Mike Terry, Deseret News
Dixie (7-2) at Juan Diego (9-1)
3A state tournament first round
Friday, 4 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Juan Diego by 2
All-time series: Dixie leads 2-1
Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Dixie's Blaine Monkres and Juan Diego's John Colosimo
Last meeting: Nov. 3, 2006, Dixie 25, Juan Diego 20 (3A quarterfinals)
En route to winning the 3A state title the past three years, each year Juan Diego opened the playoffs with easy shutout victories.
Realignment has certainly changed the landscape of 3A football this year, though, and Juan Diego expects a much tougher first-round game this Friday when it hosts the Dixie Flyers at 4 p.m.
"We knew going in that the first-round and second-round matchups would be better than in the past just cause of the quality of the teams that came down from 4A, and the southern region had a lot of quality teams," said Juan Diego coach John Colosimo.
Dixie finished the year with a 7-2 record and in a three-way tie for second place in Region 9. It lost the coin flip, though, and enters the playoffs as the No. 4 seed from Southern Utah.
Dixie coach Blaine Monkres doesn't want to bemoan the situation. He's excited for the opportunity to see how his team stacks up. Plus, most of his players have never seen Juan Diego play, so the mystique of facing the three-time defending state champs doesn't seem as daunting.
"They know they're good, but I don't think it's been as hard convincing them they can win this game as it would be if we were playing Hurricane again," said Monkres.
Back in Week 5, No. 1 Hurricane clobbered Dixie 51-21, and the loss carried over to the next week as the Flyers lost to Desert Hills.
Since those two losses, however, Dixie's run defense has been a lot better in ending the year with three straight wins. It will need to be at its best against Juan Diego, which features one of the best running games in the state.
"They're really sound in all three phases of the game. They're not going to beat themselves, you have to go up and play and not turn the ball over and not give them the game," said Monkres.
Since making a switch at quarterback after Week 4, Juan Diego's offense has been even better. Moving Brock Garn from quarterback to running back has allowed him to flourish offensively, while quarterback Nick Markosian gives Juan Diego more of a passing threat.
Garn has rushed for 705 yards and 12 TDs this year, while Markosian has thrown for 636 yards and six TDs in just six games.
"Making the change with the quarterback allowed us to be a little more diverse and balanced us up a bit, we're pretty good at taking what the other teams are giving us," said Colosimo.
Regardless of how it's moving the ball, Juan Diego's offense is a clock-eating machine. That will be particularly important against Dixie's explosive offense, which averages 37.7 ppg.
Dixie quarterback Blake Barney has thrown for 2,331 yards and 23 touchdowns this year. He's completed 54 percent of his passes, and he'll need to have similar accuracy so Dixie's defense isn't on the field most of the game.
"They're a very good offensive team, nice scheme throwing the ball, plus they run the ball well, you can't assume they're going to throw the ball," said Colosimo.
Justin Cummings leads Dixie with 643 rushing yards and 11 TDs this year.
Dixie statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 37.7 ppg
Scoring defense: 24.2 ppg
Passing leader: Blake Barney (128-237, 54.0%, 2,331 yards, 23 TDs, 7 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Justin Cummings (112 carries, 643 yards, 11 TDs), Blake Barney (60 carries, 230 yards, 5 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Jesse Lambert (57 total tackles), Justin Cummings (50 total tackles)
Sacks leaders: Stockton Hiatt (4 sacks)
Interceptions leader: 5 tied with 1
Juan Diego statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 37.9 ppg
Scoring defense: 8.7 ppg
Passing leader: Nick Markosian (39-73, 53.4%, 636 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs)
Receiving leaders: Dakota Cox (17 receptions, 257 yards, 3 TDs), Cayden Sanchez (8 receptions, 177 yards, 3 TDs)
Tackles leaders: Dakota Cox (74 total tackles), Sherieff Shah (60 total tackles)
Interceptions leader: Niko Hardman (4 interceptions)