EVANSTON – Riverton High School (RHS) has been improving day-by-day with their football program ever since hiring Rock Springs coach Mark Lenhardt earlier this year, and although their record heading into the Week Two matchup at Evanston was 0-2, week zero included, the team looked even better than many might hope or think.
Evanston started off hot, spanning most of the field in the first four minutes before capping it off with a 25-yard pitch-and-run to the right, going up 7-0 after the successful PAT. After that, the Wolverines showed why they missed their senior quarterback Darrick DeVries as he went out and connected on a solid pass before unfortunately going three-and-out on the next set of downs.
The home team took that momentum and ran with it, literally, as they only needed three plays to travel 80 yards to go up on Riverton 13-0 with four minutes left in the first quarter thanks to a botched PAT attempt that ended with a pass into the back of the endzone. Another great pass from DeVries opened up the Wolverines’ next series, tossing it to his favorite wide receiver Nick McIntosh for a 45-yard gain.
Sadly, the Wolverines could not connect in the endzone despite three tries, ending with a 22-yard field goal to cut the Red Devils’ lead to ten, 13-3. Riverton’s defense let Evanston know they were going to be hard-hitting and vigilant, even forcing and recovering a fumble at the goal line to help.
That fumble ended up sparking something underneath the pants of the Wolverines because they got right into gear and DeVries completed another long pass that went 25 yards through the air to McIntosh who then took it another 35 yards to paydirt, juking an Evanston defender on the way there for the 60-yard touchdown score. 13-10.
Evanston continued to matriculate down the field, dinking and dunking their way to the Wolverines’ goal line, despite a few penalties backing them up every few plays. Either way, it all ended with another touchdown, this time off a bootleg-pass to the right from Cohen Morrow to Drew Barker in the corner. The Wolverines defense found themselves down 20-10 with just over two minutes left in the first half.
DeVries continued to air it out, showing off an uninjured physique after missing last week’s game against Cody. One of those passes was tipped into the hands of a Red Devils’ defender right at the goal line as the one-minute mark came at the end of the first half. Evanston worked hard to get their backs off the wall and took the ten-point lead into halftime.
The second half of the game started rather slow, both teams taking their time moving the ball, but with 7:24 to go in the third quarter the Wolverines knocked in a 30-yard field goal. Almost immediately, the RHS defense showed their power by forcing yet another fumble at midfield after a complete pass broke past the 40-yard line. Riverton wasted no time trying to get another score, trying a few long balls before pitching and sneaking their way to some more first downs. Then, with 3:30 to go in the third quarter, DeVries broke free from the collapsing pocket and fired a rainbow to the middle of the endzone where McIntosh was once again waiting behind two Evanston defenders who couldn’t get a hand on the ball. The beautiful toss and ensuing PAT tied the game up at 20 points a piece.
The Red Devils were notably upset with themselves but Morrow helped them travel 68 yards where he would eventually toss in another touchdown with seconds left in the third quarter, 27-20. As the fourth quarter started and the lights over the Red Devils’ stadium grew bright, it was obvious that Riverton wasn’t going away.
RHS senior and leader of the offense, DeVries, continued to make plays with his legs and his arm which were needed after starting running back Jordan May went down with an injury that is feared to be a possible break in the collarbone. Even then, the connection between DeVries and McIntosh continued with a few nice catches from Ty Sheets also sprinkled in there.
After a huge sack forced Riverton back to the Red Devils’ 25-yard line with just under seven minutes to go in the game, it was once again time for the DeVries Show. Once DeVries completed his three-step drop back he fired another beautiful ball to a streaking McIntosh who jumped to snatch the ball as he crossed the goal line, tying the game at 27-27 and securing his third touchdown catch of the game.
Sadly, the Red Devils didn’t take long to get the next score, traveling 72 yards in just under three minutes. Much like his scores beforehand, as well as many of DeVries’ good passes, a bootleg pass to the endzone forced another lead change with just over three minutes to go in the game.
The Wolverines returned the ball back to their 32-yard line but a quick pass to Sheets at the 40 helped get Riverton a little closer to a game-tying or game-winning score. DeVries made good decisions down the stretch, finding his reads and taking what the defense could give him as far as separation, but a big-time holding call with 90 seconds left pushed the Wolverines back to midfield.
A third-and-long pass from DeVries fell harmlessly to the ground when it could have been intercepted though, forcing a fourth down with 66 seconds left in the game that ended strangely. DeVries received the snap in the shotgun formation, but didn’t start the play design as if he heard a whistle before the snap. Either way, the defense got to him and the game ended with Riverton coming one score away from winning their first game of the season.
McIntosh, Papa Murphy’s Player of the Game on WyoToday’s broadcast, finished with 220 yards on ten receptions with three of them being touchdowns. DeVries threw for 297 yards and those three scores on 19-of-33 passing (57.6% completion percentage).
“We told our kids, this program’s not going to get where we want it to get to if we don’t play better defense, I don’t think it was because of a lack of try … I thought our guys did a good job of creating turnovers,” Coach Lenhardt said after the game to WyoToday’s Cody Beers.
With that statement, Coach Lenhardt was speaking nothing but truth. Riverton’s defense forced four fumbles, recovering two of them, while also winning the penalty battle as the Wolverines only committed four for 25 yards while Evanston lost 62 on seven.
“It’s a tough one to take when you feel like you’re in the game and have a chance to win but I’m proud of the way the kids fought and I thought they did a good job tonight, just came up a little bit short,” Coach Lenhardt added.
Up next, the Wolverines travel to Star Valley on Friday, September 15. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. and will be live streamed across 93.9 KTAK as well as on WyoToday’s YouTube.
BY: Shawn O’Brate