Note: Dixie finished with a 7-4 overall record in 2016 and first in 3AA South with a 5-0 record. It lost to Pine View 35-14 3AA semifinals.
ST. GEORGE — When Jacob Barben broke his foot in the final game of the regular season last year, it was a massive blow to Dixie’s postseason chances, one it couldn’t overcome.
Without its 2,200-yard passer, Dixie still managed to eke out a quarterfinal playoff win over Bear River, but it was roughed up pretty good the following weekend in the semifinals by Pine View 35-14. Earlier in region play, Dixie beat Pine View 38-7.
Barben is nearing full strength as his senior season approaches, and his return along with excellent returning skill position players like Hobbs Nyberg, Payden Harrah, Nate Mahi and Ammon Ah Quin give Dixie plenty of ammo for a region title three-peat.
The big question for Dixie is on the offensive line as all five starters from last year graduated.
Head coach Andy Stokes is approaching the summer the way regardless of that inexperience.
“Every single year we start the same way no matter what. Even if we have a bunch of veterans coming back we still start from ground zero in rebuild the whole thing, so that part of our process is good. Every single spring we start from zero,” said Stokes.
Just like last year, Dixie plays a difficult preseason schedule to start the season with a game at Springville in Week 1 and then hosting Lone Peak in Week 2.
Dixie started 0-3 against a similarly difficult schedule, but the experience paid dividends with six straight region wins and the 25th region title in school history.
Dixie Flyers at a glance
Coach: Andy Stokes is entering his third season as Dixie’s head coach, having led the team to a 16-7 record and a pair of region titles his first two seasons. He’s a graduate of Moapa Valley High School in Nevada.
Dixie Offensive Snapshot
Offensive coordinator: Andy Stokes
2016 offensive production: 29.2 ppg (7th in 3AA)
-- 5 returning starters
-- Spread offense
Key offensive returning starters
-- Jacob Barben (QB)
Missed Dixie’s two playoff games because of injury, but before he went down Barben was having a terrific season as he’d passed for 2,248 yards and 22 TDs while also rushing for 6 TDs. With him back in the pocket again this, Dixie should hit the ground running from Week 1.
-- Hobbs Nyberg (WR)
It’s rare for a high school team to return a receiver that had over 1,000 yards the previous year, but that’s exactly what Dixie has with Nyberg returning. He caught 55 passes for 1,048 yards and 10 TDs as a junior.
Returning offensive starters
Jacob Barben (QB)
Hobbs Nyberg (WR)
Payden Harrah (WR)
Nate Mahi (WR)
Ammon Ah Quin (RB)
Offensive newcomers to watch
LT Burgess (OL)
Wyatt Hansen (OL)
Nick Collins (OL)
Slayde Kolb (OL)
Nate Cox (OL)
Stokes comments on his inexperienced offensive line:
“We lost all of our offensive linemen. We have a lot of skill kids coming back, but you can’t win without the front so we’ve got a long road to go through there. We’ve got some kids trying to step up and take those positions. We feel confident about ourselves if we can get that worked out.”
Stokes comments on starting QB Jacob Barben, who's recovering from last year’s season-ending injury:
“Mentally, he’s just ahead of the game on that end of the game. As far as high school athletes are concerned, he’s on another level. He sees things that other kids don’t see and recognizes it early. His leg is not back to full strength yet. We took him to camp and he’s working on rehabbing his footwork. We’re taking it slow with him physically, but mentally he’s doing a ton to make up the difference. We expect a ton from him. There’s no doubt at Dixie High School who’s driving the bus.”
Stokes' comments on receiver Nate Mahi:
"Nate Mahi started as a sophomore last year, and he’s probably had more improvement than anyone on our team as far as becoming a better football player. He’s going to bring a big slice of the pie to us especially because I feel like a lot of teams are going to take Hobbs (Nyberg) away from us. He’ll probably have a special year for us."
Keys for Offensive Success in 2017:
Dixie’s success will depend on how well it can groom an offensive line with five new starters. The Flyers’ first region game isn’t until Week 4, which means there might still be tinkering early in the season with that position group until the coaching staff finds the right combination of players.
Dixie Defensive Snapshot
Defensive coordinator: Wayne Alofipo
2016 defensive production: 25.3 ppg (10th in 3AA)
-- 7 returning starters
-- 3-4 defense
Key defensive returning starters
-- Tyson Fisher (DE)
Was among Dixie’s leading tacklers last year from his defensive end position, and he was also great at getting to the quarterback as well with nine sacks.
-- Payton Wilgar (OLB)
As a safety last year, Wilgar had a very strong season with 36 tackles and two interceptions. He’s making the move to outside linebacker this year and is one of the leaders of the defense.
