next Friday at 6 p.m.

— written by Jeff Richards

Pine View 49, Bear River 7

The Panthers used a solid defensive presence to give a hot offense plenty of opportunities to run up the score on the Bears. Pine View held Bear River to 206 yards of offense, but only 56 in the air with five interceptions and no passing touchdowns. Bear River quarterback Josh Payne completed only nine of his 27 pass attempts.

Bear River at Pine View, 4A football state quarterfinals, St. George, Utah, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Dave Larson, St. George News

“Once we shut the run down, we knew they would have to throw,” head coach Raymond Hosner said. “Our offense did such a good job scoring early that it put them in a situation where they had to score, which then took them out of their game plan of running the ball a bit more and controlling the clock.”

Pine View QB Brayden Bunnell went 16-for-29 with 228 passing yards and three touchdown throws to set the tone. He found wide receiver Christian Bailey in the end zone a little over seven minutes into the first to open the scoring, then closed the frame by hitting Dominique McKenzie down the left sideline that he carried 72 yards to put the Panthers up 14-0.

McKenzie had 112 yards in five receptions on the day.

After giving up what would be Bear River’s lone touchdown with 6:53 left in the second quarter, McKenzie responded by taking the kickoff all the way from his own 1-yard line to immediately get the seven points back. The Panthers rattled off two more touchdowns in the 6:40 remaining, taking control of the ball in their offensive zone twice on Bear River punts.

Running back Enoch Takau tallied his second rushing touchdown of the game from 3 yards out for the lone score in the third quarter, and Bunnell hit wide receiver Preston Mann for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for the only points in that frame.

The Panthers advance to their third consecutive state semifinal when they host the Snow Canyon Warriors next weekend.

— written by Rich Allen

Sky View 35, Cedar 7

Cedar at Sky View, 4A state football quarterfinals, Smithfield, Utah, Nov. 6, 2020 | Photo by Sean Greene for Cache Valley Daily, St. George News / Cedar City News

At Sky View High in Smithfield, the top-seeded Bobcats remained undefeated on the season with a 35-7 win over Cedar. Sky View took an early 14-0 lead on two rushing scores in the first quarter, after which the Reds drove deep into Sky View territory and appeared poised to score. Cedar’s fake field goal play went awry, however, as Sky View’s Isaac Larsen picked off the Reds’ pass attempt and ran it back 98 yards for a TD, putting the Bobcats up 21-0.

Sky View scored its fifth TD of the night early in the third period, making it 35-0. Cedar managed to get on the board in the final minutes when Jaron Garrett connected with fellow senior Jack Cook to account for the final margin of 35-7.

Sky View, the defending state 4A champions and winners of 23 straight contests, will next host region rival Ridgeline, which made it past Park City 42-35 Friday night in the other quarterfinal game played in Cache County.

— written by Jeff Richards

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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