Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Riverton (6-4) at Alta (8-2)
5A state tournament first round
Friday, 6 p.m.
Parry’s Power Guide: Alta by 22
All-time series: Alta leads 6-2
Last meeting: Sept. 7, 2012 (Week 4) — Alta 19, Riverton 7
Alta's first-round match-up against Riverton looks to be one of the more competitive first-round match-ups in the state. You don't have to tell Alta coach Bob Stephens this, however — he already knows.
"Riverton is a team that battled us very hard early in the year and very well could have won the game if they had some more things go their way," said Stephens. "It's a team that plays very hard for their coach and runs a very good system on both offense and on defense. It's not going to be an easy game for us."
Riverton presents a Wing-T offense that can be a headache to defend. It features three primary running backs, a quarterback and receiving corps that can surprise a defense completely focused on stopping its run-heavy attack.
On defense, Riverton isn't given to allow many points to opponents and also presents solid special teams play.
"Riverton keeps you on your toes no matter what situation they're in, and they do some things on special teams that we'll have to be ready for," said Stephens. "They're so assignment-sound in everything they do, and that's tough to beat. It's a team that can beat you for big 80-yard gains if you miss just one assignment."
Alta comes into the game as the favorite after garnering a two-seed in a very tough and competitive Region 3.
"I believe that we play in the toughest region in the state, but Region 3 — that's a region that's just about as tough as our region," said Riverton coach Mike Miller. "We've both had to battle the best in the state to get to the playoffs, and Alta — they can play with anyone and they certainly beat us the first time around."
The Hawks feature one of the most potent passing games in the state led by first-year starter Chipper Lucero. Lucero threw for 2,815 yards and 31 touchdowns during the regular season — primarily targeting Utah-bound Harrison Handley (53 receptions for 695 yards and seven touchdowns) and Ammon Barker (49 receptions for 1,004 yards and 11 touchdowns) who recently picked up a scholarship offer from Utah.
"We're always focused on stopping the run, but their passing game is very tough to defend, and they might have the two best receivers in the state," observed Miller. "Their quarterback is very good, and it's just the type of quality team Alta always seems to have. They're always one of the top teams in the state, and this year is no different."
Miller believes that ball-control and keeping the ball out of Alta's hands will be key in Friday's match-up.
"With the weapons they have you want to limit their opportunities," said Miller. "We have the type of offense that can run some clock, and we'll need to put together some long drives and capitalize on those drives if we hope to win."
Stephens believes that continued improvements on defense have been key to finishing out the season strong, and continued improvements will be key to a deep playoff run.
"I've been very happy with the improvements we've made on defense over the past three games, and hopefully that can continue," said Stephens. "We need to be solid in every area, like I mentioned, and I think we're starting to become a more complete team. We'll need to be a complete team to beat a team like Riverton."
Riverton statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 24.1 ppg