They're fast becoming the Buffalo Bills of Utah prep football.

The Pine View Panthers have come close, just not close enough.

Since taking over at Pine View High seven years ago, coach Ray Hosner has cultivated one of the top prep football programs in the state. He's amassed a 68-17 record and has led the Panthers to a state-championship game appearance in three of the last four years.

However, on each occasion, including Friday against back-to-back 4A champ Timpview, Pine View has simply run into some dominant squads. This time, they fell 50-7 to the Thunderbirds, who proved they are one of the state's powerhouse programs.

"We have," Hosner said of having to face some tough teams in championship games, "and I've got to figure out what I need to do to make sure when we got here (that the outcome is different). Because when we get here, you're playing good teams. You're not playing some patsies, or stuff like that.

"We need to figure out what we need to do to win when we get here. Obviously, I haven't figured that out yet."

It's an enviable position to play for a state championship three times in a four year span. It isn't to have to beat a powerhouse each time.

Pine View's first title game under Hosner came in 2004. Its reward for getting there? A 3A showdown against Bear River and eventual Mr. Football recipient Jason Zundel. Bear River's star accounted for five TDs, and the Bears netted a big win.

The Panthers made it all the way back to the 3A championship game a season later, only to have to play Logan High and another eventual Mr. Football winner, Riley Nelson. All Nelson did in 2005 was enjoy one of the greatest individual seasons in Utah prep football history, and he capped his unbelievable year — at Pine View's expense — by accounting for seven touchdowns on his way to a big win.

Pine View's bad luck continued this year.

The Panthers defied many critics en route to this year's 4A title game after jumping up a classification in the middle of the UHSAA's realignment cycle. However, Timpview, with a host of future collegiate players on its squad, raced out to a 19-0 first-quarter lead and didn't look back.

"We just didn't come out and execute," said backup running back Justin Ence.


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