ST. GEORGE – Dixie hosted Cedar in the region’s oldest rivalry Wednesday night, and for nearly two quarters, the game lived up to the rivalry billing as the Flyers and Redmen battled at Walt Brooks Stadium.
Then things changed quickly.
Led by running back Tre Miller, Dixie scored 14 points in the final 4:39 of the opening half to turn a 7-3 slugfest into a 21-3 game at the intermission. Aided by a swarming defense, the Flyers added 21 more points in the second half to roll to a 42-10 Senior Night victory and secure their spot in the 2014 state playoffs.
“(Our) defense just keeps getting better every week. They’re playing hard and understanding what we want,” Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said. “They bailed us out a couple times tonight when we were sputtering on offense a little bit. … A good team effort, but the defense is the one that got us rolling.”
Miller finished the game with 18 carries for 201 yards and a pair of scores, on a night when the Flyers only attempted five passes in the first half.
“I just give credit to my line,” Miller said. “Every time I got the ball, a huge hole every single time, and I just ran through.”
Aided by great field position after backing the Flyers up on each of their first two possessions, the Redmen got on the board first with a 24-yard field goal from Jeff Rogers. However, Dixie responded with a seven-play drive that saw six handoffs to Miller, including a 16-yard explosion for a touchdown.
Following that, both teams bogged down again. The Flyers forced a Brecken Lewis fumble that was recovered by Chris Hall, only to stall and then have Ammon Takau turn it over a couple series later when he was hit by Koalman Kimber and Jayden Robinson jumped on the ball.
“I thought we started out really good,” Cedar coach Todd Peacock said. “I’ll tell you what, Blaine Monkres is one heck of a coach. They can attack you anywhere, and they find every weakness we have. … They can do everything and they’re tough to stop.”
Miller’s second touchdown — a 39-yard jaunt that started up the middle, before he cut to the left sideline — finally ignited the Flyers late in the second quarter. The momentum swing was complete when Lewis was intercepted by Dixie’s RJ Wilgar. Wilgar fumbled the ball on the return, but Namu Stevenson was there to jump on it and give the Flyers the ball at the Redmen’s 26-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, Takau, who had sat out the previous possession while Jaden Harrison ran the offense, juked his way for a 19-yard score.
In the second half, the Flyers took to the air as Takau connected with Bret Barben on scoring strikes of 54 and 29 yards on back-to-back possessions early in the third quarter. Takau also found McLane Keenan from 2 yards out early in the fourth to finish the scoring for Dixie.
“We just look out there and see what the defense wants to give us,” Monkres said. “In the first half the only had five guys in the box, so we were able to run the ball. The second half they kind of moved another guy back in the box, so it opened up some things on the perimeter and in the downfield passing game.”
For the Redmen, offense didn’t come easy as they were held to just 45 yards in the first half. Sophomore Braden Garrett replaced Lewis late in the third quarter, and Brock Oldroyd was able to punch it in from 5-yards out with 9:17 left in the game for Cedar’s only touchdown.
“Just bad plays that have killed us all year long, just bad plays. … We’ve been that way all year long — snakebit,” Peacock said. “We’ve tried to make changes, we’ve tried to do things different, but we just make too many bad plays to be a very good football team right now.”
Despite its five-game losing streak, Cedar can still make the state tournament field with a win over Payson next week at home.
“The crazy thing is, I think if we can figure out a few little issues we have, I think we can beat a lot of the other teams in that other side of the region,” Peacock said.
Meanwhile, the final slate of games will determine whether or not Dixie claims the third or fourth seed from the region. The Flyers travel to Snow Canyon for their final regular season game.
“We had lots of injuries at the beginning of the year. Everyone is all back and healthy. The defense is looking good. We started slow, but we’re picking it up,” Miller said.
PANTHERS 49, LIONS 20
After tallying 14 points in each of the first two quarters, Pine View exploded for 21 points in the third to put Payson away for good. With the win, the Panthers currently sit in sole possession of the 3AA South standings with a 5-1 record. Right behind them is Desert Hills and Hurricane at 4-1. The Thunder and Tigers both face region opponents next week, while the Panthers are scrambling to find a Las Vegas opponent to fill the hole in their schedule.
Follow Tim Olsen on Twitter, @TheRealTO.