SMITHFIELD — The Ridgeline football team’s season came to end on a wet and frigid evening Friday night as the Riverhawks fell to Sky View 28-0 in the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs.
Ridgeline finished the year with a laudable record of 9-2, both losses against the Bobcats.
With key players out due to COVID-19 and starting quarterback Kaden Cox going out in the second quarter with a broken leg, it was not a night set up for success for the Riverhawks.
“Tonight we just had everything go wrong for us,” senior wide receiver/cornerback Jovesa Damuni said. “I’m not saying that’s an excuse, but that’s one of the biggest reasons why is we lost some key players.”
With reportedly three key players out with COVID-19, including at least two starting offensive linemen, the Riverhawks knew they would be short-handed going into a tough game against the defending state champs. But what they did not anticipate was Cox going down.
With Sky View up 7-0 with three minutes to go in the second quarter, Cox — who just had a big completion junior Stratford Simmons and was moving the ball down the field — had a scary collision with a Bobcat defender, and didn’t get up. He would not return for the rest of the game.
“Obviously when you lose your quarterback that played well all year, that hurts us,” Ridgeline head coach Travis Cox said. “I think he might have broken his leg. We don’t know yet, need to get some x-rays.”
“Kaden’s a big factor in our game,” RHS sophomore Jackson Olsen said.” Olsen, who normally plays free safety, played quarterback for a few snaps in the fourth quarter. “He’s our dog, he does everything for us,” Olsen continued. “He is the leader of our offense.”
With Cox out of the game, the offense would try to battle.
Second-string quarterback/starting wide receiver Evan Webb connected with Damuni for a 43-yard reception. But the visitors could not turn it into points.
In the second half, Ridgeline’s offense struggled to move chains, turning the ball over on downs several times and punting once — a play that resulted in a blocked kick and great field position for the Bobcats. Without their starting quarterback and three starting O-linemen, the Riverhawks struggled.
Ridgeline’s defense played admirably, being on the field for much of the game and forcing a couple of stops in short field positions for the Bobcats.
For coach Cox, it is a disappointing finish to a successful season.
“Just unfortunate for us. We tried and the kids gave it their all, and you know whenever you go down that many guys you gotta applaud their effort,” he said. “We battled, but it was just a little too much to overcome … (But) we had a good year. There’s nothing to be hanging our heads about.”
Ridgeline was able to win games in the non-conference against eventual 4A finalist Pine View (42-38), plus 5A schools Farmington (45-7) and Woods Cross (24-7). In Region 11 play, the Riverhawks averaged 38 points a game and won games over Bear River (34-27), Logan (52-22), Green Canyon (35-28) and Mountain Crest (55-6).
And the Riverhawks had back-to-back playoff wins over Cedar Valley (64-13), and Park City (42-35) to reach the semifinals.
Cox would lead the offense, with more than 2,670 yards passing on the season, and 30 touchdowns.
Ridgeline graduates 13 seniors on the season, including Damuni, who led the team with 38 reception for 703 yards. There is a reason for optimism as the Riverhawks return Cox, leading rusher Noah White and second-leading receiver Strat Simmons for their senior seasons next year.
It is a somber ending to an otherwise successful year, but the Riverhawks are grateful they could do it together.
“I’ve never been apart of a team like this,” Olsen said. “The kids on this team, the way they act at practice, the way they focus is just unbelievable, and every single kid on the roster shows it.”