COMMENTARY – It was an interesting and even confusing weekend of football in the 3A ranks.
For starters, Dixie High went up to cold Stansbury and beat an undefeated Stallions team at their own game – defense. Stansbury had given up less than 10 points a game going into the quarterfinal and seven times this year teams scored seven points or less against the Stallions. Dixie had that many points 15 seconds into the game after Chris Whetton returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Dixie scored three touchdowns and had 22 first downs and nearly 350 yards of offense.
Meanwhile, the Dixie defense was playing inspired. The Flyers allowed just 14 first downs and forced Stansbury into five punt.
It was surely a different kind of win for Dixie. But what was more strange was the reaction around the state. Basically, the experts and pundits shrugged their proverbial shoulders and said, “We’re not surprised.”
Apparently a 7-2 Dixie team was supposed to go up and beat Stansbury, according to Parry’s Power Guide and some of the other publications up north.
While it’s flattering that Region 9’s reputation is such that the third place team is favored over another region’s undefeated champion, I was disappointed that no one seemed too impressed with the Flyers road win.
To me, it’s a really big deal and a major step forward in coach Blaine Monkres’s program. Stansbury has proven itself to be a quality football school and for the southern Utah boys to go up there and get a win in the cold weather was a significant accomplishment.
Of course, for Dixie, the road gets even tougher as the Flyers take on another undefeated team, Juan Diego, Friday night at Rice Eccles Stadium (6:30 p.m.).
The Dixie win becomes more impressive when you consider what happened to Hurricane. The Tigers, who tied for the region championship (and have either tied or won it outright five straight years) went into a cold climate, strange location and hostile crowd and crumbled.
Although the game was much closer than the 38-0 score would indicate, it was still a very convincing win for the Soaring Eagle. Someday, a year from now or five years from now, Hurricane will beat Juan Diego. But there is no doubt the Soaring Eagle right now have a huge mental edge over the Tigers.
And I think it is safe to say that Juan Diego is the favorite heading into the semifinals. And if the Soaring Eagle are the odds-on favorites, the next in line would be the 11-1 Spanish Fork Dons and the 8-3 Desert Hills Thunder.
Both teams got tougher-than-expected challenges from underdogs in the quarterfinals. SF fell behind 10-0 to Morgan before scoring 33 unanswered. The Thunder never trailed against Bear River, but the Bears staged a nice comeback, fueled by a couple of DH turnovers. Desert Hills needed a late defensive stand to preserve the victory.
The Thunder and the Dons meet Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the U of U.
So the quarterfinals were a bit unexpected, not in what happened so much as how it happened.
But the bottom line is this: Region 9 has 50 percent of the state finalists and the odds are pretty good that at least one of the two will make the championship game.
And that won’t be unexpected at all.
By the way, we are not far away from the beginning of the winter sports, wrestling, boys and girls basketball and swimming.
Boys and girls basketball and wrestling begin practicing today and the first contests are allowed by the UHSAA on Nov. 20. There is a Thanksgiving moratorium (Nov. 22-25) and a Christmas moratorium (Dec. 22-26, Jan. 1). The state playoffs and tournaments begin in mid-February.
The swimmers and divers began practice two weeks ago and the first swim meets have already begun.
It is also drill team season for those schools that participate in that activity.
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