Five Punchers earn All-Conference honors

Robert Galbreath photo Sophomore Caden Clifford churns up yards against Riverside on Oct. 20.

BIG PINEY – The Wyoming Coaches Association honored five Big Piney High School Puncher football players – senior Thomas Howard, juniors Karsyn Gurr, Zack Murphy and Reuben Stoutenburg and sophomore Caden Clifford – with 2022 1A-9-Man West All-Conference awards.

Gurr received the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year accolade. Howard, Gurr and Stoutenburg also snagged 1A-9-Man All-State recognition.

Big Piney Football Head Coach Jeromy Moffat described Howard as the “perfect example” of a “model Puncher football player.”

“Thomas was a pillar for us on both sides of the ball this season,” explained Moffat. “He worked hard in the offseason and that really carried over into some great games.”

Offensively, Howard made a statement as a guard and fullback.

“Thomas’ favorite play was the ‘Black 3,’ or fullback drive,” Moffat added. “He scored quite a few touchdowns on this play and they were all tough inside runs.”

Switching seamlessly to defense, Howard packed a punch as middle linebacker.

“Our conference was loaded with big kids, and Thomas was often double teamed at the point of attack,” said Moffat. “He was in the top 15 in defensive points in the state.”

Moffat recalled Howard’s performance against Shoshoni on Oct. 6 as a highlight.

“We had talked all summer about Thomas and Shoshoni’s running back (Pehton Truempler) meeting in the hole head on,” Moffat said. “In the fourth quarter of that game, Thomas had three tackles for a loss with Truempler carrying the ball.”

Howard will be missed next season, Moffat said.

“Thomas just is a football player – there is no better way to describe it,” Moffat added. “He is an outstanding young man with a bright future.”

Gurr excelled as a “big play athlete” on the Puncher offense in the role of wide receiver, said Moffat.

“He started the season with a bang, breaking a 5-yard curl for 60 yards for a touchdown against Lusk,” Moffat added. “His speed is topnotch in our conference and he was a tough cover, often drawing a double team with the safety.”

Gurr hit his stride during the Sept. 9 game against Rocky Mountain, Moffat said.

“Karsyn had a huge kickoff return that sealed Big Piney’s victory and propelled our season in the right direction,” Moffat added. “He dominated that game receiving wise, on special teams and had two big interceptions late in the game.”

On defense, Gurr stepped up as an “excellent” cornerback, Moffat added.

“Karsyn did a great job filling on the edge and stopping some outside runs,” Moffat said.

Moffat looks forward to Gurr's return to the gridiron in 2023.

“Karsyn is a great kid and I thought he stepped up well in a leadership role,” Moffat continued. “He made some big steps this season maturity-wise as a student athlete and I am proud of him.”

Murphy exhibited tenacity and positivity in multiple roles on the gridiron.

“The thing that I love about ‘Murph’ is that he plays the game the way it should be played,” said Moffat. “He is a very good football player on both sides of the line and he has an absolute blast doing it. Zack helped kids up after knocking them down and displayed excellent sportsmanship.”

Murphy played center on the Puncher offense.

“He faced some big kids this season, but he battled hard and helped our running back break some huge runs and assisted our quarterback in having time to throw,” said Moffat.

Moffat praised Murphy as a “standout” on the Big Piney defense line.

“Zack made many tackles for a loss and covered the field well laterally from sideline to sideline,” Moffat explained. “That shows determination and heart.”

Murphy was a top-three punter in the state with several “booming punts” over 60 yards, said Moffat.

“Zack’s positive attitude in practice and games is infectious and I am looking forward to seeing his growth next season as a senior,” Moffat added.

Stoutenburg made an impact as the Puncher’s “do it all” player on offense, changing from running back to receiver with ease, said Moffat.

“The thing that impresses me about Reuben is his toughness,” Moffat told the Examiner. “The kid just does not quit. He is very competitive and plays with confidence, not arrogance.”

Standout plays for Stoutenburg included a 98-yard touchdown run against Wyoming Indian on Oct. 14. As running back against Riverside on Oct. 20, Stoutenburg rushed for 148 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“We had some injuries (at Riverside) and Reuben stepped up and was our primary ball carrier,” Moffat said.

Stoutenburg played outside linebacker on the Puncher D-line.

“Outside linebacker is one of the toughest positions to play in 9-man because you have to be there to stop the run but also be quick enough to get out to pass coverage. Reuben handled this challenge well.”

Moffat commended Stoutenburg’s leadership on the football field and is “excited” for his return to the team as a senior.

While only a sophomore, Clifford brought passion and an extensive knowledge of football to the gridiron.

“Caden essentially was another coach on the field,” said Moffat.

Clifford played running back on offense.

“Caden will be remembered this season for breaking big runs and juking kids out of their cleats,” Moffat added. “He is an elusive back who can cut on a dime. He dealt with some soreness, but often played through the pain and put up some good numbers for us.”

On Sept. 9, Clifford made a 30-yard touchdown run. On Oct. 14 against Wyoming Indian, Clifford scored three touchdowns on four carries for 150 yards.

Defensively, Clifford stepped up as outside linebacker.

“That is a tough position and Caden would make his read and shoot the gap for a tackle for loss,” said Moffat. “He had a big hit against Wind River that really sticks out to me.”

Clifford will be a “huge asset” to the program as a junior and senior, Moffat added.

“Caden works hard in the offseason and loves playing football. He has a bright future as a Puncher football player.”

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