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Weber State, Dixie State compliment each other’s toughness ahead of football matchup

By Brett Hein - | Sep 9, 2021

Photos supplied, Dixie State and Weber State

Left: Dixie State head football coach Paul Peterson. Right: Weber State head football coach Jay Hill.

Weber State and Dixie State have a short football history: a 44-7 WSU victory during the 2008 season in Ogden.

That’s because the Trailblazers were, until 2020, not a Division I athletic program. DSU was set to visit Ogden again for the 2020 football season, which didn’t happen as scheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the two teams played football in the spring, it consisted of conference-only games for WSU and a mismash of games for Dixie State.

So the fall 2021 season brings their first matchup as Division I teams, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday in St. George.

The Trailblazers are jumping neck-deep into FCS football in their first full Division I season. They opened at home last week, losing 19-7 to Sacramento State in a hard-fought game despite the Hornets winning the yardage battle 400-209 and the turnover margin 1-0.

Sacramento State, by votes received, is 29th in this week’s STATS FCS Top 25. This week, it’s No. 10 Weber State traveling to St. George. After that, DSU is on the road to No. 14 UC Davis, No. 2 South Dakota State, and No. 4 Montana in consecutive weeks.

Later in the season, they travel to No. 6 Delaware and No. 1 Sam Houston State.

“Bring ’em on. We love it. We’re trying to get to that level,” Dixie State head coach Paul Peterson said in a press call Tuesday. “Weber State’s earned the right to be a top-10 team. It’s for a reason. They’ve established a culture and they’re a really, really good football team. They do what they do and they stick to it.

“We’re young in that process, so to speak. So we want to hurry and catch up and get there. Playing all these ranked teams, playing the national champ runner-up … we love that. We know it’s going to come with some bumps and bruises, but how are we going to respond to that is our message to our team. We’ve got to get better and get to that level, so I think it’s all positive.”

Peterson is entering his third season as head coach in St. George after two seasons as head coach at Snow College. Peterson is a former Boston College quarterback who was also offensive coordinator at Sacramento State for five seasons.

The Trailblazers went 8-3 in 2019, the best mark in what was the program’s final year of 14 in Division II play. DSU went 2-3 in the spring 2021 season, splitting a series with Tarleton State, losing by a touchdown to FBS New Mexico State, and losing by 10 at Kennesaw State before defeating Division-II Fort Lewis in the finale.

Peterson’s coordinators both coached at Weber State under Jay Hill: Kelly Bills is offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and Justin Ena is defensive coordinator and safeties coach.

“They’re a tough team, they play hard, they’re physical, they run around. They’re exactly what you’d expect from those two coordinators,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “Justin Ena and Kelly Bills were both here and they know the culture that we established and what it takes to be a winner, and I think they’re doing a good job down there right now.

“They’re very aggressive on defense. They’ll blitz you, they’ll shoot gaps. They’re not just going to sit back and bleed a slow death, you’ll see those guys running downhill and really trying to tackle physically.”

Weber State senior linebacker Conner Mortensen said his team learned at Utah that they can go toe to toe with anybody, and that the WSU defense just needs to pair that toughness with consistent aggressiveness and discipline.

He expects to see the kind of team Hill described.

“We know they’re tough. We know they’re going to play as hard as they can, they’re not going to leave anything off the field,” Mortensen said. “We’ve just got to go down and play Weber State football — smash mouth, we are the aggressors, we’re the team to beat, we still have that attitude.

“But they’re going to play hard, too, and are not going to back down. So we’ve just got to go play the way we always play.”

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