Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — After earning its first state title last season since 1998, Dixie was derailed from its shot at the title game in a 21-14 semifinal loss to Desert Hills at Rice Eccles stadium.
“I feel like we could’ve done better, but Desert Hills came out and played a good game to finish on top,” said Dixie senior Shad Pulsipher, who led the Flyers with nine tackles and two sacks Friday. “We were trying to get back to the championship to defend it and earn that title, but we didn’t get there. They executed all day.”
In a back-and-forth affair, Dixie found itself under the gun by allowing Desert Hills to convert two special teams plays for touchdowns. The first being a 48-yard punt return TD, and the second a 92-yard kickoff return for paydirt.
“Obviously, special teams played a big part today and they made two great plays on special teams and we didn’t make any today,” admitted Dixie head coach Blain Monkers postgame. “As a result, they’re moving on and we’re going to be sitting in the stands or staying home next week.”
Dixie's Drew Batchelor had a pedestrian afternoon, hauling in three catches for 18 yards and taking three carries for 16 yards. The receiver has been the backbone of this Flyers squad that finished atop arguably the toughest region in the state (3AA South).
Both teams in the 3AA state title game are representing the 3AA South region.
“We definitely knew what they were capable of. Desert Hills was actually preseason favorites to win it all, so we knew they had some talent, and their third-place finish in region shows how tough they are,” said Batchelor. “We came up short by a TD, but we were in the game until the last drive. Cinderella story maybe, but it just didn’t work out for us.”
These two teams met in the regular season, with Dixie taking a decisive 27-7 victory out of Desert Hills. This time around, the Flyers were singing a different tune at the final whistle.
“Desert Hills played hard today, and they’re a great team,” said Monkers. “When we played them during the season, they just happened to not make as many plays where we did. Today they were the ones making the plays.”
Adding to defeat, Dixie quarterback Ammon Takau couldn’t get really anything going Friday afternoon. Takau finished the game 15-for-25 with 144 yards, two interceptions and six sacks.
While it’s not the end result they were hoping for, coach Monkers admitted his team met many of the goals put forth at the beginning of the year and it’s something to take pride in.
“Going in you’ve always mapped out a few goals like winning region, making playoffs, getting to Rice-Eccles stadium and winning the state title. When you make nine of your 10 goals on the season, to me that’s a good year,” said Monkers.
Looking ahead, Monkers is optimistic Dixie has laid out the map for future teams to pick up where this squad has left off.
“The last couple of years have laid groundwork for the next group of kids that know what it takes to get back here with the hardwork and effort that goes into getting back to this point again,” said Monkers. “Hopefully the next group of kids are willing to work hard and pay that price to get back here again.”