ST. GEORGE — Blake Barney isn't about to say who the best player in Region 9 is. He just lets his play on the field do the talking.
The senior quarterback rushed for 201 yards, including a game-breaking 46-yarder on fourth down with under three minutes left in the game, as Dixie captured a Homecoming victory 34-24 over rival Pine View.
The Panthers held a 17-6 halftime lead, but Dixie scored on four straight possessions in the second half to take control of the game."
We just needed to step it up in the second half," Barney said. "We were kind of flat in the first half. We didn't execute very well. But in the second half, we ran pretty much the same plays, we just ran them better."
The impressive second-half drives covered 92, 66, 78 and 74 yards. A variety of jet sweeps, QB keepers and short passes kept the Pine View defense off-balance the entire second half.
Still, the game hung in the balance late in the fourth quarter. With Dixie ahead 27-24, the Flyers were faced with a decision. They faced fourth down and about 7 at the Panthers' 46-yard line with 2:37 to go in the game.
Coach Blaine Monkres originally sent out his punt team, but called a timeout just before the snap to contemplate the choice. After the break, he decided to send Barney and the offense back out onto the field. The senior quarterback rewarded his coach by faking a handoff, then sprinting right up the middle of the field. He got the first down easily, then broke a couple of tackles and sprinted all the way to the end zone."
I was just thinking, first down, get that first down," Barney said.
Monkres said it was a difficult decision as a failed conversion would have set Pine View up near midfield."
Some of the guys were saying kick it, others were saying go for it," Monkres said. "Coach (Rick) Berry said, 'Hey, let's just win this thing right now,' So we went for it."
Prentiss Miller had 148 rushing yards in the first half for Pine View as they built that 11-point lead. But he was held to just 20 yards in the second half on 12 carries.
The Panthers had the ball to start the third quarter, but managed just one first down before having to punt.
Starting from its own 8-yard line, Dixie marched up the field. Aided by a personal foul penalty on Pine View, the Flyers went the 92 yards in 13 plays. Barney scored his first touchdown of the night on a 7-yard run to cap the drive. A two-point conversion was no good, leaving the score at 17-12 with 4:38 left in the third.
Three plays later, Pine View punted again, setting Dixie up at its own 34. Another 13 play drive ensued, aided this time by a Pine View defensive holding penalty. Barney hit Lukas Hildebrandt over the middle for a 27-yard TD pass to give the Flyers their first lead of the second half. After a two-point conversion, Dixie led 20-17 with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers responded with a drive of their own. Brandon Mauia capped the 58-yard march (after an excellent Miller kickoff return) with a 51-yard TD run. That made it 24-20 with Pine View on top and still 7:54 to play.
Dixie struck quick in regaining the lead. Barney again kept on a read play and sprinted up the middle of the field 53 yards pretty much untouched. That gave the Flyers the lead at 27-24 with 6:52 to play.
Pine View managed just three yards on its next possession before having to punt. That set up Barney and his final heroic run.
Tyson Graff intercepted a Pine View pass near the goal to seal the win with about a minute to play."
We knew we had to slow Prentiss Miller down a little," Graff said. "He's a great back. But we had to make them get away from their game plan."
The win keeps Dixie undefeated at 4-0, and more importantly, 1-0 in region play with Hurricane coming up next.
Pine View falls to 2-2.