2015 year in review: Top sports stories on St. George News

ST. GEORGE – When it comes to sports, it’s often easy to define the highs and lows. After all, every sport crowns a champion in one form or another.

But unlike news stories, which are often spontaneous and unintended, sports champions cannot be crowned without the years, even decades, of hard work and sacrifice. And just like in life, sometimes the extreme effort and sacrifice aren’t enough as teams and athletes fall just short of their goals.

The St. George News sports department was there to witness the thrill of victory and, at times, the agony of defeat. Thanks, Southern Utahns, for letting us be a part of it all.

Below is a list of some of our favorites from 2015. It is not a comprehensive list — there were too many great moments to list them all. But it is a good list, to be sure.

A special thanks goes to the coaches, athletic directors, principals and media liaisons who provided us access to these stories.

2015 — A year of excitement (List is in reverse chronological order, starting with the recent Las Vegas Bowl — click on headlines to go to archived story)

Utah and BYU square off in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

BYU vs. Utah, Las Vegas Bowl, NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (Photo by BYU Photo)
BYU vs. Utah, Las Vegas Bowl, NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Las Vegas. (Photo by BYU Photo)

BYU and Utah hadn’t met on the gridiron for two years, but the committee for the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl decided to rectify the situation. The game left both teams’ fans dissatisfied. Utah led 35-0, then laid an egg the rest of the game. However, the five-touchdown lead was just enough.

BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall resigns, Kalani Sitaki tabbed as replacement

BYU released this graphic today after announcing Kalani Fifita Sitake as the university's new head football coach.
BYU released this graphic today after announcing Kalani Fifita Sitake as the university’s new head football coach.

Mendenhall seemed ready to go when the University of Virginia came calling and he accepted the Cavaliers’ job offer after 11 years at the helm of BYU. Sitake, a former player under legendary coach LaVell Edwards, was named head coach a few days after Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo decided he would stay with the Midshipmen.

DSU’s Brumfield resigns, McClure named new coach

Shay McClure, Dixie State University vs. Azusa Pacific University, Football, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Shay McClure, Dixie State University vs. Azusa Pacific University, Football, St. George, Utah, Sept. 26, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Underfunded and out of time, Dixie State’s second head coach in the Division II era resigned in November. Brumfield, a former NFL player, had battled cancer and diabetes while at DSU, but his commitment to his alma mater never waivered. However, after another disappointing season in the win/loss column, Brumfield announced his resignation. A moth later, Shay McClure was named as the new head coach for the Red Storm.

SUU wins Big Sky Championship game, then loses in playoffs

Under head coach Ed Lamb (who has since been hired as an assistant at BYU), the Thuderbirds have improved each season and this season ended with a Big Sly Championship. The celebration was short-lived, however, as Southern Utah was eliminated from the FCS playoffs a week later in a close loss to Sam Houston State.

Dixie loses to Logan in 3AA title game

Logan's Hunter Horsley leads the team in a cheer for the fans after their state championship victory over Dixie, Dixie vs. Logan, 3AA State Football Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 20th, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Logan’s Hunter Horsley leads the team in a cheer for the fans after their state championship victory over Dixie, Dixie vs. Logan, 3AA State Football Championship, Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 20th, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The Flyers were hot heading into the playoffs and swept through the quarterfinals and the semifinals. But Dixie had no answer for athletic Logan quarterback Hunter Horsley in the 3AA championship game. The Grizzlies senior ran and passed for 436 yards as Logan captured the 3AA title after dropping down from 4A.

Diamond Ranch completes perfect season

The Diamond Ranch Diamondbacks hoist the state championship trophy, Diamond Ranch Academy vs. Kanab, 1A Football State Finals, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 14th, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
The Diamond Ranch Diamondbacks hoist the state championship trophy, Diamond Ranch Academy vs. Kanab, 1A Football State Finals, Cedar City, Utah, Nov. 14th, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The Diamondbacks, given the nature of the rehabilitation-based school, have struggled in the playoffs in the past. But DRA kept most of its team intact for 2015 and it showed with a perfect season and the 1A state championship.

