RIVERTON — You never truly know what a first game is going to bring for any particular program, and that fact is perhaps doubly so for a first-year football coach taking over a struggling program.
Riverton coach Jody Morgan took over the Silverwolves' program this past offseason after coaching at both Dixie State College and at Herriman. While the program has seen good success over the years, recent history hasn't been in its favor, with Morgan becoming the third head coach in the three years following the retirement of long-time Riverton coach Mike Miller.
He entered this season working to infuse a new system and optimism for the program and saw at least some of that work pay off with a first-week 24-21 win over favored Skyridge, a program several have pegged as the favorite to win the 5A state championship.
"It was huge," Morgan said of the win. "It was huge for our community. Huge for our school. It's a big step in the right direction, although it's a long season and there's still a lot we have left to prove."
Morgan came to Riverton hoping to borrow a lot of systems that have brought Herriman success in recent years. A lot of the success is based on solid line play up front and quality overall play on the defense and special teams.
"We have a defensive mentality that we're going to grind it out every game with solid play on the defense, special teams and then the offense," Morgan said. "Our defense is what won that game and it's why we've put so many of our top athletes on the defensive side."
Indeed two of the three touchdowns scored came from defensive plays made directly. One by virtue of a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown by Hunter Williams and then a 45-yard interception return by Tristyn Hymas, a player Morgan describes as one of the most overlooked players in the state.
"I can't believe why local colleges aren't looking at the kid, but they're all missing out," Morgan said of his senior free safety. "He has the size, speed and the play to play at the next level, so we'll see what comes of it. Maybe we don't have the recognition of schools like East an Bingham, but the kid is a player and we're very fortunate to have him."
Morgan also spoke highly of his other defensive backs and his entire defense as a whole.
"We relied a lot of on the defense making plays that first game, and we'll rely heavily on them throughout the year," Morgan said.
Entering the season Morgan asked his players to up their commitment levels and believes they've largely responded well. Another big commitment was made by the Riverton administration, which Morgan readily credits in helping the overall process of rebuilding the program.
"I told our Principal (Carolyn Gough) that if I took over the program I needed to see some changes and they responded," Morgan said. "She helped invest 40 thousand dollars into a new weight room. We got a new field and jerseys, and I really couldn't ask for anything more on their end. They've been a big part of helping point us in the right direction. Hopefully we can keep it going after a real good week one."