ST. GEORGE — We kind of figured Desert Hills would be where it is — 2-0 and sitting in first place in the 3AA South with three games to go. But look who sits tied atop the region with the Thunder — it’s the Dixie Flyers.
Desert Hills used its many offensive weapons to pull away from Hurricane in the second half Friday night. Dixie, meanwhile, has played two road games in the 3AA South and won them both substantially after Friday night’s 17-point win at Cedar.
Fittingly, the two titans of the region clash next Friday at Walt Brooks Stadium with the winner in prime position to win the region and carry a No. 1 seed into the playoffs.
Pine View, one of Dixie’s recent victims, also won Friday night, snatching a tough tug-of-war contest out of the hands of the Snow Canyon Warriors.
We had reporters Darren Cole, Bob Hudson and Andy Griffin, photographers Robert Hoppie and Todd Ellis and videographer Dallas Griffin on the beat to keep us all informed and entertained with the intense night of action.
Here’s our report on the 3AA South Region for Week 6:
Desert Hills 51, Hurricane 23
Written by Andy Griffin
In the US Navy, the Burke-class destroyer can be praised for its versatility and maneuverability. But its true strength is its weaponry. The Burke has machine guns, cannons, torpedoes and missiles. It has a weapons for just about any combat scenario.
Kinda like the Desert Hills Thunder.
“This team is not lacking talent,” DH coach Carl Franke said. “It’s hard to get the ball in everyone’s hands. I don’t call the game trying to get it in everyone’s hands. But it’s nice that teams have to prepare for so much talent.”
The Tigers were game, but just couldn’t keep up. For every stride Hurricane made forward in the game, Desert Hills would answer with a big play. In fact, the Thunder had five different scoring plays that spanned 30 yards or more, including a 58-yard punt return by Logan Hokanson, a 55-yard run by Nephi Sewell and a 59-yard catch by Hokanson off of a throw by Quinn Kiser.
“It was a lot of fun out there and having Nephi back — man, he’s so good,” said Thunder wide receiver Braxton Porter. “We made a lot of mistakes tonight and we were selfish in some ways, but that’s something we are working at trying to be better about, The mistakes we made were little ones, things we can definitely correct and will correct.”
It was not a perfect night, to be sure, for Desert Hills. The first-place Thunder committed 13 penalties for 140 yards. Many of them were silly infractions, things like hands to the face and personal fouls.
“It’s just not as clean as I wish it would be,” Franke said. “We’ve got a couple of tough opponents coming up the next couple of weeks ready to play us tough. This team has got to find a way to gel and become unified somehow.”
But when DH was good, it was very good. Ahead 16-7 at halftime (on the strength of TDs by Hokanson and Marco Jordan), the Thunder came out in the second half and scored touchdowns on five straight possessions. Sewell, who hasn’t played much at running back since his return two weeks ago, started the third quarter at RB, standing next to Kiser in the backfield.
With him in that spot, Desert Hills became a much more dangerous team. He took three touches in a row and covered all 60 yards of turf for a TD that made it 23-7. A couple of possessions later, he carried the ball four times for 43 yards. And early in the fourth quarter, on his final carry of the night, Sewell escaped a tackle in the backfield and scampered 55 yards for a score. That one made it 44-21 and essentially put the game away.
The second-half damage by the senior: eight carries, 158 yards, two touchdowns.
Despite the lopsided loss, it’s certainly worth noting the huge game put together by Tiger wide receiver Mike Lacy. The senior caught just three passes, but all them went for touchdowns. His 15-yarder in the first quarter was a great catch and an even better effort to twist into the end zone. His 71-yarder in the third quarter was all about speed and route-running. And his 19-yarder in the fourth quarter was the best catch of the night, with an iron grip ripping the ball away from two defenders.
The 500-plus yard night for the Desert Hills offense was impressive, especially since starting quarterback Quinn Kiser missed about 15 minutes of game time after a mild concussion in the third quarter. Kobe Sattiewhite came in and played well in relief of Kiser.
