5A high school football playoffs: Alta defense dominates Riverton, advance to quarterfinals
SANDY — Despite another slow start and a few too many penalties, the Alta Hawks will gladly accept this outcome. One year after being upset in the first round, the Hawks cruised to a 27-14 victory over Riverton Friday night to advance to the 5A quarterfinals.
The win erased some of the bitter taste left over from 2011's loss to Syracuse, who the Hawks will face next week. "Compared to last year, it feels good. No doubt about it," Alta coach Bob Stevens said. "Riverton is a good team. We knew that coming in. That's a tough draw on a three seed."
Quarterback Chipper Lucero threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hawks offense. His top two targets were Mack Richards (six receptions,120 yards and a touchdown) and Ammon Barker (five receptions, 106 yards, one touchdown).
While the Hawks' offense struggled to find a consistent rhythm (the team tallied 15 penalties, including six on the opening drive), their defense was on point throughout the night. The Hawks forced the Silverwolves to turn the ball over four times, the first of which came just three plays into their opening drive on a fumble recovered by Connor Lawson. Riverton would also lose a fumble on their first play of the second half, and gain only two first downs for the night.
"We put in a lot of hard work this week, studied a lot of film, and I think it showed," said defensive end Brock Davies. "Last year was a total bummer. It's an amazing feeling to win a playoff game, but we're taking it one game at a time."
Down 3-0 after the long first drive, the Silverwolves stifled the Hawks next three drives. Lucero connected with Barker on a long completion, but BJ Newman would strip the ball from the receiver for a turnover. The teams then traded three-and-outs before Riverton lost the ball on a fumble of their own.
Alta would capitalize. Lucero hit Barker on a long pass, and this time the senior broke two tackles near the goal line en route to a 10-0 lead. The Hawks would again turn the ball over on their next possession, but needed less than a minute to score just before halftime on a sliding grab by Harrison Handley. Alta would add to that 10-0 lead in the third on a 37-yard field goal by Valerio and a touchdown reception by Richards. Up 27-0, Lucero moved to the bench with what appeared to be a sore ankle. The offense stayed mostly in neutral the rest of the night, giving Riverton the opportunity to get back in the game. Riverton would get on the board late in the fourth on a 25-yard run by Stratton Brown and two-point conversion pass from Connor Henderson to Newman. Jake Simonovich would add a touchdown with 33 seconds left, bringing the final score to 27-14. Riverton ends the year with a 6-5 record. The Hawks advance to a rematch with Syracuse and a chance to exact a measure of revenge for last season's upset. Davies and his teammates were already preparing themselves for the game before hitting the locker room Friday night.
"We're all pumped up for the game," Davies said. "We're coming with everything we have."