Storm QB and former Dixie Flyer Blake Barney garners national award

Barney had signed to play for Weber State University after his LDS Mission, but a series of events led to his decision to stay in St. George, where he starred for Dixie High, and play for the Dixie State Red Storm. At DSU, he was reunited with high school coach Blaine Monkres, who had been hired as the DSU offensive coordinator. The reunion obviously worked well.

Morgan stuns Snow Canyon in 3A volleyball championship

3A State Volleyball Tournament, Orem, Utah, Oct. 29, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
3A State Volleyball Tournament, Orem, Utah, Oct. 29, 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The returning-champion Warriors had the best player in the state (Crash Parker) and plenty to play for with head coach Alaina Parker announcing her retirement from coaching, effective at the end of the season. But the Trojans had one thing on their minds — revenge. Morgan made up for their loss to SC in 2014’s title match by sweeping the Warriors and ending the year 31-0.

Metler, Green repeat as St. George Marathon champs

The St. George Marathon "Finisher" medals, St. George, Utah, Oct. 3, 2015 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News
The St. George Marathon “Finisher” medals, St. George, Utah, Oct. 3, 2015 | Photo by Dave Amodt, St. George News

The St. George Marathon has become an integral part of the identity of St. George — it’s tradition now. And almost as big a tradition is the domination by Aaron Metler and Amber Green. The two St. George residents won their third SGM titles despite a growing interest in the race internationally.

St. George woman wins arm wrestling national championship

Lisa Wolfley is strong. The 47-year-old Washington County resident proved it to the world by winning the “37th World Armwrestling Championship,” in Malaysia last October. Her story, from down-and-out drug addict to world-class athlete, is the stuff movies are made out of.

Utes stagger Oregon Ducks with 42-point win

Utah was picked fifth — in their division — in the Pac-12 heading into the season. But the Utes served notice they would be a force to be reckoned with when they went into Eugene, Ore, and walloped the nationally-ranked Ducks.

BYU freshman QB’s Hail Mary pass lifts BYU over Nebraska

Tanner Mangum
Tanner Mangum

Tanner who? Tanner Mangum, that’s who. The BYU freshman, fresh off an LDS Mission, completed a Hail Mary to Mitch Mathews from 41-yards out as time expired as the Cougars stunned the Cornhuskers in the teams’ season-opener. Mangum would go on to have the best freshman year of any quarterback to have played at BYU.

Desert Hills star Nephi Sewell breaks neck in season-opener

Pano Tiatia poses with Nephi Sewell at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Aug. 23, 2015 | Photo courtesy Pano Tiatia
Pano Tiatia poses with Nephi Sewell at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Aug. 23, 2015 | Photo courtesy Pano Tiatia

All the pieces were in place for the Thunder to have a big season. An experienced quarterback, speedy receivers and a dynamic running back seemed like a perfect formula. But just four plays into the 2015 season, Sewell, who also plays defensive back, collided with a Jordan High receiver. The injury didn’t seem that bad at first, but X-rays after the game showed broken vertebrae in the running back’s back. Just like that, his season was over.

Snow Canyon Little Leaguers make it to regionals, lose to Hawaii

Even the best high school athletes rarely get on national television. But Snow Canyon’s Little League team did it a couple of times. Baseball fans from around Utah watched and hoped for the best for the Santa Clara boys. But after a regional-opening win over Arizona, Snow Canyon was swept out of the tournament with consecutive losses to Southern California and Hawaii.

Revolution beat Zion Lions in RMFL championship

Lions defender Trey Smith (10) flips a Revolution ball carrier, Zion Lions vs. Wasatch Revolution, Ogden, Utah, June 27 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Lions defender Trey Smith (10) flips a Revolution ball carrier, Zion Lions vs. Wasatch Revolution, Ogden, Utah, June 27 2015, | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

The Lions went through the season undefeated, including a win over the Wasatch Revolution in the Sunbowl. But the championship game went south in a hurry as Wasatch forced Zion into multiple turnovers and dared the Lions to pass the ball. Ultimately, Zion couldn’t get it done.

