ST. GEORGE Highland's boys soccer team came into its 4A opening round contest against Pine View with plenty of confidence, and the Rams seemed to be more buoyed after jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead, but the Panthers' erupted with a three-goal flurry late in the first half en route to a 6-2 victory.
Highland's Arbin Sopjoni scored on a perfectly placed crossing shot by freshman standout James Rogers just five minutes into the game.
Rogers, a member of the U.S. 15-and-under National Team, and the focus of Pine View's defensive effort, just missed a chance to make it 2-0 just minutes later as his blast sailed barely inches over the crossbar.
That was as close as the Rams got to having another highlight.
Jordan Wade knotted things up at the 26-minute mark with a penalty kick, then, off an assist by Riley Dias, made it 2-1 just two minutes later.
It was Dias scoring on a breakaway header at 31 minutes to make it 3-1, then Trey Ping headed in a corner kick at the 38th minute and the rout appeared on.
"We had some unlucky moments at the beginning," said Wade, a senior midfielder "but we tightened up on them and gave a good show to our fans."
That "good show" coincided with what Highland head coach Eric Bliss labeled "a dubious call" that saw Rogers ejected after Pine View's third goal
"When it was 11-on-11, it was an even match, but our offense suffers without James," added Bliss, who felt his star was red-carded for trying to fire up his teammates. The referee felt the remarks were aimed in his direction, Bliss said.
Eric Cortez made it 4-2 just seconds before the first half ended
The final two Panther goals came off the foot of Dias midway through the second half.
"Our focus was to be on him, he's a huge part of their offense" PV coach Sam Johnston said of Rogers, "and our guys were up the challenge when he was in there."
Johnston singled out the play of Wade and defenders Johnathan Esplin and Stephen Anderson.
"We found out just how quick he was, but our guys really played well, our coaches really had a good plan," said Dias, playing in his final home game.
Pine View (13-2-1) the defending 3A champion heads north Friday to face Region 7 champ Springville.