SALT LAKE CITY — A quick check of the weather forecast should have St. George football fans shaking in their boots — if they own any.
Dixie and Pine View will square off at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday night in the 3AA State Semifinals at 6:30 p.m. According to Weather.com, it will be 38 degrees, with rain turning to snow and a 10-mile an hour wind.
Whose idea was it to play up North, anyway?
Despite all four semifinal teams being from Washington County (Hurricane vs. Desert Hills is the other semi, to be played Friday night), state and county school board and activities officials ruled against moving the two semifinal games to somewhere a little closer and a lot warmer.
Pine View coach Ray Hosner, originally from New York, and Dixie coach Blaine Monkres, who coached most of his career in northern Utah, won’t complain about the decision. After all, both teams have to deal with the same weather and travel concerns.
But it’s still hard not to imagine the incredible atmosphere and fan support playing this game in St. George (or even Cedar City) would create. With snow forecast for much of the state (Utah’s Dixie excluded, of course), safety is also a concern as teams and fans traverse Utah for the games.
All that aside, the Panthers and Flyers will likely put on an entertaining show tonight. Last time they squared off, almost two months ago, Pine View beat Dixie 42-36.
It was Week 5 and the teams combined for 1,076 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dixie led very early in that game when Ammon Takau found Bret Barben on a 65-yard bomb just over two minutes in. Pine View answered with back to back TDs and led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Dixie tied it at 14-14 a couple of minutes into the second quarter, but the Flyers would play catch-up the rest of the game when the Panthers’ Kody Wilstead hit Blake Ence from 20-yards out.
PV upped the lead to 28-14 and Dixie could never quite catch up.
“With Dixie it seems that it always comes down to who has the ball last,” Hosner said that evening. “Fortunately tonight we were able to get the ball and run out the clock on that last drive.”
It would be optimistic to think the two teams will score that many points again, considering the weather and all.
A couple of other key factors will contribute. Takau has been dinged up and missed nearly half the game against Stansbury last week. Jaden Harrison is a capable back-up and an explosive runner, but Dixie’s passing game wouldn’t be as dynamic if Takau is out of the game.
Game prep will also be key. The defensive coordinators have their hands full with these multifaceted offenses. In the first meeting between these two, Pine View averaged 9.2 yards per play and Dixie had 8.6 yards per play. There were six TD plays of 60 yards or longer in that game, including a 98-yard pass from Wilstead to Bladen Hosner.
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