ST. GEORGE – After disposing of 5A 2016 state finalist Springville last week by one point, leave it to Dixie head coach Andy Stokes and his Flyers to outdo themselves and beat 6A 2016 state finalist Lone Peak this week.
“We were picked as 29-point underdogs,” said Stokes. “We have played good teams before, but we have never been 29-point underdogs. We used that to fire up our team this week.”
The Knights got on the board first when they had to settle for a field goal after stalling. The defensive stop perhaps signified what would turn into a special night for the home team in blue and white.
Nate Ritchie’s 29-yarder put Lone Peak up 3-0, but Dixie responded quickly, putting up two touchdowns in quick succession.
Nate Mahi scored first with an 18-yard pass from quarterback Jacob Barben. The PAT did not connect, however, and the Flyers held a 6-3 lead. On Dixie’s next possession, Hobbs Nyberg, who torched Lone Peak for 275 yards last year, got open on a pass from Barben for an 85-yard TD. Myles Keenan’s PAT was true this time and the score was 16-3.
Lone Peak rallied, however. With five minutes left in the second quarter, the Knights cut the lead to 16-9 on a pass from Brock Jones to Jackson Brinkerhoff. The PAT failed, but moments later the Knights got a break with a fumble recovery in the end zone to tie the game at 16.
Dixie got a huge score just before intermission to seize momentum back. Barben found Nyberg again, this time from 20 yards out, to give the Flyers a small cushion at the break at 23-16.
Coming out of halftime, both the Dixie offense and defense were in sync. Dixie would take a 21-point lead late in the third. Barben found wideout Wyatt Forbes for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Moments later, Barben found Nyberg streaking up the middle for the wideout’s third touchdown of the night. Barben’s pass was high arcing and right up the middle. Nyberg was a little left and broke right just in time to get under the pass.
“I threw it up because I knew that they did not have a free safety in coverage over the top,” said Barben. “Hobbs just ran right under it and took it the rest of the way to the end zone.”
With less than two minutes remaining in the third, the score was 37-16 and it looked like the hometown Flyers were about to break the game open.
But the Knights fought back and would tack on more points before the quarter ended. On fourth down and 7 yards to go at midfield, the Knights gambled. Jones found receiver Cody Collins on a quick slant. Collins caught the ball in stride and ran 53 yards to pull the Lone Peak to within 37-23.
On the Knights’ first possession of the fourth quarter, another big play brought them that much closer. Kobe Freeman burst through the right side and outran everybody for a 47-yard touchdown run.
All of the sudden, it was a ball game at 37-30.
The Knights would have the ball twice more to try and put the tying score on the board. The first drive stalled on downs. The Flyers had to give the ball back, however, and punter Tyson Fisher booted the kick 62 yards to pin the Knights back at their own 2-yard line.
Five plays later, on a fourth-and-long, Dixie safety Matt Kitchen stepped in front of a Knight receiver and intercepted Jones for his second pick of the night.
With time getting precious, the Flyers forced Lone Peak to use all of its timeouts. Then, on a third-and-3 at the Knight 20-yard line, Coach Stokes called a timeout.
Dixie came out and, after a few seconds, switched to an empty backfield formation. The move did not seem to persuade the Knight defense to drop into pass coverage. Barben took the snap, then found receiver Payden Harrah up the middle. Harrah had sealed the defensive back to the outside.
“They run a gambler’s defense,” said Stokes. “They have run it for several years. They load the box and bring the rush and hope that you don’t make a play in the first 2 ½ seconds. That last play, we emptied the backfield, spread out their defensive backs, then threw it to Harrah up the middle. The defensive back has no help behind him.”
Harrah said the LPHS defense was ripe for the picking on the play.
“We have been running that play since January,” said Harrah. “The coach asked me during the timeout if I was ready to make a play, so I knew it was coming to me. Jacob puts it where I am the only one that can catch it. Then I have open field. We had run it a few other times in the game successfully. They never really adjusted to it.”
The score came with just 1:02 showing on the clock. More importantly, it became a two-score lead once again at 44-30. The Knights got the ball back and made it to midfield against a more flexible Dixie defense before time expired.
The defensive line came up big down the stretch with two sacks on the final two Knight drives.
“Our defensive line played great tonight,” Stokes said. “Tyson (Fisher), Connor (Williams), Big Red (Kaden Williams) all stepped up. Tyson is going against the best tackle (Connor Pay) in the state and gets four sacks.”
Individually for the Flyers, Barben completed 20 of 36 passes for 391 yards and six touchdowns. Nyberg had 197 yards on nine catches. Harrah had five catches for 108 yards.
Defensively, Fisher had a fumble recovery to go along with his four sacks. Kitchen had two interceptions, four tackles and two pass breakups.
The Flyers stay undefeated at 2-0 while Lone Peak suffers its first loss (1-1). Dixie will travel to Tooele next week. The Buffaloes lost to Sky View 49-23 on Friday night.
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