ST. GEORGE — With a weak preseason schedule against which Dixie averaged 49.7 points a game, many people around southern Utah were asking the question, "Are the Flyers for real?"
Dixie answered Friday night with a resounding "Yes," beating crosstown rival Pine View 35-33 on the Panthers' own field and spoiling homecoming for the large crowd gathered at Panther Stadium.
"We have 'Motor,' " Flyers running back Justin Cummings said. " That's what our coaches call it, where everyone goes 100 percent all the time."
Cummings rushed for 118 yards and recovered a Pine View onside kick with 30 seconds left to clinch the game. His 22-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter made it 35-26 and came a few plays after a key double turnover.
With the Flyers up 28-26 and facing a third-and-long at their own 20-yard line, Dixie quarterback Blake Barney threw a pass that was picked off by Panthers safety Braxton Peterson. The speedy back returned the pick to the Dixie 20, but was nailed at the end of the runback by Dixie center Dylan Cluff.
The hit jarred the ball loose and sophomore Lukas Hildebrandt jumped on the loose ball, giving possession back to the Flyers, as well as a first down. A few plays later Cummings ran around right side and gave Dixie a nine-point lead.
"I thought if we could weather the storm in the first half, with their size, we would have an advantage in the second half with our quickness," Dixie defensive coordinator Rick Berry said. "We had a couple of key possessions where we showed a lot of heart and got some key stops on fourth down."
Emerging as a hero was Hildebrandt, who got increased playing time with an early injury to Dixie star receiver Tadd Challis.26 comments on this story
The sophomore made the most of his opportunity, catching seven passes for 157 yards and a pair of TDs, including a 78 yarder. He also ran an end-around four yards for a score and had that huge fumble recovery.
"He was all over the place tonight," Cummings said.
Pine View rushed for more than 300 yards and totaled nearly 500 yards of offense (to Dixie's 374), but the Panthers turned it over four times and had two touchdowns called back on holding penalties.
Dixie (4-0) got 252 passing yards from Barney. Dixie led by nine with 40 seconds left, but Barney was intercepted by Wes Moeai, who returned it 100 yards for a score, forcing the Flyers to recover an onside kick to save the game.