In its 4A second-round playoff matchup against Ridgeline High, the Stallions struggled to establish the run game early while contending with the Riverhawks’ stifling defense.
After running into Ridgeline’s defensive brick wall in the first quarter, the Stallions could not put together any offense during their first three possessions of the game. The Riverhawks took advantage of Stansbury’s opening-drive punt, scoring a touchdown within the first two minutes.
With three scoreless possessions already under their belt, the Stallions found themselves in a 14-0 hole, after a blocked punt by a Ridgeline defender turned into a 15-yard touchdown run. Despite the game remaining close during the first quarter-and-a-half, Ridgeline finished the first half leading 42-14 and never looked back.
A fortunate series of Riverhawk penalties gave Stansbury the opportunity to put up two touchdowns, one in the form of a 7-yard touchdown pass to Mason Maxwell and a 92-yard kick return touchdown by Bracken Matthews to bring the team within a single score.
With the River Hawks passing and rushing units accounting for four-unanswered touchdowns to extend the lead to 49-14, the game was all but in the books. In the fourth quarter, with the 35-point rule accelerating the time clock, Ridgeline tacked on a field goal to end their scoring at 52 points.
As a sort of last gasp before the end of the game, Stansbury made one final push and Dearden ran in a 17-yard touchdown to bring the score to 52-21 in the game’s final two minutes.
Head coach Eric Alder cited Rideline’s physicality as a big reason for the outcome of the game, noting that the Riverhawk defenders met the Stallions at nearly every position to prevent much offense.
He added that his offense’s struggles to get the running game going, which resulted in his team playing disjointed football all game long.
“Anytime we can’t get a run game going, it makes everybody uncomfortable,” Alder said. “Everybody is comforted by a good run-game; everything else runs better.”
“It was hard to adjust to the level of their physicality and the speed of defense they were playing with,” he said. “We corrected some mistakes, but by then it was too late getting any real momentum going.”
On the night, Stansbury was held to only 113 total yards on the ground, with quarterback Dearden running for 40 of them. Running back Tyson Ferry, who felt the brunt of Ridgeline’s stifling defense, ran for 45 yards — half of his 90 yards-per-game average this season.
“They beat us fair and square,” Alder said. “They were clearly the better team in every facet of the game.”
Senior Luke Daynes stood out on the defensive-side for Stansbury, as he recorded five tackles and assisted on 11 others.
Alder added that seniors Alex Geovjian and Niki Vasa were also among those who played well, with Geovjian’s interception and Vasa’s fumble recovery proving valuable.
The loss brought Stansbury’s season record 7-5, with a 5-1 record in the 4A Region 10.
Looking back on the season, which was impacted by injuries and tough losses early on, Alder was impressed with his squad and felt they were only a few plays shy of having a much better season.
Nonetheless, he believes the future is bright.
“It’s nice to look at the young kids out there and know you’ve got a good slew of them coming back,” he said. “We’ll be in a better situation starting next year with not so many new faces and guys with significant varsity minutes.”