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The Piedra Vista High School football team won six of the first seven games this year. The Panthers have experience with more than 30 seniors on the roster. “We’ve got a great group of seniors that have been together and had to grow up together through the COVID years,” said head coach Jared Howell.  “They played as sophomores and got a lot of game time experience and I think it’s showing now.”

Their running game is the driving force on offense. “I think people would call us a ground and pound team,” said Howell.  “We like to say we’re a ground and pound with air support.  On defense, we’re a 3-4 team that tries to stop the run and tries to eliminate big plays.”

The Panthers’ ground game is led by a pair of senior fullbacks, Zach Mora-Dotson and Jacob Ramsted.  Head Coach Jared Howell also gives a lot of the credit to the boys up front.  “The O-line is probably the heart of our team, as far as getting things done” he said.  “If they don’t go, then we don’t go, no matter how talented we are in the backfield.”

Piedra Vista started the year with a win against rival Farmington which helped set the tone for the rest of the season. “It’s always a good start to beat your rival and it’s always a good thing to get a win the very first game,” said Howell.  “It was a great jump off point to have both of those things happen for us.  Actually, the first play wasn’t good.  They ran the kickoff back and then they got an onside kick right after that.  So, the first two plays of the year were rough, but we overcame those and settled in.  I think we’ve been able to do that throughout the season also.”

Piedra Vista’s been in the top two of every MaxPreps football ranking since the end of August, but the Panthers try not to think about it. “We try not to,” said senior Dax Vigil.  “It’s nice to look at it, but it’s just more motivation to stay at the top.”

“I’m just worrying about the next game,” said Howell.  “You can think about all that stuff and polls are nice, but for me they’re a distraction.  I’m just focused on what we’re going to do next.  I like the team we have, and I like our chances in any game.”

Last season, it was a first-round playoff exit for the Panthers, but this year they could make a deep run.  Piedra Vista has never won a football state title. “It would be great, I would be so happy,” said senior Bryce Joshlin.  “I wouldn’t even know how to explain it emotionally, I really wouldn’t.”

Before they get to any postseason plans, they have a district matchup with Miyamura this week.

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