Puncher football opens regular season with a bang

Robert Galbreath photo Sophomore Caden Clifford runs the ball during Red and White Day on Aug. 2. Clifford ate up yards for the Punchers in multiple drives against Lusk on Sept. 2 and scored a 2-point conversion. Also pictured in back is Head Coach Jeromy Moffat.

LUSK – A pair of impressive pass plays resulting in touchdowns and a determined defense by the Big Piney Puncher football team resulted a decisive 14-6 victory against 1A East Conference rival, the Lusk Tigers, on Friday, Sept. 2.

Roaring onto the gridiron following a six-plus-hour bus ride, the Big Piney offense set the pace with a touchdown on its opening drive in the first quarter.

Junior quarterback Champ Snively completed a pass to junior Karsyn Gurr. Gurr kicked into high gear and raced into the end zone. Sophomore Caden Clifford ran the ball in for a 2-point conversion.

Lusk made a touchdown in the second quarter, but the Big Piney defense shut down its attempt to score extra points.

Big Piney led by a narrow 8-6 margin at halftime.

Snively and Gurr executed a 72-yard touchdown pass play in the third quarter, sealing the win for the Punchers.

“It was great to get that first game and victory in 9-man under our belt,” said Head Coach Jeromy Moffat. “Lusk is a good team and I am proud of our kids and coaching staff for putting together a successful game plan and executing it.”

Moffat praised the Puncher offensive.

“Offensively, we ran the ball well and rushed for 190 yard,” he said. “Caden Clifford, Reuben Stoutenburg and Thomas Howard carried the bulk of rushes. We knew with Karsyn Gurr and Hunter Fisher on the outside, we would have some opportunities for big plays with Lusk running 4-2 and leaving them with single coverage.”

The Big Piney defense also performed well, Moffat said.

“Defensively, we held Lusk to 135 total yards rushing and passing,” he said. “Besides one drive in the second (quarter) where we let our guard down, we shut down their offense. I thought the entire defensive unit flowed the ball and the gang tackled well.”

A hard-fought battle

Lusk opened the first quarter in possession, only to be stopped by a tough Puncher defense. A pair of tackles by junior Zach Murphy forced the Tigers to punt.

Big Piney returned the punt at its own 22-yard line. Clifford caught the handoff and drove the ball to the 35-yard line.

Snively sent the ball spiraling to Gurr. Gurr charged down the field into the end zone for the Puncher's first touchdown. Clifford carried the ball across the goal line for a 2-point conversion.

The Puncher defense prevented Lusk from making significant gains on its ensuing drive. The Tiger defense answered back and shut down Big Piney's second attempt to score in the first quarter.

Lusk moved the ball down the field as the second quarter opened. The Big Piney defense hammered away, including tackles led by senior Thomas Howard, sophomore Ben Ferguson and junior Dylon Woodward.

Lusk eventually managed to break through the Puncher defense and score a touchdown. Big Piney shut down the Tigers' attempt at points after touchdown.

Big Piney came up short on its next two drives in the second quarter. A pack of Punchers led by Howard and Woodward forced Lusk to punt on its final drive in the first half.

The first half closed with Big Piney in the lead, 8-6.

Big Piney took possession as the third quarter began. Junior Reuben Stoutenburg ate up yards before the Tiger defense slowed the Punchers to a halt.

A tackle by Stoutenburg and Howard, followed by a fumble, ended the Tigers' hopes of scoring on their first drive of the third quarter.

Lusk punted the ball deep into Puncher territory, leaving the Puncher offense staring down 97 yards to the end zone.

Howard drove the ball over the 10-yard line. Clifford carried the ball twice for a pair of first downs. Gurr advanced the ball to the 28-yard line.

On the next play, Snively found an opening and completed a pass to Gurr. Tucking the ball, Gurr sped down the field and scored the Punchers' second touchdown. Big Piney was unable to score any points after touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, a deep punt by Big Piney set the Tigers up at their 18-yard line. The Lusk offense made early gains before the Puncher defense tightened up. Howard pulled off a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Senior Hunter Fisher sniffed out Lusk's next move and brought down a Tiger.

Penalty flags on the Tigers forced a turnover on downs. Big Piney took possession and ran the clock down.

Big Piney hosts Rocky Mountain for the first home game of the season on Friday, Sept. 9. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Puncher Stadium.

“Rocky Mountain is a solid football team with a lot of confidence,” said Coach Moffat. “They have some big guys up front and a good athlete at quarterback. I am confident in our group of kids and coaching staff that this should be a heck of a conference opener. We are ready to get after it.”