ST. GEORGE — It was billed as a battle of the region’s top quarterbacks, a shootout of epic proportions and a game that may give the scoreboard operator a hand cramp.
What we really got was a well-played football game that was decided in the final moments on a couple of tough defensive plays as Dixie beat Desert Hills 30-27 Friday night at Walt Brooks Stadium.
“When it got right down to it, those guys up front, Taylor Berry, Jesse Lambert, Chris Abraham and Braxton Ipson, just wanted it more in the end,” Flyers defensive coordinator Rick Berry said. “They put pressure on Ty Rutledge and caused some real problems.”
Rutledge and Blake Barney were the original headliners in the game. The two QBs did not disappoint, either. Rutledge rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown. Barney had 88 yards and a score. Rutledge passed for 141 yards and a TD. Barney had 226 and three TDs. But the biggest difference was in turnovers. Rutledge had three interceptions. Barney had none. Both players also played safety on defense most of the game. In fact, Barney had one of the interceptions thrown by Rutledge and tipped a second one to teammate Tyson Graff.
“It was fun playing defense,” Barney said. “I have twice the dings I normally do, but I had a blast.”
Desert Hills trailed the entire first half, but took its first lead with 9:04 left in the third quarter. Running back Bridger Cowdin, who had been held to 10 yards in the first half, exploded around the left end for a 38-yard TD run. A two-point try failed, leaving the score at 19-17.
Dixie wasted no time in regaining the lead. It took just over two minutes for Barney and the Flyers to go 77 yards. The drive was capped by a Drew Batchelor catch and run from 25 yards out, making it 23-19 with 6:40 to go in the third.
With the two quick scores, it looked like we might have that shootout after all.
But DH fizzled on its next drive and Dixie struck quickly again. Barney hit Batchelor streaking down the middle of the field for a 62-yard scoring play, making it 30-19 with still 5:14 left in the third quarter. That drive took just 49 seconds and gave Dixie its biggest lead of the night.
The Thunder climbed back into the game four minutes later when Cowdin burst across the goal line from 13 yards out. That capped a 7-play, 84-yard drive and made it 30-27 just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter.
And that was it for the scoring. The defenses owned the rest of the evening.
The Thunder had three possessions in the final eight minutes of the game. They all ended in futility.
And while Dixie failed to ice the game with a score of its own, the Flyers defense proved it didn’t need any more help. The first DH drive ended in the Graff interception at the Thunder 25-yard line. The second ended in a turnover on downs at the DH 17-yard line.
The Thunder got it back one last time with just under a minute left, but after one first down, Batchelor intercepted a prayer thrown up by Rutledge to essentially end the game.
“Ty is a real stud and we were really concerned about him,” Berry said. “We had two players cop him (spy or trail him) almost the whole game.”
Dixie defender Dakota Bair said his squad has a lot of respect for Desert Hills.
“They have a lot of great skill players,” he said. “We were definitely disappointed after last week because we felt like we should have beaten Hurricane. But we knew Desert Hills was a good team, too, and we needed to step it up as a defense.”
Dixie, now 5-1 overall and 2-1 in Region 9 play, got a stellar game from Batchelor. He had 127 yards receiving on six catches and two TDs. Tanner Webster caught a TD pass in the first half and Miles Barker hit a 27-yard field goal.
Cowdin rushed for 96 yards and the two scores, while Jordan Hokanson and Josh Anderson both caught four passes for the Thunder, who dropped to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in region.
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