NORTH SALT LAKE – The long-awaited rematch between the two teams from last year’s Rocky Mountain Football League Championship game came to fruition Saturday night and once again it came down to a defensive stand in a high-scoring game. Only this time it was the Dixie Rebels keeping the Utah Stealth out of the end zone with RMFL sack leader Jordan Mains getting to Stealth quarterback Jeff Wissler. Out of timeouts, the Stealth could not line up quick enough to spike the ball or run a play.
Things looked bleak on the penultimate possession of the game when the Rebels were facing a fourth and 1 at their own 44-yard line. A bad snap sailed the ball over quarterback Misi Tupe’s head. Tupe chased it down, scooped it up and thanks to fullback Sione Tapuosi’s blocking, had enough time to see Brennan Adams all alone down the field.
“It was obviously going to be a run play with short yardage,” said Dixie coach Dale Stott. “So they had ignored Brennan and Misi had the experience to not fall on the ball, but pick it up and make a play.”
Adams was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for spiking the ball. The Stealth had to decide whether to take the penalty on the PAT or the kickoff. They chose the PAT.
“I think they were hoping to keep the game at a 3-point margin,” said Stott. “Eric Brooksby had no problem with the 15 extra yards. That decision hurt them as we were able to pin them down on their 13-yard line on the kickoff.”
Brooksby’s PAT forced the Stealth to score a touchdown, rather than get the team in a position to kick the field goal, resulting in the eventual big defensive stand in the closing seconds of the game.
The visiting Rebels struck early. Tupe scored the first touchdown on a 49-yard run. The Stealth immediately turned the ball over on a fumble and the Rebels only had to go seven yards to go up two scores. Again it was Tupe who plunged in from two yards out.
The Stealth got their first score at the end of the first quarter when I.K. Ubani scored from 31 yards out to pull the Stealth to within 14-7.
The second quarter was all Stealth and their vaunted passing attack. Wissler first found Ty West for a 63-yard touchdown with 5:30 to go in the half. After a Rebel turnover, Wissler drove the Stealth 40 yards, culminating with a 4-yard pass to wide receiver Sam Thomas. The Stealth were able to tack on a Scott Thomsen 32-yard field goal before halftime and took a 24-14 lead into the locker room.
“They had trouble stopping our running game,” said Stott. “We determined that the first drive we were going to make them stop us. Tupe drove the ball 75 yards in the opening possession.”
Running back Rimo Mapu finished the drive with a 6-yard run. The Stealth were able to match that score three minutes later when running back Phil Teo capped a 55-yard drive with a five-yard run. Halfway through the third quarter the Stealth lead was once again 10 points, 31-21.
On the ensuing possession, the Rebels started with good field possession at their 49-yard line. Tupe found Adams for his first touchdown of the night on first down.
“We did not pass much,” said Stott. “But they began to crowd the box, so when we did throw on play-action it usually went for big yardage.”
Three of Tupe’s five completions were for touchdowns and 122 yards. The Rebels went for two and converted trailing the Stealth 31-29.
On Dixie’s next possession, Tupe found Mains all alone in the end zone for a 15-yard pass.
“Jordan does not play offense,” said Stott. “But we were limited at receiver because last week Tanner Wood was injured and Dudley Leaupepe broke his leg. So we had to improvise tonight. And Jordan is an athlete.”
At the end of three the Dixie lead was 36-31.
The teams see-sawed back and forth for the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Wissler found West for his second touchdown of the day on a 10-yard strike to cap off a 63-yard drive. The Stealth reciprocated with a two-point conversion of their own and led 39-36 with 3:38 to play, setting up the Rebels last scoring drive.
“I am proud of our execution and the grit and determination our team exhibited,” said Stott. “This is a top team in the league and clawing back after trailing by 10 on the road showed good leadership and experience.”
The two powerhouse offenses did not disappoint. The Rebels had 383 total yards while the Stealth put up 370. Individually for the Stealth, Wissler, who leads the league in passing completed 19 of 27 for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns. West had six catches for 141 yards. Sam Thomas had five catches for 58 yards.
Tupe continued his league dominance, rushing for 164 yards on 22 carries. Mapu had 65 yards on 12 carries. Adams had two catches for 107 yards.
The Stealth drop to 3-2. The Rebels are one of three teams to remain undefeated, joining the Brigham Sting and the Montana Blaze. Both teams will have a bye next week. On May 16, the Stealth will take on their division rival Sting. The Rebels will travel to Salt Lake City to meet Great Falls (Mont.) May 17 to play the winless expansion Gladiators.
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