COMMENTARY — Last year, Dixie’s football team didn’t exactly go into the playoffs on a roll. In fact, the Flyers lost their last game of the regular season to a Snow Canyon team that had just lost by 42 to Desert Hills and fell the week after the Dixie win by 17 to Pine View.
But somehow, the Flyers put it all together and won four straight playoff games to capture the 3A State Championship. Among the four wins was a 20-13 victory at undefeated Stansbury and a 14-13 win over undefeated Juan Diego in a blizzard at Rice Eccles Stadium in the semifinals.
The third-place team from Region 9 ran the postseason table, and in so doing, reinforced the somewhat ethnocentric idea that football in southern Utah is just better than up north. And while this may or may not be entirely, true, 3AA South fans have to be chomping at the bit at the possibility of perhaps six team making it to the quarterfinals and maybe three or four making it to the semifinals.
As for the Flyers, wins at Pine View and at Desert Hills have them in prime position to win the region and make another run at the state championship. Ammon Takau and the Dixie offense are pretty good, but that Flyers defense is what’s really turned the corner under the tutelage of coordinator Wayne Alofipo. In the last four games, Dixie has allowed just 50 points (12.5 ppg). During last year’s playoff run, the Flyers gave up 53 points in four game (13.3 ppg).
Of course, we have a long way to go (three more games for most teams) before we even reach the playoffs. But with Dixie at 3-0 in region and two of its last three games at home, the Flyers certainly hold their destiny in their own hands. Dixie plays at home in what should be a fairly easy win over Payson Wednesday night (not Friday as originally scheduled).
As for the rest of the region, it’s an interesting week coming up for a lot of reasons, including the fact that the other two games are on Thursday night. Pine View is at Hurricane and looking at the records (PV is 5-2, Hurricane is 1-6) and stats (Panther average 32 ppg, Tigers 16), it seems like a Pine View blowout is in order. But these two teams have a history and overtime games have been the norm over the past few years. A betting man would still take Pine View, but Hurricane has got a lot of pride, especially on its own field.
The best game might be the Cedar at Snow Canyon match-up, which features a very stout Cedar rush defense against a team that loves to grind it out from the spread-option in SC. The Redmen just don’t allow teams to run on them, as Desert Hills, Hurricane, Sequoia and Pine View found out. The Redmen are susceptible to the pass. And though Snow Canyon coach Marcus Matua would rather not air it out, that might be the best strategy in beating Cedar, which surrendered 245 yards to Desert Hills through the air and 244 to Pine View.
One other football note: Stansbury and Juan Diego meet Thursday night in Stansbury Park for the 3AA North title. Both are 4-0 in a region that is extremely top-heavy (Park City is 3-0, but will get blown out by both Stansbury and Juan Diego in the next few weeks). The Soaring Eagle have been dominant. They are 7-0 and have an average score of 41-12 this season and haven’t had a close game since preseason. The 5-2 Stallions have won four straight, though their games have been substantially closer.
Dixie has been fairly dominant in soccer this season as well. The Lady Flyers haven’t lost a game since the preseason in mid-August and are 10-0-1 in Region 9 with only Thursday night’s battle at home vs. Cedar remaining on their schedule. Dixie beat the Lady Reds 2-1 three weeks ago in Cedar City and a lone tie with Snow Canyon is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect region season. Cedar has nearly sewn up the No. 2-seed from the region. A win over Desert Hills tonight would do it.
It’s no mystery why the Flyers keep winning: defense. Dixie has allowed just five goals in 11 region games, less than half a goal a game. Kudos to goalkeeper Liz Empey and the Dixie back line.
Meanwhile, the Lady Warriors have wrapped up a playoff spot and Desert Hills has a 4-point lead on Pine View for the fourth spot from the region.
Dixie’s Aubri Challis and Desert Hills’ Brittany Terry lead the region in scoring with each averaging exactly one goal per game. Challis has played one more game, thus leading Terry 15-14 in total goals scored. Empey is tops in the region with six shutouts.
In volleyball, Desert Hills continues to romp through Region 9 unabated. The Lady Thunder, led by senior star Blair Bliss and Alexa Goulding, has yet to lose a single game in seven region matches. That likely won’t change tonight when they play at Canyon View. But Thursday DH plays host to Snow Canyon, which has won five of its seven matches in region. Second-place Hurricane (6-1) battles Pine View tonight and Cedar Thursday.
Region tennis is in the books and Pine View was dominant in singles — no surprise considering the Panthers are led by two-time defending state champion Lacey Hancock. Joining Hancock (1st singles) at the top of the region are teammates Hannah Erekson (2nd singles) and Hattie Erekson (3rd singles). Pine View was undefeated this year as a team and will head into state as a favorite. Second-place finishers in the singles categories were Snow Canyon’s Franchesca Eklund (1st) and Bergen Nelson (2nd) as well as DH’s Sheridan Kimball (3rd).
In doubles, Desert Hills duo Taylor Cooney and Madz Eames beat Hurricane’s Madison Farish and Paige Maag to take gold in 1st doubles in region. The Thunder also took gold in 2nd doubles with Maddi Black and Paige Harris beating Dixie’s Savannah Ream and Moriah Spainhower in the finals.
The 3A State Tournament is Friday and Saturday at Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. Hancock, a junior, is trying to become only the second girls tennis player in Utah history to win four-straight 1st singles titles.
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