ST. GEORGE – For half a game, Cedar looked like a legitimate playoff team that had captured a key first-round road win at Park City and would threaten the top-seeded Dixie Flyers in the quarterfinals.
But football games have two halves and in the second half Friday night, Cedar looked like the team Dixie had dominated 41-0 just three weeks ago. The result was a Dixie 45-14 win in the 3AA state playoffs and a ticket for the Flyers to the semifinals at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
Heading into the locker room at halftime, the underdog Cedar Redmen had stayed with the No. 1-seed Dixie Flyers, matching their points, 14-14. But it did not take long for the Dixie defense to show its dominance. Defensive end Braxton Ipson forced a fumble at the Redmen 32-yard line. The turnover swung momentum in Dixie’s direction as the Redmen would be shutout the second half, losing 45-14.
The Dixie dominance began with the Ipson forced fumble. That led to a Miles Barker field goal and Dixie had a lead it would never give up, 17-14.
There was a glimmer of hope for the Redmen on the next drive as Ty Bulloch broke loose for a 35-yard scamper to the Dixie 31-yard line. But three consecutive sacks from the Dixie defense turned a first-and-10 into a fourth-and-34, forcing a Cedar punt.
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“Our defense is senior laden and full of leaders,” said coach Blaine Monkres. “We got sacks from Dustin Morehouse, Shad Pulsipher and Stetson Jones. Ipson had some big plays and the defense played very solid the second half.”
After the Cedar punt, the Dixie offense scored quickly with a 57-yard Drew Batchelor reverse to give Dixie its first breathing room at 24-14. On Cedar’s next possession, the Redmen were at their 29-yard line where they faced fourth-and-one. Cedar had been successful on their four previous fourth-down conversions, but this time Bulloch would be tackled at the line of scrimmage by Ipson. On Dixie’s next play, Takau found wide receiver Lukas Hildebrandt in the flat. Hildebrandt juked the first defender then dove between two others to score the next touchdown and Dixie led 31-14 just 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.
After a touchback on the kickoff, Ipson intercepted Cedar quarterback Brecken Lewis’ pass and ran the interception back for a touchdown. Dixie led 38-14 at the 11:45 mark of the fourth quarter.
“It is every defensive lineman’s dream to get a pick-six,” said Ipson. “I jumped up to block the pass and I was able to grab it.”
Cedar would have to punt once again after a three-and-out. Batchelor returned the punt 38 yards to the Redmen 15-yard line. The Flyers would capitalize from the excellent field position with a Konner Aitken run off tackle to put the lead at 45-14 with 8:34 left to play.
The second half was a stark contrast to the tight, hard-fought first 24 minutes. Dixie started its first drive at the 25-yard line and drove quickly down the field, mostly on sweeps and dives. The drive ended with a 38-yard strike from quarterback Ammon Takau to wide receiver Tanner Webster for a 7-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
The Redmen responded with a long sustained drive beginning at their 23-yard line. Twice during the drive, coach Todd Peacock gambled on fourth down and was successful. The drive took 10 minutes off the clock and ended with a 7-yard dive from Bulloch to knot the score at seven in the opening minute of the second quarter.
“Coach Peacock came in with his team well-prepared and they executed in the first half,” Monkres said. “They kept us off-kilter. We did not really make any adjustments in the second half. We just executed better than we did in the first half.”
After the ensuing kickoff, the Redmen took advantage of Dixie’s first turnover of the game, an interception of a Takau pass at the Flyers 27-yard line. Bulloch would score again, this time from three yards out to put the underdog Cedar squad up 14-7 with 9:39 to play until halftime.
Dixie return man Konner Aitken sprung loose on the following kickoff, making it near midfield, where the Flyers would begin at their 49-yard line. On a third-and-six, Takau would have to chase a bad snap. After scooping up the ball 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, the junior quarterback scrambled right, outrunning the defense for a first down. Four plays later, he threw 10 yards left to a well-covered Batchelor. The ball went through Batchelor’s hands into the waiting hands of wide receiver Andy Appel and the Flyers had caught up, 14-14 with 5:55 left in the first half.
Cedar would use most of the rest of the second quarter on an ill-fated drive that ended with a punt just inside Dixie territory.
Takau finished the game with nine completions on 15 attempts for 147 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Batchelor led the Flyers, rushing for 84 yards on just four carries. For Cedar, Bulloch had 86 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Lewis completed five out of 10 passes for 57 yards and an interception.
Stats via HSGamecenter: DHS 45, CHS 14
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