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Kaden Cox caps 3,500-yard season with undefeated Ridgeline's 1st 4A championship

Ridgeline High School football QB Kaden Cox, center, holds the team trophy as Ridgeline celebrates its 4A championship win against Dixie High School at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)


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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Ridgeline's offense has been among the best in the state, with 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 program history.

"He's unbelievable," 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 back there and makes my life easy."

Ridgeline's offense was on full display Friday, lighting up the scoreboard to the tune 570 yards — the sixth-most in championship game history, according to Utah high school football historian George Felt — with 355 yards on the ground and 45 points. Ridgeline earned 24 first downs, went 12-of-16 on third down and averaged 8.1 yards per play, including 13.7 yards per completion from Cox.

White's 7.0 yards per carry that paced 6.3 yards per rushing play helped, too. But behind it all as a dominant offensive line pushing the ball forward on every play.

"We are really explosive; we can do whatever you want on offense, for most part," said Cox, who recently received a preferred walk-on offer from Utah State. "But I give all the credit to our O-line. We can't do anything without our line. They are one special group of guys, and O-line coach is remarkable; I give all the credit because we can't do anything without them."

But Cox deserves some credit, too. His 55 passing touchdowns is the third-most in a single season in Utah High School Activities Association history, just behind Lehi's Cammon Cooper, who threw 58 in 2017. The senior finishes his career ranked sixth all-time with 657 completions, eighth in touchdown passes with 99, ninth with 8,657 yards and 15th in total offense with 9,345 yards.

The 6-foot, 170-pound signal caller got a chance to start for the Riverhawks as a sophomore, and ran with it ever since.

"The coach before me took a chance on him and gave him some experiences that have really helped him grow," Ridgeline coach Travis Cox said of his QB1. "Starting last year, we knew we had something special in him and he's just continued to get better and better.

"I credit coach Livingston, our offensive coordinator, for really kind of teaching him how to play quarterback. He's done a fabulous job of Kaden, and Kaden has really been a coachable player. He really has just wanted to get better, and he's gotten better each and every week."

Ridgeline wide receiver Braylon Majors scores a touchdown against Dixie in the 4A championship game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.
Ridgeline wide receiver Braylon Majors scores a touchdown against Dixie in the 4A championship game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

The Riverhawks converted scoring drives with double-digit plays twice, with a five- and six-play drive scattered in before Cox found receiver Stratford Simmons with his second touchdown on just the third play of a 34-yard drive that put Ridgeline up 39-12 after three quarters.

Again, it all goes back to the line.

"When we knew coming in, we're gonna have a lot of talented skill players — and they they lived up to every expectation," coach Cox said. "But they aren't who they are without five amazing offensive linemen, and we were able to do what we did on offense because of that line."

Ridgeline rolled up 361 yards of offense in the first half, including 237 yards and two touchdowns from Cox. After Dixie quarterback Bronson Barben scored on a 9-yard run to pull the Flyers within a point 7-6 after a missed extra point midway with 2:01 left in the first quarter, Cox directed an 18-0 run through the remainder of the half to put the Riverhawks up 25-6 at the break.

White had 123 yards on 16 carries on the ground at the break, including a 73-yard touchdown to counter the Flyers' lone score of the game and a 5-yard run to cap the scoring with 57 seconds left in the half.

Defensively, Ridgeline held Dixie to 151 yards before the break — including just 28 yards on the ground. Will Booth had two tackles for loss in the first half, and the Riverhawks held the Flyers to one punt and a turnover on downs using scoring drives of 11 and 14 plays in the second quarter to keep opportunities to a minimum.

Cameron Craney led Ridgeline with eight tackles and a forced fumble, and Luke Sorenson had seven tackles with three tackles for loss. Ashton MacFarlane had three tackles, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery for the Riverhawks.

"These kids been around each other for a long time," Ridgeline coach Travis Cox said. "And they really jelled towards one another and there's no egos it's all about team and it's all about doing what's best for the team and, and because of that, they allow us to coach them and and it's just we have a very good energy amongst the team."

Founded in 2016, Ridgeline put together one of the more dominant seasons of high school football in Utah history and capped it with an undefeated 13-0 record.

The Region 11 champions averaged 481.1 yards per game, including 196.2 yards on the ground and 293 through the air in 12 games en route to Friday's championship game.

With due respect to the receiving corps, Cox was the engine of the offense. The 6-foot, 170-pound senior who also plays basketball completed 71% of his passes for 3,419 yards, 50 touchdowns and just two interceptions en route to the Riverhawks' 4A title game appearance.

"You have players everywhere and so defenses have to choose to take away one thing," White said. "When they take that thing away, we'll just take the other thing and it makes us super explosive. And after a while, it's super hard to stop because they don't know what to do."

It all added up to a state championship that has been more than six years in the making, since before the school was founded.

"Our seniors have been together for about 10 years. They're one special group," said Kaden Cox, who will report to his first basketball practice Monday. "We're a little quieter group, but we just like to work and put our heads down. There's nothing like this, though."

Barben threw for 207 yards and a touchdown for Dixie (9-4), and Seth Takau had 76 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

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