Ridgeline High School football QB Kaden Cox, center, holds the team’s trophy as Ridgeline celebrates their 4A Championship victory over Dixie High School at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, November 12, 2021. ( Laura Seitz, Deseret News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – Ridgeline’s offense has been among the best in the state, averaging 4,000-yard skill players averaging 50.7 points in its last seven games, and touchdowns from 13 different players en route to Friday’s State Championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
And Kaden Cox has been the director of the entire symphony.
Cox threw for 355 yards and five touchdowns, and Noah White ran for 209 yards and two scores to help overwhelm Dixie 45-20 in the 4A State Championship game to clinch the Riverhawks’ first State title in the history of the program.
“He’s amazing,” White said of his Cox, who threw for 3,774 yards and 55 touchdowns with just two interceptions as a senior. “I can’t say enough about him. Super nice to have him there and make my life easier.”
Ridgeline’s offense was in full view on Friday, lighting up the scoreboard from a height of 570 meters – the sixth tallest in league game history, according to Utah High School football historian George Felt – with 355 rushing yards and 45 points. Ridgeline won 24 first downs, went 12 of 16 on the third down, and averaged 8.1 yards per play, including 13.7 yards per Cox completion.
The White’s 7.0 yards per rush, which paced 6.3 yards per rushing play, also helped. But behind it all, a dominant offensive line pushing the ball forward with every play.
“We’re really explosive; we can do whatever you want on offense, for the most part,” said Cox, who recently received a preferred replacement offer from Utah State. “But I give our O-line all the credit. We can’t do anything without our line. They’re a special group of guys, and the O-line coach is outstanding; I give all the credit because we can’t. not do anything without them. “
But Cox also deserves some credit. His 55 passing touchdowns are the third in a single season in Utah High School Activities Association history, just behind Lehi’s Cammon Cooper, who pitched 58 in 2017. The elder ends his career in sixth place all-time with 657 goals, eighth in touchdown. assists with 99, ninth with 8,657 yards and 15th in total offense with 9,345 yards.
The 6-foot, 170-pound appellant got the chance to start for the Riverhawks in his sophomore and has run with him ever since.
“The coach before me took his chances with him and gave him experiences that really helped him grow,” Ridgeline coach Travis Cox said of his QB1. “From last year we knew we had something special about him and he just kept getting better.
“I thank Coach Livingston, our offensive coordinator, for really teaching him how to play as a quarterback. He did a fabulous job with Kaden, and Kaden was a really trainable player. He really wanted to improve. , and it got better every week. “
The Riverhawks converted scoring records with double-digit games twice, with a five-game drive and six-game drive scattered before Cox found wide receiver Stratford Simmons with his second touchdown on the third game of a 34-game drive. yards that put Ridgeline up 39-12 after three quarters.
Once again, it all comes back to the line.
“When we do get in, we will have a lot of talented players – and they have lived up to all expectations,” said coach Cox. “But they’re not who they are without five amazing offensive linemen, and we were able to do what we did on offense with that line.”
Ridgeline racked up 361 yards of offense in the first half, including 237 yards and two Cox touchdowns. After Dixie quarterback Bronson Barben scored on a 9-yard run to bring the Flyers down to a 7-6 point after an extra point missed halfway with 2:01 left in the first quarter, Cox directed an 18-0 run for the remainder of the half to give the Riverhawks a 25-6 lead at the break.
White had 123 yards on 16 rushes at the break, including a 73-yard touchdown to counter the Flyers’ lone score of the game and a 5-yard run to top the scoring with 57 seconds left at the half.
Defensively, Ridgeline limited Dixie to 151 yards before the break, including just 28 rushing yards. Will Booth had two tackles for a first-half loss, and the Riverhawks limited the Flyers to a punt and turnover on the downs using 11 and 14-game hitting in the second quarter for minimize opportunities.
Cameron Craney led Ridgeline with eight tackles and one forced fumble, and Luke Sorenson had seven tackles with three tackles for a loss. Ashton MacFarlane had three tackles, four stoppage passes and a fumble recovery for the Riverhawks.
“These kids have been together for a long time,” Ridgeline coach Travis Cox said. “And they’ve really melded together and there’s no ego. The team.”
Founded in 2016, Ridgeline hosted one of the most dominant seasons in high school football in Utah history and topped it with an unbeaten 13-0 record.
The Region 11 champions averaged 481.1 yards per game, including 196.2 yards rushing and 293 in the air in 12 games en route to Friday’s championship game.
With all due respect to the receiving corps, Cox was the driving force behind the offense. The 6-foot, 170-pound senior who also plays basketball completed 71 percent of his passes for 3,419 yards, 50 touchdowns and just two interceptions en route to the appearance of the Riverhawks’ 4A title game.
“You have players everywhere so the defenses have to choose to take one thing out,” White said. “When they take that thing off, we’ll just take the other thing and that makes us super explosive. And after a while it’s super hard to stop because they don’t know what to do.”
All of this culminated in a state championship that lasted for over six years, before the school was founded.
“Our seniors have been together for about 10 years. They are a special group,” said Kaden Cox, who will attend his first basketball practice on Monday. “We’re a little quieter bunch, but we just like to work and hang our heads. There’s nothing like it, though.”
Barben threw for 207 yards and a touchdown for Dixie (9-4) and Seth Takau had 76 yards and a rushing touchdown.