ST GEORGE – Sometimes being a champion means squeezing out a win on nights when you don’t play your best.
Dixie did just that Friday night, beating Snow Canyon despite five turnovers and 115 yards of penalties. The Flyers’ 28-13 win clinched an outright region championship and sent Dixie to a bye week with a seven-game win streak. A chess move late in the game helped preserve the win.
Facing fourth down at the Dixie 11-yard line with 3:35 left, Snow Canyon had to score a touchdown to pull within one score. Warriors head coach Marcus Matua inserted his tall tight end, 6-foot-8 Nate Gottfredson, and the Dixie coaching staff immediately called time out. Dixie defensive coordinator Wayne Alofipo warned his defense that the next play would be a lob to Gottfredson and moved his best defensive back, Drew Batchelor, to cover the SC basketball star. The move worked as Batchelor deflected the ball away and helped preserve the win.
“The pass was underthrown,” said Batchelor, who also finished the game with 194 yards and 2 touchdowns on 10 catches. “A few inches higher and Gottfredson probably scores the touchdown.”
Dixie took over on downs and backup quarterback Jaden Harrison was able to guide the Flyers to a first down and run out the clock and secure the victory.
The win propelled Dixie to an undefeated record and number one seed from the 3AA South Region. Despite the flashes of good play, Flyers coach Blaine Monkres admitted it was far from their best game.
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“We had some lapses in judgment,” he said. “Poor decision-making led to some drive-killing penalties and turnovers. (Quarterback) Ammon Takau did not have his best game, but the good thing about Ammon is he will watch the film, learn from this and come out a better player.”
Takau threw the first of four interceptions on Dixie’s first play from scrimmage. The Warriors were not able to capitalize however, as kicker Parker Jenkins’ field goal was low. On the ensuing possession, Takau drove the Flyers 95 yards, ending in an Andy Appel TD reception from 20-yards out. After tacking on Miles Barker’s PAT, the Flyers led 7-0 with 5:16 to go in the first quarter.
After another three and out by the Warriors offense, Takau drove Dixie 49 yards in five plays, scoring on the first of Batchelor’s two TD receptions from nine yards out. With Barker’s PAT, Dixie led 14-0.
After another three and out by the Snow Canyon offense, Takau guided the Flyers to another score, cruising 71 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a Joseph Takau dive from the 1-yard line. Just like that, the Warriors found themselves down 21-0.
At this point Matua inserted Conner Parry at quarterback and the Warriors changed to a pistol formation. This time, SC moved the ball down the field easily, scoring with three minutes left in the half to pull within 21-7.
Opening the third quarter, the Dixie defense stepped up and held the Snow Canyon pistol offense on three straight possessions.
“Our coaches made some adjustments to the defense at halftime,” Batchelor said. “They were gaining yardage on strong-side runs, so we adjusted and were able to shut down the run to start the second half.”
On the Flyers first possession of the second half, Takau found Batchelor in the flats and after making one defender miss and getting a good block from wide receiver Lukas Hildebrandt, Bachelor raced down the sidelines for 65 yards and his second touchdown of the game.
“It was a bubble screen,” said Batchelor. “Luke (Hildebrandt) made a great block that sprang me.”
On Snow Canyon’s first possession of the fourth quarter, quarterback Jacob Frei found running back Zach Kennedy deep down the field. Kennedy leaped over a Flyer defender, made a difficult catch, nearly losing his balance and going down. After regaining his balance, Kennedy sprinted to the end zone for an 89-yard touchdown reception, cutting it to 28-13 with 8:25 left in the game.
On the next possession, Jaden Harrison took over for the injured Ammon Takau at quarterback. While the Flyers did not score, they held onto the ball for 10 plays and took nearly five minutes off the clock.
“We have just as much confidence with Jaden in the game,” said Dixie running back Joseph Takau.
“I would have liked to convert on the fourth and three,” said Monkres. “But we did put them deep in their own territory.”
Frei moved the Warriors quickly down the field, setting up the final four-down stand with a 44-yard pass to Trevor Horlacher.
Ammon Takau completed 17 of 25 passes for 279 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Appel had 5 receptions for 67 yards. Defensively, the Flyers were led by linebacker Taylor Strehlow with six tackles.
For Snow Canyon, Frei finished with 155 yards passing, completing 4 of 15 passes. Parry finished with 66 yards rushing and a touchdown. Kennedy had 93 yards receiving and one touchdown on two catches. On defense, Horlacher had eight tackles while linebacker Brady Sargent had six tackles. Defensive backs Richmond Anderson and Caleb Heward both had two interceptions.
The victory gives Dixie a record of 8-2 overall, while the loss dropped Snow Canyon to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in region. The Flyers will now rest next week with a first-round bye in the playoffs. In two weeks, they will face the winner of the Park City-Cedar matchup. Snow Canyon will host Tooele in the first round of the playoffs next week.
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