by nathan oster
Greybull High School came away from its Week 0 tune-up against Riverside without any major injuries and feeling like they got the best of their rivals to the south for the fifth consecutive year.
The 52-30 victory won’t appear anywhere in the record books, since it came just 12 days into the season and in Week 0 of the WHSAA football calendar, but it was a positive step nonetheless, said Justin Bernhardt, who is in his second season as the head coach of the Buffs.
“Considering the short camp — virtually no two-a-days and just 12 days to prepare — I really liked the speed we were able to play at,” said Bernhardt. “I would have liked to have more of the offense installed before the first game. Even though we have a lot of returnees … it’s not just the practices that we missed this year, but also the meeting time.
“It’s just going to be a gradual process where we continue to add as we go along.”
Bernhardt said he liked his team’s intensity, especially early.
The Buffs never trailed in the game. In fact, it took them less than two minutes to score. Their opening drive covered 71 yards and was capped by a 9-yard touchdown pass from Calder Forcella to Kason Clutter.
Moments later, with 8:23 to play in the quarter, the Buffs scored again, as Wyatt Nielson hauled in a 40-yard pass from Forcella. The catch and run made it 14-0, and while the Rebels did chip away at that lead on a 2-yard-run by Cole Hill with 10:18 to play in the second, it was the Buffs who went into the locker room at halftime leading 30-8, thanks to two more Forcella-to-Clutter touchdown connections.
The Buffs started quickly in the second half as well. A 29-yard touchdown run from Forcella and the two-point conversion that followed made the score 38-8. Riverside didn’t threaten the rest of the way, as its two scores — one coming on a long pass from Roycer Mercer to Brian Vigil, the other on a Mercer run — were offset by two more Greybull touchdowns to account for the 52-30 final margin.
Bernhardt said he liked the 556 yards of total offense generated by his team, but not the 436 yards surrendered by the Greybull defense. The Rebels connected on 16 of 29 passes for 279 yards and had another 157 yards on the ground on 45 carries.
“It’s never good to give up as many yards as we did and 30 points, but Riverside is going to be a competitive team in 1A,” Bernhardt said. “They have a great coach and their kids played hard, they played tough, and they played with a sense of urgency.
“I don’t know if they expected to beat us, but they had to feel good being as competitive as they were.”
Tackling was by far the biggest problem for the Greybull defenders, Bernhardt said. Well, that along with the fact that several Greybull freshman were pressed into duty early — and most if not all by the second half, when Riverside did most of its damage.
“I really liked seeing some of our younger kids get as much playing tie as they did,” said the coach. “We have a talented class of freshmen and we got them a lot of playing time in the second half; that might not always be the case in some games. But they were able to get their first taste of football.”
The same goes for two of the team’s top four receivers, in Clutter and Kyler Flock. Clutter, who is back in Greybull schools after spending his junior year elsewhere, was the team’s leading pass catcher, with 10 receptions for 116 yards. Flock, out with an injury last season, hauled in three for 26 yards.
“In some ways, even though we have a lot of returnees, this is still a pretty new group as a whole,” said Bernhardt. “There’s definitely a different chemistry to this year’s team that is nothing like last year. I think the kids expect to win. They are more confident.”
Along with tackling, Bernhardt said he was a little disappointed in his team’s lack of consistency, particularly after starting both the first and second halves quickly. “I think they dropped it down a gear, to be honest,” he said. “Not that they quit, but they dropped the intensity, the speed, the sense of urgency that they came out of the locker room with.
“I was pleased with the effort and the execution, but against 2A teams, and especially a couple that we have coming up here, we won’t be able to afford times when we put it into cruise control.”
Does any team in the state have a tougher opening two weeks than the Buffs?
In 2A, anyway, the answer is likely no.
In every preseason poll of note, Big Horn and Mountain View are ranked as the top two teams in the state. Wyomingfootball.com has Mountain View at No. 1 and Big Horn No. 2, while the wyopreps.com poll has the two teams flip-flopped, with Big Horn at No. 1 and Mountain View at No. 2.
“Either way you look at it, we’re going to have a No. 1-ranked team each of the next two weeks,” said Bernhardt. “We’ve definitely got a lot to clean up between now and then.”
The Buffs will travel to Big Horn on Friday for a 1 p.m. kickoff against the Rams, who played Lovell in Week 0 action and is coming off a season in which they lost just a single game, that coming in the semifinal round of the playoffs.
Bernhardt said he feels good about his game plan going in.
“If the kids show up and play a full game like they’re capable of playing, we should be plenty competitive,” he said.
G — Kason Clutter 9 yard pass from Forcella (Wyatt Nielson run).
G — Nielson 40 yard pass from Forcella.
R — Cole Hill 2 yard run (Royce Mercer run)
G — Forcella 4 yard run (Clutter pass from Forcella).
G — Clutter 10 yard pass from Forcella (Flock pass from Forcella).
G — Forcella 29 yard run (Paul Stewart run).
R — Hill 4 yard run (Vigil pass from Mercer).
R — Brian Vigil 63 yard pass from Mercer (Mercer run).
R — Mercer 5 yard run.
G — Fabian Davila 54 yard pass from Forcella (Stweart run).
G — Stewart 32 yard run.
RUSHING — Riverside 45-157; Greybull 38-251 (Calder Forcella 13-111, Paul Stewart 11-101, Dawson Forcella 10-30, Fabian Davila 1-(-2), Dawson McEwan 2-8, Wyatt Nielson 1-3);
PASSING — Riverside 16-of-29 for 279 yards; Greybull (Calder Forcella) 19-of-28 for 305 yards.
RECEIVING — Greybull: Kason Clutter 10-116, Paul Stewart 1-17, Fabian Davila 2-56, Wyatt Nielson 3-90, Kyler Flock 3-26).
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Payton Gonzalez led with 22 defensive points, which came on 10 assisted tackles, 3 solo tackles and 3 pass breakups. Other point leaders were Dawson Forcella with 22, Paul Stewart with 17, Logan Jensen and Bryce Wright 16 and Dylan McEwan 15.