3A football: Dixie makes incredible run to title game
Dixie defensive end Jesse Lambert heard all the naysayers. The Flyers did it once, they said, but they won't do it again, not against Juan Diego.
Even after the Flyers upset undefeated Stansbury in the quarterfinals, believers were scarce. Their semifinal opponent, Juan Diego, was considered by many to be the best Class 3A team in the state, and knocking off a pair of unbeatens in consecutive weeks seemed like a monumental task.
In the snow at Rice-Eccles Stadium last Friday, the Flyers silenced their critics, handing the Soaring Eagle their first loss, a 14-13 shocker.
"Everybody was down on us. Everybody was telling us that we weren't going to be able to do it," Lambert said. "We came into that game knowing if we played our game, good things would happen, and we'd be able to come out on top."
The recipe for the upset was clear from the beginning. From the opening play of the game, the Flyers had to be the ones on the offensive.
"We had to get it into our heads that we had to attack them," Lambert said. "We couldn't wait for them. ... We know that if we don't get on them early, then they're just going to run right over us."
The snow complicated things, playing right into the hands of the vaunted Soaring Eagle running attack, which no defense had been able to slow this season.
"Going into the game, we knew we could compete with them," Dixie quarterback Blake Barney said. "But then, because of the snow, it was kind of crazy. It was super hard to pass, and they're a running team. When that happened, I knew we could still win, but our defense really stepped up."
The Flyers now have a date with Spanish Fork on Friday for the state title. Lambert understands there is one more game to be won for the Flyers to cap their unlikely run. But he acknowledges that what they've done so far is special, regardless of what happens against the Dons.
"It's amazing. I've been dreaming of this since I can remember," Lambert said. "Now that I'm here, I'm overwhelmed. It's great to know that all my life I've been working for one thing, and it's this, and I'm here."
In the eyes of many, the Flyers again will play the role of the underdog to the Dons, who have lost just once this season. If there is one advantage the Flyers have, it's that they've been here before. And they've proven they can thrive against the best.
"I'm glad we had the tough road," Lambert said. "I'm glad we played those undefeated teams. I'm glad we had to go through them because you have to go through them at one point. It's great going into this championship game knowing we've beat supposedly the best teams in the state."
Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, 2:30 p.m.
Jordan vs. Syracuse
Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, 6:30 p.m.
Timpview vs. Mountain Crest
Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, 11 a.m.
Spanish Fork vs. Dixie
All games on KJZZ.
Friday's live chat
O Join The Salt Lake Tribune's staff during Friday's three state championship football games for a live chat. We'll provide updates and commentary on the action at tribpreps.com.