ST. GEORGE – The Vegas Hawks had Zion Lions coach Dale Stott tossing and turning in bed this week. But the South West Football League’s No. 1 defense was no match for the league’s No. 1 offense as the Lions rolled to a 49-12 victory over the Hawks Saturday night at Panther Stadium.
Zion scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and romped to 28-6 halftime lead. The Hawks came into the game with a 3-0 record, having allowed just six points in those three wins. But they seemed powerless to stop the Lions offense, which finished the night with 404 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“That’s a good team,” Stott said of the Hawks. “They’d only given up six points and that was in their 7-6 win over the Trojans, the defending national champs. They’re well coached and play hard. I’m just really happy with the way our offense moved the ball.”
Lions quarterback Michael Matalolo continues to settle into his role as signal-caller after playing running back for most of his post-high school career. He passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a three more scores in the rout.
“I’m just getting more and more comfortable back there,” Matalolo said. “I think it really helps that I have a great offensive line. They give me a lot of time. I think the Hawks were more afraid of me running the ball, so a lot of my receivers were wide open.”
One of those receivers was tight end Brandon Thompson. The former linebacker and safety, who switched to offense this season, caught three passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.
“I was willing to do whatever it takes to get back on the team,” Thompson said. “I had to argue with my wife about letting me play again this year. They said they needed me on offense and I said, ‘Hey, whatever it takes.’ So they tell me the plays, the ones I can remember, and I just go out there and play.”
Matalolo and the Zion offense started quickly. On the third play from scrimmage, the QB found Justin Fulton all alone down the right sideline and the two hooked up for a 70-yard score. The Hawks went three-and-out, and the Lions scored quickly once again.
Prentiss Miller broke off a 28-yard run, setting up a 20-yard TD pass from Matalolo to Clifton Smith. Less than two minutes had run off the clock and it was already 14-0.
Hawks running back Joshen Thomas got his team on the board on the next possession, taking a handoff and rushing right up the middle of the field for a 73-yard score that made it 14-6 after an unsuccessful two-point try.
Zion then marched for a score once again. The big play came when Matalolo handed on a reverse, then got the ball back on a flea-flicker. He under-threw Thompson, but the tight end made the catch and dragged defenders down to the 8-yard line for a 46-yard gain. Matalolo dove into the end zone three plays later to make it 21-6 with 3:54 left in the first quarter.
Against a supposedly immovable defense, the Lions had racked up 21 points and 191 yards in the first quarter.
“Michael did an outstanding job moving the ball,” Stott said. “He was on target with his passes and he’s just getting better and better every week. Our receivers were getting open, too.”
Midway through the second quarter, the Lions upped the lead to 28-6 when Matalolo scrambled on a fourth-and-5 play from the 22-yard line and evaded all tacklers to punch it into the end zone. Dillon Bishoff’s extra point made it a 22-point lead with 7:06 left until halftime.
Thompson made an outstanding catch early in the third quarter for a 25-yard TD after the Hawks had their punt blocked, making it 35-6. The lead grew to 42-6 moments later when RJ Best scooped up another blocked punt and rambled 10 yards into the end zone.
Matalolo rushed for his third score of the night early in the fourth quarter on a second-and-goal play from the 3-yard line.
The Hawks added a late score on a Willie Brisco-to-Josh Taylor 9-yard TD pass with 1:04 left in the game for the final margin.
Zion outgained Vegas 404-185 and forced the Hawks into two turnovers and those two blocked punts. Fulton led the game with 135 receiving yards.
For Vegas, Brisco finished 5 for 17 for 41 yards, while Thomas led the Hawks with 97 rushing yards on eight carries.
Zion, 4-0, plays on the road next week, making the trip to the Wasatch Front to battle the Utah Wildcats. The Lions beat the Wildcats 49-0 less than a month ago in St. George.
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