3A football: Big plays help Flyers win unexpected 3A title
Dixie's Lukas Hildebrandt had the kind of state championship game that was so exciting he turned a somersault on the field after his defensive and offensive efforts helped the Flyers to their first football title in 14 years.
And Dixie senior Tyson Graff was so fired up after his dream defensive day helped the Flyers get a 49-21 victory over Spanish Fork and an unlikely Class 3A title that he leapt into the stands at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Their two efforts, coupled with an amazing day by senior quarterback Blake Barney, gave the third-place team from Region 9 an unexpected championship. Dixie won all four of its state tournament games away from the warm confines of St. George and beat three league champions to claim its title.
So what did the victory mean?
"It just means history," said Hildebrandt, who set a state football title record by recording a 203-yard receiving day. For good measure, he also returned an intercepted pass 63 yards the fourth longest return in prep title game history and had four solo tackles and three assisted tackles.
"We've got to come back next year," he added.
And Hildebrandt, a junior, will be part of that. But, after the game he enjoyed Friday, he might want to savor things for a while.
His interception right before the half deep in Dixie territory set up a touchdown that gave the Flyers a 21-7 lead and prevented Spanish Fork from tying the game. It may have been the key play of the day.
"Somebody tipped it," he said. "I guess it was pretty lucky. I ended up with the ball and just started running as fast as I could."
And, after the Dons rallied early in the second half, Hildebrandt hauled in a 78-yard touchdown pass from Barney.
"Blake threw a perfect ball," he said. "I tried to go get it, and I did. It was meant to be a touchdown."
Graff, playing perhaps his last football game, was almost as impressive. In addition to earning an all-academic award at halftime, he had seven solo tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss, four assisted tackles and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown.
That score with 4:17 to play was the only touchdown Graff had in his varsity career.
"Words can't explain it," he said. "It happened all so fast. I was right there ready, and it came in. I almost thought I'd drop it. Running into the end zone was something I wanted to do all season. I had a couple of almosts. To finally get one, make a pick and go for a touchdown and have it in a state championship game is indescribable."
And because Graff's grandfather played for legendary Dixie coach Walter Brooks, who won five football titles from 1949 to 1974 including three straight in the early 1970s when he put together a 23-game winning streak, he knew a little about the St. George school's 101-year history.
"This means we are still living the legacy," said Graff. "We've been around for over 100 years and are still winning state championships. We are keeping the tradition alive. ... That is a legacy we are happy to have."