MILLVILLE — It took a few drives for the Ridgeline offense to warm up Friday night.
Not to worry though. The Riverhawk defense answered the bell from the start.
When the offense did start to click, it was lights out for the visiting Stallions from 5A Stansbury. Ridgeline jumped out to a 14-0 lead, scored 28 answered points at one juncture and rolled to a 42-14 win.
“We struggled last week with our offense, and we fixed it this week in practice,” said quarterback Kaden Cox, who completed 22 of 30 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns. “It took us two or three series to get going, but after that we were clicking on all cylinders.”
Cox completed 8 of his first 9 passes to start the game and began the second half by completing his first eight attempts. The senior spread the ball around as six different Riverhawks caught a pass.
Jackson Olsen led Ridgeline with seven receptions for 92 yards and two scores. Will Booth hauled in three passes for 81 yards, while Braylon Majors made five catches for 51 yards.
“The passing game was more open at first,” Cox said. “Our O-line played amazing. It was a a good game all the way around.”
The passing game eventually opened up the rushing attack. The Riverhawks (2-0) ended up with 131 yards on the ground as Noah White led the way with 16 carries for 73 yards and a TD. Cox had 32 yards rushing.
“We started taking what was there,” Ridgeline head coach Travis Cox said. “... Braylon caught the ball really well, Strat did too. Everyone played well.”
One of the smaller Riverhawks led the defense. Jaxen Hollingsworth made a team-best nine tackles. Owen Munk was next with seven stops, including a sack.
“I thought the defense came out and set a good tone and carried us for a little bit,” coach Cox said. “I thought we had a lot of guys play well. ... Jaxon Hollingsworth had an amazing game on defense. He’s a great player for us.”
How does Hollingsworth approach the game being a big undersized?
“It’s more of a mindset,” Hollingsworth said. “Some guys are born big with size, but it’s all about what you have above your shoulders. Ever since I’ve been young I’ve been undersized.”
The senior made a big play just before halftime. A high snap put the Stansbury punter in a bad spot. Hollingsworth broke free and came changing toward the frantic punter. The Riverhawk blocked the punt with his face mask and chest. He was able to track down the loose pigskin as it was bouncing in the end zone for a TD.
“I got through really clean, so I was just in the right place at the right time,” Hollingsworth said. “... I was just hoping that I would be able to jump on top of it (ball). It kept rolling into the end zone. It was fun.”
The special teams score gave the hosts a 28-7 lead at the break.
“I really feel the defense is the game changer,” Hollingsworth said. “If your let the other team score right and left, it is hard for the offense to outscore them. If we come out and shut them down early, there is not much they can do.”
After a three-and-out start to the game, the Riverhawk offense began its second possession with a 23-yard pass from Cox to Majors. Majors had a 28-yard TD called back because of an ineligible player down field, but Ridgeline didn’t flinch. Majors caught a 13-yard pass on third-and-13 to keep the drive alive. White eventually scored from a yard out to put the Riverhawks on the scoreboard with 2:43 minutes left in the opening quarter.
Nice tackles by Cameron Craney on third down and Tanner Paskett on fourth down gave the hosts the ball at midfield. Five plays later on fourth-and-20, Cox avoided pressure and found Olsen for a 27-yard scoring throw on the first play of the second quarter.
The Stallions (1-1) scored quickly when they got the ball back on a 67-yard pass from Ezra Harris to Kaden Skousen. Stansbury got the ball back on an interception off a tipped ball, but the Riverhawk defense dug in and forced a punt.
A turning point happened midway through the second quarter when Ridgeline punted from its own 14-yard line, but Stansbury had too many players on the field. It gave the Riverhawks a first down
Three plays later Booth made a catch on third-and-2, got to the sidelines and was gone for a 63-yard score. It would not be close again.
“This was a huge win for us,” Kaden Cox said. “Their (Stallions) defense was pretty good. But our offense played really good tonight. That was a good win.”
Ridgeline built a 42-7 lead with a minute to play in the third to start the running clock the rest of the way. Cox hooked up with Simmons for a 39-yard TD and Olsen for a 20-yard score in the third quarter.
“Jackson Olsen is such a great weapon for us,” coach Cox said. “He is big, physical and fast. He has a lot of talent. It was good to see him get going.”
RIVERHAWKS 42, STALLIONS 14
Friday at Millville
Stansbury 0 7 0 7 — 14
Ridgeline 6 22 14 0 — 42
R — Noah White 1 run (pass failed), 2:43
R — Jackson Olsen 27 pass from Kaden Cox (Peyton Knowles pass from Cox), 11:54
S — Kaden Skousen 67 pass from Ezra Harris (Kaisen Tait kick), 11:39
R — Will Booth 63 pass from Cox (Aaron Young kick),4:08
R — Jaxen Hollingsworth block punt and recover in end zone (Young kick), 1:20
R — Strat Simmons 39 pass from Cox (Young kick), 5:24
R — Olsen 20 pass from Cox (Young kick), 1:00
S — Kapono Serrao 2 run (Tait kick), 3:03