ST. GEORGE – Champions sometimes have to reach way down deep to earn the crown and a goal line stand Friday night by the Dixie defense was about as deep as it can get. The Flyers stuffed Pine View on four downs and then scored the winning points with 13 second left to come away with a 31-28 victory over the Panthers at Walt Brooks Stadium.
The Dixie defense had its back to the wall. Pine View had the ball, fourth-and-goal with inches separating them from the end zone. A touchdown would have put the Panthers up 35-24 with less than four minutes remaining in the game. Dixie head coach Andy Stokes called a timeout.
“We saw something in Pine View’s formation,” said Stokes. “Coach (Wayne) Alofipo made the correct adjustments and the defense came up big.”
Yes they did, stopping PV for no gain on the fourth down play.
“We knew that (Kyle Tauiliili) was going to get the ball,” said Dixie middle linebacker Malachi Fakahua. “We also knew what side of the ball he was going to run to. We swarmed and were able to keep him out of the end zone.”
Even with the goal line stand, the Dixie offense had to go 99-plus yards to score. Being down four points forced them to score a touchdown. After some initial runs from Tre Miller to get the Flyers past midfield, the clock started to become an issue. Dixie benefited from some penalty calls to move them closer to the goal line.
The Flyers got a first down at the Panthers 12-yard line with 47 seconds remaining. After another Miller run netted two yards, quarterback Zak Harrah had two consecutive passes knocked away from the receivers to force a fourth-and-8 at the 10-yard line with 20 seconds left.
On the crucial play, Harrah dropped back, but was immediately forced from the pocket and scrambled to his right. Before reaching the sideline, he pulled up and threw a bullet to wide receiver Bret Barben for the winning touchdown.
“I had run a corner route,” said Barben. “I saw Zak scramble, so I cut back in toward the goal post.” The move shook off the defender and got Barben open for the touchdown.
“Our receivers are good at bailing out their quarterback,” said Stokes. “Their defense got to Zak a few times tonight. Zak is elusive and is good at finding the open man.”
The score came with 13 seconds showing on the clock. After a touchback on the kickoff, Panther quarterback Riley Livingston was intercepted by linebacker Magalei Stevenson to end the game.
The game started ominously for both teams. Dixie fumbled on their second play of the game. But three plays later, Pine View gave it right back on a miscue of their own. The Flyers then drove the ball 80 yards for the first score of the game. Miller scored on a 5-yard run to the left side to put the Flyers up 7-0 with 7:22 remaining in the first quarter.
The Panthers drove the ball on their next possession. After a good return on the kickoff, Livingston got the ball into Flyer territory before it stalled. Panther coach Ray Hosner called out the field goal unit. After a delay-of-game, the distance was 46 yards. The attempt was no good, but the Dixie defense was called for roughing the kicker, giving the Panthers a first down and new life. On the next play, Livingston found Michael Moten on a 22-yard pass across the middle to even the score with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter.
The Flyers answered on their next possession with a drive and 39-yard field goal from Thayne Reid with 9:35 remaining in the half. After a three-and-out by the Pine View offense, Dixie would go up by two scores when Miller split two tacklers and exploded 70 yards up the Dixie sideline to put the Flyers up 17-7 with 5:14 left in the second quarter.
After the teams traded punts, the Flyer defense forced the Panthers to punt again with just over one minute remaining until halftime. Barben could not field the punt cleanly though, and the Panthers recovered the muff at the Dixie 37-yard line. Three plays later, Kobe Topalian scored a touchdown to pull the Panthers to a three-point deficit, 17-14.
After halftime, the Panthers would be the first team to score. It again came on a costly mistake by the Flyers. Harrah threw an interception to give Pine View excellent field position. Linebacker Lorenzo Tupe stepped into the passing lane and returned the ball to the Flyer 20-yard line. On the next play, Livingston found Steve Bangerter for an acrobatic reception to give the Panthers their first lead, 21-17.
The Flyers responded quickly. On their next drive, Harrah found Jaden Harrison on a 55-yard catch and run to put the Flyers back on top 24-21 with 6:16 left in the third. Pine View’s Topalian would get his second touchdown of the game on the next drive. After a good return, the Panthers gave Topalian the ball at the 37-yard line. The running back broke two tackles and then ran the distance for the touchdown and the Panthers were up again 28-24.
On Dixie’s next possession, Harrah threw his second interception of the game to PV defensive back Cameron Reber. That led to the Panther drive taking them to the Dixie six-inch line on fourth down.
Overall, Dixie outgained the Panthers 437-303. Individually, Harrah completed 12 of 28 passes for 166 yards. Miller had 223 yards rushing on 26 carries. Harrison led the Flyers in receiving with nine catches for 131 yards.
For Pine View, Livingston completed 10 of 26 passes for 190 yards. Topalian gained 150 yards on 19 carries. Bangerter had 70 yards receiving on seven catches.
With the win, Dixie finishes first in the 3AA South (4-1), tied with Desert Hills. The Flyers have an overall record of 7-2. They will get a bye next week. Pine View finishes 5-4 with all of their losses coming in region play (1-4). The Panthers will play at one of three 3AA North locations (pending a coin toss tiebreaker) next week to open up their playoff run. Judge, Bear River and park City tied for fourth in the 3AA North and will break the tie with a coin toss Saturday.
At halftime, the crowd was treated to a ceremony retiring former Flyer star and NFL player Doug Jolley’s No. 17 jersey. Jolley, who played quarterback for Dixie, played tight end for BYU in college and later for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL.
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