ST. GEORGE — Jason Cook knows he has some big shoes to fill. His first step in the oversized cleats was a good one.
The senior quarterback opened the game with a 44-yard completion to John Fakahafua, then did the rest with his legs as his Leopards defeated Pine View 35-27 Friday night.
Cook, in his debut as the East signal-caller, made a lot of Leopards fan forget last year's star, Tanner Curtis, by rushing for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 96 yards passing and seemed to always make the right decision in the Wing-T offense.
"I feel great, man," Cook said. "I've definitely never gotten hit that hard. Pine View really knows how to lay the wood. But it was fun."
The Panthers led 21-13 at the half on the strength of three Braxton Peterson TD passes. The Pine View senior connected on scoring plays to Jake Arslanian, Carson Murdock and Jack Bangerter.
Undaunted, East came out in the second half and scored 15 straight points, complements of a pair of Liti Molisi TD runs and a two-point conversion by Mickey Taylor.
"When we went in at halftime, it was definitely one of the most intense halftimes I've ever sat in," Cook said. "I know once our coaches got done giving us that pep talk, we were going to come out firing. I knew after that it was game over."
East coach Brandon Matich said it may have been a matter of fatigue.
"I thought we looked worn out in the second quarter," he said. "I was a little worried about our courage. But I knew if I got on them at halftime, I knew they would respond. I know their triggers."
East turned that 21-13 deficit to a 28-21 lead with tough defense and physical offensive play. Still, Pine View responded with a score of its own.
Down 28-21 early in the fourth quarter, running back Prentiss capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive with a 4-yard TD run. The Leopards preserved their lead by busting through the line and blocking the extra point, leaving it 28-27 with 10:41 remaining.
The two teams exchanged punts before Cook led East on a game-clinching drive. The Leopards took it down to the Pine View 5-yard line with less than two minutes left. Out of timeouts, the Panthers elected to let East score an uncontested TD to gain the ball back. The Cook run along with Gavin Van Minde's extra point made it 35-27 with 1:41 left to play.
Pine View got a scintillating return by Arslanian to the East 48-yard line. Freshman quarterback Kody Wilstead then led the Panthers all the way down to the East 6-yard line. But the Leopards tipped away a fourth-down pass with eight seconds to go to preserve the win.
"Wow, this team Pine View team is very good," Matich said. "I'm really proud of the way my guys responded all the way down here in the heat. But I think the Pine View team will probably take the whole thing in 3A."
Miller rushed for 118 yards and a score for Pine View in the loss. The Panthers play at Canyon Springs (Nev.) next week while the Leopards battle at Orem next Friday.
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