Box Score

When Crimson Cliffs ripped off region wins in September over Desert Hills, Snow Canyon, Hurricane and then Pine View, it sat in the driver’s seat in Region 10 and looked like the team to beat in 4A.

It was then stunned by Dixie on the road in Week 9, a loss that cost the program the outright region championship.

Crimson Cliffs coach Wayne Alofipo had a message for his players in the week after that game.

“The Dixie game was a blessing in disguise. I told those boys if we don’t use this loss as a learning and use it to help us be better, then we wasted it,” said Alofipo.

The Mustangs turned around and beat Cedar in the season finale by 24 points, and the momentum hasn’t stopped.

They backed up last week’s easy quarterfinal win over Cedar with an impressive 27-13 win over Ridgeline in the 4A semifinals at Southern Utah University on Saturday night.

Steele Barben led the way for Crimson Cliffs, completing 21 of 29 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns, while Crimson Cliffs’ defense forced six turnovers in the victory.

“We just tried to show as many defensive fronts and coverages back to them to try and throw their game off a little bit with a young quarterback,” said Alofipo.

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With the win, Crimson Cliffs advances to next Friday’s 4A state championship game against the winner of the Desert Hills-Mountain Crest semifinal.

Crimson Cliffs had a very young team heading into the season, and expectations for the program were pretty minimal. Internally, that changed in Week 2 when Crimson Cliffs beat a good Spanish Fork team 35-7.

“I think when we beat them 35-7, the belief scale just went out the window and our boys started to believe and the actions followed and all the results,” said Alofipo.

Both Ridgeline and Crimson Cliffs started a bit slow in the semifinal game, with Ridgeline leading just 3-0 after the first quarter, but Barben tossed a pair of TD passes — one to Tyler West and one to Boston Adamson — in the second quarter, and Crimson Cliffs built a 12-6 halftime lead.

Ridgeline grabbed momentum late in the third quarter as freshman QB Nate Dahle hit Jackson Olsen on an 8-yard TD pass, giving the Riverhawks the 13-12 lead.

The biggest play of the game for Crimson Cliffs came on the ensuing kickoff.

Tyler West appeared to be bottled up near the sideline on his kick return, but he spun out of several tackles and then diagonally raced all the way to the end zone for the 89-yard kick return as Crimson Cliffs regained the 20-13 lead.

“Big-time players, they make those plays in big-time moments. Tyler is a big-time player for us and he stepped up in the moment,” said Alofipo.

Ridgeline coughed the ball up on its next possession after the momentum-swinging return, and Crimson Cliffs took advantage of great field position with a quick score as Barben hit Mason Topalian on a 15-yard TD pass to stretch the lead to 27-13 with 8:29 remaining in the game.

Crimson Cliffs finished the game with 346 yards of offense and Ridgeline tallied 318, but the difference was the six turnovers, which is very tough for any team to overcome.