ST. GEORGE – The Dixie Rebels began the Coach Dale Stott era with a victory over division opponent Wasatch Revolution, 14-10 Saturday night at Walt Brooks Stadium.
The game came down to the Dixie defense holding the Revolution on four downs inside the Rebels’ 5-yard line. After pounding the ball with fullback Donze Palmer unsuccessfully, the Rev quick-pitched the ball to Solo Toala on the last play to the right. Defensive back Sean Mitchell crushed the lead blocker and forced Toala back inside where he was gang tackled by the defensive interior line. With the ball turned over on downs and Wasatch out of timeouts, Dixie quarterback Mise Tupe ran out the clock with successive kneel downs.
The Revolution moved the ball very well in the game, out-gaining Dixie 318 yards to 241, but committed four turnovers. The first came on Wasatch’s first drive of the game. Rev quarterback Charlie Peterson was intercepted by Mitchell in the red zone at the 8:12 mark of the first quarter.
“We were playing man defense,” said Mitchell. “The pass went to Misi (Tupe)’s man but Misi hit him and the ball popped loose and I was able to get my hands on it.”
The Rebels failed to capitalize, turning the ball over on downs with just over four minutes to play. Peterson drove his team 65 yards in seven plays, culminating in a Palmer touchdown plunge from the 1-yard line just prior to the end of the first quarter, making it 7-0.
Dixie’s next possession resulted in a three-and-out. Peterson had Wasatch on the move again until Palmer coughed up the ball. Dixie recovered and took over at its own 13-yard line. Tupe took the Rebels just past midfield in six plays before the Rebels were forced to punt.
The ensuing possession resulted in a missed field goal by Wasatch’s Palmer and Dixie went into the break down 7-0.
“We had a rough first half,” said Stott. “We had some dropped passes and other mental mistakes trying to work in some players who had not been able to practice till this past week. Hopefully some more reps this week will take care of that.”
Backup quarterback Alex Mecham took the reins coming out of the half and drove the Rebels 48 yards to the Rev 22 before being intercepted at the goal line by the Rev’s Jared Harward for Dixie’s only turnover of the game.
Peterson gave the ball right back three plays later on his second interception. This time the Rebels would capitalize as Rimo Mapu scored from two yards out to knot the score at 7-7 with 3:19 to go in the third. The Revolution immediately answered on the next possession, adding 41 yards to a good return, resulting in a Palmer 24-yard field goal with just under 10 minutes to play.
Dixie had their second three-and-out of the night, but forced another Rev turnover on the next possession.
“Our defense was opportunistic tonight,” said linebacker Doug Roberts. “We flowed to the ball well and forced some turnovers.”
Palmer lost his second fumble of the night and Dixie took over at its own 22-yard line with eight minutes to play. The Rebels then had their longest sustained drive of the night, going 78 yards in 11 plays ending, with a 5-yard bulldozing run by Sione Tapuosi with 3:26 to play.
Tupe, who led the Rebels with 99 yards rushing, also had the distinction of being tackled many times by the RMFL’s defensive MVP, Levine Tupe, his older brother.
“We tried to stay away from him, but he has great speed and instinct, and many times knew exactly where we were going,” said Tupe. “We just powered through it and took the yards they gave us.”
Stott was worried that he had given the Rev’s Peterson too much time on the clock.
“We tried to take as much time as we could,” said Stott. “But we left them too much time and had to rely on our defense to step up, which they did.”
Peterson got the Rev to the red zone very quickly, setting up the Rebels’ four down stand just after the two-minute warning.
For Dixie, Tupe had 99 yards on 19 carries. Mapu had 57 yards on 10 carries. For the Revolution, Peterson completed 18 of 27 for 264 yards. Siola Toala had nine catches for 168 yards.
Dixie will travel to Boise next week to take on the Generals. The Revolution will have a week off before hosting the Utah Stealth in two weeks.
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