Note: Dixie finished with a 9-3 overall record in 2013 and was first in 3AA South with a 6-0 record. It lost to Desert Hills 21-14 in the 3AA semifinals.
ST. GEORGE — During his junior season in 2011, Blake Barney accounted for 2,823 yards and 28 total touchdowns to lead Dixie to a seven-win season and a playoff berth.
The following year, Barney was one of the best players in the state, tallying 4,126 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns for the state champion Flyers.
Two years later Ammon Takau could be poised to take a similar next step.
As a junior in 2013, Takau was very good with 3,079 total yards and 33 total TDs, but quarterbacks in Blaine Monkres' sophisticated offenses traditionally make even greater strides in year two.
Is 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns realistic for Takau? Only time will tell.
“He’ll be a year ahead of where he was last year and hopefully have a better understanding of what we’re trying and do and being able to go out and lead us this year,” said Monkres. “I’m sure he’s going to improve. That extra year makes a big difference.”
With just a handful of returning starters, Takau will need to have a special season if Dixie has any hope of duplicating last year’s impressive 6-0 region record.
The area Monkres hopes to see the biggest improvement out of Takau is his completion percentage. Even though he completed 66 percent of his passes last season, he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be in big games. This summer, however, Monkres has noticed an improvement with that accuracy.
He’s got a great receiving corps to work with, and Monkres is excited with how willing they are to work.
“We don’t have a guy that’s a big-play guy that you always feel like you have to get the ball to, but we have a lot of guys who aren’t selfish and play together and they’re going to block for each other,” said Monkres. “They don’t care who gets the credit. They just want to win football games.”
As important as it is for Takau to develop chemistry with his receivers, so is making the correct reads in the running game and becoming more of a threat on the ground.
If Takau makes the necessary strides, Monkres isn’t really worried about finding nine new starters on defense and seven on offense. He believes the newcomers are ready to do the jobs, because they’ve been winners at every level.
“It’s a big step from JV to varsity and it just takes time to get used to the hitting and the speed of the play, and everything like that. They’ve done it every year so far and been able to move up, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to adjust this year and go out and play defense like they have in the past,” said Monkres.
There will likely be a learning curve that prevents another 6-0 regular season, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The last two third-place teams from the Region 9/3AA South region have gone on to win the state championship — including Dixie in 2012.
“I know everybody always says anybody can beat anybody, but down here it’s kind of the case,” said Monkres.
Defense is the biggest question mark heading into the season. The Flyers were an underrated bunch a year ago despite only allowing 18.8 points per game, but strong safety Tre Miller is the only full-time starter back from that team. Jaden Harrison and Konner Aitken rotated in at cornerback, but it was modest playing time at best.
Until the defensive guys start to figure out the schemes, the offense will need to carry the load for Dixie throughout a tough preseason schedule.
Dixie Flyers at a glance
Coach: Blaine Monkres is entering his seventh season as Dixie’s head coach, having amassed a 43-23 record in the previous six years and a state title in 2012. In 24 years as a head coach around the state, Monkres owns a 176-91 overall record. He’s a graduate of Clearfield High.
(4 returning starters; Spread offense)
Jaxon Davis and Blake Patterson are both returning starters on the offense line, no doubt a comfort zone for QB Ammon Takau, who had a fantastic year behind that O-line last season. Dixie will try and get Takau more involved in the running game this year, with the rest of the carries likely either going to Tre Miller and Kris Hall. Both will play defense, but Monkres acknowledged that he’d like to avoid the offense-defense platoon if possible. All of Dixie’s wideouts will be new, but senior Konner Aitken and junior Jaden Harrison are quality possession receivers.
(1 returning starters)
What little experience Dixie does have is in the secondary. Tre Miller recorded 32 tackles last season at strong safety, but he might not even play there if the coaching staff can find a suitable replacement. That would keep him fresh for his running back duties. Big things are expected of Harrison and Aitken at cornerback. Throughout the summer Monkres said he’s been looking at five kids for three linebacker spots, and has just been waiting for someone to step up and win the job. The defensive line lacks experience, but Enterprise transfer Jeff Martinez — who sat out last season — and Jake Welker both should make strong contributions.
Coaches preseason 3AA South straw poll: Third
Deseret News 3AA South prediction: Fourth
Bottom line: After winning the state title in 2012 and then the region title in 2013, Dixie has grown accustomed to winning the past few years, but this fall might be different. Most of the teams in 3AA South return a bunch of starters — Desert Hills, Pine View, Hurricane and Cedar — while Dixie is in full-blown varsity orientation. That will certainly impact the Flyers early, but if they get things sorted out soon enough, Dixie will be a factor in the state tournament.
Dixie coaching history
2008-current — Blaine Monkres (44-23)
2002-2007 — Jake Nelson (35-31)
2000-2001 — Ray Odette (3-14)
1997-1999 — Mike Smith (16-18)
1993-1996 — Jerry Dyer (21-17)
1975-1992 — Ray Odette (104-69)
1949-1974 — Walter Brooks (168-56)
1935 — Lloyd "Gus" Shields (1-2)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2012 — Blake Barney, QB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2013 — Drew Batchelor, WR
2013 — Gavin Graff, OL
2013 — Braxton Ipson, DL
2013 — Tanner Webster, DB
2012 — Drew Batchelor, WR
2012 — David Teaupa, OL
2012 — Jesse Lambert, DL
2012 — Tyson Graff, DB
2011 — Austin Barker, K
2009 — Dallen Reber, LB
2009 — Dalton Smith, DB
2009 — Mike Sharp, SPEC
2007 — Nate Carter, RB
2006 — Nate Carter, RB
2006 — Derek Owen, DL
2006 — Kacen Smith, DB
2004 — Dallas Irvin, RB
2004 — T.J. Hardy, OL
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.
Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer.