A collective sigh of relief emanated from Dixie High School on Friday evening.
That was the feeling from the Dixie Flyers, who committed five turnovers, but managed to survive a nip-and-tuck 3AA quarterfinal against Bear River, winning 26-25.
Max Brown’s 9-yard touchdown catch with 9:28 left in the game tied the score, and Thayne Reid’s extra point put Dixie ahead for good.
“Despite the mistakes and the turnovers and all that, the kids stayed strong and believed, and we pulled out one by a point,” Dixie coach Andy Stokes said. “Bear River’s better than a four seed, I’ll tell you that.”
For all the missed assignments, turnovers and offensive struggles, the Flyers will meet crosstown foe Pine View in next Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal at Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City.
Here's the game winning TD from Nyberg to Max Brown. Looked like there was some uncertainty about whether Brown made the catch pic.twitter.com/2BVoc3WyLp— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) November 5, 2016
Friday’s game was particularly eventful for junior receiver Hobbs Nyberg, who played at least three different positions.
First, he returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to make it 7-7.
With under 20 seconds left in the first half, and Dixie trailing 14-12, Nyberg threw a perfect pass to Josh Topham for a 38-yard score.
“Well, I’m not that great at passing because I don’t know all the reads at QB, but I tried to look off the safety…I had a lot of faith in (Topham), I tried to throw it out there so he could go get it and he did,” Nyberg said.
Thayne Reid field goal makes it 10-7 Dixie in the first half. pic.twitter.com/TAZE1w66js— Patrick Carr (@patrickcarr_) November 5, 2016
Nyberg also threw three interceptions in the game, but picked off a pass while playing defense late in the fourth quarter. Oh, and he rushed for 126 yards.
Bear River showed no intent of crumbling as a No. 4 seed, and punched Dixie in the face starting with the opening series.
Quarterback Kaygen Canfield capped a 61-yard drive with a 19-yard touchdown run.
Dixie couldn’t stop Bear River’s offense, which averaged six yards per play the first two series.
Once the Flyers figured out the Bears’ run-oriented offense, they hit right back.
“We had to adjust the linemen to shut down the middle first and try to get the quarterback to keep it and bounce it out, and that’s what they did and were fortunate enough to make those tackles,” senior linebacker Malakai Fakahua said.
Buddy Stevenson recovered a fumble that turned into a Reid field goal in the first half to make it 10-7, Dixie.
Defensive end Tyson Fisher tackled an offensive lineman in the end zone for a safety just before halftime after Canfield fumbled a snap. The Bears could’ve kneeled down to end the half with 30 seconds left, but opted to run a play instead.
Topham’s touchdown catch immediately followed the ensuing safety punt.
The defensive line started getting to Canfield more in the second half, forcing an intentional grounding, some bad throws, a couple of tackles in the backfield by Fisher and Jake Staheli, and eventually a critical interception by Fakahua in the fourth quarter.
Dixie led 19-17 with under four minutes left in the third quarter when Nyberg couldn’t corral a low snap, and Jordan Watson recovered it.
Bear River running back Gage Kaneko scored from four yards out, the Bears made the 2-point conversion, and took a 25-19 lead.
The Flyers’ offense finally put together a drive on the ensuing series.
On third down from the 9-yard line, Nyberg scrambled to the left and threaded a pass to Brown in the end zone.
Bear River players signaled that Brown dropped the ball, while the back judge consulted with the side judge for a definitive call.
The side judge signaled touchdown.
The Flyers and Bears exchanged interceptions before Nyberg’s pick sealed Dixie’s semifinal berth.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr on Twitter @PatrickCarr_ and on Facebook at Facebook.com/PatrickJosephCarr1/ or call him at (435) 231-3834.