Punchers advance to semis with commanding win

BIG PINEY – Hosting its first playoff game in 11 years, after scoring its first winning season in seven years, the Big Piney football team added another first-in-a-while to its list of accomplishments on Friday – a win in the playoffs. Big Piney ran away from Newcastle, 42-14, in the Class 2A state quarterfinals.

"I think they were hungry," Big Piney Head Coach Aaron Makelky said.

"It feels great," senior Chancy Hunt said. "Our team has really stepped up the last two weeks and we've brought our intensity back up."

Big Piney had several players make big plays on the ground and through the air while its defense shut Newcastle almost completely down after its first possession.

Tristan Barney threw two touchdown passes, to Hunt and Adam Willoughby. Hunt also rushed into the end zone twice while Jake Pape and Tyler Long also scored rushing touchdowns.

"We have so many playmakers," Hunt said. "They can't stop us all."

"We're an eight-headed monster," Makelky added.

Newcastle, meanwhile, lost its quarterback, Cameron Quigley, when the score was tied at seven in the second quarter. The Dogies didn't complete a pass after Quigly went down, but Big Piney did intercept three of those attempts. Zane Meisner, Calder Taylor and Jake Pape all picked off passes.

Newcastle actually struck first in the game on its opening drive. Meisner initially saved a touchdown when he caught Quigley from behind after a 50-yard run. Two plays later, however, Quigley connected with Dylon Tidyman on a slant for a 34-yard touchdown that helped Newcastle take a 7-0 lead.

A holding penalty negated a 27-yard run by Willoughby on Big Piney's first offensive play and the Punchers eventually punted.

The Punchers, however, scored on their second drive. Barney threw a screen pass to Hunt for 19 yards. Then, on third-and-13, Barney tossed another pass to Hunt. Hunt caught the ball about 15 yards down the field and then outran Newcastle's defensive backs to score a 54-yard touchdown and tie the game, 7-7.

Neither team did much on its next couple of drives, but the Punchers eventually capitalized on another big play. Barney found Willoughby wide open in the middle of the field and Willoughby then strolled into the end zone after the catch for a 6-yard score, putting Big Piney up, 13-7.

Big Piney found the end zone again after Newcastle punted the ball a total of five yards into the wind.

On the ensuing play, Hunt got to the corner and took off down the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown run, putting Big Piney up, 21-7.

On the last play of the half, Noah Lewis caught a ball for 18 yards, but was tackled in the red zone.

In the second half, Meisner's interception gave Big Piney the ball in Newcastle territory, at the 47. On the ensuing drive, Hunt had three runs of 10 yards or longer and then Pape ran into the end zone from five yards out, putting Big Piney up, 28-7.

The Punchers forced Newcastle to punt on the next drive. A short snap forced Newcastle's punter to drop down to a knee to catch the ball and he was ruled down at the spot. Starting at Newcastle's 20, Pape ran 11 yards and then Hunt ran nine yards for a touchdown that gave Big Piney the 35-7 lead with 6:26 left in the third.

After the touchdown, Tyler Long started running the ball and Big Piney didn't miss a beat. Long scored on a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter.

The Dogies scored their second touchdown on a pick six in the third quarter while Big Piney continued to stifle its offense.

"Our defense really flies around and hits people," Hunt said. "That's our identity."

With the win, the Punchers advance to the semifinals against Glenrock. That game will take place in Glenrock at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Glenrock beat Lovell 61-6 in the first round.

Mountain View also advanced to the semis with a 45-0 win against Thermopolis. The Buffs will take on Wheatland, who beat Greybull 37-6 in the quarterfinals.

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