ST. GEORGE – A couple of late gambles kept the Dixie Rebels perfect Saturday night at Walt Brooks Stadium.
It took two overtimes and 37 points for Dixie to do it, overcoming five turnovers along the way, but the Rebels were able to come back from 10 down late in the game and beat the visiting Utah Shock, 37-31.
“We needed to score 10 points and we had a fourth and 9,” Stott said. “I felt it was a good time to get the three at that point.”
Kicker Eric Brooksby nailed a 28-yard field goal to pull the Rebels to within 24-17. On the ensuing onside kick, the Shock had their good-hands personnel in with 10 players at the receiving line. Dixie linebacker Kaleo Teriipaia kicked a perfect one-hopper that bounced just off the outstretched arms of the Shock players and into the hands of Dixie defensive back Trey Smith, who had run under it.
The Rebels had the ball with 2:55 left in the game.
Dixie quarterback Misi Tupe drove Dixie 44 yards in five plays, ending in Tupe’s second rushing touchdown of the day. With Brooksby’s extra point, the score was tied with 1:35 remaining. Dixie’s defense held the Shock on their final possession to get the teams to overtime.
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In the first OT session, Dixie had the ball first. It took two rushing plays to go the 25 yards and Tupe had his third and final rushing touchdown. However, the Shock answered in short order with a 14-yard scamper by George Allums.
In the second overtime the Shock started on offense. After getting a first down on two Allums rushes, the Dixie defense came up with its third forced turnover of the night. Shock quarterback Jordan Wagner pump-faked the out and then threw to the slot, who had run to the end zone. Dixie defensive back Shawn Mitchell read the play and stepped in front for his second interception of the season.
“They had run the play earlier and we felt that they had been trying to set the play up again,” said Mitchell. “Coach Draper told us to watch for it and sure enough it developed exactly as we expected.”
Many expected Dixie to run the ball and kick the field goal. But on the Rebels first play in the second overtime, Dixie took another gamble, with Tupe hitting tight end Jordan Loo wide open to the right after a play-action fake.
“Jordan had told us that in that particular formation where we normally run, that the defense was ignoring him,” said Coach Stott. “So we basically improvised on the sideline, ran the play and sure enough he was all alone.”
The Shock started the game by forcing a Rebel punt and then on a third and 21, scored on a 67-yard pass from Wagner to wide receiver Chris Hooper.
On the following possession, the Rebels drove the ball 46 yards before a miscue on a handoff turned the ball back over to the Shock. Two plays later, Dixie forced its first turnover when Dominic Vargas intercepted a Wagner pass. After empty possessions by both teams, Dixie finally got on the board after a 74-yard drive culminated in Tupe’s first touchdown on a 35-yard run.
Dixie forced another punt on the next possession and claimed it’s first lead with another sustained drive of 72 yards. Running back Rimo Mapu’s 14-yard run up the middle put Dixie in front 14-7.
Shock kicker Bryce Kennington added a field goal before halftime to pull the Shock to 14-10.
The third quarter momentum was all Shock as they put up two touchdowns in short order, the first to running back J.J. Moncada and the second to Hooper. The Rebels meanwhile had their first two drives of the second half end in punts and their next three end in lost fumbles.
Starting Dixie center Tom Semmons was injured, forcing the Rebels to move Logan Stott from his normal tackle position to center. Initially Dixie had problems with the shotgun snaps from Stott to Tupe, resulting in two costly turnovers.
“It is difficult to not only adjust to snapping,” said Logan Stott. “But I was also covered by a talented, sizeable noseguard. Misi (Tupe) has developed a comfort and feel for Tom’s snaps. Sometimes it takes a little time to adapt to another snapper’s speed and trajectory. Fortunately, we were able to correct that in time and not have any difficulties toward the end of the game.”
The Dixie defense held the Shock to limited yardage in the fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to run the ball and try to drain the clock,” said Dixie defensive lineman Wayne Alofipo. “We tightened up and pinched down to prevent any big yardage plays. We knew if we got the ball back to our offense, they would pull through.”
“I am real proud of our guys and how they fought back,” said Coach Stott. “We had several guys out, including league sack leader Jordan Mains and some offensive lineman. But even when we were down 10 late in the game, there was a quiet confidence on our sideline. That all stems from Tupe’s leadership.”
The Rebel offense had 472 total yards, 367 of them rushing. They held the Shock to 293 total yards. Individually, Tupe led all rushers with 194 yards on 25 carries. Mapu had 91 yards on 17 carries. Sione Tapuosi had 54 yards on 11 carries. For the Shock, George Allums led the team with 68 yards on 17 carries.
Tupe completed 7 of 23 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Wagner completed 10 of 26 for 186 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Dixie remains undefeated, sharing the best league record with the Brigham Sting at 3-0. Two of Dixie’s wins have come against preseason top five teams Wasatch Revolution and Utah Shock. They will remain home next week to face division rival Rocky Mountain Mudd Ducks. The Shock fall to 0-2 and will also play within their division next week visiting the leading Utah Stealth.
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