Mt. Ridge football finishes strong in year threeNov 02, 2021 11:00AM ● By Justin Adams
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
As junior running back Cade Uluave plunged into the end zone from one yard out, it wasn’t just a game-winning touchdown against a cross-town rival on senior night; it wasn’t just the final play of an 8-win regular season that earned the Sentinels a first-round bye in the playoffs; it was the culmination of a three-year-long journey defined by overcoming adversity.
As a brand new school three years ago, the Mountain Ridge football team was full of underclassmen—sophomores and even freshmen who started on varsity. The result? The Sentinels didn’t win a single game that first year.
Last year, the team improved to 4-4 in a shorter COVID-impacted season.
Entering 2021, the Sentinels had high expectations for themselves. The sophomores from that first difficult year were now seniors, playing with the advantage of more accumulated experience than your average senior class.
“Those guys, they’ve had to endure more than what a lot of other teams have had to endure,” said head coach Mike Meifu. “I think that’s helped shape who they are. They know how to compete as hard as they can, even when they come up short.”
“I think that [first season] matured us early and got us ready for what we’re doing today,” echoed senior defensive back Demarco Brimmage, who led the team in tackles this season.
The team’s collective ability to bounce back from hardship has been evident over the course of this season, and even within a single game.
In the third game of the season, the Sentinels made the trip to Heber valley to take on Wasatch High School. They trailed 24-7 as they entered the fourth quarter. A lot of teams could have given up at that point. But Mountain Ridge outscored Wasatch 33-6 in the final quarter to secure a 40-30 win.
Senior quarterback Ayden Helm also pointed to two overtime games against West Jordan and the season finale against Herriman, as examples of when the team had to draw on its experience of overcoming adversity.
“Because we got our butts kicked for a long time, that built up some mental toughness. So now when we’re in those tight games, we came through and we played well,” he said.
Racking up the wins this season has also helped to change the team’s mentality, according to Uluave.
“I think our biggest improvement this season has been our mentality,” he said. “I think we all flipped the switch and said, ‘This is our time.’ With everyone’s mindset being higher, it raises everyone’s game.”
As for the team’s mentality as they head into the state playoffs, they’re just taking it one week at a time.
“Our mentality is the same as it is every week. We just want to be 1-0,” said offensive lineman Nick Lober.
The Sentinels secured a five-seed in the state playoff bracket, based on the state’s RPI system which ranks teams based on their record and strength of schedule. The high seeding means they’ll have a first round bye, before playing Syracuse (who beat Pleasant Grove) on Oct. 29.
“It’s a good thing that we have a first-round bye. It’s a credit to them and the schedule they played,” Meifu said. “It’s nice because we have some guys who are beat up.”