Experienced Pinewood football team aims for league title

It’s been six years since Pinewood School’s eight-man football team won its first and only league title – and the Panthers had to share it with two other teams.

Coach Matt Irvin is hopeful that this is the year Pinewood breaks through.

“We’re due,” he said.

There seems to be ample evidence to support Irvin’s optimism. The Panthers return all but four players from last year’s 6-2 team, several of them standouts. And 10 of their 20 players are seniors.

But will that be enough?

“Trinity Christian is probably the team to beat and (Woodside) Priory will be tough, too,” Irvin said. “For us to win league, we’ll need to stay healthy and execute our plays on both sides of the ball.”

Jaeden Bailey operates the offense; the senior is in his third year as Pinewood’s starting quarterback. Bailey was 9-for-9 passing with two touchdowns in Pinewood’s Sept. 8 opener, a 62-0 rout of visiting Cornerstone Christian. He also ran for two scores.

“He keeps getting better,” Irvin said. “His footwork, arm and leadership overall have improved.”

Then there’s Jackson Haun, “who doesn’t come off the field,” the coach said. The senior plays running back, linebacker and kicker. He rushed for a team-high 67 yards and scored a touchdown in the opener.

“He can do it all,” Irvin said. “He’s a special kid who gives his all and wants to win.”

Haun is among the plethora of Panthers who start on both sides of the ball. The coach said offensive lineman/linebacker Bo Fick is “extremely valuable” and described receiver/defensive back Sean Murphy as “electric.” Both players are seniors, as is two-way lineman Tyler Johnson, who “gets better each practice,” according to coach.

Another senior, Connor Riches, sees snaps at receiver, tight end, running back and linebacker, Irvin noted.

“He’s a very versatile player,” the coach said. “He loves practice as much as games, and he goes full speed.”

Pinewood is scheduled to open its Mission Trail Athletic League season 4 p.m. Friday at home against Trinity Christian.

The Panthers prepared for league by traveling to Ojai Saturday to face Villanova Prep.

“It’s a good opportunity to bond as a team early in the season,” Irvin said prior to the game, which the Panthers lost 69-34. “It gives them a chance to connect and get to know each other.”

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