In the second grade, Jacob Barben said he tried out wrestling. As the story goes, the first person he wrestled was Hobbs Nyberg. Nyberg won and Barben stopped wrestling shortly thereafter.
“First time I go out to wrestle he just kills me. I mean I quit wrestling right after that,” Barben said.
“I’ve wrestled for too long. I can’t remember that,” Nyberg said.
Several years later and the two Dixie juniors aren’t wrestling against each other; they’re trying to wrestle wins from other football teams. It’s been tough sledding for the Flyers football team, which has been beaten by Springville and Lone Peak to begin the year.
One of the bright spots early on is the connection between Barben the quarterback and Nyberg the wide receiver. In two games, a small sample size, Barben has 678 yards passing and four touchdowns. Of Barben’s 33 completions, 16 have gone to Nyberg for 365 yards and a score.
“If they’re going to give us open looks to him we’re going to get the ball to him,” Barben said. “It’s just what the defenses have been giving us so we’re going to keep taking it.”
Nyberg caught 12 balls for 264 yards against Lone Peak last week including a 98-yard touchdown. It’s nothing new; he had 40 catches for 803 yards and five touchdowns a season ago.
A big part of the yards is what Nyberg and the other receivers call “YAC yards,” which stands for yards after the catch. Barben said he’s “sure” that more than half of Nyberg’s yards are after the catch.
“We always just practice catching it and getting up field because you never know if they’re going to try and arm tackle you,” Nyberg said.
The throw-the-ball-to-Hobbs part isn’t new to Barben, as they played together on the freshman team and in youth football. As a first-year starter for the Flyers, though, there’s a lot of new things going on and a lot of room for improvement.
“Game experience is what he needs mostly more than anything,” Dixie coach Andy Stokes said.
Stokes praised Barben’s decision-making and intelligence. In team practice situations on Tuesday, Stokes frequently complimented Barben’s decision making after a pass.
Stokes added that having a player like Nyberg, who can make things happen with the ball at a moment’s notice, is good to help a new quarterback settle in.
“It’s great to have a kid like Hobbs who you can just go to and he’s gonna make a play,” Stokes said. “If we can get him the ball, he’s gonna make a play.”
The other thing that helps the chemistry is that Barben and Nyberg are close friends outside of school. They’ll have lunch usually every day and talk about football.
Nyberg isn’t the only wideout getting attention. Josh Topham, a senior, has 10 catches for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Stokes calls it a talented receiving corps that will likely have more responsibility going forward once teams key on Nyberg and figure out how to stop him.
Until then, Nyberg says he’s just running the best route for Barben that he can. It’s worked so far.
Follow Patrick Carr on Twitter @patrickcarr_ and on Facebook.com/patrickjosephcarr1/ or call him at 435-231-3834.