Zion Lions vs. Cedar Bears, Football, St. George, Utah, Mar. 31, 2018, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – Someday the matchup between the St. George based Zion Lions and the Cedar City based Cedar Bears will be a great rivalry. But right now, it is not.
The Lions scored six touchdowns in the first quarter (!) en route to a 69-14 pasting of the Bears Saturday night at Pine View High’s Panther Stadium.
“Obviously all new faces for Cedar with a new franchise,” Zion Lions coach Dale Stott said. “We had a lot of new faces, too, and I’m very happy with the way we played. We wish Cedar the best as a franchise in the future. We hope they are able to sustain a long career because we need to have rivals nearby. Look at the crowd we had here tonight.”
Close to 2,000 fans came out to watch the season debut for the Lions and the franchise debut for the Bears. But those fans that were late for the 7 p.m. kickoff at PVHS likely missed a touchdown or six.
Zion started the game by taking the first play from scrimmage for a touchdown. Wide receiver Clifton Smith took a jet sweep handoff from new quarterback Michael Matalolo around the end and outraced the defense 48 yards for a score to make it 7-0.
After Dre Smith intercepted Cedar quarterback AJ Martinez, Zion feature back Prentiss Miller scored his first TD of the game from 2-yards out to cap a two-play, 17-yard drive and make it 14-0.
The Lions then stepped up and blocked a Cedar punt attempt and ended up taking over at the Cedar 2-yard line. Rimo Mapu slammed it in from there and it was 21-0 barely four minutes into the game.
Things went from bad to worse from there for the visiting Cedar squad.
After a quick three-and-out, the Lions took over at the Cedar 37 and scored in five plays. Miller punched it in from a yard out after carrying for 31 yards on the previous play, which made it 28-0 with still half the first quarter to play. On the very next play from scrimmage, Zion’s LaDonte Moore stepped in front of a Martinez pass and raced 30 yards the other way for a pick-six and a 35-0 Lions lead.
The rash of TDs continued when Cedar turned the ball over on downs just inside Zion territory. On the next play, Matalolo completed his longest pass of the day, finding Saitaua Lefau for a 56-yard post pass touchdown that made it 41-0 just before the first quarter ended.
“It’s a lot of work, but so good to have my teammates to back me up,” said Matalolo, who made his first career start at quarterback. “We just wanted to make a statement that we are the defending champs. They’re a new team, so we weren’t sure what to expect, so we just prepared like we would against anyone else.”
Matalolo would add a second touchdown pass in the second quarter and had a 2-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
“I rate him an A-plus,” Stott said of Matalolo. “I thought he did great. He didn’t turn the ball over and he was on the money on his passes. I thought he played terrific.”
Matalolo finished with 95 passing yards on 3 of 7 passes, plus rushed for one score. His best play was handing to the always reliable Miller, who rushed for 98 yards and two TDs on just nine attempts. Stott also praised coordinator Tommy Semmens for orchestrating the offense. Zion only punted once in the game and had just one turnover on a fumble.
Tyler Bateman’s 9-yard run got Cedar on the scoreboard in the second quarter, but was effectively negated on the opening kickoff of the third quarter, when Jorey Hansen sprinted 80 yards for a kickoff return touchdown that made it 62-8.
The Bears got a 46-yard TD run by Christian Aguirre and the Lions got a short TD rush by Matalolo to provide the only scoring in the fourth quarter.
Zion ended up with 377 yards of offense and 19 first downs in the game. Cedar had only 1 yard gained in the first half, but ended with a total of 156 yards and six first downs. Martinez was 10 of 24 for 124 yards for Cedar.
The Lions play at home again next Saturday night with a South Western Football League matchup against the Utah Wildcats (7 p.m. at Panther Stadium). The two teams met once last year, with Zion taking a 41-14 home decision.
Cedar, 0-1, has a bye next week and then hosts the Wasatch Revolution on Apr. 14.