SALT LAKE CITY – Their numbers are shockingly similar, with Dixie and Spanish Fork both favoring a wide-open offense, hard-hitting defense and plenty of star power.
At 11 a.m., they’ll throw out all the numbers and play 48 minutes of football to decide the 3A state champions.
“We are very similar,” Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said. “It makes it much easier for both teams to prepare for what the other one might do.”
Both teams would seem to be uninvited guests as well. The Dons upset Desert Hills with a late touchdown here at Rice-Eccles Stadium last week. The Flyers then surprised even the most jaded media members by knocking off Juan Diego 14-13 last Friday evening. The Soaring Eagle had beaten Dixie 41-0 a year ago.
“It feels so good, especially after what happened a year ago,” Dixie quarterback Blake Barney said. “We know our business is not finished, but I don’t think a lot of people gave us much of a chance against Juan Diego.”
Last week’s upset win was played in a blizzard, but the forecast for this morning is cool and fair. Game time temperature is expected to be about 40 degrees.
“Whatever the weather, we’ll be ready,” Monkres said.
Dixie has been road warriors in the state playoffs. A late season loss to Snow Canyon dropped Dixie to the third seed out of Region 9, meaning a first-round trip to North Sanpete. A dominating 35-6 victory was the result there followed by a 20-13 pound-it-out victory at formerly undefeated Stansbury.
Dixie then completed its third straight away-from-home win last weekend with the Juan Diego win.
“We believed in ourselves, even when no one else believed in us,” linebacker Taylor Berry said. “We love each other and have a real trust in our teammates.”
Both Dixie and Spanish Fork run the spread offense, with the Flyers focusing more on star Barney, who has amassed more than 1,000 yards rushing and more than 2,500 yards passing. He has accounted for 40 touchdowns this season.
Barney does have a bevy of receivers to throw to. The group, which calls itself the Smurfs, features seven different receivers who are in double-figures in catches this season. Drew Batchelor leads the group with 40 catches for 696 yards and 10 touchdowns. But Barney also looks to Lukas Hildebrandt, Kyle Hansen, Mitch Wilkinson, Andy Appel, Dakota Bair and Tanner Webster.
The bulk of the carries in the running game go to Barney as no other rusher has more than 300 yards this year.
In contrast, Spanish Fork uses the spread to feature running back Braxton Argyle. He has rushed for 1,296 yards, while QB Jason Money has 497 rushing yards.
Money can chuck the ball, though, accumulating 2,404 yards and 24 touchdowns. He loves 6-foot-3 wide receiver Colton Olsen, who has 84 catches for 1,075 yards. Money’s cousin, Cameron, has 54 catches for 1,016 yards.
The Dons average 36 points a game. Dixie is right at 35 ppg.
Certainly, while both teams can rack up the points, the defenses also represent. Spanish Fork allows about 14 ppg and is led by star linebacker Gunnar Beus, who has 115 tackles and 4.5 sacks this year.
Dixie looks to linebackers Tyson Graff and Taylor Berry and the high-running motor of defensive lineman Jesse Lambert.
With the numbers so even and both teams squeaking into the finals by a hair last week, it will surprise no one if this game comes down to the very last possession.
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