by nathan oster
There are no “gimmes” this year in the Class 2A West Conference, where parity reigns.
Four conference games were played last weekend, and in three of the four, the margin of victory was eight points or less. The only “blowout” felt like anything but, as Greybull was forced to tough-out a 26-14 win over an amped-up Kemmerer team celebrating its homecoming.
With two weeks left in the regular season, only Lovell has separated itself from the pack, sitting atop the conference standings with a 5-0 record. Six of the other seven teams sit within a game of each other — either at 3-2 or 2-3 — bidding for the three remaining playoff spots in 2A.
The Buffs are one of those teams on the playoff bubble — and they needed a win in Kemmerer to keep their playoff hopes alive. It didn’t come easily. Seeking their first win, the Rangers came out fired up and gave the Buffs their best shot. It wasn’t enough — even against a banged-up Buff team that was missing two starters in Kason Clutter and Kyler Flock and had several others playing through injuries.
Bernhardt said the Buffs had to rely heavily on their freshman, and that after they worked out the jitters in the first quarter, they performed very well.
Kemmerer scored first, opening an 8-0 lead. But the Buffs scored twice in the second quarter to take a 12-8 lead into the half. Bernhardt said he sensed the game turned in Greybull’s favor around the start of the second quarter. “Even though the score suggested it was not a blowout, we felt like we controlled the game from the first quarter on.”
The Buffs scored their first two touchdowns on a 26-yard pass from Calder Forcella to Fabian Davila and a 1-yard run by Paul Stewart. They added to it in the third quarter, going up 18-8 on an 18-yard pass from Forcella to Wyatt Nielson.
Kemmerer closed the gap to 18-14 with a touchdown of its own before the Buffs sealed the deal with 2-yard Forcella run which came with 3:26 to play in the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion that followed, on a pass from Forcella to freshman Cade Dooley, accounted for the 26-14 final.
Bernhardt said the stats don’t do justice to the kind of game Forcella played at quarterback. “He was on like never before,” the coach said of his junior signal caller. Forcella finished 17 of 25 for 139 yards, but had several passes dropped.
The Greybull ground game, meanwhile, churned out an average of 6.2 yards per attempt, with Forcella finishing with 131 yards and Stewart 64.
“I think our offensive line played its best game of the year,” said Bernhardt, noting that in addition to bulldozing holes for the backs, the line also gave Forcella time in the pocket to pick apart the Ranger defense. The Buffs finished with 334 yards of offense.
On the defensive side, the Buffs did a good job of slowing Kemmerer and its wing T offense, Bernhardt said. It all added up to a Greybull win, its second in conference play to go against three losses.
“It was probably one of the better feelings I’ve had, as coach, since I’ve been here,” said Bernhardt. “We’ve had several tough losses this season. After the Lovell game, I added it up and the four teams that beat us were a combined 20-4. In each of those games, we fought all the way to the end.
“I’m proud of the kids for winning in Kemmerer. It shows what we’re capable of. Kemmerer was a good football team. A good bunch of kids. To go on a long road trip like that and get a win, with as many freshmen that contributed, it was a good feeling for everyone — the entire team and all the coaches.”
Bernhardt emphasized that it’s now the one-game-at-a-time point of the season, where teams on the playoff bubble run the risk of paying too much attention to what other teams are doing and not enough attention to their own business.
The focus for the Buffs this week will be Big Piney — and that’s it, said the coach.
“Big Piney is one of the teams that pulled off an upset last week by beating Pinedale,” said Bernhardt. “We have to bring our A game. They’re a much improved football team with a good quarterback and they’re going to be coming in here on a high note. We need to take care of business and get this win. Then we’ll see how things look when we go to Lyman.”
Greybull 26, Kemmerer 14
G — Fabian Davila 26 yard pass from Forcella.
G — Paul Stewart 1 yard run.
G — Wyatt Nielson 18 yard pass from Forcella.
G — Forcella 2 yard run (Cade Dooley pass from Forcella).
RUSHING — Greybull 31-195 (Forcella 19-131, Stewart 12-64, Davila 1-0).
PASSING — Greybull (Forcella) 17-of-25 for 135 yards.
RECEIVING — Nielson 7-15, Davila 5-52, Dooley 1-8, Dustin Fox 2-9.
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Payton Gonzalez turned in one of the best games of the season by any Buff, finishing with 32 defensive points on 12 assisted tackled, six solos, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup. Cody Strauch followed with 24 points, which included 15 assisted tackles. Logan Jensen followed with 22, which included a sack. Other defensive leaders included Bryce Wright, 15 points, and Paul Stewart and Fabian Davila, with 14 apiece.