Punchers' season ends in quarterfinals at Wheatland

WHEATLAND – The final tally posted on the scoreboard at Wheatland High School on Friday, Oct. 29, did not reflect the effort the Punchers put into an explosive and successful season.

High-stakes playoff games can be unpredictable, particularly for teams far from home on an unfamiliar field. The Wheatland Bulldogs’ offense and defense overwhelmed Big Piney on Friday, 45-0, eliminating the Punchers from the playoffs.

Head Coach Ryan Visser focused on the team’s accomplishments over the season.

“I told the boys they should be proud of the season they had – the improvement we saw throughout the year,” he said. “Beating Mountain View and Cokeville for the first time in 10-plus years. Going undefeated at home. This year, we had great seniors that have done a lot for us as a program. This group were sophomores when I first got here. They’ve helped win a lot of games, and we’re going to miss them a lot. Love them and know they are going to go out and do great things in society.”

Wheatland sent the opening kickoff out of bounds, setting the Punchers up at their own 35-yard line. Senior Dalton Bell made a first down on two carries before Big Piney lost possession.

The Bulldogs scored their first touchdown on the following drive, although tackles by senior Karson Cline, senior Seth Stoutenburg and junior Thomas Howard initially slowed Wheatland’s progress.

Big Piney returned the ball to its 31-yard line. Bell and senior Jaspur Brower advanced toward midfield. Senior quarterback Thomas Barron completed a 20-yard pass to Bell for a first down. Bell ran across Wheatland’s 40-yard line for another first down as the opening quarter came to a close.

Wheatland regained possession early in the second quarter. Howard pulled off a tackle for no gain and junior Jovany Munoz led a pack of Punchers in taking down Wheatland’s runner before the Bulldogs scored again.

The Puncher defense stepped up the pressure on the Bulldogs’ final drive in the first half and prevented Wheatland from entering the red zone before the clock timed out.

Munoz caught Wheatland’s ball carrier for no gain. Howard and Brower pulled off a sack for a loss in yards.

The halftime score stood at 22-0 in Wheatland’s favor.

Wheatland scored right out of the gates in the third quarter, despite a tackle led by Munoz for a loss.

Big Piney returned the kickoff at the 16-yard line. Howard rushed 30 yards for a first down. Barron found himself under heavy pressure and sent the ball into the air, the pass completed to senior Koy Walton for a first down.

Munoz and Bell gained the yards needed for another first down before Big Piney lost possession on turnover on downs.

Pressure by the Big Piney defense forced the Bulldog offense to fight for each yard during Wheatland’s next drive. Gurr, Barron and Brower each made tackles. Freshman Reuben Stoutenburg pushed the Bulldogs’ runner out of bounds.

Sophomore Zach Murphy made two tackles, resulting in a loss of yards. Senior Dustin Martin swept in with a sack.

Wheatland eventually found an opening and drove the ball into the end zone.

The Puncher defense, including a tackle by Munoz, forced Wheatland to punt on the Bulldogs’ final drive in the fourth quarter.

Big Piney returned the ball to its own 13-yard line. Howard, Seth Stoutenburg, Munoz, senior Jaron Petty and freshman Caden Clifford moved the ball down the field before the final buzzer sounded.