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RHS gridders making Friday nights fun again

Oct 9, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

Let's review Riverton's state football championships. If you're like me, a game that immediately comes to mind is the epic 33-27 win over Lander in 1994, a cross-county rivalry game that many call the best Riverton Wolverine football game ever.

Or perhaps you thought of the two consecutive wins in 1997 and 1998 over Star Valley, one on the road in Afton and the other at Tonkin Stadium, both nail biters, that brought Class 3-A titles to Riverton.

But the last time Riverton won a state championship in football was in 1999 against Douglas. The two teams met in Tonkin Stadium and, when the game was over, Riverton had the 14-6 win, its third consecutive state crown.

If you're honest, the Wolverines have only been in the realm of teams to think about competing for a state championship one time since then, and that was in 2004, when, playing up in Class 5-A, coach Brant Nyberg's Wolverines lost a controversial state semifinal game in Green River 24-21.

But now we're in 2012, and this year the Wolverines are right there, knocking at the door. The Douglas Bearcats, this Friday's opponent and the only remaining Class 3-A East team that a Jeremy McCormick coached team has never beaten, are standing in the way.

Riverton has used the ladder as the metaphor for the season, wanting to climb another rung with each new game.

In the next few weeks, we'll learn how tall Riverton's ladder is.

It's been a good journey this season for the Wolverines.

We've watched the emergence of junior Dylan Lewis, a kid who seized on his chance to play when teammate TJ Galey was unable to go earlier this year at Green River. Lewis has become a threat at running back -- he averages more than six yards per carry -- and is one of the Wolverines' top defenders from his linebacker position. His unexpected impact has been huge for Riverton.

Equally important is the return this season of senior defensive end Jeremy Vincent, who will make his return to Douglas this Friday. He'll play on the same field where, after breaking his leg two years ago, he learned that his athletic career was over -- for life. But, after a better-than-expected rehabilitation and recovery from a surgery in which a cadaver bone was placed in his leg -- and after some serious consultation with physicians -- Vincent has returned this year to become one of the state's top defensive ends. Just his return has been heartwarming. To watch him excel has been awesome.

The list of contributors to this year's team is long. Name your threat.

Quarterback Xavier Webb is the state's leader in total offense. He can run or throw and has proved to be a great decision maker. No quarterback has more attempts (136), completions (89) or a better completion rate (65 percent) than Webb. In fact, nobody else is even close.

Galey is having a stellar senior year, rarely coming off the field. He runs tough and is around the ball on nearly every play from his linebacker position. He just works hard.

Webb has a great array of receivers to throw to. His favorite target is also his great friend, Kade Salisbury, who has also become one of the state's top receivers.

Jordan Belville has improved every week and, as we learned again last Friday, is a serious threat as a tight end. His contribution as Riverton's other defensive end also can't be overstated.

We've seen the re-emergence of a threatening return game with junior Logan Hartbank, who has demonstrated the rare ability to turn any punt or kick return into a scoring opportunity. He averages more than 50 yards per kick return and is also a favorite receiver for Webb.

The list goes on. Riverton's lineman are having a season to remember. Dawson Steeds, Wyatt Meyer, J.P. Baxter, Lane Savage and Casey Savage have always been big, but now they are playing with attitude.

And there are more contributors too.

So now we all look at this Friday. Even though we're still in the regular season, our Riverton Wolverines have a chance to do something special and get their team back in the conversation as one of the state's top football teams when they travel to Douglas with a Class 3-A East conference title and home field through the playoffs on the line.

Aren't Friday nights fun?

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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