Returning defensive starters
Payton Wilgar (OLB)
Jake Staheli (MLB)
Magalei Stevenson (MLB)
Tyson Fisher (DE)
Kaden Williams (DE)
Tyson Miller (DB)
Faisi Faumui (DB)
Defensive newcomers to watch
Stuart Seegmiller (OLB)
Marshall Smith (OLB)
Nate Cox (NG)
Connor Walden (NG)
Josh Pulsipher (S)
Stokes comments on strength at defensive end with Tyson Fisher and Kaden Williams:
“Tyson and Kaden are both 6-foot-4 and about 230. Tyson he’s a phenomenal athlete, I don’t know that there’s too many people in the state that can get off the ball like that kid as far as pass rush. Kaden Williams is by far our greatest developer on defense. He’s been doing to D-Line camp after D-Line camp all summer long, learning technique, learning how to reach offenses, and we’ve been super impressed with his work in the weight room.
Stokes' comments on Payton Wilgar’s strength at linebacker:
“Payton Wilgar he’s moving to outside backer, and he’s a phenomenal football player, phenomenal leader, works his but off every day.”
Stokes' comments on defensive mentality for 2017:
"One thing we’ve focused on this year is if the defense gets a turnover we need to turn that into points and if we score and have some momentum the defense needs to turn that into a stop, and vice versa if they give aup a touchdown we have to stop that bleeding and if we turn the ball over they have to stop that bleeding. This year we’re more on making sure that we’re doing the ball for the other side of the ball.”
Keys for Defensive Success in 2017:
Dixie is set at defensive end with two excellent returning starters, but there’s a big hole to fill out nose guard in the 3-4 defense. Senior Nate Cox, junior Connor Walden and sophomore Kaiden Faumuina are all battling for playing time at that position, and it needs a strong rotation to emerge against with some excellent running attacks in Region 9.
Coaches preseason Region 9 straw poll: First
Deseret News Region 9 prediction: Third
Key Region Game: at Desert Hills, Oct. 11 (Week 9)
Bottom line: With Springville and Lone Peak on tap the first two weeks of the season, a slow start seems inevitable with some massive question marks on the offensive line. Ultimately though, Dixie should be fine. This is a program that earned a share of the Region 9 title in 2015 and won it outright in 2016. It will be right in the hunt again this year, and if it avoids another key injury could be one of the favorites in the new Class 4A.
Aug. 18 — at Springville, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 — LONE PEAK, 7 p.m.
Sept. 1 — at Tooele, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8 — SNOW CANYON, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 — at Madison, Calif., 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 — at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 — CANYON VIEW, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 — HURRICANE, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 — at Cedar, 7 p.m.
Felts Facts for Dixie High School
All-time record: 422-246-6 (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: 60-35
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 Factoid(s): Flyer Lukas Hildebrandt set the record for reception yards in a state championship game with 203 in 2012. ... Dixie’s Luke Carteris 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 just 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.
2016 — 7-4 (5-0 in 3AA – 3AA Semifinals)
2015 — 9-3 (4-1 in 3AA South – 3AA Runner-up)
2014 — 10-4 (4-2 in 3AA South – 3AA Champions)
2013 — 9-3 (6-0 in 3AA South – 3AA Semifinals)
2012 — 11-2 (4-2 in Region 9 – 3A Champions)
Dixie coaching history
2015-current — Andy Stokes (16-7)
2008-2014 — Blaine Monkres (54-27)
2002-2007 — Jake Nelson (35-31)
2000-2001 — Ray Odette (3-14)
1997-1999 — Mike Smith (16-18)
1993-1996 — Jerry Dyer (21-17)
1975-1992 — Ray Odette (104-69)
1949-1974 — Walter Brooks (168-56)
1935 — Lloyd "Gus" Shields (1-2)
Deseret News MVPs the past 10 years
2014 — Ammon Takau, QB
2012 — Blake Barney, QB
Deseret News First Team all-staters the past 10 years
2016 — Jacob Barben, QB
2016 — Hobbs Nyberg, WR
2016 — Tyson Fisher, DE
2016 — Malakai Fakahua, MLB
2015 — Zak Harrah, QB
2015 — Tre Miller, RB
2015 — Jeff Martinez, DL
2014 — Bret Barben, WR
2014 — Jaxon Davis, OL
2014 — Jeff Martinez, DL
2014 — Jaden Harrison, DB
2014 — McLane Keenan, K
2013 — Drew Batchelor, WR
2013 — Gavin Graff, OL
2013 — Braxton Ipson, DL
2013 — Tanner Webster, DB
2012 — Drew Batchelor, WR
2012 — David Teaupa, OL
2012 — Jesse Lambert, DL
2012 — Tyson Graff, DB
2011 — Austin Barker, K
2009 — Dallen Reber, LB
2009 — Dalton Smith, DB
2009 — Mike Sharp, SPEC
2007 — Nate Carter, RB
To view second team and honorable mention all-staters through the years, check out the Deseret News All-State Archives.