SALT LAKE CITY– Ironically, on a snowy day in the state semifinals, it was the team that kept its cool that won the day.
Ignoring a blizzard and a barrage of personal fouls and unsportsmanlike penalties from their opponent, the Flyers upset top-ranked Juan Diego 14-13 Friday night and punched a ticket to the state championship game next week.
“They were real chippy, and talking mad smack,” Dixie quarterback Blake Barney said. “We just tried to be mature and keep calm and let them kill themselves.”
In a game that was this close and competitive, a few penalty yards was all it took. In fact, the difference in the score was an extra point at the end of the first half by the Soaring Eagle that had to be kicked from 35 yards out after a taunting penalty in the end zone.
“Credit goes to these good kids,” Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said. “They’re mature and they do what they’re told. I could tell there were a couple of times when they were getting close to doing something, but they always made the right decision and controlled their emotions.”
Dixie tied the game late in the first half on a 2-yard run by Barney. Miles Barker’s extra point made it 7-7 with 17 seconds before halftime. But Barkers pooch kickoff was returned well by Juan Diego’s Walter Kauhaahaa to the Soaring Eagle 45. A quick pass to the right side turned into a big play after a missed tackle and Kauhaahaa raced all alone into the end zone as the clock expired in the first half. Caught up in the moment, the senior taunted several Dixie defenders, drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty. The extra point by Andrew Montoya, with no time on the clock, doinked off of the right upright, leaving the score at 13-7 at intermission.
“It was some pretty bad conditions to kick in,” Dixie kicker Miles Barker said. “That was a tough kick for him. I’m glad I didn’t have to kick one that far.”
Montoya also missed a field goal in the third quarter that would have pushed the lead to 16-7. Instead, the Flyers hung close with good defense and just enough first downs until they could catch a break.
That big play came early in the fourth quarter. Dixie had driven the length of the field, but Barney was intercepted in the end zone by Kauhaahaa. Two plays later, the Soaring Eagle gave the ball back on a fumble by Jessie Springer that was recovered by Tanner Webster.
Juan Diego committed yet another Personal Foul on the play, which moved the ball to the 13-yard line.
Dixie didn’t waste anytime this time. Taylor Berry ran it up the middle to the 4 and carried again for a yard to the 3. Barney then kept the ball two straight times to the left, penetrating the end zone on the second one. Barker then nailed the extra point, making it 14-13 with 10:05 left in the game.
The Soaring Eagle had the ball twice more after that, having to punt on both occasions.
Dixie then took over possession with 5:43 left on its own 23-yard line. A series of runs by Barney and Berry chewed the clock and moved the ball into JD territory at the 35-yard line. Facing third-and-7, Barney hit the line for a yard. It was a short run, but forced the Soaring Eagle to use their last time out with 48 seconds left.
“At that point, we knew we were going for it and Barney was our guy,” Monkres said. “We never even thought about punting it or kicking a field goal.”
The play fourth-and-6 play was a little backyard football.
“Coach just drew it up right there in the (time out) huddle,” Barney said. “He just said, ‘Fourth down is where men are made.’”
Barney kept on a quarterback sweep and busted through the Juan Diego defense for 11 yards to the right side. One kneel down later and Dixie had earned its way into the championship.
“We never talked revenge or anything else this week,” Monkres said. “We just put together our game plan and these kids prepared well. All credit goes to them.”
Juan Diego can only look to itself for the loss. The Soaring Eagle committed 10 penalties for 107 yards and had two turnovers. It is the first loss at Rice-Eccles for 12-1 Juan Diego, which has won three championships in the last four years.
Dixie, 9-3, plays next week back at Rice-Eccles Stadium against Spanish Fork. The game is at 11 a.m.
The Flyers ended up with just 219 offensive yards and 14 first downs. But Barney had 107 rushing yards and both Tds. Juan Diego had 279 yards and got 99 rushing yards from Chase Williams.
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