The 4A playoffs get under way today, and while Timpview is the clear favorite, no team is a bigger question mark than No. 3 Pine View.
"We haven't proved anything yet," said Panthers coach Ray Hosner of his undefeated (10-0) squad. "We haven't really had a chance to play against some of the tougher teams up north to show what we can do. I think there isn't really any misconception about our team, just a bit of mystery."
Pine View posted some impressive numbers regardless of the competition. It was the highest-scoring team in the classification at more than 43 points per game while allowing just less than 11 points. The only common opponent for the Panthers and Thunderbirds was Mountain View, and when comparing the scores (Pine View won 42-14, and Timpview won 49-17), it appears there is not as much separation between the only two undefeated teams left in 4A as many would believe.
"We made the jump up to 4A at the right time," Hosner said. "A couple of years ago we had 185-pound linemen. Now, we have a nice offensive line that is big and solid. It gives us a chance to not only run the ball, but they can give our quarterback some time to find some guys and throw the ball."
Nick Marinko is the one throwing the football to some talented receivers in Riley Dias, Robert Evans and Taylor Orr. Travis Tait carries the football and finds the holes opened by the line. The Panthers open the playoffs Saturday against Cyprus.
"We will find out Saturday just how good we really are," added Hosner. "Cyprus is a good team. They got the chance to play against some of the best in East, Highland and Cottonwood, so they know how to battle against some good competition and they will be ready. We will need to play a good football game."
Another team hoping to prove it belongs in the mix for a title is Cottonwood. Because of some bad luck with a coin, the co-champs from Region 6 are a No. 3 seed. But that doesn't seem to bother the Colts.
"It is just the way things happen," said coach Cecil Thomas of the coin flip. "In the end, it doesn't really matter because if you are going to win a championship, you will have to beat all the good teams anyway. We may just have to play them a little sooner. We are not worrying about what is not in our control. We want to take care of ourselves and go out and execute on the field. If we do that, then the ball is really in our hands."
The Colts are matched up with Dixie in the first round in a game that features two of the state's best running backs. The Flyers are led by Nate Carter and his nearly 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns. Cottonwood counters with Isi Sofele and his 1,300 yards and 15 scores.
"Carter is a big, tough kid that runs hard and we will need to try to stop him, but pound for pound Isi is probably as strong a kid as you will find in the state," Thomas said. "It should be a tough game and we better be ready to play."A few other teams that are hoping that 2007 is their year are Sky View, Mountain Crest, East, Highland and, obviously, the favorites from Timpview.