GAME PREVIEW CAPSULE
Dixie (9-2, 6-0) vs. Desert Hills (9-2, 4-2), Rice Eccles Stadium, today, 11 a.m.
Previous Meeting: Flyers 27, Thunder 7 (Oct. 4, 2013 at DH)
Broadcast: ESPN SportsRadio 106.1 FM, with Andy Griffin and Devin Dixon on play by play
Classification: 3AA, South Region
Coach: Blaine Monkres (24th year, 178-90 overall)
Last game: Beat Cedar 45-14
Players to watch: Anyone who loves football needs to watch highlights from Dixie’s last game, in particular the Taylor Strehlow block on a Drew Batchelor punt return — it may be the hit of the year. You can thank me later. Dixie’s defense has been spectacular as of late, with LBs Strehlow, Stetson Jones and Joseph Takau making big plays behind a great D line and impressive DBs. Cedar had less than 200 yards against the Flyers. Speedy WR Lukas Hildebrandt was a huge factor in the first meeting between the Flyers and Thunder, with 112 receiving yards. Andy Appel also played well.
Trend: Trying to figure out why Dixie is so good is like trying to figure out why a banana floats or a cat always lands on its feet. We can’t explain why, but we know it’s true. No matter the opponent’s scheme (Wing-T or spread), the Flyers win. No matter the opponent’s strength (passing offense or rush defense), the Flyers win. Last week, Cedar came into the game with revenge on the mind, a good run game and a stout defense. Dixie couldn’t get the Cedar offense off the field. Then the defense cranked up the pressure and Cedar’s offense couldn’t stay on the field. Dixie ended up allowing fewer than 200 yards to CHS and shut the Redmen out in the second half. Dixie has now won eight straight.
Classification: 3AA, South Region
Coach: Carl Franke (2nd year, 17-6 overall)
Offense: Spread, pistol
Last game: Beat Stansbury 31-14
Players to watch: Like the Flyers, Desert Hills saved its best football for the second half of the playoff game last week, especially the running game behind RBs Bridger Cowdin, Landen Broadhead and Gabe Sewell and QB Nick Warmsley. The quartet combined for nearly 300 yards on the ground. DE Jake Wagner has six sacks the past three games, plus a couple of forced fumbles, a kick return for a TD, a fumble recovery for a score and pretty much has become unblockable. LB Tucker Cowdin had another big game with 12 tackles and an INT last week.
Trend: The Thunder have quietly won four in a row since the first game vs. Dixie. And in those four games, DH has averaged 27.5 ppg while surrendering just 8.5 ppg. Only the Snow Canyon game was close in that stretch. The Thunder won going away in the other three. A lot of people have pretty much written off Desert Hills since the two straight losses and the subsequent third-place region finish. But you don’t have to look far to see a three-seed win a championship. Dixie did it last year.
Two old friends get together for a little game of ball at Rice Eccles. The coaching match-ups are fascinating here, with Monkres vs. DH defensive coordinator Nick Hansen (a film-study maniac) and Franke vs. Dixie defensive coordinator Wayne Alofipo. Dixie was fairly dominant in the first meeting, but Desert Hills was coming off a funk after losing its first game the week before against Pine View. Still, it’s hard to discount the fact that DH had just 139 yards in that game. One thing is for sure: If the Salt Lake press and fans expect a repeat of the 48-42 Pine View-Juan Diego shootout, they will sorely be disappointed. The winner of this game may be score in the teens. Both defenses are playing so well, maybe 10 points will win it.
STGnews (record) PREDICTION
Andy Griffin (48-8) — Dixie
Darren Cole (44-12) — Dixie
Parry’s spread: Dixie by 7
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