Desert Hills, at 5-1 overall now and 2-0 in region, is certainly living up to preseason expectations. The No. 1-ranked Thunder’s only loss was to 5A Jordan by a touchdown. But DH’s biggest test since that Jordan game will come this next Friday at Dixie.
Hurricane is still very much alive in a the race for the 3AA South crown, but will likely need to win out. The Tigers, 3-3 and 1-1, play at home next Friday against Pine View.
Pine View 13, Snow Canyon 7
Written by Bob Hudson
Although he had been burned by the same play earlier in the game, Pine View’s Dylan Hendrickson had no problem with the game on the line.
“The first play (on the Warriors’ touchdown in the first half) we had a blown coverage,” said Hendrickson. “But we went and talked about it and fixed it at halftime.”
Of the interception he said, “I was just doing what my coaches told me, ‘When he runs a streak, read his hips.’ His eyes got big; I turned around and made a play.”
Pine View (5-1, 1-1) led most of the way after Lance Mandrigues caught an 11-yard pass from Ryan Javines with 11:13 left in the second quarter. Connor Brooksby added the point-after.
That was the game’s first score, although the Warriors (2-4, 0-2) had threatened in the first. Samson Doyle blocked Kolton Barber’s 30-yard field goal attempt with 6:50 remaining in that period.
Snow Canyon tied the score with 3:45 left in the first half when Brooks Sampson caught a 21-yard pass from Kitchen and Barber added the PAT.
Mandrigues had a kickoff return to midfield on the ensuing series, with Javines picking up 41 yards to the Warrior 16 before the Panthers stalled. Brooksby kicked his 36-yarder as time expired in the half.
Brooksby extended the Panthers’ lead to 13-7 after they stalled at the Warrior 1 on their first offensive series of the second half. But he had two more attempts blocked after that, leaving the Warriors an opening.
“Part of it was just our bad on the speed off the edge as coaches,” PV defensive coordinator Brett Gifford said. “We need to do a better job of kind of stretching that out a little bit so they can’t get as good of a rush.”
Javines was 13 of 25 for 131 yards and a touchdown, He rushed 17 times for 55 yards. Jacob Mpungi rushed 21 times for 66 yards.
Carson Clark had five catches for 65 yards. A couple of them kept the chains moving for the Panther offense.
“We knew there were a couple of windows we could hit,” Gifford said of Clark’s success.
Mandrigues had three catches for 29 yards and Michael Moten had three for 20 yards.
Kitchen was 6 for 20 for 104 yards. Seth Smith had two catches for 41 yards. Four others had one catch each. Chris Poulsen rushed 23 times for 79 yards.
Both defenses played well. Britton Webster led Snow Canyon with 11 tackles. Kaleb Gates had eight and David Dillard had six. Zach Bodhaine had a fumble recovery when he jumped on a Michael Moten bobble to set up Snow Canyon’s only touchdown.
Leading Pine View was Christian Reis with seven tackles. Tyler Heaton had five and Brennan Bithell had four-and-one-half and an interception. Jakobe Clausen also had four-and-one half and an interception. Solo Katoa was another with four-and-one half tackles. Hendrickson had the final interception.
“We trusted him. We knew we could put him in that coverage and he’d be just fine,” Gifford said of that man his teammates call Screech.
The Panthers have a glossy 5-1 overall record and are now 1-1 in region. PV outgained Snow Canyon 258-191. The Panthers were 9 for 20 on third downs. Pine View plays at Hurricane next Friday night.
Dixie 24, Cedar 7
Written by Darren Cole
Cedar vs. Dixie. Not only is this the longest running high school rivalry in southern Utah, but this year it featured another battle: Fakahua vs. Fakahua.
Friday night, the game went Malakai’s way. There were several moments in the game when the announcer repeated the same refrain, “Fakahua is tackled by Fakahua.”
