Dixie senior class maintains deep roots despite tough loss at 4A state championship

Dixie coach Blaine Monkres (center) talks to the Flyers after the 4A state football championship game, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — For a while there, in the build up to Friday’s 4A state championship football game between Dixie and Ridgeline, it looked like history was going to repeat itself.

Dixie senior Jakheo Mitchell makes a catch against Ridgeline in the 4A state football championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jacqui Knighton, St. George News

In 2014, the Dixie football team coached by Blaine Monkres started off slow, built momentum with some huge wins, and went on to win the state championship in spectacular fashion.

Dixie’s playoff win over Stansbury that year, when the Flyers scored 28 points in the fourth quarter for a dramatic 49-42 rally, has been called by some the greatest comeback win in state history.

After practice last Thursday, Dixie quarterback Bronson Barben told St. George News that watching his brother Bret Barben on that 2014 team inspired him to play.

“My brother’s been my role model my whole life,” Barben said. “So just watching him and seeing the process and all the hard work that he put in to get where he’s at has helped push me to where I’m at.”

It was a similar situation for Dixie’s Seth Takau, the junior who filled in for Barben this season while he was injured. Seth Takau’s brother Ammon Takau was a key part of the 2014 Dixie state championship run.

“He’s been watching me. He’s been helping me a ton. He’s been right by me the whole time,” Takau said. “I thought it would have been really cool to follow in his footsteps.”

While Barben and Takau have blood brothers linking them to that peak moment of Dixie football, all Flyers from this year’s team, especially the seniors, are their brothers.

“Most definitely, 100 percent, these are my brothers,” Takau said.

Dixie senior Truemann Alo lines up against Ridgeline in the 4A state football championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jacqui Knighton, St. George News

The similarities to 2014 ended Friday when Ridgeline dismantled Dixie 45-20 to improve to 13-0 on the season. The Riverhawks were undeniably the best team in 4A this year, and no one was going to beat them.

Dixie was left wondering, what piece of magic was missing this year? What did the 2014 team have that in the end the 2021 team didn’t have?

Coach Monkres told St. George News that comparisons between the teams were inevitable.

“There always are (comparisons) when you have a good team,” Monkres said. “It seems like things kind of fall into place and some things happen along the line that bring you together as a team, and for some reason you become that special group that’s able to get it done.”

Monkres added that the big loss to Ridgeline didn’t change the special season Dixie had.

“Even though we lost, every school in the state would trade you places to take a loss here,” Monkres said. “I’m proud of the kids, they battled hard. Overcame a lot of adversity and went on a winning streak to get here. Came together as a team and finished strong, it just didn’t happen today.”

Dixie senior Kael Martinez defends against Ridgeline in the 4A state football championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 12, 2021 | Photo by Jacqui Knighton, St. George News

Senior Derek Kesterson and his brother junior Mason Kesterson continued the family tradition on Dixie’s team this year.

“I just love these guys to death,” Derek Kesterson said. “All these seniors, we worked so hard since we were freshman just to be up here. This whole season’s been a dream, just the big comeback we had after starting slow.”

“I wouldn’t trade these guys for anything,” he added. “I wouldn’t trade the experiences we had together for anything.”

Senior Bode Ray agreed that Dixie came a long way this year.

“Everybody thought we were going to start out 0-5, everybody thought we were losing our whole season,” Ray said. “We showed everyone wrong, made it to state. That’s big, it’s something that not just everybody gets to do.”

“We had to put in the work,” he added. “We grinded it out and made it here.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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