Controversy swirls around name of new Dixie High baseball field

The old baseball field at Dixie High was Don Lay Flyer Field. But with the construction of a new field, mostly through donations, Dixie coaches and administration elected to name the new field “Flyer Field” and commemorate Dixie legends like Lay and others with a “Wall of Honor.” Apparently that wasn’t good enough for some of Lay’s descendants and former friends, who have petitioned to keep the old name. The controversy still swirls today.

St. George’s own American Ninja Warrior

Brian and Holly Beckstrand at the Kansas City regionals for "American Ninja Warrior." | | Photo courtesy Beckstrand family
Brian and Holly Beckstrand at the Kansas City regionals for “American Ninja Warrior.” | | Photo courtesy Beckstrand family

Brian Beckstrand, a former basketball star and lover of Spartan races, decided he’d take a shot at the made-for-TV athletic event, “American Ninja Warrior.” Beckstrand not only competed, but also completed the course and advanced to the semifinals in Las Vegas. That’s where the road ended for the St. Georgian, but Beckstrand has vowed to return better than ever.

DSU softball makes national tourney, comes up one game short

For the second straight year, Dixie State’s softball team played at an extremely high level. But for the second straight year, the dream came up just short for the Randy Simkins-coached Division II team as the Red Storm lost in the NCAA D-II championship to North Georgia. DSU finished with a 52-8 record.

DH boys and girls win state track titles

The gold-medal winning Desert Hills 4x100 relay team with (from l to r) Hannah Morby, Abby Taylor, Brooklyn Lott and Jessica Bills, at the state track meet, Provo, Utah, May 15, 2015 | Photo by AJ Griffin, St. George News
The gold-medal winning Desert Hills 4×100 relay team with (from l to r) Hannah Morby, Abby Taylor, Brooklyn Lott and Jessica Bills, at the state track meet, Provo, Utah, May 15, 2015 | Photo by AJ Griffin, St. George News

With Dace Goulding at the helm, Desert Hills track and field (and cross country) has become very good — of dynastic proportions. The Thunder athletes showed just how good at the state track and field meet at BYU last spring. The DH boys team set a new state record for points and the girls team beat all competitors by nearly 40 points, despite rain and cool weather in Provo.

Pine View outlasts Cedar to capture state 3A baseball title

The Panthers celebrate their State Championship win over Cedar, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
The Panthers celebrate their State Championship win over Cedar, May 16, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Pine View had an impressive pitching staff in 2015, but it took a whole lot of hitting for the Panthers to take the 3A crown in the state title game against region rival Cedar. PV had a 9-1 lead, but then surrendered the advantage by allowing the Redmen nine runs in the fifth inning. Kash Walker had the go-ahead hit, almost exactly a year after his dad, Darin Walker, passed away.

DH’s Perkins wins third straight state girls golf title

Desert Hills' Katie Perkins chips to the green, 3A State Girls Golf Championship Tournament, St. George, Utah, May 14, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Desert Hills’ Katie Perkins chips to the green, 3A State Girls Golf Championship Tournament, St. George, Utah, May 14, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

It was almost a foregone conclusion that Desert Hills would win the girls golf title and they did, making it five straight. But Katie perkins, going for her third straight individual state title, had to gut out a one-hole playoff with Pine View’s Taylor Bandley. The high-drama playoff ended with Bandley just missing a 10-foot putt after Perkins had already holed out with a par.

Snow Canyon boys tennis and rugby win state titles on same day

Will Benson led the Warriors boys tennis team to the state title, winning gold at second singles, while the SC rugby team, technically a club sport not officially sanctioned by the UHSAA, edged out Herriman 16-15 for the state title on a 40-yard penalty kick with time expiring.

Dixie brings home ‘the big rock’ in 3A boys soccer title win

The Flyers celebrate their third championship in four years Saturday, Dixie vs. Pine View, Sandy, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by AJ Griffin, St. George News
The Flyers celebrate their third championship in four years Saturday, Dixie vs. Pine View, Sandy, Utah, May 9, 2015 | Photo by AJ Griffin, St. George News

Burt Myers coached the Dixie boys soccer team to its third state title in the past four years as the Flyers beat Pine View 3-0. Ethan Poulton had a shutout, his sixth of the season, in the title game and two-sport superstar Tyler Bennett scored two goals. After the game, Myers now famously said, “You can’t go wrong when you got the big rock.”

