SALT LAKE CITY
They had one of the more difficult roads just to get to this point as a No. 3 seed, but the Dixie Flyers had a good feeling about their chances to erase a 14-year football state championship drought.
With Blake Barney leading the way, the team compiled 483 yards of total offense and pulled away in the final quarter to beat Spanish Fork 49-21 at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Barney delivered six of the Flyers’ seven touchdowns as they finished with an 11-2 record and the first 3A state title since 1998.
Barney came through with most of the yardage – 299 passing yards and three scores to go with 173 rushing yards and three more touchdowns, including runs of 63 and 36 yards in the fourth quarter that helped turn what was a tight game into a rout.
“Right when we got (the lead) to two scores, we felt we could get (the win),” Barney said of the Flyers’ effort. “Just keep rolling with the momentum.”
The momentum bounced back and forth with the speed of a ping-pong ball in the second half, headlined by a sequence of three touchdowns in the span of 68 seconds.
First, Barney threw a perfect pass on a fade pattern to Lukas Hildebrandt, who was defended in single coverage. After shaking off a tackle, Hildebrandt won the foot race to the end zone on a 78-yard scoring toss that put the Flyers up by two touchdowns with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
It was part of an enormous day for the junior, who finished with seven catches for 203 yards — a state championship game record — and added an interception in the end zone near the end of the first half that denied Spanish Fork a potential game-tying touchdown.
On the first play after the kickoff, Dons tight end Braden Bennett caught a pass over the middle from quarterback Jason Money, threw a would-be tackler aside, and turned it into a 63-yard touchdown that made it 28-21 heading to the fourth.
And as quickly as the Dons scored, Barney was just getting warmed up.
After a four-yard run from Mitch Wilkinson, Barney faked a handoff into the middle, kept the ball, made a cut to his right, and won the foot race to the end zone. His 63-yard touchdown sent the Dixie delegation into a celebratory frenzy and ignited a three-touchdown blitz over the final 12 minutes.
“It was a replay, so I was reading the (defensive) tackle,” Barney said. “If he tackled the running back, I just pull (the ball) out like on the triple option. It was working good.”
Barney added a 36-yard run for his final TD of the game on the Flyers’ next possession, and Tyson Graff picked off a Money pass and returned it 33 yards to finish off the scoring with 4:17 remaining.
For the game, Dixie had two interceptions and six sacks of Money, even though the sophomore threw for 364 yards.
“For the last two weeks, we’ve faced running teams, so we practiced against that,” Flyers coach Blaine Monkres said. “This week, it was all pass defense and pass rush, so it just carried over from the run defense.”
With his first state championship since he was head man at Morgan in 1993, Monkres gave all the credit to Barney and the rest of the Flyers.
“Blake sold his soul for three years to get to this game,” Monkres said. “I’m so happy for him that he was able to have a good performance on the big stage. … All of the kids weren’t going to be denied.”
With the first half winding down, the Dons were in position to tie the score at 14 when Money found his cousin Cameron Money on a 48-yard pass play to set up first and goal at the Dixie 8. On the next play, Money couldn’t avoid a heavy rush and his pass toward the end zone was intercepted by Hildebrandt at the goal line. His 64-yard return put the Flyers in business at the Spanish Fork 36.
Two plays later, Barney found Andy Appel on a 36-yard touchdown with 30 seconds remaining to put the Flyers up 21-7 at the break.
NOTES: Barney threw his other touchdown pass to Tanner Webster, a 24-yarder on Dixie’s first possession of the game that gave them the early 7-0 lead. His other rushing score was from 8 yards out early in the second quarter. … Barney finished fifth on the all-time career list for the state with 9,157 yards. … In the 5A championship, Jordan quarterback Austin Kafentzis matched Barney’s six-touchdown effort – three runs, three passes – as the Beetdiggers routed Syracuse 58-2. Jordan led 51-0 at halftime and finished with 478 total yards while holding the Titans to minus-5 rushing yards.