ST. GEORGE – The Zion Lions had their first real test of the season as they hosted the reigning RMFL champions, Wasatch Revolution. The home team passed the test, winning by one score, 27-21.
The score was almost the reverse of when these two teams met in the championship last year when the then Dixie Rebels found themselves on the losing end 26-21 in a match-up marred by turnovers.
“Misi Tupe is not the same player he was last year,” said Stott. “His improvement has given us a tremendous advantage.”
Tupe, coming off his best game at quarterback last week, had 164 yards rushing and 150 yards through the air. He also lined up in the defensive backfield on several plays.
“What can I say about him,” said Stott. “He can do everything. Before, he was just the best athlete on the field. But now you can add the best decision-maker to that as well. I don’t second guess him.”
The visitors got on the scoreboard first. Quarterback Charlie Peterson drove the Rev 80 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a 1-yard plunge from running back Zach Guerts. The PAT from Chase McMurdie gave the Rev a 7-0 lead with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ryne Wall took the ball 52 yards to the Rev’s 26 yard line. Three plays later, Tupe found wide receiver Dalton Groskreutz to even the score. Nadalski’s extra point knotted the score at 7-7 as the first quarter ended.
After a Rev punt on the next possession, Tupe took his team 80 yards in 14 plays to put the Lions in front for the first time. Tupe scored the touchdown on the ground on a 5-yard run. With 4:40 remaining in the half, the Lion lead was 14-7.
The Zion defense again forced a punt on Wasatch’s next possession. Zion took over on the Rev’s 44-yard line. Five plays later, Tupe found wide receiver Brennan Adams from 31 yards out to put the Lions up 21-7 with 1:17 remaining.
On the Rev’s next possession, Charlie Peterson showed why he was the RMFL MVP last year. He found wide receiver Bryant Eteuati for 36 yards on the first play of the drive. He then scrambled for eight yards before finding running back Rocky May for 26 yards down to the 1-yard line. Guerts plunged in on the next play for his second touchdown to pull the Rev to within one score, 21-14, just before the half ended.
“We had some defensive secondary lapses in the first half,” said Stott. “We made the adjustments at halftime and prevented Peterson from ripping us apart on the underneath stuff.”
Both defenses dominated in the second half, limiting the other team to just one score. Zion would score on its first possession of the second half. After forcing a Rev punt, the Lion offense went 65 yards in just three plays. Tupe got a big chunk with a 41-yard run. Tailback Sione Tapuosi finished the drive with a 14-yard run off tackle for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but the Lions once again led by two touchdowns, 27-14.
The Rev struck back just before the end of the third quarter. After the Lions turned the ball over on downs, Peterson led his team 59 yards in five plays. The last 31 yards came on a post-corner route to Eteuati for the touchdown. With McMurdie’s PAT, the score was 27-21 going into the fourth quarter.
While the Lions failed to score in the fourth, the offense ran precious minutes off the clock. On the first possession, Zion ran 7:15 off the clock before turning the ball over on downs. The Lions defense forced a Rev punt and regained possession with just 6:21 remaining. They proceeded to run off another 4:38 off the clock.
The Rev’s Peterson still had 1:53 remaining to drive the ball 77 yards. They got a big chunk of it in a hurry when Peterson found Eteuati with a 22-yard strike to get the ball to the Lion 34-yard line. They could get no closer though, as Peterson’s next four passes all fell incomplete. Tupe ran the clock out to end the game.
Tupe credited his offensive line for his performance. “Our offensive line continues to give me the time I need to find my receivers,” said Tupe. “They also opened up some big holes for me and the RBs. Mark Egbert started at center for the first time tonight and his shotgun snaps were right on every time.”
For Wasatch, Peterson completed 15 of 34 for 241 yards. Eteuati caught seven passes for 142 yards. IK Ubani led the Rev in rushing with 37 yards on 11 carries.
For the Lions, Groskreutz had six receptions for 98 yards. Tanner Wood had three receptions for 15 yards. Tapuosi had 80 yards rushing on 15 carries.
The Rev drop to 1-1. The Lions improve to 4-0, 3-0 in league play. The Lions will have a bye next week before heading north to play the Utah Shock at Granger High School on April 25.
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