ST. GEORGE – It was a "case study" of disproportions, but it could be said that the Springville Red Devils certainly made their "case."
Marcus Case, that is.
In a game that proved to be statisticians dream — or nightmare — Springville's Case ran for touchdowns of 12, 65, 53 and 58 yards, electrifying loyal Red Devil fans who were already too hot as Springville outpaced Dixie, 55-48, in the season opener for both teams at Walt Brooks Stadium Friday evening.
It was a rematch, of sorts, of last year's 4A semifinals, which Springville won 29-21. But this year's production featured many new castmembers: Dixie's sophomore quarterback, Blake Barney, for one, who connected 21-of-45 passes for 315 yards, including three touchdown passes of 8 (Kyle Hansen) 71 (Tadd Challis) and 41 yards (Wyatt Gatchell) topped off with his own 4-yard scamper into the endzone.
But the end zone was not Barney's friend on a pivotal, apparently miscommunicated, play late in the second quarter, as he was flagged for an intentional grounding, resulting in a safety and two points for the Red Devils. That mere two points edged Springville ahead, 22-21, a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the game.
With nine seconds left in the half, Springville added a 4-yard touchdown pass from Steven Bate to Jaylon Miyasaki to take a 29-21 lead into the locker room.
The game gave a hint of a high-scoring affair when Dixie's Challis returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, stunning subdued spectators on both sides of the field who only a few moments earlier had observed a minute of silence in honor of Springville's Brandon Curtis, a senior player who recently died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident in the school's parking lot after a team practice. The touching moment of silence seemed to unite both communities.
Challis' touchdown run was only the first of many big scoring plays, including a 35-yard touchdown pass from Bate to Miyasaki, a 35-yard interception score by Springville's Mckay Murphy, and a 102-yard interception by Red Devils' Trevor Church.
Thirteen seconds into the game, Dixie was ahead 7-0. Seventeen seconds into the second half, Springville's Case dashed 65 yards for a score on the first play of the half.
Springville appeared out of reach after Church's third quarter endzone-to-endzone interception, leading 55-28. But Dixie scored three straight touchdowns on an 11-yard run by Justin Cummings, a 41-yard pass reception by Gatchell and a 22-yard run by Cummings.
With just under two minutes remaining Dixie was within a touchdown trailing only 55-48. It then appeared to have recovered an onsides kick, but the kick was replayed because of an offsides penalty. Springville handled the second kick and ran out the clock.
Dixie's Challis had four kickoff returns for 179 yards, including his opening return for a touchdown, a punt return of 50 yards and six touches for an additional 108 yards and another touchdown. Gatchell had 148 yards, including his 41-yard touchdown reception, an interception, eight tackles and three assists.
Springville's Case finished with an estimated 300 yards plus on the night, clearly dominating Dixie's defense.
"Marcus (Case) has been a starter for three years," said Springville coach Scott Mitchell. "He was a part of every big play we had last year. He is a seasoned player and will be a big part of what we do this year."
Reflecting on the experiences of his team after the death of Curtis, Mitchell said, "It was a wake-up call. Most young kids don't have to deal with what they have; they have handled it fairly good."
"It was the absolute worst and best in the space of three or four days," he said. "People were inspired to good things."
Anticipating this game, Mitchell had one important thought:
"Embrace this first game." Then he added, "Hot weather; new players."