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3AA high school football preview: Bear River not ready to hand season to No. 1 Dixie

Bear River (8-3) at Dixie (6-3)


3AA state tournament quarterfinals

Friday, 4 p.m.

Parry’s Power Guide: Dixie by 21

All-time series: Bear River leads 4-0

Coach vs. coach: First meeting between Bear River’s Chris Wise and Dixie’s Andy Stokes

Last meeting: Aug. 27, 2010 – Bear River 32-21


ST. GEORGE — When the Bear River Bears and Dixie Flyers step onto the field for their 3AA quarterfinal matchup at Dixie High school Friday, it will be a showdown between the No. 1 ranked team and a relatively unknown team that has built itself into a contender.

One question the Flyers' will have to answer this week is how to replace possibly the classification's best player, quarterback Jacob Barben, who suffered a season ending foot injury during the bye week. Barben has thrown for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, and his presence will be missed.

"You can't replace a player like Jacob, his skill set, his experience or his leadership," Dixie coach Andy Stokes said. "However, there is not one player who can single-handedly win you a game. It has to be a team effort."

One possible replacement is leading receiver Hobbs Nyberg (1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns.

"Hobbs is just really special," Stokes said. "He's a guy who can play any position on the field."

If Nyberg steps in at quarterback, the Flyers would still have capable receivers, as second leading receiver Josh Topham has 600 yards receiving and seven touchdowns to his credit.

Dixie is one of the best teams in the 3AA classification, with a balanced offense. With Barben out, much of the pressure will go to running back Ammon Ah-Quin, who has rushed for nearly 900 yards and five touchdowns this season.

The Bears will need to prepare without knowing who on the Flyers will play which position.

"We will prepare as if he plays," Bear River coach Chris Wise said. "Dixie is a very good team all around."

Bear River's rise to the quarterfinals has been fueled by its defense, which has allowed only 12 points per game this season.

"Bear River has one of the best defensive units in 3AA," Stokes said. "They play very disciplined, very tough football."

The Bears also run a balanced offense, led by quarterback Kaygen Canfield, who has over 1,500 yards of total offense and 14 touchdowns to his credit. The Bears are also expected to lean on running back Gage Kaneko (634 yards and seven touchdowns).

"This has been a really unique group for me, in that they don't care about stats," Wise said. "They care about playing as a team and winning as a team."

The Bears have a solid 8-3 record, with losses to a 4A team and two of the 3AA elite. The team is also the only one to have defeated highly ranked Stansbury, and also has wins over a 5A team and defending 3AA champion Logan.

Dixie has a 6-3 record. The Flyers began the season with three straight losses at the hands of two of 4A's top ranked teams and 5A's second ranked team. The Flyers then went on a tear, winning six straight games against 3AA competition, including a big win over highly ranked Desert Hills.


Bear River breakdown


Scoring offense: 19.8 ppg (12th in 3AA)

Scoring defense: 12.3 ppg (1st in 3AA)

Passing leader: Kaygen Canfield (84-175, 48.0 percent, 1,269 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Gage Kaneko (122 carries, 634 yards, 7 TDs), Kaygen Canfield (96 carries, 384 yards, 3 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Gunner Sorensen (22 rec., 413 yards, 5 TDs), Zach Showell (13 rec., 269 yards, 3 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Bryken Jensen (88 tackles), Gunner Sorensen (71 tackles)

Sack leaders: McCoy Christensen (6 sacks), Jordan Watson (5 sacks)

Interception leaders: Gunner Sorensen (3 INTs)


Dixie breakdown


Scoring offense: 31.2 ppg (5th in 3AA)

Scoring defense: 24.2 ppg (10th in 3AA)

Passing leader: Jacob Barben (145-223, 65 percent, 2,248 yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs)

Rushing leaders: Ammon Ah Quin (151 carries, 897 yards, 5 TDs), Hobbs Nyberg (47 carries, 512 yards, 5 TDs)

Receiving leaders: Hobbs Nyberg (54 rec., 1,039 yards, 10 TDs), Josh Topham (36 rec., 651 yards, 7 TDs)

Tackles leaders: Malakai Fakahua (87 tackles), Payton Wilger (35 tackles)

Sack leaders: Tyson Fisher (8 sacks)

Interception leaders: Malakai Fakahua, Teilu Mamea (3 INTs)


Felt's facts for Bear River High School


All-time record: 385-438-19 (95 years)

Region championships: 13 (1937, 1959, 1983, 1984, 1985 co, 1986 co, 1987, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006)

Playoff appearances: 356

Current playoff appearance streak: 5 (2012-2016)

All-time playoff record: 38-32

State championships: 3 (2003, 2004, 2006)

State championship record: 3-5

Most played rivalry: 96 meetings with Box Elder dating back to 1923. Box Elder leads 69-25-2. Met Sept. 5.

Felt’s factoids: Bear River's 96 meetings with Box Elder makes the game the longest uninterrupted active rivalry in state history, having been played every season since 1923. The winner has taken home a traveling trophy, the Golden Spike, since 1959. BR recovered 10 fumbles — a state record — against Jordan in a 1981 Class 3A playoff game.


Felts facts for Dixie High School


All-time record: 421-245-6 (72 years)

Region championships: 25 (1949, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 co, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1983, 1988, 1989, 1991 co, 1994 co, 2009 co, 2013, 2015 co, 2016)

Playoff appearances: 43

Current playoff appearance streak: 6 (2011-2016)

All-time playoff record: 59-34

State championships: 8 (1957, 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1998, 2012, 2014)

State championship record: 8-3

Most played rivalry: 87 meetings with Cedar dating back to 1949. Dixie leads 54-33.

Felt’s factoids: Flyer Lukas Hildebrandt set the record for reception yards in a state-championship game with 203 in 2012. Dixie’s Luke Carter is one of just eight Uteh prep gridders to return a fumble 99 yards (2004). The 1998 Flyers were one of just two teams to win a Tuesday region-playoff game to get into the tournament and go on to win a state championship. The Flyers hold the record for most two-point conversions in a game with eight (seven rush, one passing) set in a 1972 quarterfinal bout.