Start with the mirror image: Herriman, down one point in overtime, going for broke.
That was the scene a year ago at Rice-Eccles Stadium, when the Mustangs beat Riverton on a 2-point conversion. And that was the scene again Saturday evening, when the Mustangs were stopped 3 yards short in a 23-22 loss.
“It feels a lot better,” said Riverton’s senior tailback and safety Stratton Brown. “A whole lot better.”
In 2011, Herriman tight end David Christensen — ill all game — vomited on the turf after scoring the go-ahead points. In 2012, Herriman running back Francis Bernard — his agony more emotional than physical — lay face down on the turf after being stuffed on a potential game-winning run.
Bernard, the Mustangs’ offensive catalyst all day, had churned out 159 offensive yards and two touchdowns before falling short on that final play. The numbers were instrumental to Herriman’s 16-point, game-tying comeback. Bernard’s success on the ground opened up the offense for quarterback Tunei Lupeamanu. In the first half, the signal-caller threw for 11 yards; he finished with 222.
With 208 pounds wrapped around his 6-foot-1 frame, Bernard got the call again with the game on the line.
It was perhaps one carry too many. The Silver Wolves expected Bernard to get the ball; as he took off to the right, Brown and linebacker Albert Tai chased him down.
“The kid just didn’t get there. He’s gotta finish,” said Brown, who snuffed an earlier Mustang drive with an end-zone interception. “Francis is a good back. He’s going to make plays. … It’s inevitable.
“But he didn’t really give us that much trouble; he did what he did always.”
Herriman stared down a 16-0 deficit in the fourth quarter, having turned the ball over on its two most promising drives. But after the Mustangs scored their first touchdown with 3:54 left in the game, they converted two points to halve the lead. Suddenly, the game looked interesting.
The team’s next drive was a dizzying. Lupeamanu followed big passes by taking big sacks, backing Herriman up to a third-and-28 on the 37-yard line. Then, with 45 seconds left, he tossed the ball to Bernard in the flat. The back took it all the way to the 2-yard line, setting up another eight points to force overtime.
The Silver Wolves had survived on highlight plays of their own through the first three quarters of the game: Brown’s 51-yard touchdown on the team’s third offensive snap; tailback Jake Simonich’s 69-yard run, the capstone on a 152-yard night; even kicker Brady Slack’s 29-yard field goal, one that kissed the upright as it bounced its way to three points.
In less than four minutes, all that work was erased.
“We decided to dig deep,” Tai said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game.”
Riverton’s last-second stand adds some punch to the budding rivalry. In 2010, Herriman opened its doors five miles away, splitting the Silver Wolves’ student population.
“It feels great to get the win,” Brown said. “We’re still rivals. We grew up with these kids. Bragging rights.”
Storylines Riverton 23, Herriman 22 (OT)
R Riverton stops Herriman’s 2-point conversion attempt in OT after losing in a nearly identical situation last year.
• Herriman scores its first 16 points in the final four minutes of regulation, converting extra points on a pair of touchdowns to force overtime.