by nathan oster
A season of growth that included the program’s first playoff appearance since 2010 ended Friday night in Newcastle, where the visiting Greybull Buffs found themselves on the wrong end of a 38-14 decision.
The loss left the Buffs with a 5-4 record, and while they won’t be playing in the round of four, the positive vibes from what they accomplished are sure to carry into the offseason as well as the 2015 campaign.
Friday night’s game was rematch of a game played earlier this season in Greybull. The Doggies won that one as well, by an almost identical score of 34-14. In both contests, Newcastle, with its bigger, more experienced players, won the battle in the trenches.
“We made some adjustments to their offense and defense, and we did some things well,” said Coach Marty Wrage. “But they have a veteran group. They overpowered us at times. They’ve got quite an offensive line.”
Early on it was competitive.
Newcastle scored the first touchdown of the game, but the Buffs came right back. A 46-yard pass from Calder Forcella to Fabian Davila put them in business at the Newcastle 4. A 1-yard Forcella run tied the score at 6 moments later.
Newcastle scored twice more before the half to take an 18-6 lead into the locker room, then tacked on another score to go up 24-6 after their first possession of the third quarter.
The Buffs closed the gap to 24-14 on a 16-yard Forcella-to-Riley Hill hookup with 4:24 to play in the third, followed by a Forcella-to-Wyatt Nielson strike for the two-point conversion. But that was as close as they would get. Newcastle tacked on two more scores, eventually winning 38-14.
Wrage said Newcastle made some mistakes, including a fumble, but the Buffs couldn’t take advantage of them.
“We had our chances,” he said. “But with their size and strength … it was just a tough matchup for us.”
No Newcastle statistics were available at press time. Unofficially the Buffs had 11 yards rushing on 19 attempts. Calder Forcella led the way with 18 yards on 15 attempts. Through the air, the senior went 13-of-29 for 174 yards.
Lane Nielsen led the defensive effort with 30 points, coming on 17 assisted tackles, three solo stops and a fumble recovery. Dawson McEwan was right behind with 22 (11 assisted tackles, 4 solo tackles and a tackle for loss), followed by Riley Hill with 19 and Wyatt Nielson with 17.
While everyone on the team wanted to go deeper into the playoffs, Wrage said it should still be classified as a successful season for the Buffs. “I thought we got better every week, and I think the best game we played was against Lovell,” he said. “It was nice to have that at the end of the year.”
Three of the Buffs’ four losses came to teams, in Newcastle twice and Mountain View, that are still alive in the playoffs. Wrage said the impressive thing was the way his team bounced back after each of those setbacks.
“This team grew up a lot this year,” he said. “Largely due to the six seniors.”
The coach was effusive in his praise of Calder Forcella, Fabian Davila, Wyatt Nielson, Drayton Griffin, Justin Bacus and Chris Ogg.
Forcella ended the season as one of the state’s most prolific offensive performers. He averaged more than 300 all-purpose yards a game — tops among all classes — and guided the top passing attack in all of 2A.
“He had quite a career and capped it off with I think his best season of all,” said Wrage. “Sometimes players don’t improve much. But with all the lifting and offseason stuff he did, I saw him improve a lot, defensively and at quarterback.” Forcella was also one of the team leaders, doing so not only by example but by talking to and encouraging teammates. “Nobody worked harder than Calder did,” said Wrage.
Davila was “a very unselfish player whose role changed with us,” said Wrage. Whereas he was used primarily as a receiver before, he also saw time at running back and in the slot. Defensively he played cornerback and safety. “His versatility and unselfish, team-first attitude…that’s what I appreciated most about him,” said Wrage.
Nielson was “also a product of the offseason,” Wrage said, noting that most of his receiving yards came after he’d break tackles. He finished with more than 900 receiving yards in eight games, which “is pretty amazing,” said Wrage. “He worked so hard in practice, he studied the game, and he spent a lot of time the last couple of years with Calder, in the weightroom and catch the ball. It showed.”
Griffin came out this year for the first time and played on the offensive and defensive lines. “I was so happy he joined us,” said Wrage. “He worked hard throughout the year, he made our team better and showed good leadership.”
Bacus played offensive tackle and defensive end and was also described as “an unselfish player who did a nice job for us. He was a good teammate, willing to do whatever we asked of him.”
Ogg led by his toughness and was one of the team’s better tacklers, playing primarily cornerback. Just to make it onto the field this season, he had to overcome two different knee injuries. Once he was cleared to play, he gave the Buffs everything he had, Wrage said, before his season was cut short by a broken arm sustained in Friday’s game against Newcastle.
Wrage said the future of Buff football is bright.
“We’ve got a lot of kids who will be returning with a lot of experience,” he said. “We know that up front, from playing physical teams like Mountain View and Newcastle, that offseason lifting is the key. We start our program Monday. So we’re excited about what the future holds.
“But like I’ve been saying , we wouldn’t be at this point without (the six seniors), who dragged the younger kids along this year. They showed them how to set goals, how to work, and how to accomplish them. They are going to be missed.”