ST. GEORGE — The 3AA South just got a little bit crazier Thursday night.
Snow Canyon, a team that lost by 28 points just six days ago to Cedar, made sure no one is going to run away with the 3AA South crown, dropping the previously undefeated Dixie Flyers 38-23 at the Flyers own Walt Brooks Stadium.
“Our motivation was that loss last week,” Warrior TJ Taimi said. “We didn’t play like we’re capable of playing. We knew we had to step up and execute and if we did, we would be successful. We knew we had to get back to Warrior football.”
Snow Canyon forced seven turnovers in the game, including five interceptions. Taimi had two of those, including a 44-yard touchdown return in the second quarter.
“Me and my dad studied film hard all week,” Taimi said. “We studied what they were doing for hours. (The pick-six) was exhilarating. I knew when I saw that swing pass that I could make a break on it and had a chance to take it all the way.”
The momentum swung hard in each team’s direction in the third quarter. Snow Canyon led 20-7 at the half thanks to Taimi’s interception return and a couple of Dixie fumbles, one of which led to a short Jackson Nowatzke TD.
But Dixie responded early in the third with two straight scores. Zak Harrah hit Jaden Harrison from 10 yards out after a Snow Canyon fumble set the Flyers up with a short field. Then, after a Snow Canyon punt, Dixie took a 21-20 lead when Harrah hit Bret Barben from 21-yards out late in the third. It seemed as if the region leaders had righted the ship and were on the way to the home win.
“I don’t think we were worried one bit,” said SC linebacker Joe Servati. “We just believed in ourselves and said, ‘We can do this.’ Just because they were up by a little didn’t mean anything to us. We just kept playing hard every down and good things happened.”
It took exactly two plays for Snow Canyon to reclaim the lead. After a touchback on the kickoff and a short run by Josh Barnes, Nowatzke faked a handoff and kept the ball right up the middle of the field. The speedy QB emerged from the line of scrimmage nearly untouched and outraced the entire Dixie defense 79 yards for the go-ahead score. He also passed to Taimi for the two-point conversion to make it 28-21 in the final minute of the third quarter.
After a Dixie safety (bad punt snap) cut it to 28-23, the SC defense got an interception with Parker Ence snagging an underthrown ball by Harrah. He returned the pick about 50 yards to the Dixie 35-yard line. Two plays later, Chris Poulsen took a reverse pitch and hurled a 35-yard TD pass to Taimi to make it 35-23 with under eight minutes to play.
With the offense sputtering for the Flyers, that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.
“We had a senior meeting Sunday night and we got some things worked out,” Nowatzke said about his team’s turnaround. “What it came down to is basically bringing the intensity up in practice. Monday night, we came back and brought the intensity back and basically got back to the team we were for those first five games we played.”
Dixie won the yardage battle, by a lot, outgaining the Warriors 434-312. Dixie’s Tre Miller was the top rusher, gaining 130 yards on 17 carries, including a 74-yarder for a TD in the first quarter. Nowatzke finished with 117 rushing yards and three scores. Dixie sophomore Hobbs Nyberg had eight receptions for 146 yards.
But SC (4-3 overall, 1-2 in region) won the war with the 15-point victory and sent the 3AA South Region into another crazy weekend. With Cedar (1-1) playing at Hurricane (1-1) and Desert Hills (1-1) playing at Pine View (1-1) Friday night, the region will consist of three 2-1 teams and three 1-2 teams when the weekend is over.
“This is a tough region,” Nowatzke. “It’s a region where anyone can play with anybody. Every single team in this region is good. You can’t underestimate anyone. You’ve just got to play your heart out every week.”
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