SALT LAKE CITY — Snow is not an obstacle the Dixie Flyers deal with often. Conditions were not on the side of the warm-weather Flyers during their 3A semifinal matchup with Juan Diego on Friday evening. Dixie, however, found a way to overcome the cold and its underdog status to upset the Soaring Eagle 14-13 at Rice-Eccles Stadium, a field on which Juan Diego had never lost.
“We don’t even have the luxury of ever practicing in this,” said Dixie coach Blaine Monkres. “But the kids came to play today. They played hard; you’ve got to give them all the credit in the world.”
Neither team scored in the first quarter, and it wasn’t until there was 5:04 remaining in the half that Juan Diego capped a 14-play drive with a Jessie Springer touchdown to open the scoring. The junior running back scored from 19 yards out and an extra point gave the Soaring Eagle a 7-0 advantage.
The Flyers responded with their own scoring drive in which Dixie quarterback Blake Barney rushed for a 2-yard touchdown to tie the game. The march down field was aided by a fourth-down conversion and two Juan Diego personal fouls.
“Blake is a really good player,” Monkres said of his senior leader, who completed 3-of-10 passes for 24 yards and two interceptions. Barney also rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
“He’s tough and strong-willed and mentally tough,” Monkres continued. “Even though he didn’t play his best game today, he played good enough to win and got after it.”
With just 11 seconds remaining in the half, Juan Diego added another score when Nick Markosian connected with Walter Reyes-Kauhaahaa for a 55-yard touchdown reception. The PAT ricocheted off the uprights, however, and the Soaring Eagle took a 13-7 lead into halftime.
“They might have been a little bit (deflated) when we got back in the locker room,” Monkres said. “But we just told them, ‘You’ve got to shake it off. It happened. There’s nothing you can do about it.’ It’s just like the weather and the road trip — out of our control. We’ve just got to go play the second half.”
Juan Diego later missed a 25-yard field goal attempt, and the Soaring Eagle never threatened to score again.
Both Barney’s interceptions came in the fourth quarter, including one with 11:45 left in the game. But the Flyer defense came to the rescue, forcing and recovering a Juan Diego fumble just two plays later, setting up the game-winning drive.
Barney tied the score for Dixie with a 3-yard scoring run with 10:05 left. A successful extra point proved the difference.
“It’s a good feeling and you’re happy to get that score and get the lead, but there’s still a lot of game left against a quality program and a quality team,” Monkres said of the situation his team faced. “We knew it was going to be a battle the rest of the way.”
Dixie forced the Soaring Eagle to punt on the ensuing drive, and then held onto the ball for the remainder of the game.
“When you hold Juan Diego to 13 points, I don’t care if it’s snowing or not, your defense has done a good job,” Monkres said.
Barney added, “Our (defense) did amazing. They didn’t score in the second half. That was crazy. They played out of their minds.”
The Flyers now face Spanish Fork in the 3A championship Friday. Dixie hasn’t won a state title since 1998 and has recorded the most wins in a season since that year.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company