ST. GEORGE Dixie High football coach Jake Nelson admonishes his players to make a play that will change the game. Flyer Travis Bleazard made two of them.
And just like that Dixie was back in the game when it was almost out.
With 17th-ranked Snow Canyon leading 12-0 and on the march for another score after recovering a Dixie fumble midway through the second quarter, Bleazard stole the ball from the grasp of Snow Canyon's Kurt Henderson and blazed 77 yards the opposite direction for a touchdown, and instead of being three touchdowns behind Dixie suddenly was within six. Dixie went on to win the game 26-19 at Walt Brooks Stadium on Wednesday night to capture one of two Region 9 state-playoff spots.
Call it a playoff game, a play-in game, a tiebreaker, or sudden death, the result was the same, with the winner advancing to postseason play, and the loser staying home. Pine View already had sewn up one playoff berth, but the second was up for grabs.
"We did a great job," Nelson said. "We played as a family and won as a family, but Bleazard changed the whole game." Nelson also credited Bleazard's tip of an earlier Henderson screen pass as a game-changer.
Snow Canyon's Adam Timo took charge early in the game with a 43-yard scramble for the Warriors' first score, and a 64-yard pass to Henderson to put Snow Canyon ahead 12-0. That's right, running back Timo to quarterback Henderson. Timo also punted the ball, returned kicks, had several other carries and probably handed out water on the sideline.
But Dixie's Nate Carter proved too much for an otherwise tight Warrior defense. After Bleazard's score, the Flyers held Snow Canyon and gained good field position after Timo's fake punt then fake run then punt. Carter gained on several carries, including a 16-yard pickup on fourth down and seven, to set up a 10-yard scoring pass from Macrae Heppler to Corbin Sharp to tie the game 12-12 just before halftime. Surprisingly, neither team converted on extra points after their first two touchdowns.
But it was stop and go for Carter the second half. On several carries, he appeared to be stopped but regained his balance for nice pickups. After a Henderson quick-kick backed Dixie up to its own seven, Carter took over. Behind good blocking, including great play by lineman Brad Collins, Carter marched down field, picking up gains of 14, 7, 13 and 22, before putting Dixie ahead 18-12 with a 9-yard trot. Dixie again failed on the extra point.
Snow Canyon regained the lead, 19-18, when Chris Brooks recovered a Timo 2-yard forward fumble in the end zone late in the third quarter and Joe Warburton made the first extra point of the game. For a while, it looked as that single point would be the difference.
Enter Carter, who again broke what seemed like a dozen tackles on his way to a 35-yard score. A Sharp run added two points for the final 26-19 score.
Carter wasn't finished, though, and added runs of 39 and 14 to his resume, helping Dixie run time off the clock in the fourth quarter by picking up first downs.
"Our conditioning won the game tonight." Carter said. "We do a lot of drills in practice. We got physical and never doubted that we could win the game."
The teams each play one more regular-season game, then because of the pre-determined 4A limited Region 9 playoff spots, Snow Canyon seniors hang up the jerseys and the Flyers live for another day.