ST. GEORGE – The Zion Lions used their last home playoff game to tune up for the game fans have been anticipating all season-a rematch with the Wasatch Revolution for the Rocky Mountain Football League championship. The Lions blanked the visiting Idaho Mustangs 40-0 Saturday night behind a nearly flawless first half by quarterback Misioala Tupe.
“We pulled him pretty quick in the second half,” said Lions head coach Dale Stott. “This was a good tune-up for next week. Our offense and defense are playing at a high level.”
The Lions scored on their first possession of the game. After three pounding Sione Tapuosi runs, Tupe found wide receiver Josh Ford for a 43-yard touchdown catch with just over one minute gone in the game. Rob Nadalsky’s PAT put the Lions up 7-0.
After a three-and-out by the Mustangs, Tupe drove the offense 40 yards for the second score, a 14-yard scamper by running back Matt Feula. The PAT went wide left, but the Lions led 13-0 less than halfway through the first quarter.
The Lions would not threaten again until their first possession of the second quarter. After another Mustang punt, Tupe completed two passes for 67 yards. The first went to Ford for 29. The second found Viliami Hafoka in the end zone from 38 yards out. The ball was actually underthrown, but Hafoka came back and stepped in front of the defender to get the score.
“I guess he didn’t want the ball as much as I did,” said a smiling Hafoka. “Even if he had, I think I would have won the battle for the ball.” The two-point conversion failed but the Lions extended their lead to 19-0.
On the Mustangs next possession, quarterback Ryan Schaat was intercepted by Isaac Katoa. The turnover put the Lions in good scoring position at the Mustang 30-yard line. After giving up a sack, Tupe found Dalton Groskreutz for a 34-yard touchdown. Going into halftime the Lions led 26-0 after Nick Hafen’s PAT.
At halftime, the Lions had 239 yards of total offense while holding the Mustangs to just 64. At the request of the visiting team, the game had a running clock beginning the second quarter.
“With the temperature nearing 110 degrees and the team disparity we agreed to run the clock,” said Stott. “They traveled a good distance today. Plus they had several players that had to play on both sides of the ball.”
The third quarter was scoreless. Zion had replaced most of its starters on both sides of the ball. In the fourth quarter, Feula would get his second touchdown on a 20-yard run with 10 minutes remaining. Hafen’s PAT made the score 33-0.
The Lions tacked on a final touchdown when backup quarterback Nadalsky found Groskreutz on a 27-yard go pattern. Hafen got his third PAT of the game to make it 40-0.
For the game, Tupe completed 10 of 13 passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns. Nadalski played well in relief, completing 2 of 3 for 45 yards and a score. For the Mustangs, Schaat completed 7 of 22 for 141 yards and two interceptions.
Tapuosi led all rushers with 49 yards on seven carries. Matt Feula gained 37 yards and two touchdowns on four carries. Chet Bergeson led the Mustangs with 47 yards on 10 carries.
Ford had 124 yards receiving on five catches. Groskreutz had 77 yards on four receptions. Matt Fisher led the Mustangs with 88 yards on three receptions.
The Mustangs end their season with a 6-4 record. The Lions improve to 11-0 and will take on the Wasatch Revolution next week at Weber State University for the Rocky Mountain Football League Championship. The game is a rematch of last year’s championship game and is clearly between the two most dominant teams in the league.
“We beat them earlier this year at our place,” said Stott. “It was a close game (27-21). They are a much better team now. But so are we. It will be a great contest.”
Game time is set for 8 p.m.
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