Pine View’s Baer hits 60-yard miracle shot in 3A soccer semifinals

The game was big, certainly, but the moment, the play may have been even bigger than that. After all, it’s not very often that a soccer player strikes and scores from 65 yards out. That’s what Ethan Baer did for the Panthers, with his goal helping Pine View into the state championship game.

Surge in running stage gets Ironman winners over the top

Despite throwing a chain in the bike stage, Englishman Tim Don came away with the Ironman 70.3 in early May by excelling in the 13.2-mile running stage. Heather Wurtele won the women’s side of the race.

DSU golfers win men’s team title; Dunn takes women’s title

Haley Dunn
Haley Dunn

Haley Dunn used an extra playoff hole to come away with the individual medalist honor at the Pac West Conference championships at Sunbrook Golf Course. DSU’s men’s team, led by Cody Wass, won the team title.

Rebels become Zion Lions, switch home field to historic Sunbowl

Lions_logo_large (1)Dixie Rebels owner and head coach Dale Stott knew his team brand needed a reset. He also hoped to capture a little bit more community support. A name change and a venue change did the trick as the Rebels became the Zion Lions and a rejuvenated Dixie Sunbowl became their new home.

Dixie State men’s basketball team falls in NCAA tourney on buzzer-beater by Pomona

Stars Zach Robbins and DeQuan Thompson had their senior seasons end abruptly at the hands of Cal Poly Pomona as the Broncos nailed a buzzer-beater in the West regional playoff game. DSU ended the season with a 20-8 record.

Pine View edges Dixie in 3A state basketball title game

Kody Wilstead secures a rebound to seal the win for the Panthers, Pine View vs. Dixie, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Kody Wilstead secures a rebound to seal the win for the Panthers, Pine View vs. Dixie, Feb. 28, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Two rivals staged another epic game, this time in West Valley City, with the Panthers and state MVP Kody Wilstead coming away with a 46-43 victory and the gold trophy signifying the state championship. Wilstead had 15 points and 15 rebounds, the last one on the offensive end as time ran out.

Intense rivalry: Dixie edges Desert Hills in boys 3A semifinal in four overtimes

Tyler Bennett slips a shot past Austin Adams (25), Desert Hills vs. Dixie, Feb. 27, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Tyler Bennett slips a shot past Austin Adams (25), Desert Hills vs. Dixie, Feb. 27, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

It was a game not many in attendance will ever forget. There were big shots, for sure, but the game was more notable for all the missed shots in the last minute of regulation and the first three overtimes. Both teams had opportunities to end it, but could not. The Flyers pulled away by hitting free throws in the fourth OT.

Three Region 9 wrestlers bring home state championships

Dallin Brooks (black singlet) won the 160-pound state final match for Cedar, Orem, Utah, Feb. 14, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News
Dallin Brooks (black singlet) won the 160-pound state final match for Cedar, Orem, Utah, Feb. 14, 2015 | Photo by Robert Hoppie, ASPpix.com, St. George News

Sports fans really should experience a state wrestling meet. There are huge crowds, plenty of pomp and circumstance and some intense wrestling. Amid all that, Stevenson brothers Cody and Tyler and Cedar grappler Dallin Brooks were able to come away with state championships at Utah Valley University.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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4 Comments

  • mesaman January 1, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    . . . . . . And lastly, DSU won a football game this past season. Will giving DSU a new mascot insure the next season they will set a school record and win two? Only if they play Simon-Fraser twice, and both games here in St Geo. Be of good cheer, REBELS, you might remember when Croshaw was the coach and fielded a winning season every year.

    • .... January 1, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Hey Mesaman the shipping department called and said your brain has been put on back order. Mormons and idiots are not a priority for them. so I stuck up for you and said you’re not Mormon

      • mesaman January 2, 2016 at 10:30 am

        Check the position of your brain, dweeb. I think it got tangled up in your hemorrhoids. Maybe an acid enema would help. Matching wits with you is purposeless because you have no wits.

  • .... January 2, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    It’s hard for you to check the position of your brain Mesaman. you have to have one first

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