ST. GEORGE Keeping track of momentum wasn't easy Friday night at Walt Brooks Stadium, as one big play after another shifted attention from one sideline to the other.
Unfortunately for Dixie High School, La Costa Canyon's junior standout Kenny Stills was in on most of those plays, and that made the difference, as the Mavericks from Carlsbad, Calif., outlasted the Flyers, 42-27, before an enthusiastic home crowd.
Dixie, riding a 2-0 wave to start the season, spotted the Mavs a 14-0 lead on early touchdown receptions by Stills of 46 and 21 yards from quarterback Sebastian Frausto, then played catch-up the rest of the game. The Flyers (2-1) had their share of huge plays, but just couldn't put enough together to match the relentless La Costa (1-0) attack.
After Dixie's Mike Sharp faked a hand-off and practically strolled in for a 15-yard score to get the Flyers within range at 14-7, it soon appeared the Flyers had a good chance to hold on after another game turnaround. Stills' 37-yard over-the-back reception at the 2-yard line possibly his most spectacular play of the night was called back on a penalty and Dixie's Dallen Reber intercepted on the next play to put Dixie in scoring position.
But the Flyers couldn't move the ball, and Chunner Nyberg's punt was blocked after a low snap.
The Flyers held La Costa for a couple of plays but on third down and 20, Frausto hit Stills for a 47-yard score and a 21-7 lead. Not over yet, though, as Dixie again pulled within seven, 21-14, just before halftime, with a 10-yard pass from Sharp to Dalton Smith, set up by one of a few long Ian Gatchell wonderful receptions on the night.
The teams traded punts a few times in the third quarter before Maverick Weston Manor broke a few tackles and scored from 42 yards out to lift La Costa to what appeared to be an insurmountable 28-14 advantage. But Dixie's Sharp scored from two yards out on a drive highlighted by two third-down Gatchell receptions, and the Flyers were again within seven, 28-21.
That's when Stills struck again for good, this time as quarterback, with a surprising 25-yard pass to wide-receiver Dutch Hapgood. Moments later, Another touchdown pass from Frausto to Erik Nelson put the Mavs up 42-21, and the Dixie faithful were beginning realize the game was over.
Dixie's Nyberg scored from one yard out late in the game.
"I had a lot of fun in Utah," said Stills after a satisfying night. "We knew this game wouldn't be easy, and we didn't want to be overconfident."
Stills apparently takes after his father of the same name, who played professional ball for the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. About that pass for a touchdown he made, he simply said, "I played quarterback in Pop Warner. I had a lot of practice." And about "that" over-the-challenger's -back catch on the two-yard line which was called back for a penalty, he said, "I don't know where it comes from. I don't practice that; it's just instinct."
It will be fun for Utahns to track those instincts of this talented player, even from a distance throughout the year.