by nathan oster
Healthier than they have been at any point since week zero, the Greybull Buffs rode an electrifying performance by sophomore Fabian Davila and an opportunistic defense to their first conference win of the season on Friday night.
The 30-6 victory not only broke the seal on the win column for the Buffs, who improved to 1-5 overall, 1-4 in Class 2A West Conference. It also represented a turning of the page for a team that endured its share of hardships over the previous five weeks.
“It was definitely an emotional game,” said Coach Justin Bernhardt, who logged his first win as a head coach in Wyoming. “When you think about all the work, all the time we put in as a team and a coaching staff … it was a great feeling. I didn’t think we’d have to wait this long.
“I’m usually not a rah-rah type, but I got pretty excited. I broke out the pom-poms for this game … hard not to, considering all we’ve been through.”
From the opening kickoff, it was Greybull’s night.
Davila is usually one of, if not the fastest player on the field — and he showed off his wheels on the opening kickoff. The sophomore found a crease in the Kemmerer coverage and took it 91 yards for a touchdown that seemed to set the tone for the entire night.
“We definitely needed something like that to start the game,” said Bernhardt. “We wanted to get the momentum right off the bat; that’s why we wanted the ball, and didn’t defer when we won the flip.”
Bernhardt said the electrifying return was a payoff for “a lot of extra time” that the team devoted to special teams during practice last week. “When I saw it open up the way it did, I knew he was gone,” Bernhardt said.
After that crushing blow, the Buffs never let the Wranglers off the canvas. Greybull found the end zone again with 5:54 to play in the first on a 10-yard pass from Calder Forcella to Connor Petty. The Buffs scored twice more before halftime to go up 24-0, getting a 13-yard run from Forcella and a 40-yard, Forcella-to-Davila hookup with just 1:13 left in the second quarter.
Greybull didn’t score another offensive touchdown.
Kemmerer appeared to be on the verge of breaking through early in the fourth quarter, but Davila stepped in front of a pass and returned it 99 yards for his third touchdown of the game, which gave the Buffs a 30-0 lead.
The Rangers finally did get on the board, connecting on a long pass play as time expired.
But it was too little, too late.
The Buffs owned the night — offensively and defensively. They gained 127 yards on the ground, 137 through the air, and limited Kemmerer to less than 190 yards of total offense.
“We had had a good week of practice, and it was fun being able to run the systems we put in during two-a-days and against Basin,” said Bernhardt. “They were 4-1, yes, but we were getting most of our guys back, with the exception of Rob Nuttall and Cody Strach, and we were confident.
The Buffs didn’t play a perfect game, Bernhardt said. Twice in the first half, they turned the ball over inside the Kemmerer 20-yard line. One was on an interception, the other on a dropped pass on a fourth-down play.
But those missteps were washed away by the numbers on the scoreboard at the final horn. Bernhardt said that while he, his coaches and players are “pretty excited to finally get the monkey off our backs,” it was also “bittersweet” from the standpoint of what might have been.
“There was some realization, I think, that if it wasn’t for some bad breaks, that would have been the team on the field all year. They were 4-1 going in. It wasn’t a shock to beat them, but to beat them like that … it just said a lot about the kind of team we have.”
“Other than the Lovell game, I don’t think there’s been a game this season that we wouldn’t have won, had it not been for the injuries. We could very well be 5-1, instead of 1-5, right now.”
With just one conference win, the Buffs would need a miracle — and help from other teams — to make the Class 2A West Conference playoffs. Four teams already have three conference wins — and just to get into the playoff conversation, the Buffs would need to win each of their final two games, which is tricky since they wrap up the season against No. 1 ranked and unbeaten Lyman.
This week, though, figures to be a lot easier. Big Piney, 1-5 overall, 0-5 in the conference, is the opponent. The two teams will square off Friday in Big Piney. Kick off is at 3:30 p.m.
“Like us, their record isn’t great,” Bernhardt said. “But they have a solid football team with a good quarterback who makes a lot of plays for them. They have had a couple of close ones, like us. But if we play with the same enthusiasm we played with against Kemmerer, and clean up some of the stuff we need to clean up…it should be another pretty good day for us.”
Kemmerer 0 0 0 6 – 6
Greybull 12 12 0 6 – 30
G – Fabian Davila 94-yard kickoff return.
G – Connor Petty 10-yard pass from Calder Forcella.
G – Forcella 13-yard run.
G – Davila 40-yard pass from Forcella.
G – Davila 99-yard interception return.
RUSHING – Greybull 36-127 (Forcella 15-67, Paul Stewart 5-11, Jesse Chestnut 16-49); Kemmerer 40-100.
PASSING – Greybull 9 of 18 for 137 yards; Kemmerer 8 of 16 for 90 yards.
RECEIVING – Greybull: Petty 2-32, Davila 4-88, Bryce Wright 3-17.
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS – Greybull: Calder Forcella and Jesse Chestnut tied for the team lead with 25 defensive points. Chestnut had three tackles for loss, Forcella had two interceptions. Paul Stewart, with two tackles for loss and two sacks, trailed with 22 total points. Payton Gonzalez finished with 15, Luke Zeller 13 and Bryce Wright 10.