Dixie teammates and coaches affectionately called Saturday’s star “Bruce.”
He’d just prefer Caesar, as in Caesar Perez. As in the two-goal scorer who advanced the Flyers past Payson and into the semifinals of the 3A state tournament.
“He can place the ball…How to put it? You know how really good quarterbacks can throw a football ball through a tire?” Dixie coach Burt Myers said of a 2-1 win in which all three goals were scored in the second half on a blustery day. “Caesar can kick a ball through a tire, how’s that?”
A deep throw-in set up the first goal. Tyler Bennett offered up a header and Perez knocked it in.
“I just waited for anything; just an open shot, dude,” Perez said, offering up a laugh. “There were a lot of deflections but nobody was following up on anything. I did on that one, and it worked out.”
Payson recovered for a tie score on a similar punch-in scrum near the goal.
Myers and his coaches on the sideline had to breathe a big sigh of relief when, about two minutes later, Dixie goalie Hayden Mathews produced a tough, low save on a point-blank shot.
“Big, big save,” one assistant muttered to himself as action continued at about the 60th minute.
It mattered, especially, because Perez’s next nice shot won it.
The second Dixie goal was set up by an aggressive attack that Dixie turned into a free kick about 15 yards from the goal.
Perez lined up, no longer having to fight the big wind and choppy grass field (though he said he prefers to play on the natural stuff) that produced a fairly even back-and-forth game between a couple of teams with similar records.
Dixie improved to 13-3-2 with the win, while Payson’s season ended 11-7 after Perez hammered a nice shot into the lower right corner of the net with 15 minutes left.
“I don’t want to get too hyped yet,” Perez said. “But it’s exciting that we’re moving on.”
Myers was especially pleased to go home with another game to play, considering he didn’t want to face two disastrously long bus treks in the same day.
The Flyers were on a ride that was “slower than a mouse,” the coach quipped. It didn’t help that the team had to take some off-highway detours because of a morning semitrailer crash, forcing the team to take a monotonous route to Interstate 70, and then get back on I-15 to not allow much time for refocus before the 1 p.m. start.
Perez said it was noticeable that players were fatigued, not only by the travel woes but by Payson’s strategy.
“They kept clearing everything,” Perez said. “They didn’t want to let us possess the ball. I thought we had an off game and they had a good game. Everything seemed like it was against us today.”
Dixie, which has won its last five games (and only allowed two goals in that streak), will play Juan Diego on Friday at Alta High in Sandy.
Juan Diego defeated Snow Canyon, 3-1, on Saturday afternoon. The teams did not meet this season.