COMMENTARY – Dixie High went up to the state football championship with a secret.
The Flyers hadn’t thrown the ball much the past three weeks. Circumstances had dictated they adjust their game-plan to run the football. It happens, with factors like defensive sets, snowy weather and opponents’ strengths determining what kind of offensive attitude to exhibit in a game.
The Spanish Fork coaches could read the statistics, that Blake Barney and his corps of speedy receivers (Lukas Hildebrandt, Drew Batchelor, Mitch Wilkinson, Andy Appel, Tanner Webster) averaged 240 passing yards a game and had 24 passing scores this season.
But it wasn’t showing up on film. The previous three games, all playoff wins for the Flyers, Dixie had averaged just 85 passing yards a game. In the semifinal the week before, Barney completed just three passes in the 14-13 snow-bound win over Juan Diego.
The SF coaches had heard Dixie could really pass the ball, but they had no proof on film. They had no evidence to show their players that the Flyers were, in fact, a pass-first team.
So the Dons went into the finals thinking, at least at first, that Dixie was going to ground it out.
Boy, were they wrong.
Dixie did run the ball, but not until after the Flyers precision passing game had beaten Spanish Fork into submission. Barney consistently found receivers wide open, guys like Appel and Batchelor, Webster and Wilkinson.
But most especially, Hildebrandt.
The speedy junior wideout, who caught a state-championship record 203 yards worth of passes, has the word “Smurfs” written in blue marker across the back of his pads. You can’t see it unless you look close, but it’s there. Hildebrandt and his fellow receivers took up the nickname after hearing of the “Smurfs” receivers from the Washington Redskins from the late 1980s, a group of small, fast, sure-handed stars in the NFL.
“Yeah, we Smurfed them today,” Hildebrandt said after the game.
Dixie’s 49-21 state title game victory was no surprise to anyone from southern Utah. We had seen them this year rack up huge numbers on the best defenses in the region. It was a “pick your poison” kind of thing, with Barney and Co. perfectly willing to run the ball if teams dropped seven in coverage. But stack the line, and Dixie would take to the air better than anyone in 3A.
As Spanish Fork found out the hard way.
By the way, after last year’s championship and this year’s semifinal, it was nice to see some decent weather up at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Barney called it the “most perfect day ever,” referring to the weather and the Dixie performance in the great weather.
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 (that’s tomorrow), though most local teams don’t start until after Thanksgiving. 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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