Season Preview: Mt. Ridge football ready to capitalize on experienced senior classJul 27, 2021 09:39PM ● By Justin Adams
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
Mountain Ridge senior quarterback Ayden Helm remembers starting in the school’s very first game as a sophomore two years ago.
“I was not big. I was 135 pounds. If you have someone like that starting, who had never taken any varsity reps, you know you’re starting at rock bottom,” he recalled.
Rock bottom indeed. The Sentinels lost to Olympus High that game by a score of 56-0. In fact they lost every game that first year.
Now two years later, that first class of Mountain Ridge sophomores - who got more playing time than they might otherwise have had at Riverton or Herriman - are now the senior leaders, ready to capitalize on that extra game experience they have accumulated.
“There’s no replacing experience,” said Sentinels offensive coordinator Jack Pay. “It doesn’t matter how many reps you get in practice. We have guys with three years of varsity experience.”
Pay is using that wealth of experience to expand the team’s offense this season.
“The experience allows us to add more stuff to the offense. They understand the base offense so it allows us to go into new realms of personnel,” he said. “For the first time in our program history we’re going to use 2-back sets. We’re really trying to find ways to switch things up to get an advantage over the defense.”
Manning the backfield will be junior running back Cade Uluave, who last year averaged over five yards per carry and racked up six touchdowns.
“Cade’s a phenomenal kid. Everything you could want in a football player, Cade’s got it. He’ll take the brunt of the carries. We want to look at doubling his carries this year,” Pay said.
If there’s one position group that lacks experience, it’s the receivers. Three of the top four leaders in receptions on last year’s team graduated. Luckily for the Sentinels, the one player remaining was also the most prolific: Jordan Day. As a junior last season, he led the team with 37 catches for 616 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s definitely my favorite weapon,” said Helm.
As for Helm, the senior quarterback poses a threat both passing and running the ball. Last year he ran for 582 yards and nine touchdowns.
Protecting Helm will be an offensive line anchored by three returning starters, two of which have started since their sophomore year. The third, JR Sia, is a six-foot-six, 308-pound tackle who already has an offer to the University of Utah.
On the defensive side, the Sentinels are also loaded with senior talent. Four out of the five leading tacklers from last year’s team return.
“I think we look really good this year. We look confident, we look poised, we look fast and we look like a group who has overcome a lot and is ready to go,” said defensive coordinator Darius Matthews.
The secondary will be anchored by Demarco Brimmage, Cade Uluave and Zander Herrera, who led the team with three interceptions last year. Herrera said he’s excited to show people how much the team has grown.
“I feel like we’ve grown a lot, even just since last year, but especially our first year. We’ve just grown as a team,” he said.
As for a player who has impressed coaches with their personal development last year, Matthews pointed to senior defensive lineman Nathaniel Gomm.
“He’s a guy who came in his first year at maybe 150 pounds, soaking wet. His body wasn’t ready yet. Last year he got a little playing time, but this year, man he’s really gotten bigger, he’s gotten taller. He’s just an absolute dude. He’s playing at a very high level,” Matthews said.
This season will be the Sentinels’ first in the 6A classification, competing in Region Three, which includes Riverton, Herriman, Bingham, West Jordan and Copper Hills.
“We definitely have really good teams in our region, but we’ve already been playing really good teams,” said Pay, referring to Region Seven, which included some of the best teams in the 5A classification, teams like Orem, Timpview, Lehi and Alta.
In fact, Helm thinks the team’s new region won’t be any more of a challenge than last year’s.
“I think our previous region in 5A was harder actually. I think it’s an upgrade for us to move up to 6A,” he said.
Of course, being in a region with Herriman means the two cross-town schools will finally meet on the gridiron. Helm said the game is “absolutely” circled on the team’s calendar.
“We played little league with a lot of those kids growing up. It’s going to be a big game and there’s going to be some blood,” he said.
“It is a rivalry already, just from the split with some people going to Herriman and some people coming here. We see them as a rival,” Herrera said.
The Sentinels and Mustangs will close out the season against one another on Oct. 14.
To begin the season however, the Sentinels take on Olympus High School, the third year in a row they’ve begun the season with a matchup against the Titans. As mentioned previously, they lost the first meeting 56-0, but last year came out on top 27-17. Round three between the schools kicks off on Aug. 13 at 6 p.m.