SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah - In a back and forth game where Ridgeline and Pine View battled for 48 minutes on a neutral field, the Riverhawks needed a statement play to widen their lead and roll to a season-opening win.
After throwing an interception on their prior drive, which resulted in a Panther field goal to bring Pine View within four points, it seemed as if momentum had fully shifted to the Pine View sideline as the public address announcer boomed with excitement. The excitement was suddenly dampened as Riverhawk QB Kaden Cox floated a ball into the hands of a streaking receiver for a 66-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 11 points, which the Panthers wouldn’t be able to come back from on Friday night, concluding in a 42-38 Ridgeline victory. It might not have the previous year's thriller of a shootout in which the teams combined for 114 points, but the end result was still arguably the most thrilling of the 50 games during the first Friday night of the pandemic-stricken high school football season.
After a quick three-play drive that ended in a 72-yard Cox touchdown pass on the Riverhawks' opening drive of the game, Ridgeline set the tone early with a long methodical 17-play drive on their second drive of the season. This drive, which took a large chunk of the first quarter, put Ridgeline in the driver’s seat in an opening game they would never trail in.
Late in the third quarter, it looked as if the Panthers were on track to make a late-game comeback and steal the game from Ridgeline after a 92-yard kick return taken to the house that brought them within seven points. Unfortunately, the Panthers' defense couldn’t make a stop and entirely shift the tides, which they so badly needed to pull off a come from behind victory.
Pine View established the run early in this one, which proved essential in keeping the Panthers in this game until the very end. A big game from Pine View senior Enoch Takau opened up avenues in the passing game that had the Panthers offense never too far behind. Takau’s large burst runs, in a game he finished with 146 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries, helped Pine View continuously claw back.
Ultimately, two game-altering holding calls lost the Panthers the game on Pine View’s final drive, when only down four points. The first crushing flag was called on an apparent 34-yard touchdown pass by Brayden Bunnell that would have given the Panthers their first lead of the game with under three minutes remaining. Bunnell finished the night with 313 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-30 passing. A second hold was called four plays later on a large Takau run, one that would have put Pine View inside the Ridgeline 10 yard-line. The Panthers eventually turned over on downs, allowing the Riverhawks to run the clock and secure the win.
Ridgeline pulled off the tight win in large thanks to Cox’s 300 passing yards and two touchdowns. Along with a combined 215 team rush yards and three rushing touchdowns, the less penalty-ridden Riverhawks' great offensive play ensured a big win on Friday night.
Junior dual-sport standout Dominique McKenzie had eight catches for 211 yards in a big season-opening receiving effort for the Panthers.
Ridgeline (1-0) will look to continue their hot start vs Cyprus next week as Pine View (0-1) will look to bounce back vs Highland.
Top-ten clashes don't live up to billing
Number two-ranked Lone Peak-Highland had no trouble with third-ranked Timpview-Provo in a 24-0 dismantling of the Thunderbirds. Siale Tahi punctuated the win for Lone Peak with a pair of second-half rushing touchdowns, giving him three scores for the night, and an interception.
In the biggest stunner of the weekend, state fourth-ranked American Fork ran roughshod over state number 10 Lehi, winning 55-0 and scoring all their points in the first three periods of play. The Cavemen's Spike Adams recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and never looked back, scoring four plays later on a short plunge by Adams and rolling from there. Adams' first touchdown was followed by three first-quarter touchdown passes from Maddux Madsen as American Fork led 27-0 after one quarter. Adams later added another scoring run, while junior tight end Noah Moaki added a pair of touchdown receptions and junior Fisher Ingersoll scored on both sides of the ball, with a scoring catch and an interception return for a touchdown.
State's top team cruises in opener
Top-ranked Corner Canyon-Draper won its 27th straight game with ease, scoring the first 49 points of the game in a 49-20 win over Farmington. Senior quarterback Jaxson Dart completed 14-of-15 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 77 yards and two scores on the ground. Senior running back Austin Bell contributed 93 yards and two scores on eight carries.
Sophomore shines bright for East
Sophomore running back Amini Amone made sure that everyone knows his name, as the 5-foot-11, 192-pound back gashed West Jordan for over 200 yards in East-Salt Lake City's 42-19 victory. Amone averaged over 10 yards per carry, including a 51-yard scoring jaunt.
Around the state
Snow Canyon-St. George could move into the state's top 20 next week after pounding Cyprus, 42-0. Quarterback Landon Frei threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the win, while Bretton Stone scored once through the air and twice more on the ground.
17th-ranked Kearns used a pair of special teams touchdowns to down Box Elder, 20-3. Jeff Bassa scored on a 85-yard kick return while Charles Henderson scooped up a blocked kick and raced 70 yards for another score. Henderson also added a 55-yard interception return for the other Kearns touchdown, as there was not an offensive touchdown in the game.
16th-ranked Roy scored all 49 of its points in the first half during a 49-7 romp over Jordan. Junior quarterback Parker Kingston threw for 197 yards and four touchdowns, while senior Izzy Gordon added 150 yards and a pair of scoring runs on 11 carries, including an 80-yard dash. Junior Colby Dickson added two interceptions on defense.
The most lopsided game of the weekend was Kanab's 70-0 win over Monticello, while Bountiful's 7-6 win over Highland-Salt Lake City was the closest game.