by nathan oster
The Greybull Buffs made their final home game of the season a night to remember, beating a pesky Big Piney team 33-20 to even their record in the Class 2A West Conference at 3-3 and keep their playoff hopes alive.
“It was a huge win for our team,” said Coach Justin Bernhardt, whose team sits at 3-4 overall heading into the final weekend of the regular season. “We’ve been saying, every game is like a playoff game. We still have a ways to go. But it’s nice to get back to .500 (in the conference).”
Bernhardt said the game resembled the Kemmerer game, in the sense that the Buffs again started slowly (they trailed 8-0 early) before they hit their stride. “We just seemed to be going through the motions in the first quarter,” said the coach. “But after that, even though it was 20-20 at the half, I felt like we had the momentum, and like we outplayed them in the second, third and fourth quarters.”
Big Piney came to play, though. “They’re much improved from last year; I don’t know where they found them, but they got some big linemen, their tailback is fast and their quarterback is a good one. But it was still a game, like Kemmerer, where I thought we should have probably won by 20 or more points.”
Quarterback Calder Forcella certainly did his part. He had a hand in all five Greybull touchdowns, rushing for two scores and connecting with Dustin Fox, Fabian Davila and Justin Nielson on the other three. Forcella was 23 of 39 passing for 222 yards and also led the Greybull rushing attack with 85 yards on 16 carries, a healthy 5.3 yards per attempt.
Forcella was every bit as important on the defensive side. In recent weeks, he’s been on the sidelines while the defense was on the field, working with the young receivers who are being pressed into duty and scripting plays for the next drive.
But Bernhardt sent him out there to play safety against Big Piney, and with him out there in the second half, “We were able to add some complicated calls at safety. He helped us roll our safety, disguise our blitzes. It really shut Big Piney down.”
Forcella didn’t do it alone, though. According to Bernhardt, it was a team effort, and the young kids needed to step up due to injuries to starters seem to be gaining in experience and confidence each week.
Kason Clutter, returning from an injury, was a force for the Buffs, catching 11 passes for 101 yards, both team highs. Often times, his catches extended drives. That was the theme of the night, said Bernhardt, noting that the Buffs didn’t get many big plays, but strung several long, time-consuming drives together to pull out the win.
Heading into the final weekend of the regular season, Lovell, at 6-0 in league play, has wrapped up the conference title. Six teams have won at least two games, and while a couple would require a miracle, all six remain alive in the hunt for the conference’s four playoff berths.
Mountain View and Lyman, both 4-2 in conference play, have the inside track for two of those spots. Greybull and Thermopolis sit a game back at 3-3, while Big Piney and Pinedale sport 2-4 records.
The playoff picture is a murky one in the 2A West. But for the Buffs, it’s pretty simple heading into Friday afternoon’s game at Lyman.
“We have to win, period,” said Bernhardt.
It won’t be easy. Lyman is better than its 4-3 record suggests. Two of those losses were to highly-ranked 2A teams in Wheatland (32-28) and Lovell (32-26). The third was a 30-22 loss to Mountain View in Week 6.
“They should have beaten Lovell,” said Bernhardt. “They rushed for over 300 years that game, but threw two pick-sixes and lost by a touchdown. Like Lovell, they lost a lot of kids. But also like Lovell, they got a lot of kids out, they’ve got tradition, and they expect to win every time they step on the field.”
The key for the Buffs will be “stopping or at the very least disrupting their running game,” said Bernhardt. Lyman is pretty one-dimensional on offense, but “they do it well. We’ve got to stop their power. When they try to kick it outside, we have to turn it back in.
“Offensively, if they have a weakness on defense, it’s probably their secondary. We have to hit some big plays, and we have to eliminate some of our dropped balls.”
Big Piney 8 12 0 0 — 20
Greybull 14 6 7 6 — 33
G — Calder Forcella 2 yard run (Jesus Burgos kick).
G — Forcella 8 yard run (Burgos kick).
G — Dustin Fox 10 yard pass from Forcella.
G — Fabian Davila 16 yard pass from Forcella (Burgos kick).
G — Wyatt Nielson 30 yard pass from Forcella.
(Big Piney scoring plays were unavailable)
RUSHING — Big Piney 46-235; Greybull 40-134 (Forcella 16-85, Paul Stewart 13-28).
PASSING — Big Piney 12 of 23 for 58 yards; Greybull (Forcella) 23 of 39 for 222 yards.
RECEIVING — Greybull: Kason Clutter 11-101, Fabian Davila 3-18, Wyatt Nielson 5-55, Paul Stewart 1-16, Dustin Fox 3-31).
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Several Buffs had big games on the defensive side and finished with 20 or more points. Davila led the way with 28, coming on 2 assisted tackles, 5 solo stops, 4 pass break-ups and an interception. Stewart was next in line with 23 (5 assisted, 5 solo, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery), followed by Logan Jensen with 22 (7 assisted, 2 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup) and Matt Brown with 21 (6 assisted, 1 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 2 fumble recoveries.