Dixie Flyers preview: Trying to replace an MVP no small task

ST. GEORGE – It is hard to improve on an 11-2 state championship season, especially without team leader and 3A state MVP quarterback Blake Barney, who graduated and is now serving an LDS mission.

But Dixie is determined to try.

“We had a very good team last year, we peaked at a good time,” said Flyers head coach Blaine Monkres. “If we put last year behind us though, I think we can do some special things this year, too. We have several positions filled by second and third-year starters.”

Monkres went so far as to say this upcoming season was the one he thought would be their big one.

The Dixie Flyers will try to fill the shoes of state MVP Blake Barney, who accounted for more than 4,000 yards and 46 touchdowns last season. | File photo by Robert Hoppie

“Except for Blake and a couple of other guys, we were looking at this year as being the one where a lot of our guys would be seniors and we’d have a really good team,” he said. “Blake was a great player and was one of those guys that stepped up and got us going. We’re going to have to have guys step up and fill those roles.”

Who will do that emotionally remains to be seen. Who will fill Barney’s role physically is also a good question. It’s come down to heir-apparent Ammon Takau, who was Barney’s backup last season, and athletic sophomore Jaden Harrison. Whoever wins the job will have a wealth of athletic talent at receiver. Dixie returns its top four receivers from that championship team in Drew Batchelor (43 receptions, 718 yards and 10 touchdowns), Lukas Hildebrandt (29-547-4), Tanner Webster (25-430-6) and Andy Appel (21-312-2).

Dixie’s defense ended up being pretty good last season, but also has some holes fill. At the top, defensive coordinator Rick Berry resigned (personal reasons) and defensive assistant Wayne Alofipo was promoted to fill the vacancy. Alofipo, a former standout at Dixie State, will have to make do without leading tackler (and all-stater) Tyson Graff and all-state nose tackle Jesse Lambert.

“We definitely have some voids to fill,” Alofipo said. “We’re not real big, so we’ll have to rely heavily on technique. And if we understand that it’s two things: will and heart.”

Head Coach: Blaine Monkres (24th year, 168-88)
Last Season: 11-2, 4-2 in Region 9, State Champions
Last Season PPG: 36.0; PAG: 18.2
Home Field: Walt Brooks Stadium
Quarterbacks – It’s either the junior, Takau, or the sophomore, Harrison. “Both players will play in the first game,” said Monkres. “They bring virtually identical skill sets, but we will have a better feel who our starter should be after seeing them in game situations.” Monkres reiterated that whoever does not win the spot is too talented to sit on the bench. “Harrison is already penciled in as a starter on defense and Ammon could strengthen our receiving corps.”
Running backs – It could be an all Takau backfield as Ammon’s older brother, Joseph, will start at running back. “Joseph platooned at RB last year,” said Monkres. “This year we will rely on him for the bulk of the carries.”
Receivers – Batchelor was an all-state senior receiver a year ago and with Appel, team captain Webster and Hildebrandt, this crew is good. Keenan McLane and Logan Schweitzer should also see plenty of action at WR.
Offensive line –Team captain and third-year starter Gavin Graff is the lone returning starter on the offensive line. He will be joined there by seniors Alex Flora and team captain Braxton Ipson.
Defensive line – Starting at defensive tackle will be seniors Dustin Moorehouse and Joseph Takau, while seniors Ipson and Shad Pulsipher will start at defensive end in DHS’s 4-3 set.
Linebackers – The LB corps will be led by returner Taylor Strehlow. He will be joined at linebacker by Webster and Appel.
Defensive backs – In the backfield, the corner responsibilities will be handled by Hildebrandt and Harrison. Batchelor and Braden Riding will start at safety. Sophomore Trey Miller will be employed as the nickel back.
Special teams – Miles Barker returns as the placekicker while Graff will handle the punting responsibilities for the first time.
Intangibles – Dixie definitely has that “Time to get back to work,” mentality. But replacing Barney will be extremely difficult. He accounted for 4,126 yards and 46 touchdowns with his combined passing/rushing prowess. There may be some early growing pains, especially with early road trips to Springville and Riverton and a region-opener at Pine View. But the Flyers d still be a contender when the season closes late in October.

Dixie Schedule
(Non-league difficulty B)
8/23 Dixie @ Springville
8/30 Lehi @ Dixie
9/6 Dixie @ Riverton
9/13 Canyon View @ Dixie
9/20 Dixie @ Pine View
9/27 Hurricane @ Dixie
10/4 Dixie @ Desert Hills
10/11 Payson @ Dixie
10/16 Dixie @ Cedar
10/25 Snow Canyon @ Dixie

2013 3AA South Region Media prediction:
Rank  Team (1st vts)   total points

1. Desert Hills (4)   51 points
2. Pine View (1)  44 points
3. Hurricane (2) 41 points
4. Dixie (1)  38 points
5. Snow Canyon    18 points
6. Cedar    16 points
7. Payson    15 points

* Editor’s note: This week the STGNews sports department previews the new 3AA South Region. Preview schedule: Monday — Cedar and Payson; Tuesday — Snow Canyon and Pine View; Wednesday — Dixie and Hurricane; Thursday — Desert Hills; Friday — Gameday preview caps.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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