RIVERTON — They might have a shortage of ice and Ibuprofen in the Kearns and Riverton communities this weekend. Football players from those high schools have got to still be feeling it this morning after pounding and punishing each other in a physical, smash-mouth clash on Friday night.
No doubt the guys from Riverton are feeling quite a bit less pain, though. A hard-fought 20-17 overtime victory makes a pretty effective anesthetic.
Junior running back Danny Hoffman delivered just the right dose — and sent the homecoming crowd into euphoria — when he dove into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown after Riverton's defense held Kearns to a field goal on their overtime try.
Riverton coach Mike Miller celebrated briefly with his elated team and then went straight over to console the dejected Kearns players. He thought both squads deserved credit and congratulations after this dandy, which saw both sides take leads and battle from behind.
"They're tough. My hat's off to them. They played hard. We were fortunate," said Miller, a former Cougar coach and a Kearns alumnus. "Our kids played well, too. It was just two good football teams who got after it."
Both teams had tough performances from the lines of scrimmage in a ground-heavy game. The Cougars rushed for 224 of their 241 total yards, while Riverton racked up 176 yards rushing—with Hoffman, Zachary Spencer and Cory Ipsen sharing the load—and a total of 254 yards in the hard-nosed contest.
"It's hard to lose," said Kearns coach Bill Cosper. "Our kids played their hearts out."
Kearns (4-5, 1-3) needs a win next week against West Jordan to have a shot at the playoffs. Riverton (6-3, 3-1) hosts Hunter in a game that will determine the Region 3 second seed and a first-round home playoff game.
Kearns took a 7-0 lead into the locker room after churning out an 80-yard drive that chewed up 7 1/2 minutes on 14 plays. Running back Alamoti Vaenuku, who rushed for 146 yards, capped that long possession with a 1-yard TD plunge.
The Cougar defense came up big several times in the first half to post the two-quarter shutout. Riverton had the ball five times, including two possessions that started in Kearns territory, but was forced into three punts, a missed field goal and a half-ending incompletion.
Riverton finally found paydirt on Davis Johnson's 1-yard quarterback sneak midway through the third quarter. The drive started on the Cougar 43 after the Silverwolves' defense forced a Kearns fumble, the game's only turnover.
Johnson put the Silverwolves ahead in the fourth quarter on a 16-yard keeper after nearly getting sacked and being forced to run the width of the field before escaping into the end zone for a 14-7 lead.
But the Cougars gutted it up and forced overtime thanks to Toa Afatasi's 15-yard touchdown run with 2:31 remaining and a defensive stand.
Kearns got the ball first from the 25 in overtime, but Riverton stopped them short. The Cougars took a brief 17-14 lead on Taylor Whetman's 32-yard field goal.
Riverton ran it down to the 3-yard line and was stopped short of the goal line twice by Kearns before Hoffman's game-winning rush to the left side.