After scoring a lop-sided victory to start its season, the Big Piney football team looked at its schedule and knew its competition was about to get a whole tougher.
On Friday, Big Piney hosted No. 3 ranked Mountain View and this week the Punchers will travel to take on No. 2 Greybull.
“This week and next week is the test,” Big Piney head football coach Aaron Makelky said he told his team before Friday’s game.
The Punchers rose to the challenge Friday against Mountain View and took a 21-14 lead into the fourth quarter. Jake Pape scored two rushing touchdowns and Adam Willoughby scored another to put Big Piney in front.
Mountain View, aided by some Big Piney miscues, however, came back to win the game, 22-21.
“At the end of the day, we just made some mistakes late in the game,” Makelky said. “We played good enough to win.”
A snap that sailed over Big Piney’s punter’s head and into the end zone gave Mountain View two points on a safety. A big return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Buffs the ball at Big Piney’s 38-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Braeden Walk broke free for a 27-yard touchdown run to give Mountain the lead, 22-21. The Buffs went for two, but Jake Pape’s pressure forced a bad throw to stop the conversion.
Big Piney got the ball back with just under six minutes left. After seven-yard run and a one-yard run, Pape got the handoff and broke several Buff tackles, but was eventually pulled down behind the line of scrimmage. Big Piney punted with just under four minutes left in the game. Eight straight runs by Jason Stoddard, including a five-yard scamper on fourth-and-inches, helped Mountain View run out the clock and win the game.
Even though the Punchers came up short, the team had plenty to feel optimistic about, especially after a tough 1-7 campaign last year.
“If we can play with these guys, we can play with anybody,” Makelky said. “Our seniors our bought in. They’re motto is, ‘our turn.’ Nothing is different but their attitude and their leadership.”
The Punchers were able to run the ball consistently throughout the game. Its defense was also able to contain Mountain View, but the Buffs capitalized on a couple big plays.
Big Piney shut Mountain View down on its first two possessions, forcing the Buffs to punt and then turn the ball over on downs. On the Buffs’ third possession, Big Piney backed Mountain View up. On first down, Tate Hughes sacked Walk for a 13-yard loss. On the next play, Adam Willoughby and Ascencion Pelham dragged Walk down behind the line of scrimmage for a three-yard loss. Facing third-and-26 from its own 16-yard line, Mountain View got tricky. Walk completed a short pass to Stoddard who then pitched the ball to his teammate, Briggin Bluemel, who was sprinted down the sideline for an 84-yard score on the hook-and-ladder.
Big Piney answered back in the second quarter. After Tate Hughes had a 31-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty, Hughes got the ball again and rumbled 27 yards to Mountain View’s six. Pape ran up the middle and into the end zone on the next play to help tie the game, 7-7.
Big Piney’s defense then came up big. Justin Sheeman recovered a fumble to give the Punchers the ball at Mountain View’s seven-yard line. Pape ran into the end zone on the next play and Big Piney led 13-7 after missing the extra point.
A horse-collar tackle on third-and-17 kept Mountain View’s ensuing drive alive. Stoddard then out-jumped two Big Piney defenders, who had tight coverage on a contested pass, and broke free to score a 37-yard touchdown. The Buffs extra point helped them take a 14-13 lead into halftime.
“Defensively, they just beat us on two big plays,” Makelky said.
With quarterback Tristan Barney temporally sidelined while getting his non-throwing shoulder looked at, the Punchers ran the ball four times to move the ball 51 yards and into the end zone. Willoughby broke a tackle on a sweep and then sprinted 23 yards for the touchdown. Pape rushed into the end zone to convert the on the two-point conversion to put the Punchers up, 22-14.
Big Piney’s defense made a big stand to start the fourth quarter to stay in front. Facing a fourth-and-5 at Big Piney’s 25, Walk ran 10 yards before coughing the ball up. Meisner pounced on the fumble to end the drive deep in Puncher territory. After two negative plays, however, the Punchers were forced to punt and gave up the safety when the snap sailed high.
The Punchers are now 1-1 overall. On Friday, they’ll take the second part of their test at Greybull. Greybull lost its opener, 12-7, against top-ranked Glenrock, but was able to score a slim victory, 33-26, against Thermopolis last week.