“It was more like Fakahua runs over Fakahua,” said Malakai Fakahua. “Mason is so strong. I was lucky to just hold on to his legs and wait for reinforcements.”
“We had a very simple game plan on defense,” said Dixie head coach Andy Stokes. “Stop Mason. We told our guys that if we were going to get beat, then it was going to be by someone other than Mason.”
The Redmen were able to move the ball effectively, but stalled as they got to the opposite end of the field. Cedar got inside the Dixie red zone twice in the first half, only to be turned away both times. On its first possession of the game, Mason Fakahua drove his team to the Dixie 19-yard line. On the next play, a touchdown was called back due to a penalty for block in the back. The penalty was repeated on the next play. Instead of the touchdown, Cedar faced a first-and-35 from the Dixie 44-yard line. The Redmen eventually were forced to punt.
Cedar squandered another opportunity after a bad snap exchange, leaving the door open for the Flyers. Dixie would score later in the quarter on a 12-play, 95-yard drive. The big play in the drive came on a 54-yard catch and run by Hobbs Nyberg down to the Cedar 2-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Jacob Barben found slot receiver Nathaniel Mahi for the 2-yard touchdown catch with 6:33 remaining in the half to take a 7-0 lead.
Dixie would get the ball back again shortly before the half ended. Taking the ball over at their own 30-yard line, Barben drove the Flyers 60 yards in nine plays to get a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line with 28 seconds remaining. However, on the next play, Barben was sacked by Cedar linebacker Jade Bulloch and knocked back to the 21. After a timeout, Barben again dropped back. Again facing pressure, he released the ball just as he was hit. The ball did not sail long enough and Cedar defensive back Braden Garrett intercepted the pass at the 2-yard line to prevent another Flyer score.
Dixie was effective on its first drive after halftime, but had to settle for a Thayne Reid 27-yard field goal for the 10-0 lead.
Cedar answered immediately on the next drive. Mason Fakahua dropped back, then scrambled straight up the middle of the gridiron, racing untouched 69 yards to the end zone, cutting the lead to 10-7.
“(Mason Fakahua) can turn a game around so quickly,” said Stokes. “That is what makes him so dangerous. Coach (Wayne) Alofipo (defensive coordinator) had a good game plan to keep him in check most of the game.”
After the two teams traded punts, Dixie scored again on a six-play, 55-yard drive, ending with Mahi’s second touchdown of the night, this time catching the pass from 23-yards out. With just over two minutes left in the third, the Dixie lead was 17-7.
“Their defense was all over Hobbs (Nyberg),” Barben said. “Nathaniel Mahi was my second option on both of his touchdown catches. He’s a pretty good second option.”
After the teams traded punts again, Cedar threatened, getting to the Dixie 25-yard line. On fourth down, the Redmen’s 42-yard field goal attempt missed left.
Cedar’s defense held again, but Dixie was able to recover a muffed punt and take over the ball with great field position at the Cedar 33-yard line. Four plays later, Barben found Nyberg on a 4-yard crossing route for the clinching touchdown. With 3:38 remaining in the game, the score was 24-7. Cedar never threatened again and Dixie ran out the clock on its next possession.
Dixie outgained Cedar 368-195 in yardage. For the game, Barben completed 22 of 35 passes for 285 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Mason Fakahua completed 5 of 19 passes for 43 yards. Fakahua led the Redmen in rushing with 74 net yards on 12 carries. For the Flyers, Ammon Ah Quin gained 65 yards on 11 carries.
Nyberg led the Flyers with six receptions for 106 yards. Mahi had 69 yards on five catches. Joshua Topham gained 43 yards on six receptions. In all, Barben completed passes to seven different receivers. For Cedar Derek Ball had two catches for 15 yards.
Dixie improves to 3-3 (2-0) and will host Desert Hills next week. Cedar falls to 3-3 (1-1) with the loss and will travel to Snow Canyon next week.
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