MONTPELIER, ID. – The Punchers found themselves outgunned in the final quarter against the Bear Lake Bears as the teams faced off under smoky skies in Montpelier, Idaho. Pulling off several impressive surprise plays, Big Piney trailed by only 14-6 when the halftime buzzer sounded during the season-opener on Friday, Aug. 27.
The game remained up for grabs in the third quarter with both teams scoring touchdowns. Stepping on the gas in the fourth quarter, Bear Lake launched a lethal attack with three touchdowns, creating a deficit Big Piney was unable to close.
At the final buzzer, the score stood at 42-13 in Bear Lake’s favor.
“We wanted our team to go out week zero and get some real experience playing against a tough team and we did that,” said head coach Ryan Visser. “On the field, I thought the team held together tough ‘til the fourth quarter, then the game got away from us. Can’t make as many mental mistakes as we did against a good team. There were some positives, some good things we can build on.”
Bear Lake set the rhythm and scored on its first drive. A 2-point conversion led to an 8-0 lead for the Bears.
The Puncher defense hounded the Bears into the second quarter. Senior Jaron Petty swept in to tackle the Bears’ receiver on his opponent’s next drive. An incomplete pass by Bear Lake forced them to punt.
The Punchers shut down Bear Lake’s third attempt as the first quarter ticked down. Seniors Brayden Hymas and Matthew Evans struck first, preventing Bear Lake from gaining yards.
The Big Piney defense hammered away in the second quarter. Junior Jovany Munoz stopped Bear Lake’s receiver in his tracks.
Bear Lake’s quarterback sent the ball into the air. Senior Koy Walton leapt up and intercepted the ball, turning possession over to the Punchers.
Bear Lake scored on its next drive, although the Puncher defense prevented a 2-point conversion.
Big Piney took possession. Petty caught the kickoff and ran a 15-yard return. Senior quarterback Dalton Bell handed the ball to Munoz. Munoz charged over the 50-yard line, entering Bear territory for the first time.
Walton completed a 7-yard pass play from Bell. Bell faked a handoff and fed the ball to sophomore Karsyn Gurr. Gurr moved the line of scrimmage up 7 yards. Petty caught the next pass, pushing the Punchers to the Bears’ 22-yard line.
Bell held onto the ball in the next play, moving the Punchers to within 13 yards of the end zone with 18 seconds left in the half.
As the clock ticked down, Bell tucked the ball and charged straight through an opening to his left and scored the Punchers’ first touchdown. With no points after the touchdown for Big Piney, the score stood at 14-6 in the Bears’ favor at halftime.
Despite a deep kickoff by Evans and tackles by Petty, Walton and seniors Thomas Barron and Jaspur Brower, Bear Lake scored on its first drive of the third quarter.
Junior Thomas Howard sacked Bear Lake’s quarterback as he tried to make good on two extra points.
Brower pulled off his own sack well behind the line of scrimmage on Bear Lake’s next drive. Howard blocked Bear Lake’s punt, setting the Punchers up in a favorable position for their next drive.
Bell wound up and threw the ball to Gurr. Gurr completed the pass and raced down the field for a 38-yard touchdown.
Senior Jafet Martinez kicked the ball between the goal posts for an extra point. The score was 20-13 in Bear Lake’s favor at the close of the third quarter.
The Puncher defense chipped away at Bear Lake early in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Zack Murphy sacked the Bears’ quarterback and Gurr broke up a pass. Bear Lake managed to outflank the Puncher defense and scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion.
Gurr returned Bear Lake’s kickoff and dashed 50 yards up the field. The Puncher offense stalled and Big Piney was forced to turnover on downs.
Bear Lake scored again on its next drive, although a tackle by Petty shut down the 2-point conversion attempt.
Bear Lake managed to score again, widening the gap to 42-13.
Coach Visser looks forward to Thursday’s game against Evanston.
“The saying in football is you make you make your biggest jump of improvement from week one to week two and I’m excited to see how the boys respond.”