High school football: Riverton edges Syracuse in season-opening thriller with big plays, stifling second-half defense

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Riverton’s Sam Woolley celebrates scoring a touchdown during a varsity football game against Syracuse at Riverton High School in Riverton on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Riverton won 27-25.

Riverton’s Sam Woolley celebrates scoring a touchdown during a varsity football game against Syracuse at Riverton High School in Riverton on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Riverton won 27-25.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Box score

Riverton wide receiver Samuel Woolley bided his time Friday night, awaiting the play call the Silverwolves expected him to seize and take the distance.

With a long drive ahead of them in the fourth quarter and an offense that hadn’t quite shaken off the offseason rust, the coaches finally dialed up Woolley’s favorite route and the senior receiver broke free, rose high, grabbed the ball, shook off a Syracuse Titans defender and scampered 79 yards for the eventual game-winner.

Riverton topped Syracuse 27-25 in the teams’ season opener through big scoring plays from Woolley and running back Easton Hicks in an evenly matched contest throughout.

“They put me one-on-one with that corner the whole game and he can’t guard me,” Woolley said, “so I said, ‘Coach, give me the post.’ We’re waiting on it, waiting on it, waiting on it and he says ‘This is your shot.’ He finally throws it and I’m just thinking ‘Catch the ball and get into the end zone.’”

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The Titans came out of the gate with a heavy dose of tough running from Kobe Bennett before quarterback Jake Hopkins dropped a ball just over the head of a Riverton defender for a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jake Metcalfe in the corner of the end zone to open the scoring, 7-0, with 8:39 left in the first quarter.

Riverton knotted it up just 13 seconds later when Hicks gathered the ensuing kickoff, delayed just a bit to get blockers in front of him, tiptoed the Silverwolves sideline and threw up the deuces as he rumbled to pay dirt with an 80-yard return score to make it 7-7 with 8:26 left in the first.

“The hole just opened up and I took it,” Hicks said. “Ran right through.”

Syracuse strung together a 12-play march to set up a 21-yard Rhett Thompson field goal for a small advantage with 4:20 left in the opening quarter.

Riverton quarterback Jacob Meyers took over with a clinical passing drive in which he found four different receivers including Woolley, who curled back in front of a Syracuse defensive back for his first score of the evening from 11 yards out, to retake the 13-10 lead with 10:46 left in the second quarter after a blocked extra point.

Hopkins went to work and gashed the Silverwolves’ defense with slant passes through the middle of the defense, and suddenly the Titans were back in the end zone with a short toss from Hopkins to Noah Yeates.

After a missed two-point attempt and a 25-yard field goal shortly after, Syracuse was up 19-13 at half.

Riverton came out of the break blazing with a mix of Meyers and bulldozing back Luke Perry before Hicks took a stretch run to the right 11 yards to the end zone to retake the lead, 20-19, with 9:07 left in the third.

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“Easton is just like the lightning to Luke’s thunder. Luke is going to be a power back and Easton has just got another gear that’s very rare,” Riverton coach Jody Morgan said. “It’s awesome watching him.”

Both offenses bogged down until a theatrical 23-yard catch from Syracuse receiver Dylan Croxford set up a 6-yard scoring tote from Bennett and another thwarted two-point attempt to make it 25-20 Titans with 11:12 left in the game.

After Woolley broke open the lead, the Silverwolves defense took over – clamping down to force two turnovers on down before defensive lineman Chazz Hinckley cut off and nabbed an errant Hopkins pass to secure the victory.

“We pride ourselves on being a defensive team first and we want to run the ball,” Morgan said. “We need to establish the run a little bit better but our defense played lights out in the second half in my opinion.” 

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Author: Brennan Smith