It’s been more than a week since two valley football teams brought home state championship titles.
They’ve had time to celebrate, be thankful, hopefully relax a little and enjoy some pie. The Sky View Bobcats and West Side Pirates capped off perfect seasons on their way to repeating as state champions. Do I smell a three-peat?
Both head coaches would quickly halt me there if I posed that question to them. You see, despite having success for years now, both like to keep their athletes hungry and playing as underdogs, even if they are the favorite. There certainly is nothing wrong with being humble.
And don’t get me wrong. From my vantage point, I believe the Bobcats and Pirates both had confidence, but they respected their opponents. They also played as a team.
As I reflected back on the 2020 high school football season, there were comments from the two state champion coaches that stood out to me. Both thanked those coaches who had been there before them and both tried to deflect attention on themselves, rather pointing out that it was the teenage boys on the field that got the job done.
While that is true, it does take some coaching to win a championship. Kudos to Sky View’s Christopher Howell and West Side’s Tyson Moser for putting together solid coaching staffs and getting the most out of their boys on the field.
With Sky View and West Side playing for state championships on the same day, with kickoffs an hour apart and more than 500 miles between the sites, I could not be in two places at once. Plus, a newspaper in our chain was going to be covering the West Side game.
I remained in the Beehive State and covered the Bobcats in their game against a very scary Pine View team. It turned out to be way more thrilling as Sky View won 39-33, while West Side put a beat down on Firth, 39-0. Interesting that both valley teams put up 39 points.
Pine View has a really good quarterback, a stable of receivers, a bruiser of a running back and finally a former Division I head coach as the offensive coordinator in Gary Crowton, who also spent time as an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. Oh, and Panthers’ defense had created a lot of turnovers.
Sky View may not have been flashy on offense, but week after week got the job done. Sometimes they passed more, sometimes they ran the ball. The Bobcat defense was pretty stingy itself and also seemed to come up with timely takeaways.
When that happened, the offense would cash in. Plus, Sky View was really dangerous on special teams, whether it was blocking kicks or punts, returning kickoffs and punts or booming punts to pin opponents.
Going up against Sky View, opposing coaches would dwell on not making mistakes. The Bobcats make you pay, which is what they did in the title game against Pine View. Sky View won the turnover battle, 4-1.
The Bobcats scored on six of their first nine possessions — twice after turnovers and a third time after getting a fourth-down stop. They ate up a lot of clock as they mainly kept the ball on the ground, rushing for 369 yards on 68 carries. Quarterback Kason Carlsen carried the ball 35 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The senior signal caller also passed for two scores, completing 6 of 12 attempts for 76 yards.
Most of the last 5:47 of the game saw the ball in the Bobcats’ hands. Pine View ran one play, but fumbled the ball away.
Sky View had blown out most opponents, but in close games found a way to get it done in 2020. Such was the case for West Side. No matter what the Bobcats or Pirates faced, they didn’t flinch.
There were certainly star players, but it seemed like different athletes took turns shinning and many times it may have been their first time to do so.
“The story of this team has been we have a lot of different weapons and the ability to spread the ball around,” Howell said. “In the end, it starts up front with our ability to block and protect the quarterback and get stops on defense. It all starts with our guys up front. We are just a well-rounded team that is able to win in a lot of different ways.”
Amen to that.
Not to speak for Moser, but having covered several regular season games involving West Side — winners of 21 straight games — I would think he would say something very similar.
Sky View has won four straight region titles and has won 25 games in a row. Howell has been there the past two years to guide a successful program to a pair of titles. He has thanked the past two coaches in Craig Anhder and Danilo Robinson for creating the winning culture at the Smithfield school. And after winning his second straight title at the helm, he even went further in giving thanks.
“This started way before me,” Howell said. “I know I’ve said that before. One person I need to give thanks to is Rusty Carlsen. He took these seniors all the way through little league and helped create the toughness that exists in them. They won a bunch of games there. Obviously, there has been a ton of success at Sky View. This is about having great players and being able to execute the game plan.”
Execute they did. And what a way to wrap up the fall season for high school sports.