West (7-3) at Riverton (9-1)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 6 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Riverton by 16
All-time series: Riverton leads, 2-0
Coach vs. Coach: West's Justin Spencer and Riverton's Mike Miller, first meeting
Last meeting: Aug. 25, 2006 — Riverton 22, West 10
Riverton has put together its best season of football in school history, but one major milestone still eludes the Silverwolves.
Riverton has never won a state playoff game, going 0-6 in postseason play. The Silverwolves really haven't even come that close to winning one, losing their last five by double digits.
That could change on Friday, as Riverton is favored to defeat West in a 5A first-round playoff matchup. It could be a historical evening for the Silverwolves, but coach Mike Miller said that isn't his team's focus.
"It was brought up (at practice on Monday) a little bit, but I'm not going to talk about playoffs anymore," Miller said. "I'm going to talk about West. My mentality is we're not playing in the playoffs, we're playing against West. We'll focus on the team we're playing, not what round it is."
That's probably a good strategy for the Silverwolves, who realize the Panthers are a dangerous team.
West enters the playoffs on a three-game winning streak and features a 1,000-yard rusher in Anetipa Vaisagano and a tremendous playmaker in Eric Takenaka. The Panthers finished in a three-way tie for second place in Region 2 and ended up with the league's third seed after the tiebreaker was decided by drawing cards.
West scores an average of 30 points per game, and Miller is looking to play ball control – putting long drives together, finishing them off, and keeping the Panthers' dangerous offense off the field.
West, meanwhile, has goals similar to Riverton's.
While the Panthers have one of richest winning traditions in football in the state, they haven't won a playoff game since 1997. West won seven games this season, the most in a year since 1996, and looks to get over the hump and earn a postseason victory.
"We have a different group than maybe in years' past – they are focused on trying to take the next step," West coach Justin Spencer said of his players. "The next step is to compete in the playoffs. Last year, we competed but we didn't win. The next step is to try to win some games. We haven't gotten too carried away with our record, haven't gotten too down in our losses. I like the speed we're playing with."
The Panthers might be peaking at the right time. They had a brutal early stretch in their season in which they played East, Hunter and Skyline, and then faced teams that were fighting for their postseason lives in the latter portion of their schedule and beat them.
West has some momentum on its side, but understands why it is considered the underdog against Riverton. The Silverwolves are 9-1 with their only loss coming against powerhouse Bingham.
"It's a tough one," Spencer said. "It's a tough draw for us. Riverton is top-notch and this year probably even raised the bar for themselves a little bit. Coach Miller has them like a machine. They're fast, disciplined, and don't make mistakes. We have to try and match that, try to play disciplined football, and I think we can."
West statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 30.5 ppg
Scoring defense: 21.7 ppg
Passing leader: Chance Abrath (41-of-76, 53.9%, 549 yards, 4 TDs)
Rushing leader: Antipa Vaisagano (102 carries, 1,021 yards, 14 TDs)
Receiving leader: Eric Takenaka (18 receptions, 203 yards, 3 TDs)
Tackles leader: Semisi Afeaki (71 total tackles)
Sacks leader: Not provided
Interceptions leader: Not provided
Note: Does not include stats for Week 7, 9 and 10.
Riverton statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 37.0 ppg
Scoring defense: 17.6 ppg
Passing leader: Eric Thoreson (54-of-122, 44.3%, 859 yards, 7 TDs)
Rushing leader: Tua Laei (90 carries, 848 yards, 14 TDs)
Receiving leader: Michael Duckworth (5 receptions, 117 yards, 2 TDs)
Tackles leader: Skyler Fullmer (83 total tackles)
Sacks leader: Landon Fisher (4 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Preston Young (4 interception)