ST. GEORGE – The Rocky Mountain Football League’s best rushing team wasn’t about to change what it does just because the defense was expecting it.
And so the Dixie Rebels pounded the Utah Cobras into submission Saturday night with a 34-6 victory and improved to 7-0 on the season, racking up 275 yards on the ground behind star quarterback Misi Tupe and running backs Rimo Mapu, Sione Tapuosi and Prentiss Miller.
“They can put eight men in the box, but it doesn’t matter.” Tupe said. “We’re still going to run the ball. Today they stacked the box and they still had a hard time stopping us. We are a run-first team.”
Dixie’s offense trotted out onto the field at Walt Brooks Stadium and spotted a defense with just one safety in the defensive backfield and eight defenders crowding the line of scrimmage . It was obvious the Cobras planned an all-out effort to stop the Dixie running game. It didn’t work. And furthermore, the run-centric defense left Tupe and his receivers with plenty of open space in the play-action game.
“We feel like our offensive line is the best in the league,” Dixie coach Dale Stott said. “We run the ball. That’s who we are. And when we run the ball effectively, it makes the play-action pass that much better. Every team we play is going to try and stop the run first.”
After the Dixie D held the Cobras to no yards on their first drive, the Rebels pounded it for 66 yards on eight plays. All eight plays were runs out of the spread including the TD, which Mapu rushed in from 10 yards out to open the scoring with 6:24 left in the first quarter. That made it 7-0, though the Rebels doubled their lead just 2:20 later when Tupe found Jordon Loo on a play-action corner pattern. The big tight end easily caught the ball to make it 14-0 with 4:04 to go in the quarter. Dixie had gotten the ball after the defense got a three-and-out and a bad snap on the punt put the ball on the 8-yard line.
The Rebels pushed the lead to 21-0 before halftime when Tupe found an uncovered Brennan Adams for a 44-yard TD strike.
“It was actually designed to be a running play, but when I lined up no one was on me,” Adams said. “Misi looked over I just gave him a little wave and he faked the handoff and hit me.”
When intermission finally hit, the Rebels had more than 200 yards rushing and a three TD lead.
The advantage grew to 28-0 in the third quarter as former Pine View star Miller burst into the open field for a 35-yard TD run with 7:09 to go in the third quarter. With a four-score lead, Stott began to substitute liberally, getting his reserve players some valuable playing time.
The Rebels defense played pretty well, too. The Cobras had a couple of decent drives in the game, but each time Dixie’s defense made a big play to stop any scoring threat. Brandon Thompson stopped a fourth-and-goal pass attempt with a solid tackle in the second quarter.
Dixie also forced a fumble in the red zone in the first half and got an interception at the 1-yard line by Trey Smith in the third quarter.
The Cobras finally broke into the scoring column with 4:36 left in the game. Ty Talbot, who had a rough day with a fumble, an interception and only 40 percent passing, threw a pretty deep ball to wideout Grad Taylor to get the Cobras on the scoreboard.
Dixie added a late score when backup QB Alec Mecham found Tanner Wood for a 5-yard TD score as time expired.
With the win, Dixie has the inside track on the top seed for the upcoming RMFL playoffs. The Rebels, 7-0, play at the Wasatch Revolution next Saturday and a win would clinch the Utah South Division and guarantee home games throughout the playoffs. But the Revolution are just a game behind Dixie and a loss next week could send the Rebels down to the fifth seed. The four division winners in the RMFL get the top four seeds, regardless of record. So the second-place team from the division would automatically drop below all four division champs.
“Next week is very important for us because we lose most of the tiebreakers, things like strength of schedule and point differential,” Stott said.
Dixie finished the game with 370 yards of offense to 220 for the Cobras. The Rebels did turn the ball over five times, but the defense also forced three Utah Cobras turnovers. Tupe finished with 97 rushing yards and 80 passing yards, with two TDs. Dixie averaged more than seven yards per running play. Tupe leads the RMFL with 722 rushing yards in seven games.
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