5A high school football playoffs: Riverton overcomes slow start to beat West
RIVERTON — Perhaps the first quarter was just an aberration. The way Riverton High's football team played the final three quarters of Friday's 5A playoff opener against West, the Silverwolves are hopeful of even bigger things.
Derrick Rodrigues rushed for 140 yards and four touchdowns as Riverton overcame a sluggish start to overwhelm the visiting Panthers 34-7. Riverton advances to face Lone Peak, a 30-8 winner over Syracuse, in the second round. West led 7-0 midway through the second quarter before the momentum changed.
"In the first quarter we kind of got shocked, but as it went on, we played hard," Rodrigues said. "Our line just stepped it up and started hitting people. We just came together as a team. For us as seniors, it's been our goal this whole year to go all the way. This means a lot to our seniors and our community."
In fact, it was Riverton's first-ever playoff victory, however edgy it was.
Following an exchange of fumbles, West's Anetipa Vaisagano ran in from 16 yards out to give the Panthers (7-4) an early lead. Most notably, West had 23 offensive plays in the first quarter compared to only nine for the Silverwolves.
Then it quickly became the Rodrigues Show. The senior scored three straight touchdowns, Joey Jensen rumbled 83 yards for another score, and Rodrigues finished off his night with a 4-yard scamper in the fourth.
"I think we had to get in our tempo and rhythm," Riverton coach Mike Miller said. "We just had to settle in and try to keep the ball out of their hands. Our line picked up their blocks and Derrick did a great job."
The Silverwolves (10-1) were outgained 126-42 in the first quarter, as West benefited from long runs by Vaisagano and Eric Takenaka, who combined for 291 yards rushing. However, the Panthers weren't helped in the passing game, as Chance Abrath completed only 2 of 12 passes for 17 yards with an interception.
Riverton didn't exactly rack up the passing yards, either, but the running game got on track in the second quarter. The Silverwolves gained 364 of their 398 yards on the ground, as Rodrigues and Jensen (110 yards) each did well.
Things were working so well that Riverton players got in on the play calling.
"It just got to a point where they would come off the field and tell us where their people were or weren't," Miller said. "I'm just happy to be going another week."
West, which came in averaging 30 points per game, missed a chance to build on its lead in the second quarter. Takenaka's 17-yard touchdown run was negated by a holding penalty. Riverton's Jordan Bennett ended the drive with an interception.
Rodrigues, who scored four touchdowns in a game for the first time since his sophomore season, said the team is as focused as ever.
"We watch film, but as long as we play as a team we'll do well," Rodrigues said. "We just have to come out and play our game."