ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The Dixie State football team is about to make its biggest leap in school history.
The Trailblazers will compete as a Division I FCS Independent in 2020, moving up from Division II, where it has been since 2006.
“There are a lot of people to thank for this move,” said head football coach Paul Peterson. “But we’re all putting in the work.”
This was not the way Peterson was hoping to prepare for the biggest season in school history, amid a global pandemic. But the players are back on campus and are able to work out.
“There’s a lot of adversity these kids have gone through,” said Peterson, who led Dixie State to a school-record eight wins in his first season as head coach in 2019. “It’s a weird time, it’s a little uncomfortable and there’s a lot of uncertainty. But we’re going to play them like there is a season coming up. This jump is exciting with some good teams on our schedule, and we’re looking forward to our first D-1 games.”
Gone are games against teams like Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines. Bring on Weber State, Southern Utah, Montana State and some of the best FCS teams in the country.
“You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Peterson said. “As a competitor, you want the top dogs so you can set our barometer to see where you’re at as a program. We’re going to come in and compete. You don’t want your student-athletes to think these are D-II student athletes, no we’re not. We’re Division One student-athletes and we’re going to prepare that way. We’re going to surprise some guys. We’ve got a really good roster with some older guys.”
The Trailblazers are even going to play BYU at LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2022.
“To be able to have our kids play there, in a place a lot of our players grew up watching games,” Peterson said. “What a great opportunity for our kids. We’re recruiting to beat them.”
First things first, as Peterson is focused on this season, and he has the luxury of playing two veteran quarterbacks in former BYU and Pine View High star Kody Wilstead, and former Bingham quarterback Keaton Mott.
“They both have really good strengths and they both make each other better,” Peterson said. “So if we’ve got to play both of them because they’ve earned it, then we’ll play both of them if it’s going to make our team better.”
Peterson has already noticed an upswing in recruiting with the move to Division I, especially locally. There are currently 21 players from Utah on the roster, and Peterson would like to see that number rise.
“We need more of them,” he said. “I want to flip our roster. When I first took over, there wasn’t that many, and we want to recruit heavily in Utah. The brand of football is fantastic in Utah. This last recruiting class that we had, we went toe to toe with Weber State and SUU, and we won some. The year before, we didn’t.”
Dixie State is scheduled to play its first Division I game September 5th at Southern Utah.