ST. GEORGE – Blake Barney’s tremendous performance helped Dixie defeat visiting Springville 28-13 in the season-opener Friday night.
The athletic senior burned the Red Devils defense with a potent combination of speed and agility and then finished them off with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Drew Batchelor midway through the fourth quarter that left the home crowd buzzing.
Springville was standing tall defensively in the quarter and looked ready to make a game of it when Barney caught Batchelor streaking up the middle of the field and heaved a gutsy pass in his direction.
“We just put that play in two days ago,” said Batchelor, who had 125 receiving yards on the night, all of them in the second half. “We knew that the defense would shift and figured we’d steal one down the middle. It worked.”
Dixie looked to be in for a long night after Springville’s opening drive. The Red Devils marched down the field and burned the Flyers defense on all fronts, converting three first downs en route to an easy Jarom Hendricks touchdown.
But the Flyers came back in full force. Barney carried the ball four times for 67-yards culminating in a 13-yard rushing touchdown that quickly tied the score 7-7 with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“After those first few drives, I thought the final score was going to be 59-58,” Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said. “But the defenses settled down and got a feel for one another and really slowed the tempo down.”
Later in the second quarter, Springville took over the ball after putting up a strong defensive stand against the Flyers and seemingly held control of the game’s momentum. But 6-foot-3 Dixie defensive end Chris Abraham knocked the ball loose from Dawson Pedersen on the ensuing possession and Taylor Berry recovered the ball for the Flyers with 3:21 to go in the half.
Barney went to work, connecting with Lukas Hildebrandt on a 27-yard pass just yards from the goal. A few plays later Berry ran in the easy touchdown that gave Dixie a 14-7 advantage heading into halftime.
But the Flyers weren’t finished.
Barney put his passing game into full throttle, nailing Tanner Webster for a 43-yard gain that set up another short touchdown run for Berry.
Then, with the Red Devils lingering, down just 21-13 after a touchdown of their own, Barney connected with Batchelor for the biggest catch of the night that essentially put the game out of Springville’s reach.
“Drew was playing great,” Barney said. “I just threw the ball up over the top of the defense and he caught it.”
Other notable Dixie heroes were linebackers Taylor Strehlow and Jesse Lambert, who each stepped up and made big defensive plays. Strehlow, in particular, blocked Aaron Ashby’s extra point attempt in the fourth quarter that took some momentum out of Springville’s offense.
“Our defense was really good tonight,” Barney said. “I know that they’re always there to back me up.”
Dixie next faces River Valley from Arizona, a team they beat handily a year ago.
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