When/Where: 11 a.m. at Rice -Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City
About the Flyers: Their journey through the state tournament continues to be a magical one. To win on the road in prep football is never an easy task, but Dixie, a third seed from Region 9, has overcome the odds to reel off three straight playoff wins on the opposition’s home field.
In addition, Dixie isn’t playing in its usual comfortable desert climate conditions either – rather they’ve had to win in the bitter cold Northern Utah elements. Nevertheless, the Flyers have overcome those odds, outscoring North Sanpete, Stansbury, and Juan Diego by a combined 69-32.
The Flyers hope their spread offensive attack has one more stellar performance left to bring home the schools first state football title since 1998. A positive sign for them is they’re historically strong in big games, going 6-2 in their state eight championship appearances.
The present group, though, could be the most talented out of Dixie’s 68-year history. Quarterback Blake Barney is one of the most prolific offensive players of all-time, throwing for nearly 7,000 passing yards and 57 touchdowns. But this season, the senior has been an all around threat. He’s rushed for 1,148 yards with 16 touchdowns. It was his running ability that launched Dixie past Juan Diego in snowy Rice-Eccles Stadium last Friday. Barney has helped transform the Flyers’ finesse reputation into a smash mouth football team. Yet to win a state title, he won’t be able to do it alone.
The offense averages 34.9 points per game for a reason, and wide receiver Drew Batchelor is vital. He’s essentially as versatile as they come, pulling in 40 receptions for 696 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Tanner Webster is a dependable threat from the backfield and going downfield, compiling nearly 700 yards of offense with seven touchdowns. Defensively, the unit is playing their best football of the season.
Although they are giving up 18 points per game, Dixie hasn’t allowed more than 13 points to any single playoff opponent. The unit possesses many intangible pieces, leading with Tyson Graff (133 tackles, 4 interceptions). He can beat the opposition with pure power up front and versatility in the secondary. Jesse Lambert (109 tackles, 3 sacks), Taylor Strehlow (91 tackles), and Chris Abraham (60 tackles, 1 sack) are also significant contributors.
About the Dons: The top seed from Region 12 is scoring 34.8 points per game while surrendering just 14.1. Sophomore quarterback Jason Money leads this team on and off the field.
He backs it up to with his play, throwing for 2,404 yards with 25 touchdowns and completing nearly 60-percent of his attempts. Yet like any young quarterbacks, Money can make mistakes, as been proven in his 12 interceptions on the season.
Nevertheless, he’s managed to avoid those costly turnovers for the most part during the state tournament. Like Dixie, Spanish Fork thrives in a spread offensive attack, but Money and Co., have received a big boost from running back Braxton Argyle (1,296 yards, 18 TDs).
His ability to run in and outside the numbers is critical to their success. Argyle’s provided much needed balance to the offense. Receiver Colton Olsen is a big threat downfield. His size relates him more to that of a tight end, which gives Money a big target across the middle. On defense, Gunnar Beus leads the unit with 115 tackles and four and half sacks.
Logan Jensen can provide pressure up front, totaling 93 tackles and five sacks. In other facets of the game, the Dons are playing in their first ever state football title contest in 93 years, which they’ve compiled seven region championships during that span.