History had already been made when the Ridgeline Riverhawks won their semifinal game over Crimson Cliffs last week to appear in the school’s first ever state championship game, but the Riverhawks decided to take their history-making a step further.
With a dominant 45-20 victory over Dixie in Friday’s 4A state championship game at Rice Eccles Stadium the Riverhawks won the school’s first state title and finished the season a perfect 13-0 on the season. Though the stakes were the highest they’ve been all season, Ridgeline performed like it had all throughout a season where it outscored its opponents by an average of 30.8 points per game.
“I can’t put it into words how special of a moment this is for me and the team,” Ridgeline head coach Travis Cox said. “We’ve been around (each other) a long time and I’m just super proud of them and how they’ve come together. They’re an amazing group of kids and I’m gonna miss them, but we had quite a run. You can’t write a script better than what we did this year.”
The game was a proper send-off for senior quarterback Kaden Cox, who lit up opposing defenses all year long. Cox torched Dixie, completing 72% of his passes for 355 yards and five touchdowns (second most in state championship game history).
The signal-caller finished the season with 55 touchdown passes (third most in state history) and only two interceptions. Cox ended his career top 10 in state history in completions (657), touchdown passes (99), passing yardage (8,657) and touchdowns responsible for (113).
Although Kaden Cox will go down in history as one of the school’s greatest players, it isn’t just Cox who’s made the Riverhawks offense so elite this year, but credit also goes to his backfield mate, Noah White.
Ridgeline outgained Dixie 570 to 349 in total yardage thanks in large part to White’s efforts on the ground. The senior running back finished with 209 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, while adding seven catches for 54 yards through the air.
White said Ridgeline’s ability to beat defenses through the air and on the ground allowed them to attack a defense whichever way that defense dictates.
“Honestly, we were going to take whatever they gave us and we took both. We passed the ball and we ran the ball just fine,” White said.
With the 209-yard effort — good for the 12th-best in championship game history —White finished the season with 2,008 yards on the ground.
Though they’ll be the ones in the headlines, Kaden Cox and White were quick to credit their success to the performance of their teammates on the offensive line in run and pass blocking. Both said that the offensive line doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
“It’s hard to stop our offense when we can do both (run and pass),” Kaden Cox said. “I give all the credit to our O-line. We couldn’t do anything without them and they played one heck of a year and a heck of a game.”
Senior receiver Stratford Simmons was also a top performer on offense, finishing with five catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns, while defensively, the top performer was junior Luke Sorenson, who finished with seven tackles (three for loss), with a sack and a pass breakup.
The championship victory was not only a triumphant moment for the team, but for a Millville community that came out in large numbers to support the Riverhawks.
It was the final game for a stellar group of seniors who all acknowledged that although this would be their final football game after years of playing together, it couldn’t have ended any better.
“To finish 13-0, not many teams can do that, so I’m lucky to be a part of it,” Kaden Cox said. “Most of us seniors have been together for around 10 years, so we’ve played together, put our heads down and worked. We knew what we could do. ... I’ve dreamed of this moment my whole life and I’m speechless right now.”
From a little league championship victory all the way to a state championship win, the class has certainly cemented its place in school history.
“We can look back and we’ll always go down in history as the first one,” White said. “We’re a special group and I’m just super excited.”