ST. GEORGE, Utah - New Pine View starting quarterback Alec Mecham knew the expectations of him coming into the season. After the Panthers reached the 4A state semifinals in four of the last five years, success is expected.
If Pine View's 46-13 win over visiting Juneau-Douglas High School on Friday night is any indication, he's on the right path.
"I had butterflies (Friday), but once I got that first play out of the way, things calmed down," said Mecham, who threw for five touchdown passes and ran one for another. "I felt comfortable out there. The receivers did a great job. The (offensive) line did a great job. We just need to cut down on our penalties."
It was evident from the start the Panthers wouldn't have a difficult time in their season opener.
Juneau-Douglas brought just enough players to play the field and fill its sideline. In other words, their depth was clearly missing. Pine View, on the other hand, had plenty of depth.
"There were several factors," Bears' offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said of the lop-sided score. "First, they're a quality team and they hadn't played a game, so we didn't really have much to go off of other than last year's film. That puts you in a hole as far as scouting and knowing what areas to attack without really knowing who their personnel are.
"But not making some big plays early on really put us into a hole."
Although Juneau-Douglas doesn't possess the kind of talent the Panthers will face later on this season, it should be noted that Mecham and Co., looked sharp.
The senior quarterback shared the ball with all eligible receivers. Chris McDonald caught two touchdowns with Mike McLaws, Cole Wilstead and Kaden Hosner each finding the end zone once.
Juneau-Douglas attempted to alter its defense, but the Panthers ripped their 3-4 defensive packages to shreds.
If they played back in a zone, Pine View ran for success with a combination of Mecham and Feula on the ground. If the Crimson Bears blitzed, Pine View's offensive line kept the ship at bay by not allowing many hits on its quarterback.
But any hope Juneau-Douglas had heading into the contest was quickly squashed on Pine View's opening drive after the Panthers totaled 332 yards of offense in their first five series, resulting in four touchdown passes from Mecham.
"It's 14-0 midway through the first quarter, and we dug ourselves too big of a hole to come back from," Sjoroos said. "Not being able to get anything big early - a penalty call, a turnover, anything to go to our advantage - was tough."
Although it came at the expense of a jetlagged - and undermanned team - Pine View walked away confident in its first win of the season.
"We're excited on the way we played," said coach Ray Hosner, who improved his record to 79-19 overall at Pine View. "Alec (Mecham) did a great job for us."
Many preseason analyses of Mecham stated he was simply a pocket passer, which is fine considering the offensive history at Pine View. Nonetheless, the senior didn't buy too much into that, and showed his skills on the ground.
Most of the Panthers successful strikes came out of the shotgun formation. But it was Mecham's ability to run that formation that made it tough for the Crimson Bears to figure out the scheme. Or if they did figure it out, they couldn't stop it nonetheless.
As expected, Pine View played stonewall defense.
Usually from their 4-3 package, the Panthers forced two safeties and held the Crimson Bears to minus one yard on their first three offensive drives. Lineman K.J. Boyer was clearly the leader on that side of the ball. Not just by numbers, but by his actions. The veteran put pressure on Juneau-Douglas' linemen and quarterback Phillip Fenumiai numerous times.
Sjoroos said it wasn't all bad, as Fenumiai played well in his third varsity game.
"It really surprised me how well our quarterback play was, him only being a freshman.," he said. "He tossed a couple more touchdowns, no interceptions, and he made good decisions all night. He took what they gave him, which often times wasn't much. I told the guys going in that any weaknesses we have, they would exploit them, and any mistakes would be magnified, and it was true.
Sjoroos said he doesn't expect there to be any lingering hangover from the lopsided loss, and he thinks the Bears will be ready to get back on track Saturday with archrival Palmer coming to Juneau.
"Down the road, we just need to be able to hold onto the ball, finish drives and work together communicating on all sides of the field. We'll be a quality team coming down the stretch.
"After the game, the first words out of everybody's mouth was, 'Let's beat Palmer.' We're still 2-0 in the conference, and they'll come into town 2-0 as well. The pecking order will really start to take place, and these games coming up are crucial."
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