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It was anything but easy, but the Riverhawks will certainly take the end result.

A 28-yard reception by Bear River came up a couple of yards shy of the goal line and Ridgeline held on to beat the Bears 34-27 in the Region 11 opener for both football teams on Friday night in Garland.

It was also Homecoming for Bear River, which jumped out to an 14-0 lead in the first quarter. To the delight of head coach Travis Cox, his undefeated Riverhawks (4-1, 1-0) were undaunted as they bounced back by scoring the final 24 points of the opening half.

“I thought our kids did really well as far as not panicking and the coaches didn’t flinch, and we just kind of kept doing our thing,” Cox said. “And the kids rolled off 24 straight points and I thought we looked pretty good. It was just big plays for Bear River that really kind of killed us, so we’ve got to clean that up.”

Indeed, the Bears (3-2, 0-1) burned the Riverhawks on a few explosive plays throughout the contest. Kace Jones burst up the middle for an 84-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Chance Udy had a 67-yard scoring scamper less than one minute into the third quarter to pare Bear River’s deficit to 24-20.

Additionally, Bear River quarterback Josh Payne tossed touchdowns of 35 and 25 yards to keep Ridgeline’s defense honest, plus his aforementioned 28-yard pass to Garrison Marble on the final play of the game nearly gave the hosts an opportunity to force overtime.

Simply put, the Riverhawks were tested like they haven’t been since opening the season with a 42-38 victory over Pine View.

“It was great for us,” Cox said. “Even against Pine View, I don’t think we were ever behind, so for us to be able to play from behind was good. You know, you can learn a lot from games like these — not just the players, but the coaches too. We made some mistakes tonight that I think we’ll learn from and we’ll get better from.”

It was another big night for Ridgeline signal caller Kaden Cox, who completed 24 of 38 passes for 346 yards and four TDs, vs. one interception. The junior hooked up with Strat Simmons on two of the scoring strikes — both in the second quarter — and also threw touchdowns to Jaden Harris and Jovesa Damuni. A nice pump fake set up the pass to Harris, which was a 20-yarder that pared Ridgeline’s deficit to 14-7 late in the first quarter.

A well-executed 11-yard scoring pass on a slant to Simmons gave the Riverhawks their first lead of the game at 17-14 — one they wouldn’t relinquish.

Ridgeline received a clutch performance from kicker Carter Murdock, who was successful on all four of his PATs, plus booted field goals of 29 and 42 yards. His 42-yarder with 7:26 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the visitors some always important breathing room.

“Yeah, it was huge,” coach Cox said. “I mean, he’s a big weapon that we have. ... You never want to kick field goals, but sometimes it’s just the smart thing to do. And with a talent like Carter Murdock, we definitely needed him tonight, and he came through big for us.”

Simmons and Damuni both racked up more than 100 yards receiving against the Bears. Simmons finished with seven receptions for 127 yards, while Damuni snared nine passes for 102 yards. Evan Webb chipped in with 81 receiving yards for Ridgeline, which got 51 yards on 10 carries from Noah White.

Ridgeline experienced a scary few moments early in the third quarter when starting outside linebacker Will Booth was carted off on a stretcher. Fortunately, coach Cox said “it sounds like he’s going to be OK, so we’re really glad about that.”

RIVERHAWKS 34, BEARS 27

Friday at Garland

Ridgeline 7 17 7 3 — 34

B. River 14 0 6 7 — 27

First Quarter

BR — Kace Jones 84 run (Ammon Nelson kick) 7:48.

BR — Chance Udy 35 pass from Josh Payne (Nelson kick), 4:51.

R — Jaden Harris 20 pass from Kaden Cox (Carter Murdock kick), 2:51.

Second Quarter

R — 29 FG Murdock, 11:53.

R — Strat Simmons 11 pass from Cox (Murdock kick), 4:17.

R — Simmons 29 pass from Cox, 1:26.

Third Quarter

BR — Chance Udy 67 run (kick failed), 11:09.

R — Jovesa Damuni 15 pass from Cox (Murdock kick), 3:50.

Fourth Quarter

R — 42 FG Murdock, 7:26.

BR — Darien Johnson 25 pass from Payne (Nelson kick), 3:49.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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