COMMENTARY – Ah, the sandlot. The place where an old tire served as the sideline marker or a pair of paint cans marked the invisible line that was a touchdown. Youngsters drew up plays in the dirt with instructions like, “Button hook at the dumpster,” or “Run an out-and-up around the abandoned car.”
But once the kids hit organized football, especially at the high school level, those days of making up a play on the fly are long gone. Or not.
Dixie’s clinching first down, with under a minute left in the state semifinals against top-ranked and undefeated Juan Diego, came straight from the sandlot.
With Dixie facing a fourth-and-6 at the Juan Diego 35-yard line, the Flyers had a few options. Juan Diego was out of time outs, so a pooch punt may not have been a bad option. A field goal was out of the question in the snowy conditions. Choice three was to go for it, with a first down clinching the game.
“We were going to go for it all the way,” DHS coach Blaine Monkres said. “There were a lot of bad things that could happen in those conditions if we tried to kick it.”
So with the decision already made, Monkres and quarterback Blake Barney huddled together during a time out and faced another tough decision: what play to call.
Monkres, known throughout Utah as being an offensive genius, has dozens of plays at his disposal from offensive sets named for prominent college teams (Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, etc.). But with the pressure on and the snow blowing hard and everything on the line, Monkres didn’t look to his playbook. He listened to his gut.
“Coach just drew it up right there in the huddle,” Barney said. “It was a play we’ve never run before. He just said. ‘Fourth down is where men are made.’”
The play, essentially a QB sweep right, netted 11 yards and a first down. Barney then took a knee one last time and the game was over.
As Barney and the other Flyers celebrated and shivered in the post-game euphoria, Monkres allowed himself a satisfied grin.
“These kids have worked hard and prepared themselves well,” he said. “I’m very proud of them.”
One other side note to the game: The Flyers did a phenomenal job of keeping their composure against Juan Diego, which committed five or six unsportsmanlike penalties in the game. Dixie had none.
Monkres said it would have been very easy for his kids to retaliate, but none did.
“Credit goes to those kids. They have been raised right,” he said.
The other semifinal saw Desert Hills fall to Spanish Fork in what turned out to be a great football game.
The Thunder led 21-7 late in the first half, but eventually fell 35-28.
Lost in the hoopla was the nearly crippling injury to Thunder star Ty Rutledge. He had rushed for 1,241 this season. But the combination of an SF defense that was keying on him and his swollen ankle rendered Rutledge ineffective running the ball. He finished with just 40 yards on 11 carries.
After the game, the distraught Rutledge could only shake his head at his ankle, which was purple and balloon-sized.
The senior won’t be back in a state championships game, but with star underclassmen like Bridger Cowdin and Jordan Hokanson, the Thunder may be back sooner, rather than later, to Rice-Eccles Stadium.
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’s first contests 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.
Look for previews on all those sports in the coming week or so right here on STGnews.com
It is also drill team season for those schools that participate in that activity.
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