Lions stay unbeaten as defense shuts down Utah Shock

Zion Lions vs. Utah Shock, Football, St. George, Utah, Apr. 29, 2017, | Photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – It’s not often you can point to an exact moment when a game changed, but Saturday night it was easy in the Zion Lions 21-7 win over the Utah Shock.

The Shock had basically moved the ball up and down the field on the Lions in the first half. It was tied at 7-7 when the Shock took over on the Lions 45-yard line with just over two minutes to play until intermission. The Shock marched right down to the Zion 5-yard line.

“We knew we had some adjustments to make on defense,” said Zion linebacker Taris Schramm. “We knew we had to stop the box because they have some pretty good running backs.”

Three straight plays, the Shock tried to get the ball closer and on three straight plays, the Lions stuffed them. So, on fourth-and-goal from the 6, the Shock tried a field goal to grab the lead and the momentum going into halftime.

Zion Lions’ Josh Ford (1), Zion Lions vs. Utah Shock, Football, St. George, Utah, Apr. 29, 2017, | Photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

The poor kicker never had a chance, though, as the Lions front line broke through and blocked the kick. It was a harbinger of things to come as the rest of the game would be an exercise in futility for the Shock offense.

“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Zion coach Dale Stott said. “We’re definitely a second-half team. We platoon – we don’t have anyone going both ways and when your playing teams, especially when they’re on the road and are a little shorthanded, you’ve got a big advantage in the second half.”

The Shock had 153 yards of offense before halftime, but managed just 80 yards and six first downs after the break.

“I think we’re more comfortable after halftime because we can evaluate what they’re doing and make a few tweaks,” said Lions linebacker Misi Tupe. “We can look at what they’re doing and what they’re giving us and change a few things.”

Zion starting quarterback Diarra Fields got a little “dinged up” in the first half, according to Stott, so Tupe came out and ran the wildcat offense to open the third quarter. The switch paid immediate dividends as Tupe led the Lions to the go-ahead touchdown on the first drive.

“Diarra got dinged a little bit and so the plan at halftime was to give him a little bit of time to clear his head,” Stott said. “We wanted to run the ball a little bit more and with Misi, he’s a big running threat, so we went that direction. He definitely gave us a spark.”

Zion Lions’ Clifton Smith (27), Zion Lions vs. Utah Shock, Football, St. George, Utah, Apr. 29, 2017, | Photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

The opening drive of the second half went 56 yards on just four plays. Running from the spread, Tupe busted off a read play for 13 yards. He then handed off to Rimo Mapu, who gained 7 yards and had a few more tacked on on a late hit. Mapu then raced through the line for a 22-yard gain to the 1-yard line. Prentiss Miller finished the quick drive by sprinting the final yard untouched for the score.

That made it 14-7, but with the defense “tweaked” and fired up, it might as well have been 41-7. The Utah Shock had just one scoring threat in the second half. On a drive that was kept alive on a fourth down pass interference against Zion, the Shock were able to get the ball to the Zion 2-yard line. After two rushes and an incompletion netted the Shock minus-4 yards, QB Steven Vincent was forced to throw a fourth down desperation pass out of the end zone and the scoring threat was stopped.

The Lions then drove 94 yards on six plays to put the game away with under four minutes to play. Tupe started the drive with a 48-yard keeper down the left sideline. Miller made a dandy reverse-of-field TD run on the next play, but it was negated on a holding call.

Zion Lions’ Bailey Glass (16), Zion Lions vs. Utah Shock, Football, St. George, Utah, Apr. 29, 2017, | Photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

So instead, the Lions turned to Mapu and Jorey Hansen. Mapu carried twice for 37 yards to get the ball to the Shock 19. Tupe hit Juston Fulton for a 10-yard gain, then Hansen capped the drive with a 9-yard TD jaunt to make it 21-7.

Moments later, Tupe (back at linebacker) picked off a Vincent pass to seal the win.

“We feel pretty good,” Stott said. “We’ve got a big game next week, and then a little break, and then we go out on the road. That’ll be big.”

Fields returned in the second half, splitting the snaps with Tupe, and played well. He hit 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards and a first-half touchdown to Bailey Glass.

The Lions’ scored first in the game. After a missed field goal by the Shock, Fields connected with Josh Ford for a 33-yard gain, then went on a 16-yard run of his own. Fields then found glass in the right corner of the end zone from 8-yards out to make it 7-0 in the first minute of the second quarter.

The Shock answered later in the second quarter, going 65 yards in five plays, one of which was a Lions interference call. Vincent spread the ball around, connecting with three different receivers on the drive, including a 13-yard TD strike to Kelvin Jones that made it 7-7 late in the first half.

The Lions ended up with 238 yards of offense, 169 of those on the ground. Mapu had 72 yards on 10 carries and Tupe rushed for 61 yards. Matt Mann led the Shock with 52 rushing yards. Vincent was 16 for 27 for 161 passing yards.

The Lions, 4-0 overall and 3-0 in the Rocky Mountain Football League, play host to the Utah Wildcats next week. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Pine View’s Panther Stadium.

The Shock, 2-1 and 1-1, are at the Wasatch Revolution next Saturday, with a 4 p.m. kickoff.

Stats: lionsshock42917

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