SALT LAKE CITY — For the Riverton football team, it was a bit of a shock, déjà vu, but most importantly, an inspirational rebound all rolled into one. The result was a 23-22 overtime win against next-door neighbor Herriman on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in what has become one of the better prep rivalries in the state.
In the end, it was Stratton Brown, along with Albert Tai, holding Brown's good friend Francis Bernard short of the end zone on an attempted two-point conversion run in overtime to secure the win. Up to that point, Bernard had scorched the Silverwolves with big plays in big situations to force the OT period.
"We just had to stop him and quit having him make plays on us," said Brown. "We knew he was probably going to get the ball, so we just stepped up and made a play."
The fact that it came down to what it did was a bit shocking to a Riverton team that led the entire game. With a little over five minutes remaining and Riverton holding a 16-0 lead, Herriman and particularly quarterback Tueni Lupeamanu and Bernard went to work.
Lupeamanu guided a touchdown drive that was highlighted by a fourth-and-long pass to Connor Johnson. Bernard capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run at the 3:54 mark. Bernard then executed a throwback pass to Lupeamanu for the successful two-point conversion to pull the Mustangs within a one-score deficit at 16-8.
Following a three-and-out from Riverton, Herriman found itself with the ball on its 32-yard line with 2:30 remaining on the clock. Nine plays later, the Mustangs were in the end zone again with Lupeamanu hitting Stetson Sartor from seven yards out for the score with 19 seconds left on the clock. The play came immediately after Lupeamanu hit Bernard for a 35 yard pass to convert a third-and-28 situation.
Following a successful two-point conversion, the Silverwolves were in a state of shock, but surprisingly not down and still confident they were going to win despite Herriman's improbable comeback.
"All I heard was little BJ Newman say that it's our time," said Riverton coach Mike Miller. "He said some other things and everyone just thought it was going to happen."
Riverton got the first crack on offense during the overtime period. True to form, the Silverwolves pounded away on the ground until Jared Mohney broke into the end zone with a seven-yard run.
"We always talk as running backs that you can't go down past the five-yard line, so when I got past the five-yard line, I knew I couldn't go down," Mohney said of his go-ahead touchdown run. "I knew our line would pull through, so it was just up to me to get the yards they gave me."
Herriman then did similar work, with Bernard scoring from 12 yards out. With the Mustangs lining up for a game-tying extra point, déjà vu started to creep into the Riverton coaches' and players' minds.
Last year, in almost the exact same situation and in the same venue, Herriman opted to go for two and ultimately won the game. This time, Riverton aimed to turn the tables.
"It was almost exactly what happened last year," said Miller. "This time we called timeout with the idea to ice the kicker, thinking that they might try (for two) again. We called a defense expecting it and we had to know where (Bernard) was — we knew that the whole game, but we just let him off the hook too many times."
Thanks to Brown and Tai, Bernard was not left off the hook this time, as they converged to hold the Herriman star running back just short of the end zone.
The Riverton bench erupted as a result.
"It's a close proximity (rivalry) and a lot of their kids played for us, but went over there when they were freshmen and started three straight years for them, so it's a game we both wanted," said Miller. "You just have to hand it to our kids and to the Riverton community. If it was just coaching then it wouldn't have been the same outcome. These kids won that game and we just did our best not to take it away from them."
Riverton was led on the night by running back Jake Simonich, who ran the ball 14 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. Lupeamanu led Herriman with 17-of-28 passing for 222 yards and a touchdown.
With the win Riverton moves to 2-0 on the year and will next take on Syracuse on the road. Herriman drops to 1-1 and match up against Highland at home next Friday.
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