by nathan oster
With one notable exception, Greybull High School’s week zero game in Basin Friday night followed the script authored by first year coach Justin Bernhardt.
The Buffs got the win they were seeking against their longtime rivals, trouncing the Rebels 33-0, and they showed that they were picking up the new offensive and defensive systems brought in by Bernhardt, who coached at Rocky Mountain College.
But the win came at a high cost. The quarterback hand picked by Bernhardt to run his spread offense, strong-armed sophomore Calder Forcella, broke the thumb on his throwing hand. Now in a cast, he might be able to play defense — but not quarterback, at least for the first four weeks of the regular season.
“It’s a big, big loss,” said Bernhardt, who also had a starting offensive lineman, Oscar Gomez, go down with a knee injury. Unlike Forcella, however, Gomez’s injury is not believed to be serious.
Fortunately for the Buffs, they didn’t need four full quarters of Forcella to beat the Rebels.
Greybull got all the points it would need in the first quarter.
The Buffs didn’t score on their first possession, but still made a statement on the drive, marching all the way to the Riverside 1 yard line before a fumble ended the drive. Riverside turned it back over on the next play, however.
Given a second chance, the Buffs capitalized. A 6-yard run by Forcella capped the scoring drive.
The Buffs continued to build on their lead with a pair of Forcella touchdown passes in the second quarter. The first covered 11 yards and went to Rob Nuttall, while the second was a bomb, as Forcella hit a streaking Fabian Davila on a scoring play that covered 73 yards.
Leading 21-0 at the half, the Buffs tacked a 1-yard Forcella run in the third and a 5-yard pass from Nuttall to Luke Zeller in the fourth, accounting for the 33-0 final.
“Considering there were just 12 days between the opening day of camp and the first game, I’d say it went pretty well,” said Bernhardt. “The kids ran the systems well, for that short of a time, and we were able to run quite a bit of stuff.
“There are still things we need to clean up — three turnovers was too many, and we had some broken routes and assignments. But it was a good start.”
While it was a battle for bragging rights, it was, essentially, a tune-up game, and for a team trying to replace 14 seniors, it was much needed. Bernhardt gave passing grades across the board.
Bernhardt said he was “proud of the effort” turned in by the offensive line, made up of center Paul Stewart, guards Oscar Gomez and Aiden Jenness and tackles Logan Jensen and Cache Griffin.
“They had to play in the trenches the whole game, and they’ve had to learn the zone blocking system — when to double, when to scrape, those types of things,” Bernhardt said. “They’ll get it … it’ll just take time.”
Bernhardt also credited Jesse Chestnut, who carried 20 times for 107 yards. Like the linemen, he’s adjusting to the zone system, as well. “He just runs so hard; he’s a load for defenses,” said the coach.
On the other side of the ball, Riverside threatened to score on several occasions, but each time, the Buffs kept them out of the end zone. Jordan Nielson, with 25 defensive points, and Bryce Wright, with 20, were the top playmakers on defense. Each plays the outside linebacker system in Bernhardt’s 4-3 defense.
Chestnut, with 22 points, Nuttall, with 19, and Logan Jensen and Davila, each with 10, were also credited with double figures on the defensive stat sheet.
“The whole defense played really physical,” Bernhardt said. “The kids just need to learn how to react, how to contain, and to shore some stuff up.”
For the Greybull seniors, the win capped a perfect career against their primary rivals to the south. Four years, four wins.
“You could tell in warmups … there was a little chipping going on,” said Bernhardt of his introduction to the rivalry. “It was friendly, nothing nasty. You could tell the kids knew each other. It wasn’t a week zero game in that sense. Both teams wanted to have bragging rights.”
The Buffs spent two weeks installing an offensive system — and won’t deviate from that, even though their primary triggerman won’t be available for up to a month. Bernhardt said Nuttall, the backup quarterback, “knows the offense as well as anyone.”
While he isn’t the passer that Forcella is, Nuttall “showed that he can run the read option pretty well,” Bernhardt said.
The Buffs will need their offense clicking this week. Big Horn, which crushed Thermopolis in its week zero game, will be in town for a 7 p.m. kickoff Friday night. Bernhardt said he watched the film of that game and came away thinking the two teams match up pretty well, talent wise.
“They spread it out — not necessarily in the spread schemes that we run, but they have a quarterback who is very athletic, a tailback who runs hard and a line with decent size. They’re a solid team.
“We’ve got to make every rep at practice this week count … I basically think it’ll come down to who wants it more. I think our guys will work hard. We’ll be prepared.
Greybull 6 15 6 6 – 33
Riverside 0 0 0 0 – 0
G – Calder Forcella 6-yard run.
G – Rob Nuttall 11-yard pass from Forcella (Forcella run).
G – Fabian Davila 73-yard pass from Forcella (Davila kick).
G – Forcella 1-yard run.
G – Luke Zeller 5-yard pass from Nuttall.
RUSHING – Greybull 34-173 (Jesse Chestnut 20-106, Forcella 9-58, Nuttall 2-7, Chris Ogg 2-2).
PASSING – Greybull 9-of-15 for 129 yards (Forcella 8-12 for 124 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; Nuttall 1-3 for 5 yards and 1 TD).
RECEIVING – Zeller 5-32, Nuttall 2-11, Wyatt Nielsen 1-13, Davilla 1-73.
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS – Jordan Nielson led with 25 points, followed by Jesse Chestnut with 22, Bryce Wright with 20, Rob Nuttall with 19, Logan Jensen and Davila, each with 10.