SALT LAKE CITY — It's been five years since a passing team won a 3A state championship, but that's about to change this afternoon when Spanish Fork and Dixie clash at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
In a surprising matchup few would've predicted, the two best passing teams in 3A are set to collide in what should be a very entertaining game.
Both teams average just under 35 ppg, and both love to air it out. Dixie quarterback Blake Barney has enjoyed a fantastic senior season with 2,506 yards and 24 touchdowns. Spanish Fork quarterback Jason Money has been equally as good leading his team with 2,404 yards and 25 TDs.
Neither team is one dimensional though, in fact far from it. Both feature a 1,000-yard rusher opposing defenses must deal with.
"They run a scheme that's similar to ours in that they spread it out and they kind of let you choose, do you want to stop the pass or the run. They create a big challenge for us defensively," said Spanish Fork coach Kirk Chambers.
Spanish Fork's top running threat is Braxton Argyle, who's racked up 1,296 yards and 18 scores.
Barney is the top run threat for Dixie with 1,148 yards and 16 TDs.
"They're quarterback is a stud. He's a dual threat, he's able to beat you with his arm and his feet," said Chambers.
While the prolific offenses are garnering much of the attention leading up to the big game, both defenses have been solid all season. In fact, both Spanish Fork and Dixie are the last teams standing in 3A because their respective defenses came up huge in last week's semifinals.
Cooper Beck's fifth interception of the season in the fourth quarter against Desert Hills ultimately set-up the Dons' game-winning score. A night later, Dixie's run defense was superb in shutting down undefeated Juan Diego in the big upset.
After beating run-heavy foes Stansbury and Juan Diego on consecutive weeks, Dixie coach Blaine Monkres said it will be nice to face a team like itself.
"It's going to be different than what we've seen the last couple weeks," said Monkres. "The thing is, our scout team is used to practicing like that, so they we're able to duplicate the passing game a little easier than we were the running game."
Both programs are in unfamiliar territory. In its 93-year history, Spanish Fork has never won a state championship — in fact it's never even played in a championship game. As for Dixie, it hasn't advanced this far since claiming the 3A title back in 1998.
For Monkres, this is his first championship game appearance since 1995 when his Fremont team lost to Skyline. That particular team was extremely hard-working, and that's what Monkres has this year as well.
"I think every year you have two or three guys who want it really bad, but when you have a whole bunch of them who want to do it and put in the work in, that's the difference," said Monkres.
3A on the air
Spanish Fork vs. Dixie
Today, 11 a.m.
Parry's Power: Dixie by 3
SPANISH FORK STATS
Scoring offense: 34.8 ppg
Scoring defense: 14.1 ppg
Passing leader: Jason Money (182-310, 58.7%, 2,404 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Braxton Argyle (196 carries, 1,296 yards, 18 TDs), Jason Money (72, 497, 4)
Receiving leaders: Cameron Money (54 rec., 1,016 yards, 14 TDs), Colton Olsen (84, 1,075, 6)
Tackles leader: Gunnar Beus (115 tackles)
Sacks leader: Wyatt Groves, Logan Jensen (5 sacks)
Int. leader: Colten Olsen (6 INTs)
Scoring offense: 34.9 ppg
Scoring defense: 18.0 ppg
Passing leader: Blake Barney (145-256, 56.6%, 2,506 yards, 24 TDs, 5 INTs)
Rushing leaders: Blake Barney (157 carries, 1,148 yards, 16 TDs), Taylor Berry (53, 265, 7)
Receiving leaders: Drew Batchelor (40 rec., 696 yards, 10 TDs), Tanner Webster (24, 406, 5)
Tackles leader: Tyson Graff (133 tackles)
Sacks leader: Jesse Lambert (3)
Interceptions leader: Tyson Graff (4 INTs)
SPANISH FORK GAME-BY-GAME
8/17 … Spanish Fork 53, Park City 0
8/24 … Spanish Fork 28, Springville 14
8/31 … Spanish Fork 19, American Fork 13
9/6 … Logan 38, Spanish Fork 13
9/14 … Spanish Fork 30, Judge 10
9/21 … Spanish Fork 56, Carbon 0
9/28 … Spanish Fork 44, Juab 9
10/5 … Spanish Fork 43, Delta 7
10/10 … Spanish Fork 28, North Sanpete 6
10/18 … Spanish Fork 45, Payson 14
10/26 … Spanish Fork 26, Pine View 21
11/2 … Spanish Fork 33, Morgan 23
11/8 … Spanish Fork 35, Desert Hills 28
8/17 … Dixie 28, Springville 13
8/24 … Dixie 49, River Valley, Ariz. 3
8/31 … Dixie 55, Provo 14
9/7 … Dixie 34, Pine View 24
9/14 … Hurricane 34, Dixie 32
9/21 … Dixie 30, Desert Hills 27
9/28 … Dixie 54, Canyon View 13
10/5 … Dixie 47, Cedar 28
10/11 … Snow Canyon 28, Dixie 21
10/26 … Dixie 35, North Sanpete 6
11/2 … Dixie 20, Stansbury 13
11/9 … Dixie 14, Juan Diego 13