ST. GEORGE — When Pine View and Dixie play Friday night in the semifinals of the 4A state football championship, only one thing is certain: it’s going to be a battle.
The Region 10 rivals are both playing at the top of their game and both are coming off inspiring, last-play-of-the-game wins in the quarterfinals. Pine View quarterback Tyler Brown found Turner Williams for a touchdown pass on the final play of regulation to upset No. 1 seed Desert Hills 37-35.
Across town at Dixie earlier that night, the Flyers scored on a 2-point conversion pass from Derek Kesterson to Jakheo Mitchell for a 36-35 overtime victory that knocked out two-time defending state champion Sky View.
“I was confident in everyone that we were playing with,” Kesterson told St. George News on Tuesday night after practice at Dixie. “Confident in Jakheo, knew Bronson (Barben) would give a good handoff so I could make a good throw. Coaches knew we could do it, so that gave us a lot of confidence.”
Dixie (8-3) beat Pine View (7-4) in their regular-season matchup on Sept. 10, getting two key interceptions in the second half and holding on for a 31-28 win.
But the Flyers know that the only thing harder than beating Pine View once in the season is doing it twice.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be four quarters of good football on both sides,” Kesterson said. “They got a lot of good kids over there, and so do we. So it’s going to be a good game.”
Both teams will look dramatically different in the rematch.
The first time they met, Barben was injured, so Seth Takau helped engineer the win. Barben is back behind center and Takau is at running back.
Pine View lost both Dominique McKenzie and Marcus McKenzie to injury in that first game against Dixie. Marcus McKenzie returned to the team just in time for its playoff run, helping the Panthers beat Snow Canyon and Desert Hills.
So regardless of what happened the first time, Friday night’s rematch will be decided by both teams’ best players.
“It’s like a totally different game this time. They got all their guys back, we got our guys back,” Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge. I’m sure they are too. It’s going to be a tough one for us but I’m glad we’re playing at home.”
The Panthers and Flyers kick off Friday night at 6 p.m. at Dixie’s Walt Brooks Stadium.
In the other 4A semifinal contest, Crimson Cliffs (8-4) goes on the road to Millville, where it will play No. 2 seed Ridgeline (11-0).
The Riverhawks have blown out their opposition this year. The closest game they played all season was a 13-point win over Bonneville in Week 1.
Quarterback Kaden Cox has thrown for 3,142 yards and 46 touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Cox’s favorite targets are Jackson Olsen (980 receiving yards, 15 TD’s) and Stratford Simmons (965 receiving yards, 13 TD’s).
And Riverside has a dominant running back in Noah White, with 1,599 rushing yards and 15 TD’s.
“Their offense is really good and our defense is really good,” Crimson Cliffs coach Jaron Tate said Thursday. “We’re preparing the same way we always would. We’ll find out what they do best and counter with the defense and the coverage that can hopefully take some of that away.”
Tate identified what he thought might be a deciding factor in the game.
“Turnovers are always a big key,” he said. “Not only from the standpoint that they give our offense an opportunity to score, but from the big morale boost it gives you when you get turnovers rather than give them.”
Ridgeline and Crimson Cliffs kickoff Friday night in Millville at 6 p.m.
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