Ravell Call, Deseret News
Riverton (5-5) at West (5-5)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Riverton by 3
All-time series: Riverton leads 3-0
Coach vs. coach: Riverton's Mike Miller leads West's Justin Spencer, 1-0
Last meeting: Oct. 29, 2010, Riverton 34, West 7 (5A first round)
While Riverton and West have identical records this season, the teams are more different than alike.
The second-seeded Panthers can best be described as a veteran team.
"We're going to play a ton of seniors," said West coach Justin Spencer. "We do have some key spots where underclassmen are going to play and contribute, but a lot of these kids are seniors with experience."
Riverton, on the other hand, relies on a lot of young players pulled together by strong senior leadership.
"This team is young," said coach Mike Miller. "They've really pulled together. My senior class has done a fantastic job. A lot of time when a team is young they play very selfishly. When you're young, all you want to do is start. When you get older, you want the success. Our older guys have done a great job of making our younger guys feel a part of the success, so they want to win it for the seniors."
Riverton is led by senior running back Joey Jenson, who leads the team with 14 touchdowns. He's amassed 1,154 rushing yards on 146 carries.
"Joey is phenomenal," said Miller. "He's our MVP."
He also singled out quarterback Preston Young, center Peyton Christiansen, lineman Will Cutler and running back/defensive back Taylor Sterland.
West throws the ball more than the Silverwolves, but it also has one of the state's best running backs in Eric Takenaka.
"He's by far our best leader, just by example," said Spencer. Lineman Semisi Afeaki, who has 75 tackles, is one of the team's defensive leaders.
"Our other captains have been great as well," he said. "One of our best offensive and defensive linemen was hurt in the Hunter game (Abel Stanley), but he does what he can. He still comes to practice, still hangs out with the team."
The team will graduate 33 players this year.
"Those kids have put in the time and done the work," he said of the upperclassmen. We have great senior leadership and our underclassmen have stepped up."
He said the team's quarterback, junior Alex Espinosa, has been solid under a lot of pressure. He's thrown for 1,127 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Both squads have learned how to handle adversity as they lost tough games and battled through tough region play.
"They just won't give up," Spencer said. "When things get tough, and we had some tough games where the wheels could have completely fallen off … But they didn't. I'm proud of them for that."
Miller said his team was discouraged after losing to Herriman in non-region play.
"I think that put a notch in our armor," Miller said. "I think just as we progressed and got into region play, and focused on region teams, they started looking beyond that game."
He said they looked at the season as preparation for the playoffs and tried to focus on what they do well.
Spencer said hosting a playoff game is something new for the Panthers.