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Hall-Dixon encounter is showdown rematch

Today's UNLV-BYU matchup is a reunion between two former Arizona high school star quarterbacks, and the last time they met, Max Hall was not the victor.

Hall and UNLV redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Dixon have met three times. Hall's Mountain View (Mesa) team clashed with Dixon's Hamilton High in the semifinals of the state championship during Hall's junior year. In his senior year, Hall met Dixon in the first game of the season and then in the state title game, where Dixon prevailed in 2003.

The last meeting, that 2003 game, was a gut-wrenching donnybrook. Dixon's Hamilton team (Chandler) won 35-28. Perhaps Hall has extra incentive today since Dixon helped end Hall's high school career on a losing note.

Many native Arizona folks consider the 2003 triple-overtime game between Hamilton and Mountain View the greatest high school game ever played in the state. Hall and Dixon were primary reasons that game became so memorable.

"He's a good player, he's tough and he can run the ball," said Hall, who will compete against Dixon for the fourth time tonight.

While neither actually faces one another, both players are key to today's game.

With Rocky Hinds nursing a post-surgery knee to start this season, UNLV coach Mike Stanford started Dixon against Utah State, and the freshman led the Rebels to a 23-16 win. It marked the first time in school history a freshman starter had notched a win in a season opener.

In college, they've faced only one common opponent: Air Force.

Against the Falcons in Provo, Hall completed 23 of 33 for 293 yards with one interception and two touchdown passes. He ran two times for 19 yards. Against Air Force last week, Dixon was 23-for-37 for 274 yards and rushed 18 times for 56 yards in a 31-14 loss.

To date, Hall has completed 131 of 221 passes (59 percent) for 1,760 yards and 12 touchdowns. Dixon is 106 of 194 for 1,259 yards and four touchdowns. Both have thrown five interceptions. Playing for an option team, Dixon has 84 rushing attempts for 259 yards and two scores.

Arizona Republic high school reporter Ben Stapley witnessed both Hall and Dixon showdowns back in the day.

Here is Stapley's breakdown of the two QBs: "Travis Dixon was the perfect high school quarterback because he was so effective throwing and running. With his physical abilities, Hamilton High had the most creative, wide-open offense I have ever seen in high school. It seemed like they could run 25 different plays from the same formation. Dixon ran the option to perfection, but he could drop back in the packet, roll out, or throw on the run.

"When Hamilton beat Mountain View in that triple OT game, Dixon was only a junior, but he was the difference. He was so quick and gave his team so many options that Mountain View didn't have an answer. And Mountain View was a team that had won 27 consecutive games.

"When Hamilton repeated as state champions his senior year, it was raining steadily for most of the game, but Hamilton still went to the air with Dixon, and he made it look easy. He did not have the arm strength of Hall, but he had great touch and great accuracy throwing on the run."

Stapley on Hall:

"Like Dixon, Max Hall developed tremendously during his junior year at Mountain View. As BYU fans have seen, Hall is very sound fundamentally, as he was in high school. He was a quick learner and extremely competitive. He might have had the quickest release of any prep quarterback I've seen in Arizona. People don't notice that skill so much in high school, but it shows at the Division-I level.

"His sophomore year, Hall had to split time on the junior varsity with two other QBs. By the end of his junior year, he was second team all-state quarterback. Dixon had the edge athletically, but Hall was also the leading scorer on his basketball team his senior year when they went 28-3."

This week's MWC predictions:

NEW MEXICO 21, WYOMING 20: The Lobos should be able to slow down Wyoming's upstart run game, force the pass and get turnovers, and New Mexico has enough weapons on offense to cause the Pokes problems.

TCU 17, STANFORD 10: Have Stanford coaches and players even uttered the name TCU this week after the win over USC?

AIR FORCE 24, COLORADO STATE 21: This will be a battle, but the Falcons seem to have enough offensive firepower to prey on Ram defensive weaknesses, like tackling.

UTAH 28, SAN DIEGO STATE 24: Back to the wall, I'll take Kyle Whittingham 95 percent of the time.

BYU 34, UNLV 10: The Cougars won't get to 50 like they have the last two times, but they should be able to widen the gap on the Rebels in the second half of a hard-fought game.

Last week: 3-1. Overall: 27-11 (.710)


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com