Everything we’ve seen of them on film, we’ve seen this year, but they do a good job at it. We will really have to prepare well. —Riverton coach Mike Miller, on Northridge
RIVERTON — When the Riverton football team steps into its opening-round game of the 5A state tournament Friday evening, the Silverwolves will be looking across the line of scrimmage at an unfamiliar foe.
For the first time in school history, Riverton, the second seed from Region 4, will face the Northridge Knights, the Region 1 third seed. It will also be the first time Silverwolves coach Mike Miller stands opposite Northridge head coach Erik Thompson.
“During our bye week this year, our JV and sophomore teams played them,” Miller said. “Otherwise, in all my years, I have only met Northridge two or three times.”
Despite of the lack of history between the programs, Miller and his team are preparing for a tough competitor.
“I know Erik is a good coach and he does a good job,” he said. “He has a good team with big, physical, skilled kids. We will have to play our best ball game in order to beat them.”
The Knights are led by the play of junior Dayan Lake, who has 557 yards and three touchdowns on the ground along with 616 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Junior Ben Jackson has added 318 yards and four scored on 69 carries, while senior Jace Colby has recorded 912 yards and nine touchdowns on 44 receptions. Quarterback Nate Kusuka has accumulated more than 1,500 yards.
“Everything we’ve seen of them on film, we’ve seen this year,” Miller said, “but they do a good job at it. We will really have to prepare well. We know they have some really skilled kids, but (Lake and Colby) seem to get the most touches.”
As has been the case every week during the season, the Silverwolves will depend on speed and execution. The Knights, just like every other Riverton opponent, are bigger than the Riverton players, but Miller said his team has finally gotten used to that.
“The first few games, we would point out that the other team is bigger than us,” Miller said. “Eventually, we didn’t have to talk about it anymore. They were bigger than us every game. But we’re fast and tenacious, and we use our smarts.”
The Silverwolves’ offense, which is averaging 40.7 points per game, is directed by a senior quarterback Connor Henderson, who has totaled just 392 yards and three passing TDs. Meanwhile, Cameron Christensen and Paden Cayias have combined for nearly 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground.
“Every week, a different guy steps up,” Miller said, noting that 13 different players have accounted for rushing scores this season. “All of our starters on both sides of the ball, on special teams, even on our scout team — they have all done well this year.”
The Knights and Silverwolves are battling for an opportunity to play the winner of Bingham, the Region 3 top seed, and West, the fourth-place team from Region 2, in the quarterfinals. While both teams want to be the squad to advance, Miller said his team is continuing to focus only on the game at hand.
“Every week, we go week-to-week,” he said. “We don’t change routines for playoffs. We keep doing just what has gotten us here.”
Northridge statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 26.0 ppg (14th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 25.3 ppg (15th in 5A)
Passing leader: Nate Kusuka (91-153, 59.5 percent, 1,520 yards, 11 TDs)
Sack leaders: Josh Hawes (8)
Interception leaders: Dallas Moklebust (3)
Riverton statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 40.7 ppg (2nd in 5A)
Scoring defense: 17.6 ppg (7th in 5A)
Passing leader: Connor Henderson (22-75, 29.3 percent, 392 yards, 3 TDs)
Felt’s Facts for Northridge High School
All-time record: 148-89 (22 years)
Region championships: 5 (1993 co, 1998 co, 2001, 2002 co, 2003)
Playoff appearances: 17
All-time playoff record: 20-13
State championships: 3 (2000, 2001, 2002)
State championship record: 3-0
Felt’s Factoid(s): Northridge has won the most championship games — 3 — without a loss. The Knights have scored the most points in a four-game playoff series, 212 (2001).
Felt’s Facts for Riverton High School
All-time record: 74-84 (15 years)
Region championships: 1 (2013 co)
Playoff appearances: 11
All-time playoff record: 1-10
State championships: 0
State championship record:0-0
Felt’s Factoid(s): Riverton became just the seventh — and latest — school to rush for more than 4,000 yards during a season when the Silverwolves ran for 4,456 in 2010.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.