PREVIEW: Crimson Cliffs at Dixie
By Keric Seegmiller
Dixie hosts Crimson Cliffs in regular season home finale
(ST. GEORGE, Utah – Oct. 6, 2022) After playing two consecutive road games, the Dixie Flyers return to Walt Brooks Stadium on Friday to host Region-10 leader Crimson Cliffs in their final home contest of the regular season.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., with live radio coverage on ESPN 97.7 FM and live video streaming available on SportsRadio977.com. Keric Seegmiller will provide play-by-play with Rustyn Burnside offering analysis and color commentary.
THE APPRENTICE VS. THE MASTER: Crimson Cliffs head coach Wayne Alofipo is no stranger to the team and coach on the other side of the field. Alofipo coached alongside Dixie head coach Blaine Monkres as defensive line coach and defensive coordinator for six years, helping the Flyers to state championships in 2012 and 2014. On Friday, it all comes together like a Hollywood movie script, as the apprentice (Alofipo) takes on the master (Monkres) for the first time as opposing head coaches.
SERIES HISTORY: Friday’s contest marks the fourth overall meeting between Dixie and Crimson Cliffs, and the second time the teams have battled at Walt Brooks Stadium. The Flyers won the first matchup on Sept. 20, 2019, and have claimed victories in the last two matchups, including a 16-10 win at Crimson in 2021 to build a 3-0 series lead. The Mustangs will have a chance at making some program history, as Dixie represents the only Region 10 team Crimson Cliffs hasn’t defeated since opening its doors in 2019.
LAST TIME OUT: Dixie dropped a 56-12 decision on the road at Snow Canyon last week. The Flyers allowed just seven points after halftime, but couldn’t overcome a 49-point first half by the Warriors. Mason Kesterson turned in an all-star performance, scoring both Dixie touchdowns on a pick-six and an 83-yard reception. Jalen Schultz completed nine passes for 122 yards, while Jeffrey Christian rushed for 45 yards on 18 carries.
Crimson Cliffs rolled to its fifth consecutive victory on Friday, defeating Pine View by a 40-14 count to stay undefeated on the road. The Mustangs built a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Panthers battled back to within 26-14 at halftime, but the Crimson defense pitched a second-half shutout, and the offense tacked on two more touchdowns to seal the win. Steele Barben threw for 204 yards and three touchdowns, while McCord Christiansen rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown to lead the offense. Kaden Haws recorded a team-high five tackles and a sack to go with a fumble-return touchdown to lead the defense.
SCOUTING DIXIE: After winning three of its first four games, Dixie has just one win in its last three outings. The Flyers currently sit in fourth place in Region 10 with a 4-3 overall record and a 2-2 mark in region play.
Through seven games, Dixie is scoring 23.4 points per game (No. 4 in Region 10) and averages 286.1 yards of total offense (176.6 pass/109.5 rush) per contest. Senior quarterback Jalen Schultz leads the offensive attack and has completed 77-of-139 passes for 1,196 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior receiver Blake Watson has snagged a team-high 19 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns, while junior Jaxon Barben leads the team in receiving yards with 355 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches. Senior running back Jeffrey Christian has added 16 catches out of the backfield for 149 yards, with senior tight end Mason Kesterson posting 14 catches for 241 yards and a touchdown. Christian leads the Flyers in the ground game with 332 yards and four touchdowns on 71 carries, while Barben has added 34 carries for 140 yards. Senior playmaker Seth Takau has battled injuries throughout the year, appearing in just four games. Takau has tallied four touchdowns, including two rushing scores, one through the air, and a pick-six vs. Pine View.
Defensively, Dixie allows an average of 31.0 points (No. 5 in Region 10) and 392.7 yards (216.6 pass/176.1 rush) of total offense per game. The Flyers defense ranks second in Region 10 with 15 turnovers created, tallying eight interceptions to go with seven fumble recoveries.
Senior linebacker Treven Alldredge leads the defense with 87 tackles and four sacks, while junior linebacker Jacob Dombroski has tallied 64 tackles and two sacks, and senior safety Brayden Wilson and has posted 54 tackles and two sacks. Kesterson leads the Flyers with three interceptions.
