A Puncher homecoming

Joan Mitchell photo.

Moffat takes helm of BP football program

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Becoming the Big Piney High School (BPHS) Puncher head football coach was not on Jeromy Moffat’s mind when he first joined the program as a volunteer coach three seasons ago.

Moffat grew up in Big Piney and went out for the Puncher football team all four years of his high school career. A member of the Class of 1997, he played college ball at Black Hills State University in South Dakota, graduating with a degree in business management and a minor in coaching.

Returning to Sublette County, Moffat found himself “steering away from coaching” until his nephew, Kaden Raza, became a quarterback for the Punchers.

During the 2021 fall season, Moffat served as a full-time assistant coach under former head coach Ryan Visser.

Early last spring, Visser called his staff to his office for a meeting.

“We assumed he wanted to go over the lineup of what was going to happen as far as spring practices and summer ball,” Moffat said. “Then he mentioned he was leaving (the district). He had an awesome opportunity down at Mountain Crest (High School) in Logan, Utah. I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Visser encouraged one of the assistant coaches to step up and take the reins. Immediately following Visser’s resignation, BPHS Principal and Activities Director Jeff Makelky called Moffat to ask the former Puncher if he wanted to put his hat in the ring for head coach.

“I thought about it for a week and then realized what an opportunity it would be to coach these kids,” Moffat said. “The community of Big Piney has been extremely supportive. Being born and raised here and coming back to coach at my alma mater is pretty special. It adds another level of pride and another level of commitment for me as head coach to be successful with this program.”

The wild card

The Punchers will kick off against a fresh slate of opponents as Big Piney enters its first year in the 1A, 9-man conference.

Initially, some returning players expressed skepticism with what they felt was a “downgrade,” Moffat said. He and his staff encouraged the Punchers to see 9-man as an opportunity to “create new rivalries” and to test their mettle against the top-rated teams Big Piney plays during the basketball season.

“Our conference is stacked this year,” Moffat said. “Shoshoni won State last year. They are essentially returning with everybody. Rocky Mountain played for State – they’re bringing everybody back. Wind River is tough. Greybull is looking good. Overall, our side of the conference is definitely going to be the most competitive.”

Moffat describes himself as an “offensive-minded coach” and looks forward to “instilling our 9-man concepts and theories” out on the gridiron this season.

When Moffat talked to the Examiner on Aug. 16, the Punchers were only three practices into the season. The adjustment to 9-man football was already “going really well,” Moffat said.

“The kids have really grasped onto the concepts that we came up with as coaches,” he added.

Moffat attributed the teams’ adaptability to leadership from the veteran upperclassmen.

“We’ve got a core of nine or 10 kids that are returning that have really set a good example to begin with as far as conditioning, attitudes and coachability,” he said. “They’re not a vocal group, but they have a quiet confidence around them that I really appreciate. They respond to everything we challenge them with.”

The Punchers also have another card up their sleeve. Each season, the statewide press put together a preview of the upcoming football season. Because Big Piney is new to the 9-man conference, the team received barely two sentences in the writeup. There is not a team in the state that possesses tape of the Punchers playing 9-man football.

“That’s exactly what I had hoped for,” said Moffat. “I don’t want anybody to know anything about us. I want us to earn that respect and make our own noise in the conference.”
Iron sharpens iron

Moffat’s coaching philosophy centers around developing strong young men on and off the field, creating a team that will “buy into the culture” of playing for the Punchers.

“I talked to them (Monday night) about being a good student, being respectful in class, being respectful in the community, being role models to the younger kids and getting good grades. We’ve set a team GPA goal of 3.25.”

Striving for excellence involves working together as a team. The Puncher motto this year is “iron sharpens iron,” Moffat explained.

“You make each other better every single day in practice,” he added. “You rely on each other to compete, from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen. I’ve really challenged them to hold themselves to a higher standard, not only on the football field and in the locker room, but in the school and community as well.”

The ability to bond as a team and build a sense of camaraderie is crucial to success on the gridiron, Moffat added.

“Since day one, I’ve told them we’re a family, we’re a brotherhood, and to rely on and trust each other as teammates, as friends, as classmates and as young men in the community.”

Moffat hit the ground running after accepting the position as head coach. The previous spring, he organized a meeting to recruit new players. The Punchers participated in a “mini-camp” in May followed by a full team camp in July.

The camps and summer workouts allowed Moffat to get to know the underclassmen and new players, including some fresh talent from other sports.

“I’m really excited about the athletes that we have and the speed that we have,” he said. “I think 9-man football is going to be a lot of fun to watch and a lot of fun to coach.”

Moffat thanked former Head Coach Visser for “giving me the opportunity three years ago to come on as a volunteer.”

He also expressed gratitude to Principal Makelky and the school district for hiring him.

“I’m looking forward to the season and I hope we can get a great turnout from the community to come support these kids who are busting their tails and are working hard,” said Moffat. “They’re excited about the season.”

 

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