ST. GEORGE — Semipro football is often a battle of attrition, with players’ aging bodies and real-world commitments leaving teams without some of their stars. No one knows that better than Zion Lions coach and owner Dale Stott.
The Lions (5-3) played their final regular season game two weeks ago without their three top quarterbacks, their three top running backs and a receiving corps patched together with medical tape and hope.
Tonight, Zion kicks off its run at another championship with a playoff semifinal (the Lions had a bye last week in the first round) against the Vegas Trojans, a perennial powerhouse from Nevada that is in its first year in the Rocky Mountain Football League. The game is at 8 p.m. at the Dixie Sunbowl.
“We played them earlier in the year and played our best game of the season,” said Stott, in reference to the Lions’ 23-14 victory on May 7. “Josh Ford had a great game, but obviously we won’t have him for this one.”
Ford, the Zion quarterback, separated his shoulder two weeks later and is out for the season. He ran for a touchdown and passed for another in that defensive struggle back in May. The good news for the Lions, however, is that Misi Tupe will be back at the helm of the team for this week’s semifinal game.
“I had to beg, but he’s coming,” Stott said. “And I’ll tell you this, there’s no one I’d rather go into battle with than Misi Tupe.”
Tupe, who had QB’d the team the past few seasons, was set to play mostly defense this year. But injuries have him back at the QB slot.
“We’ll probably have to limit him a little on defense,” Stott said. “But this is the playoffs and if we don’t win, we’re done anyway.”
The Lions will still be a little thin at running back this week (metaphorically speaking). Bruising starter Sione Tapuosi returns, but backup Rimo Mapu is out for the year with a knee injury and Matt Feula is unavailable after making the team at Snow College. That means Michael Matalolo will be the backup quarterback and backup running back.
Both of Stott’s sons, starting linemen Trevor (center) and Logan (tackle) are also out with injury, though Coach Stott said Vince Feula will play offensive line this week. Bailey Glass is also back to add to a strong receiving corps that includes Kaipo Hurtt and Clifton Smith as well as tight end Jordan Loo.
The Trojans (6-3) may also be hurting as quarterback James Cammack, who has passed for 1,032 yards and nine touchdowns this season, was injured in the first round of the playoffs last week in their 21-6 win over the Wildcats. The Trojans have not said whether Cammack will be ready to go by game time tonight, but the loss would be significant. Cammack has thrown all but one pass the entire season for the Trojans.
Stott said with or without Cammack, the Trojans will be ready.
“They’re a tough team and I’m sure they’ll be at or near full strength,” he said. “They gave us a battle last time and I’m sure it will be this time as well. We’re going to try and be very aggressive on defense. We don’t want them to be able to run the ball.”
The other RMFL Big 9 South semifinal features the two-time defending champ Wasatch Revolution (7-1) hosting the Utah Shock (6-3). Wasatch beat the Shock 42-7 earlier this season, though the Shock are coming off a 41-25 win over the Davis Vipers last week in the first round of the playoffs.
The RMFL B9 South championship will be at Weber State University next Saturday at 7 p.m. if the Rev beat the Shock. If the Shock pull off the upset, the title game would be hosted by the winner of the Lions-Trojans game.
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