SALT LAKE CITY — Facing a road game against a highly ranked opponent, the Riverton Silverwolves could have developed pre-game anxiety, played a mistake-filled game, and ultimately suffered a blowout loss.
Instead, they played surprisingly tough and hung toe-to-toe with Alta before the Hawks finally managed to put the game out of reach with just under four minutes to go to win 19-7 here Friday.
"I wasn't surprised," said Hawks coach Bob Stephens. "Riverton is a good team. They're very focused and they're very good at what they do."
In the first quarter it looked like the Hawks would dominate, but after the Silverwolves held the Hawks to a 40-yard Tanner Valerio field goal with seven minutes to play, Riverton marched up the field on a 76-yard drive, eating up nearly five minutes of clock and took a 7-3 lead on a 3-yard Stratton Brown touchdown run.
"I actually thought we could win this game," said Riverton coach Mike Miller. "I was pretty proud of how our kids played. They shouldn't hang their heads. Alta has some very good athletes and our kids stayed toe-to-toe with them."
The Hawks recaptured the lead at 10-7 when quarterback Chipper Lucero snuck between the tackles for a 1-yard touchdown run with 10:46 to play in the second quarter. His run capped a nine-play, 51-yard drive.
Midway through the second, the teams traded the ball three times on turnovers in a span of 40 seconds. The Silverwolves recovered a muffed punt, Riverton Quarterback Zach Cameron lost the ball on a strip sack, and Lucero threw an interception to Brady Holt.
Lucero peppered the Riverton defense with a series of short and medium passes all night. He finished 22-of-34 for 214 yards, while Cameron threw six passes on 11 attempts for 42 yards for the Silverwolves.
After allowing the Hawks to advance 71 yards in eight plays to pick up a first-and-goal at the 9, Holt sacked Lucero for a 6-yard loss on third down, forcing Alta to settle for a 32-yard Valerio field goal and a 13-7 lead.
The Silverwolves then took the ball at their own 26. They moved the ball by running nine plays on the ground, thanks to the running of Brown, Cameron and Jake Simonich.
Once Riverton approached the red zone, however, the Hawks defense tightened up. Simonich found the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown run, but the score was called back for a clipping call and the Silverwolves couldn't recover, turning the ball over on downs.
The Hawks then put the game away by marching 74 yards in 13 plays, consuming nearly six minutes of clock, and finishing on a 5-yard Max Broman touchdown run to make it 19-7. On the drive, Lucero completed five of seven pass attempts for 37 yards and ran twice for nine more.
"I think that penalty took the wind out of our sails," Miller said, referring to the clipping call. "We never really recovered from that."
Stephens said the key to the victory was making sure his team continued to play competitively until the final whistle.
"The big thing we talked about at halftime was the idea of finishing," Stephens said. "We said we have got to get out there and finish the game."
Stephens said he was very impressed with Riverton and the Hawks were fortunate to come away with the win.