The Riverton football team celebrates in front of the student section Friday. (Caleb Turner, KSL.com)
Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
RIVERTON — In a top-15 matchup between host Riverton and Syracuse in the year’s first iteration of Friday Night Lights, it was the Silverwolves that claimed the upset win at home 27-25.
“We’ve been scrimmaging and we’ve just been ready to get loose and play in front of our fans,” Riverton wide receiver Sam Woolley said. “It just feels great to get out in front of them and perform, so it was good to come out with a W.”
The visiting Titans — ranked No. 7 in the KSL.com Top 20+1 this week — were off to the races on the first drive, as newcomer Kobe Bennett got a 20-yard gain on the ground, and junior quarterback Jake Hopkins found fellow junior Jake Metcalfe for a 28 -yard touchdown just three minutes into the season opener.
No. 12 Riverton responded immediately after when junior Easton Hicks returned the kickoff 80 yards to tie the game up 7-7.
A penalty on Riverton got Syracuse into scoring territory again on the following drive. Bennett got another 20-yard gain on the ground and tried to punch in the score but was stopped twice on the goal line. A holding call pushed the Titans back as the team was held to a field goal.
Senior quarterback Jake Meyers found Hicks on a third down to keep the drive alive for Riverton late in the first quarter. Two seniors synced up to find the end zone as Meyers completed an impressive drive with a touchdown pass to Woolley. The extra point was blocked, however, putting the score at 13-10 in favor of the Silverwolves early in the second quarter.
Riverton corner Jairus Parker chased down Dylan Croxford after the receiver broke free on a catch to start the drive. The Titans nearly made it to the end zone but Parker made up the ground over nearly 70 yards and stopped Croxford near the 10-yard line. Riverton was called for pass interference on the following play, getting Syracuse to the goal line. Hopkins found Noah Yeates on the fade and Syracuse claimed the lead 16-13 after a failed 2-point conversion.
The Silverwolves went three-and-out following the Syracuse score, and the Titans marched right back down the field with the intent to widen their lead before the half. Riverton’s defense, once again, proved stout at the goal line, however, and the Titans were forced to kick a field goal — taking a 19-13 lead with 3:41 left in the first half.
Meyers got Riverton across the 50-yard line but threw the first interception of the game on fourth down to give the Titans back the ball with under three minutes to go. Senior safety Daxton Faddis got the pick for Syracuse.
The Riverton defense stepped up again to stop the Titans’ two-minute drill, highlighted by a key tackle for loss from linebacker/defensive end Brooks Hofhine. The Silverwolves got the ball back and tried to narrow the deficit with a last-second field goal, but the attempt fell just short.
The Silverwolves opened the second half with a 25-yard catch from Ratliff, and Meyers kept dealing — with an assist from a pass interference call on Syracuse — to get Riverton back into the red zone with a chance to tie or take the lead. Hicks ran in the touchdown from 14 yards out and Dylan Turville converted the extra point to take a 20-19 lead.
Hopkins got Syracuse back into the red zone to start the fourth quarter and got a 10-yard gain on the ground himself to set the Titans up inside the 10-yard line. Bennett ran it in for his first touchdown of the game after putting up several long runs earlier in the evening. The extra point was missed, putting the score at 25-20 in favor of the Titans with 11:12 to go in the game.
Riverton, once again, found an immediate answer, with Meyers launching one to Woolley for a 79-yard touchdown pass and the second scoring connection between the two seniors on the night. The highlight play brought the volume in the Silverwolves’ student section to new heights and gave the home team a 27-25 lead with 10:52 remaining in the game.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Woolley said of the connection with his quarterback. “They had me one-on-one with the corner the whole game and I knew he couldn’t guard me. I said, ‘Jake, throw me the post.’ And he just let it loose and there it was: catch the touchdown and there we go.”
Hopkins told Meyers to hold his Gatorade and launched a rocket himself on the first play of the following drive, finding DJ Mayes for a 50-yard catch. A penalty on Riverton brought Syracuse into the red zone again, but a sack from senior lineman Chazz Hinckley set the Titans back a couple of yards.
Hopkins thought he had Croxford on the goal line, but the official ruled the receiver out of bounds on the catch. The Titans’ field-goal attempt strayed wide of the goal posts, giving the Silverwolves the ball back with the lead and eight minutes on the clock.
Riverton was forced to punt on its drive, and Hopkins got the Titans back across the 50, but was unable to finish the drive. The Silverwolves got a pass breakup in the endzone on fourth down and took over on downs with 4:42 remaining. Riverton punted once again, however, and the Titans got one last crack at it with 2:47 left.
Linebacker Gage Watt got the big stop on third down of the Titans’ drive and a pass on fourth down was short of the first-down marker to give the Silverwolves the ball back with 1:45 remaining. Riverton was unable to gain any ground, however, and punted.
Hopkins attempted a game-winning drive in the final minute but came up short once again, throwing his first interception of the game in the final seconds to Hinckley, sealing the opening-night win for Riverton.
“(My goals are to) just lock in and have the best season of my life,” Woolley said of his senior season. “Just have fun.”
Riverton makes the trek to Dixie to take on the Flyers next week, while Syracuse will be at home against Brighton.
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Caleb Turner covers Real Salt Lake as the team’s beat writer for KSL.com, in addition to his role where he oversees the sports team’s social media accounts.