Great players make big plays when the game is on the line, and Lone Peak’s Nate Ritchie showed once again he can do it all.
The Knights all-state safety/kicker/receiver came through in the second half with some game-changing plays in Friday’s 30-20 victory against Timpview to open the 2019 season.
Ritchie caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, recovered a fumble to set up the go-ahead field goal – which he kicked – and put the game away with a weaving 41-yard interception return for a touchdown with just 2:41 to play.
Just another night on the gridiron for Ritchie, who scored five special teams touchdowns as a junior during Lone Peak’s run to the 6A state title last season.
“Nate is the heart and soul of the defense,” Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank said. “We use him on offense maybe five or six plays a game. The play where he caught the touchdown pass he was a decoy, but our guys trust him so much.”
With the Knights leading 20-14 early in the fourth quarter and driving for the clinching score, Timpview’s Raider Damuni snared a deflected pass and raced 88 yards for a score. The Thunderbirds PAT failed and the game was locked at 20-20 with 9:16 to play.
Then it was Ritchie time.
“I felt like we started a little bit slow because it was the first game,” Ritchie said. “But we started building our confidence. We locked in and things started hopping from there. On the pick six, I was going to run up the sideline but saw it was clogged. So I went all the way around, saw a lane straight to the end zone and just took it.”
Ritchie is one of the top recruits in the state of Utah and said he’s made visits to BYU, the University of Utah, Stanford and UCLA.
“We’re a good team, not great yet,” he said. “For sure we’re not there yet but we’re working hard and we’ll get there.”
Lone Peak opened the scoring with a 1-yard plunge by Zach White, a touchdown set up by an interception from Austin Mustain. Timpview got on the board early in the second quarter. Damuni ran from punt formation to convert a fourth down and then caught a 33-yard pass to set up a 1-yard Targhee Lambson TD run to tie the game.
Both teams hit big passing plays later in the quarter. Trajan Hansen got loose for Lone Peak and scored on a 74-yard hook-up with J.D. Neeleman. Timpview countered with a 70-yard bomb from Elijah Allen to a wide-open Baylor Erickson, and the game was tied at 14 at the half.
The two teams combined for 50 pass attempts in the first half alone.
Nate Ritchie blasted through a defender to complete a 25-yard pass play to give the Knights a 20-14 lead as the fourth quarter began and the Knights appeared to be ready to score the dagger when a tipped pass resulted in Damuni’s tying score.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do just cleaning up some first-game stuff,” Brockbank said. “I felt for the most part everyone competed. The good news is that this team is hungry. One of the concerns coming in after winning it last year was that they’d be complacent, but this team is very hungry.”
The two teams hadn’t met on the football field since 2015, when Lone Peak won 35-14 to break a six-game Timpview win streak in the series.
Lone Peak (1-0) travels to Jordan next week, while Timpview (0-1) is at American Fork.