GLENROCK – With two minutes left in the Class 2A state semifinals, Big Piney trailed Glenrock by three points, 30-27.
The Punchers were moving the ball, but the drive stalled at Glenrock’s 20-yard line.
On fourth-and-four, Big Piney decided a 37-yard field goal would be too long of an attempt and the Punchers went for it. Glenrock, however, tackled the Punchers short of the first-down marker and ran out the clock on the ensuing possession to win the game, 30-27, and advance to the finals against Mountain View on Friday.
Big Piney’s semifinal may have ended with a close score, but it didn’t start that way.
Glenrock ran 419 yards on the ground and had the first three scores in the game.
“It’s a good example of the heart and teamwork that our program is built on,” Big Piney Head Coach Aaron Makelky said about the comeback. “It was a real team effort. They shared touches and I’m proud of how they all stepped up and were unselfish.”
With two minutes left in the first half, Big Piney trailed 17-0 and Glenrock was threatening to score again. The Punchers, however, made a stop on fourth-and-short to end the drive deep in their own red zone. Then, with about a minute left in the half, the Punchers drove 90 yards down the field and scored a touchdown to get on the board.
Big Piney continued passing the ball well in the second half and scratched its way back into the game. Tristan Barney completed 20 passes to finish with 348 passing yards – the most Glenrock has conceded this year.
“Barney played awesome and all of our receivers caught the ball well,” Makelky said. “Willoughby had one of the best games in his career, hands down.”
Jake Pape caught two touchdown passes, Zane Meisner caught one and Chancy Hunt scored Big Piney’s other touchdown on a long run.
“Our kids played awesome,” Makelky said. “They really did a good job battling back and making it a game.”
Big Piney finished its season with seven wins and three losses. All three of the teams it lost to, however, will play for a state title this weekend – Glenrock and Mountain View will battle for the 2A title while Big Horn is playing in the 1A title game against Pine Bluffs. The teams playing for the 2A title beat Big Piney by a combined four points.
“We were right there with them, we just didn’t finish,” Makelky said.
Hunt finished the season with 914 rushing yards on 139 carries. He also led the team with 18 touchdowns, 17 of which came on the ground. Pape was the only other Puncher to score double-digit touchdowns; he reached the end zone 14 times.
Barney completed 87 passes for 1,614 yards, which is the most yards in 2A heading into the finals. Hunt and Pape also finished with over 1,000 all-purpose yards, with 1,337 and 1,098, respectively.
Pape, Willoghby and Meisner all finished among the top-eight receivers in 2A, as well with each averaging over 37 receiving yards per game.
Defensively, eight different Punchers made at least 50 tackles, including Hunt, Willoughby, Meisner, Pape, Tanner Hansen, T.J. Frazier, Tate Hughes and Pelham Ascension.
“It’s definitely a special group,” Makelky said.