ST. GEORGE – The Dixie Rebels hosted the Utah Valley Stealth in a game that was critical for both teams to win. A win for the Stealth would have made it very likely that they got the coveted bye the first week of the playoffs. It was a very close game dominated, except for one drive, by defense. In the end the Rebels came away with a 17-15 victory to secure at least one home game in the playoffs.
The Rebels were playing with their backup quarterback AJ Martinez plus Andy Stokes, their leading receiver, reinjured his knee early in the game and spent most of the game on the sidelines coaching the other players. Consequently, the Rebels ran the ball significantly more than they passed it. The Stealth made the appropriate adjustments and stacked the defense to defend the run. This worked very well for most of the game. The Rebels got on the board when Steve Pulver intercepted a Stealth pass and ran it back for the touchdown. Pulver then followed it up with the extra point to give them a 7-0 advantage. The Rebels’ defense helped them again when the Rebels punted the ball in the second quarter. The Stealth fumbled the punt reception and Kinley Lounsbury recovered the fumble on the 24-yard line to set up a 41-yard field goal by Pulver to put the Rebels up 10-0.
The Stealth were then able to pick up their own field goal to bring it to 10-3.
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that the Rebels were able to make the Stealth pay for stacking the box against the run as Brennan Adams made two big catches from Martinez, each of which were over 30 yards, to help get the Rebels just outside the goal line. With the ball inside the 2-yard line on fourth down, Misi Tupe ran a sweep and completely burned past the defense to get into the corner of the end zone which put the Rebels up 17-3.
Late in the fourth quarter the Stealth hit the Rebels with a one-two punch that they weren’t ready for. Number 34 for the Stealth was running the ball with so much power that he was blowing clean through tackles. They were also giving the ball to number 4, whose agility and quickness helped him find and take advantage of small holes in the Rebels’ defense. This combination took the Stealth all the way into the end zone as number 34 powered through his defender to punch it into the end zone. However, their extra point kick bounced off the upright and missed to leave the lead at 17-9.
A string of penalties on their next possession kept the Rebels from picking up a single yard which forced them to punt deep in their own territory. The punt was returned over 40 yards, close to the original line of scrimmage, to help set up the short touchdown run by number 4 that brought the Stealth to within two points at 17-15. The Stealth decided to go for two and the Rebels completely shut down the attempt.
The Stealth were able to hold the Rebels after the kickoff to a three and out. Before the play started in which, with 24.6 seconds on the clock, the Rebels were going to punt the ball, the Stealth were flagged with unsportsmanlike conduct which gave the Rebels a first down and allowed them to just run the clock out and secure the victory. Andy Stokes said the unsportsmanlike conduct call came because they were complaining to the officials from their sideline, and Doug Cook “Sarge” said that they used obscene language in that exchange. When asked if the league officials are always that strict about players using obscene language, Cook said, “If the fans can hear it, yes. I heard it from across the field.”
The Rebels (6-1) will have next Saturday off before they host the Utah Shock (7-0) on June 2nd. The winner of that game will get all of their playoff games at home.
For more REBELS talk from sports commentators Leo Wright and Patrick Black, tune into Blake’s Take Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5-6 p.m. on KZNU Sports Radio – 93.1 FM 1450 AM – or online streaming live on KZNU Sports website www.kznusports.com
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.