High school football preview: Ridgeline RiverHawks

<em>This is the fifth in a series previewing the Region 12 football teams. The others can be viewed at these links: <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/local_prep/article_98f7b74e-7baf-11e7-88d7-3f5fd9d6c4f8.html” target=”_blank”>Logan</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/local_prep/article_bc968fdc-8202-11e7-8fa9-0b1dac408605.html” target=”_blank”>Mountain Crest</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/local_prep/article_3105ce4c-7c8a-11e7-8832-2f2f9c059b4c.html” target=”_blank”>Sky View</a>, <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/sports/local_prep/article_f2743d80-7ec8-11e7-b898-537ef330a908.html” target=”_blank”>Green Canyon</a>. The broadcast schedule for each team can be seen <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/site/high_school_sports.html” target=”_blank”>here</a>.</em>

MILLVILLE – The RiverHawks advanced to the state quarterfinals and finished with an 8-4 overall record in the school’s first year of football, but if the Ridgeline High wants continued gridiron success, some new talent will have to step up.

Quarterback Payton Thomas graduated. Levani Damuni, who excelled as both a running back and a linebacker, will be continuing his football career at Stanford after his LDS mission. The other two running backs are gone as well. Cody Olsen graduated, and Kody Pope will be playing his senior season at Mountain Crest.

Those are just a few of the players head coach Christopher Howell is working to replace, but he feels good about the talent he has to work with. Howell said his group of players is both intelligent and athletic. Some of the returners include four linemen, an athletic pass rusher in Jacob Mora and wide receiver Sam Weda, who Howell expects to have a “huge year.”

“We’re excited about those seven or eight kids that have a significant amount of time,” Howell said, “but we also like those kids that don’t have as much experience. We feel like we’re very athletic, we’re fast and the kids have had a really, really good offseason.”

The defensive scheme will remain the same as a year ago, but Howell said the offense will be “significantly different.” New offensive coordinator Jeremy Livingston is implementing an inside zone run system that utilizes play action as well. Howell said it is a good change.

“I like the direction we’ve taken it,” he said, “how the kids have bought into it and the way they are executing it right now.”

Howell hasn’t picked a starting quarterback yet, and said fans will see two different guys at the position during the early part of the season. He said both Brady Stuart and Breck Jackson each have different strengths the team can take advantage of.

“There will be some packages for Brady and some packages for Breck,” he said. “We’ll go with that until one of them separates themselves from the other.”

Stuart may even get some time at running back, but it will be primarily Skyler Averett and Hayden Williams rushing the ball.

“(Averett) was one of the fastest kids in 3AA last year,” Howell said. “Hayden Williams is more of a side-to-side guy, really quick, really good in space.”

Howell said guard Tayden Fenton will be the anchor of the offensive line, with linemen Ollie Taylor, Brodie Hunsaker and Trevor Hobbs providing experience around him.

The defense will throw several different looks at opponents. The offensive linemen will also play the defensive line positions, with the exception of Hobbs, who has been moved from defensive end to linebacker. He’ll line up with Mora, Cameron Dahle, Michael Tuckett, Cameron Wadman and Hayden Bowen.

Weda and Hayden Williams will rotate at corner with Chance Parker, Evan Anderson and Garrett Wood. Stuart will be a safety on defense with Micah White, Averett, Junior Damuni and Zeb Nieman. Howell said the defense is deep enough to rotate his players and keep them fresh.

Ridgeline and the other four Cache Valley teams are now sharing a region and classification. Howell said the only thing that will be easier about that will be the shorter bus rides.

“Every week will be a battle,” he said. “Every week will be rivalry game. From a psychological standpoint I think it will be really easy to get excited for, but at the same time it will be taxing as well.”

Howell said he expects every team to compete.

“Logan definitely has a lot of experience coming back,” he said. “Obviously Sky View has a ton of experience. Mountain Crest has a ton of experience. Green Canyon will be the youngest team, but at the same time they have one of the most successful coaches in the valley.”

<h5>Schedule</h5>

Aug. 18 at Spanish Fork

Aug. 25 at Snow Canyon

Sept. 1 vs Raymond, Canada

Sept. 8 at Copper Hills

Sept. 15 vs Mountain Crest

Sept. 22 at Logan

Sept. 28 vs Green Canyon

Oct. 6 vs Bear River

Oct. 13 at Sky View

Oct. 18 at Park City

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