There are a lot of narratives to explain how American Fork barely beat Riverton 20-13 in Friday’s 6A second round when many figure it would be another Region 4 rout, but Cavemen coach Aaron Behm summed things up best.
“They’re a really good team, and playing really good football at the right time of year so we’re thankful to get this win,” said Behm.
Whether it was Riverton’s momentum vs. American Fork’s rust, or American Fork looking ahead to another crack at Corner Canyon, or the fact Riverton is simply better than people give it credit for, Friday’s clash was a hard-fought defensive grudge match that came down to the final minute.
Leading 20-3 early in the fourth quarter, American Fork had to sweat things out down the stretch and couldn’t officially celebrate advancing to the quarterfinals until Kyle Moore intercepted a pass at midfield with 40 seconds left in the game.
No. 8 American Fork will now face No. 1 Corner Canyon next Friday, a team it lost to by 29 points in region play earlier this year.
“Excited to play another great opponent and to have another week together with these guys, and excited to go to work and try to find a way to beat those guys,” said Behm.
Nothing came easy for American Fork’s banged-up offense against Riverton, but Maddux Madsen was able to do just enough as he tossed two touchdown passes, both to Trey Roberts. The latter of the two came on a 11-yard strike at the 11:36 mark of the fourth quarter which put the Cavemen ahead 20-3.
Riverton threw four straight incompletions on its ensuing possession, and with American Fork taking over at Riverton’s 27-yard line it was in perfect position to put the game away with either a score or milking time off the clock.
It wasn’t effective doing either, giving the ball back to Riverton after coming up short on a fourth-and-2 run. Riverton was essentially handed a redo after botching its previous four-and-out drive. It made the most of it, marching 82 yards in 12 plays with Sam Woolley capping the scoring drive with a 10-yard TD pass from Colby Barton with 7:30 remaining and trailing 20-10.
On American Fork’s ensuing drive it picked up three first downs and moved deep into Riverton territory with first and goal at the 9-yard line with under four minutes remaining. Instead of running the ball and forcing Riverton to use timeouts, American Fork kept passing. Four incompletions later, Riverton took over on downs again after American Fork elected not to try a field goal.
Riverton again marched quickly, and with 1:03 remaining Riverton coach Jody Morgan elected to kick a 45-yard field goal on third-and-1 knowing his team needed two scores — and the fact it still had three timeouts remaining. Dylan Turville nailed the field goal, and just like Morgan had hoped his team forced American Fork into a three and out after not trying an onside kick.
Riverton’s hopes of completing the improbable comeback were dashed though when Moore intercepted Riverton on its second play.
For Behm, Moore’s interception capped what he said was a great defensive performance by his team only allowing one touchdown all game.
“Defense flied around, we were able to get a couple holds, our guys on the D-line played extremely hard,” said Behm.
American Fork’s defense needed to be good because the offense couldn’t find a rhythm early. On its first four possessions, it failed to convert on fourth down twice at its own 25-yard line, fumbled and then punted.
Riverton’s offense wasn’t good early either, but it did find some success late in the first half as Turville’s 27-yard field goal with 2:52 remaining gave Riverton the 3-0 lead after the 15-play drive.
The deficit, regardless of how small, seemed to crank up the urgency for American Fork as it responded with a nine-play scoring drive, taking a 6-3 lead with 25 seconds left in the half on a Roberts 3-yard TD pass from Madsen.
“I think we found our rhythm there that last drive of the first half, and then we kind of stuck with that in the second half and we were able to move the ball,” said Behm.
American Fork scored on its first two drives of the third quarter, the first on an Evan Agor 3-yard TD run and the second another Roberts TD reception, which seemingly put the game out of reach.
Behm, however, knew Riverton wasn’t going to go quietly.
“They just play really hard, they’re really sound, they’re very well coached and play extremely hard so it just took us a little while to recover. It’s a long time to go two and a half weeks with a football game,” he said.