SPANISH FORK — It's actually a number five on the chest of Spanish Fork wide receiver Chase Loftin, but it must have looked like Superman's "S" to the Pine View Panthers.
Loftin was seemingly uncoverable in catching 10 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns while leading Spanish Fork to a 33-25 victory over Pine View in the first round of the 4A football playoffs Friday afternoon.
"Hayden (Nielsen) did a good job of delivering him the ball," Dons coach Matt Christensen said. "He made some great plays."
The Dons had racked up some big numbers in averaging 43 points a game this season, but many had questioned the teams quality of opponents. There was no question Friday that Spanish Fork moved the ball well against a quality opponent.
"That's a very good team and I have a lot of respect for them," Panthers head coach Ray Hosner said. "I'm proud of my team, too. We didn't quit, even when we got down."
Indeed, riding the arm of Nielsen and the hands of Loftin, the Dons streaked to a 33-9 lead over the Panthers early in the fourth quarter. Alec Mecham entered the game in relief of Braxton Peterson at QB for Pine View and promptly led the Panthers to a pair of TDs and a pair of two-point conversions to make it a one-score game.
But Nielsen kept around the right end on a key third down conversion to help Spanish Fork keep the ball for the game's final three-plus minutes and run out the clock.
"I take my hat off to Pine View for not giving up," Christensen said. "But our team didn't quit either. My hats off to them, too."
The Dons led 6-3 early in the second quarter when Nielsen hit Loftin on a quick slant. The speedy receiver broke a tackle and accelerated away from the defense for an 80-yard score.
Pine View pulled to within 12-9 when Kaden Hosner caught a deep ball and broke a pair of tackles before diving into the end zone.
Spanish Fork finished the first half strong, scoring a pair of late TDs.
Nielsen found Loftin again from 14 yards out to make it 19-9 and, after a Pine View turnover, Nielsen led the Dons on a 7-play, 78-yard drive in less than a minute to push the lead out to 26-9.45 comments on this story
Neither team scored in the third quarter and Loftin's third score (a 15-yard reception) early in the fourth quarter set up a 24-point lead that just did hold up against the Panthers.
Spanish Fork (9-2) accumulated 499 yards of offense in the game, including 328 passing yards by Nielsen. Pine View had 370 yards of their own, but committed five turnovers in the game. The Panthers (5-5) got 114 passing yards from Mecham in the fourth quarter comeback attempt.
Even with all the passing, Spanish Fork also got 128 yards rushing (on 15 carries) from BJ Inoke. The Dons play at Timpview next week in the 4A quarterfinals.