On special teams, Jonathan Bibiano has connected on 16-of-19 point-after attempts and 4-of-8 field goal tries with a long of 38 yards.
SCOUTING CRIMSON CLIFFS: Crimson Cliffs enters Friday’s matchup atop the Region 10 standings with a 7-1 overall mark and a 4-0 record in region play. The Mustangs have won five consecutive games and rank in the top half of nearly every statistical category in Region 10.
Through eight games, the Mustangs are averaging 29.5 points (No. 3 in Region 10) and 347.9 yards of total offense (214.3 pass/133.6 rush) per game. Crimson leads the region in passing with 1,714 passing yards and 214.3 passing yards per game.
Junior quarterback Steele Barben leads the attack and has completed 123-of-196 passes for 1,711 yards and 21 touchdowns. Two Mustang receivers have tallied 25 or more catches, including junior Konner Kell (27 rec, 310 YDS, TD) and senior Jordan Eaton (26 rec, 466 YDS, 8 TD). Three other Crimson receivers have posted 15 or more catches, including juniors Luke Childs (17 rec, 342 YDS, 2 TD), Boston Adamson (17 rec, 191 YDS, 3 TD) and Tyler West (16 rec, 219 YDS, 3 TD). Crimson boasts two running backs with over 400 yards rushing, including sophomore McCord Christiansen (68 carries, 459 YDS, 3 TD) and junior Mason Topalian (68 carries, 431 YDS, 5 TD).
The Mustangs rank second in scoring defense, allowing 17.1 points to go with 357.2 yards of total offense (198.6 pass/158.6 rush) per game. Eight Crimson players have tallied at least 40 tackles, including McKay Wright (63), Rowen Williams (54), Brayson Phillips (53), Parker Andrus (50), Fatafehi Faoneleua (45), Scott Nisson (43), Jace Sweeten (40), and Brooks Jensen (40) . The Mustangs lead Region 10 with 23 sacks, led by Nisson with nine sacks, and rank second with nine interceptions, including four by Sweeten.
Junior Ty Ottenshot has connected on 30-of-34 point-after attempts, and one field goal, to lead the special teams, while West returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown vs. Spanish Fork on Aug. 19.
STATE LEADERS: Barben leads all of Utah 4A in passing yards (1,711) and passing touchdowns (21), while Eaton leads 4A in receiving touchdowns (8). Defensively, Alldredge leads 4A with 87 total tackles, while Nisson’s nine sacks is best in 4A. Sweeten is tied for the 4A lead with four interceptions, while Ottenshot leads 4A in successful PAT attempts (30).
KERIC’S CALLS (WHAT TO EXPECT): There’s a major difference in Dixie’s 25-24 win at Cedar two weeks ago and last week’s 56-12 loss to Snow Canyon. And no, it’s not the score. Schultz passed for a season-high 302 yards and three touchdowns on 44 passing attempts in the win over the Reds. Last week at Snow Canyon? Schultz threw for 122 yards on just 19 attempts. To take it step further, the Flyers have gained more yards through the air than on the ground in three out of their four wins. Obviously, I’m not privy to any detailed game plans, so I’m sure there’s a reason for the difference in passing attempts. However, I would expect to see Dixie dial up the Cedar game plan for this game against the region leaders. Let Schultz take to the air and mix in the traditional ground game and jet sweeps. Another major factor? Seth Takau. Takau made his first appearance since Sept. 9 last week, but only ran the ball one time. If Takau is fully healthy, the Dixie offense goes to another level. Just ask Pine View.
On the other side of the field, Crimson Cliffs hasn’t done much wrong over the course of its five-game win streak. Still, head coach Wayne Alofipo said before last week’s game at Pine View that the team needed to start faster, while being more efficient with less mistakes. The Mustangs started fast with a 20-0 lead, but still threw a first-half interception mixed in with penalties in critical spots. Had Pine View taken advantage, it could’ve been a different story. Expect the Mustangs to start fast like week, but with less miscues. Barben and the offense will take to the air early and often, while giving plenty of totes to Topalian and Christiansen. Defensively, the Mustangs will look to do what they’ve done every week: set up camp in the opponent’s backfield.
UP NEXT: Dixie will travel to Hurricane, while Crimson Cliffs hosts Cedar on Wednesday in the final week of Region 10 play.