BRIGHAM CITY – It was a victory, a convincing victory, but came at a high cost.
The Dixie Rebels traveled to Brigham City to take on the Brigham Sting and came away with a hard-fought 31-3 victory to advance to the Rocky Mountain Football League Championship game. They will take on the Wasatch Revolution, which held off the Utah Stealth to win their semifinal in an earlier game 20-17. But the Rebels will do so without league rushing leader and MVP contender Misi Tupe. Tupe was ejected in the third quarter for an alleged punch thrown at a Sting defender.
“We had been decimating their defense all night,” said Rebels head coach Dale Stott. “They were certainly not used to it and started to get a little chippy, throwing late hits and even stomping on one of our players earlier in the game. Grown men are eventually going to react to that type of play if the officials let it get out of hand, which unfortunately was the case tonight. On the play that Misi (Tupe) was ejected, he was gang-tackled by three defenders and one roughly ripped his helmet off his head. There were words exchanged and one of the defenders got in his face and Misi reacted. What I saw was a push to the helmet but two out of the four officials believed it was a punch, so he was ejected.”
In a quirky game for the Rebel offense, Dixie’s two rushing touchdowns were scored by receivers. Tanner Wood scored first on a 10-yard reverse to put the Rebels in front 7-0. After an Eric Brooksby field goal at the beginning of the second quarter, Wood tacked on another touchdown, this time through the air as he hauled in Tupe’s pass from 39 yards out.
Tupe then connected with Brennan Adams for a 52-yard bomb just before the break, giving the Rebels a healthy 24-0 cushion. The second rushing touchdown was a one-yard plunge by tight end Jordan Loo. Those points would be the Rebels last coming with 10:25 to go in the third quarter.
“Misi was having his best game of the year,” said Stott. “His passing accuracy has improved and he was punishing their defense on big plays when they were putting nine players in the box.”
Shortly after the last touchdown, Tupe was ejected. From that point both teams coughed up the ball either on turnovers or on downs until the Sting scored a meaningless field goal with just under two minutes to play in the game.
The Sting defense had been stingy all year, holding teams to 10 points per game. The Polynesian trio of Tupe, Rimo Mapu and Sione Tapuosi was in full throttle, carrying the ball 28 times for 214 yards. Tupe added 286 yards and two touchdowns passing to his totals, finding five different receivers.
Similarly, the Sting offense had been averaging 25 points and 250 yards per game. The Rebels defense held them to 148 yards and only three points on a late field goal against Dixie’s backups.
“I know that we frustrated them both offensively and defensively,” said Stott. Stott plans on appealing the ejection and ruling to hold Tupe out of the championship game.
“He is probably the league MVP and we have the two best teams whose only losses have been to each other,” said Stott. “When not even the entire officiating crew could agree that it was a punch, the decision to eject Tupe became arbitrary and capricious. But to then punish the team based on that arbitrary decision for the championship game not only hurts our team, but the league itself. Can you imagine Peyton Manning being held out of the Super Bowl for a similar reaction?”
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