by nathan oster
The Greybull Buffs rode a stout defense, an offense that generated more than 400 yards from scrimmage and a special teams touchdown to a 21-7 homecoming victory over Pinedale on Friday night.
It was Greybull’s first official win of the season. Even more important, it represented a first step out of the hole in the Class 2A West Conference that the Buffs dug for themselves by dropping consecutive conference games to Mountain View and Thermopolis.
“We picked up right where we left off in Thermopolis and that’s what I wanted to see,” said Coach Justin Bernhardt, whose team never trailed against Pinedale. The week before, it had been a tale of two halves, as the Buffs struggled early and trailed by 22 at the half before mounting a furious second-half comeback.
After a scoreless opening quarter, the Buffs finally broke through at the 9:44 mark of the second quarter when Calder Forcella plunged in from 1 yard out. With the PAT, the Buffs moved on top 7-0.
Pinedale tied it up with 4:33 to play in the half on a 31-yard pass from Brenden Lloyd to Kyle Bright, but the Wranglers’ didn’t have the momentum for long. On the ensuing kickoff, junior Fabian Davila gathered the ball on his own 15 and didn’t stop until he crossed the goal line, covering 85 yards in a dead sprint and bringing the Buff faithful to their feet.
“After they tied it at 7-7, it could have turned into a dogfight pretty quickly,” said Bernhardt, recalling the big play. “The kick return really broke things open and got us playing with emotion. I think it also settled the kids down a little bit. They started communicating better, playing more like we’re capable of playing.”
The Buffs followed that special teams score with a big stand on defense. Facing fourth and long from their own 40, Pinedale lined up to punt, but ran a fake instead. The Buffs weren’t fooled, stopping the Wranglers short of a first down. Moments later, they were knocking on the door again seeking a third score. They got it on another 1-yard run by Forcella. A third straight PAT kick by Jesus Burgos made it 21-7, which stood up as the final.
Bernhardt said the defense set the tone for the game, bending but not breaking. Pinedale, with one of 2A’s top rushing threats in Ethan Egle, managed 143 yards on 28 carries, for a healthy average of 5.1 yards per attempt. The Wranglers gained another 129 through the air on 14-of-29 passing, for a grand total of 272 total yards. But the only stat that mattered was the 7 on the scoreboard at the final horn.
“The key, I think, was the way we were able to get pressure on them with our defensive line,” said Bernhardt, noting that the Buffs used the same three-man front they employed against Mountain View and in the second half in Thermopolis.
Matt Brown, Logan Jensen and Oscar Gomez and a host of others who subbed in were credited for their work up front. “It really helps when you can get pressure with just the three guys,” said Bernhardt. “Even if they didn’t always make the play, they got in there and disrupted things, which allowed our linebackers and defensive backs to get good downhill angles on their ballcarriers.”
The Greybull offense had another solid performance. Led by quarterback Forcella, who rushed for a team-high 134 yards and passed for another 193, connecting on 17 of 30 throws, the Buffs finished with 426 total yards. Throw in the 85-yard kick return and the Buffs eclipsed 500 in all-purpose yards.
Bernhardt said he felt the Buffs were in command throughout, but that their own mistakes kept the game close. He pointed to penalties — the final stat sheet showed the Buffs with 10 for 90 yards — and his team’s inability to cash in on red-zone opportunities.
Bernhardt said both would be points of emphasis this week in practice as his team prepares for Lovell, which has reeled off four straight wins to open the scene and climbed to No. 1 in 2A as a result of the recent defeats of preseason No. 1s Big Horn and Mountain View.
“Lovell is playing like a typical Lovell team,” said Bernhardt. “They lost a lot of seniors last year, but they’re well coached, they have good numbers and they have an expectation of winning every time they step on the field.”
The Buffs have a big gap to close. Led by their trio of seniors — quarterback Dylan Hultgren, running back Dino Collins and tight end Cody Savage — the Bulldogs put up 21 points in the first quarter, 27 more in the second and led 48-0 at the intermission. The final was 54-16.
“The biggest thing is, we need to put a complete game together on offense and defense,” said Bernhardt. “We did it on defense against Mountain View. We did it in the second half, offensively and defensively, against Thermopolis. And we did it for three quarters against Pinedale. We need a complete game, from the first whistle to the final horn.”
Kickoff time Friday night in Greybull is at 6 p.m.
Pinedale 0 7 0 0 — 7
Greybull 0 21 0 0 — 21
G — Calder Forcella 1 yard run (Burgos kick).
P — Bright 31-yard pass from Lloyd (Thayne kick).
G — Fabian Davila 85 yard kickoff return (Burgos kick).
G — Forcella 1 yard run (Burgos kick).
RUSHING — Greybull 40-233 (Forcella 29-134, Paul Stewart 21-99); Pinedale 28-143.
PASSING — Greybull 17-of-30 for 193 yards; Pinedale 14-29 for 129 yards.
RECEIVING — Greybull: Kason Clutter 4-46, Fabian Davila 6-58, Wyatt Nielson 1-12, Paul Stewart 3-41, Kyler Flock 3-36.
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Fabian Davila led the charge, finishing with four assisted tackles, five solo tackles, a pass break-up and two interceptions, for a total of 26 defensive points. Bryce Wright was second with 15 points, coming on nine assisted tackles and three solo stops. Payton Gonzalez, with 14, Logan Jensen, with 11, and Cody Strauch, with 10, rounded out the top five in defensive points.