Dixie State 17, Harper College 15

ST. GEORGE — It's no secret that Dixie State College coach Greg Croshaw dislikes kickers — and dislike may be a bit mild.

But after Travis Blackwell booted a 23-yard field goal with two seconds left to give the Rebels the 17-15 come-from-behind victory over William Rainey Harper College in the 15th Annual Dixie Rotary Bowl Saturday, he showed — just for a minute — his soft side for the kicker.

"That's pretty sweet," Croshaw said of his All-WSFL kicker after the Rebels snapped a two-game Rotary Bowl losing streak. "You've got to have those guys. I couldn't be happier for a guy that's had a pretty tough time of it. You can't ask for a better deal. That's a great story."

The Rebels trailed 15-14 when the Hawks scored 15 straight points in the second half to take the lead with three minutes left in the game.

Dixie lost the ball on downs on its next possession and then came up with a big defensive stand with just over a minute left that set the table for the victory.

The Hawks had already punted on the fourth down, but the Rebels were flagged with a running into the punter call, and the five-yard march-off left the Hawks less than a foot shy of the first down.

Harper coach John Eliasik elected to go for it, and the Rebels made the defensive stand.

"I told Scott Young and the guys to guess on the snap count," Croshaw said. "If we're offside, we're offside, but we can't give them anything. They (the Hawks) went one, thank goodness, and we beat them to the punch."

As for Eliasik the first down at the Dixie 31-yard line would have sealed the victory.

"We were only going for two inches, and if you can't get two inches you're probably destined not to win," Eliasik said. "We thought that was the game if we get that. It was a risk worth taking — we thought at that point."

Still, a Rebel victory seemed unlikely, but former Hillcrest quarterback Doug Smith completed two big passes — on to Josh Adams for a 17-yard gain, and the scrambling pass to Junior Mahe that put the Rebels in field-goal position on the Hawks' 6 with a 38-yard pass.

Mahe, who only had two catches in the game for 60 yards, actually fell down on the play, but had the sense to get up and continue with the play.

"I was doing a little curl, he (the defender) knocked me down," Mahe said. "I saw the quarterback roll out. I just went and he let it fly."

"We're dropping balls. We're fumbling. We played about as ugly as I've seen," Croshaw said. "Yet, all of a sudden a miracle comes out of some where and all I can say is LaVell who?"

The Rebels led 14-0 at halftime with two second quarter scores — one by Ryan Filipe (two yards) and one by Smith (two yards).

On Smith's drive the Rebels had two touchdowns called back on penalties, but still they maintained their composure and finished with a touchdown.

The Rebel defense was tested in the second, mostly because of the ineffectiveness of the offense, but came up with play after play when the Hawks were in scoring position.

Dixie's Rotary Bowl MVP, had a pair of interceptions and Mike Barney had another, while Darrell Tuisavura had a fourth-down sack to stop another Hawks drive.

The Hawks eventually took the lead on a pair of touchdown passes from Harper MVP Griff Jurgens to Darric Gibson, and a two-point conversion run by Jurgens to give the Hawks the short-lived lead before Blackwell's game-winner in the final seconds.

"We didn't capitalize early enough when we needed to," Eliasik said. "We had our opportunities at the start of the game and in retrospect that was the game."

Daryl Scarbrough had a huge game for the Hawks with eight catches for 131 yards, while Jurgens was 31-for-50 for 324 yards and two scores.

Smith threw for 172 yards and Kevin Stoddard had 83 yards rushing as the Rebels out gained the Hawks 372 yards total offense to 325.

With the win, the Rebels move to 12-4 in their 16 bowl appearances.

E-mail: jhinton@desnews.com