by nathan oster
Coach Marty Wrage begins his second season at the helm of the Greybull Buff football program with a roster of 30 kids and high expectations.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we’re pleased with where we’re at right now,” said Wrage, whose team gathered for its first practice of the fall on Aug. 17.
Having gone through it last fall, Wrage said it’s been a lot easier for coaches and players to get on the same page in the early days of camp. “It seems like we are a little bit ahead of where we were at this time last year.”
The Buffs won five of their eight regular season games last season, including a thrilling victory over Lovell in the final week, before bowing out of the playoffs with an opening-round loss in Newcastle to finish at 5-4.
Six seniors were lost to graduation: Calder Forcella, Fabian Davila, Wyatt Nielson, Drayton Griffin, Justin Bacus and Chris Ogg. The first three on that list, Forcella, Davila and Nielson, accounted for most of the team’s big plays on offense.
All will be difficult to replace, said the coach.
If the first 10 days of practice are any indication, line play could very well be a team strength.
“That’s probably been one of the first things that has stuck out — just the improvement in our offensive line from one year to another,” said Wrage. “We are just so much more sound. Their technique is better and they’re stronger. It has been apparent from the first day on, and it showed even more on Saturday (during an intra-squad scrimmage).
When asked about potential areas of concern, Wrage cited the receiving corps and the defensive backfield. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a weakness of our team … it’s just new. We had some pretty good seniors in those positions last year. It’ll just take some time finding the right fits and developing depth in those areas.”
At all positions, competitions for playing time are occurring.
The coaching staff figures to get a better sense of this year’s team during a Week 0 scrimmage planned for Friday night at 6 p.m. on the GHS field. Thermopolis and Shoshoni will be the opponents. The three teams did the same thing last year, only in Thermopolis.
Special teams play will be modified to limit contact, but it will have the feel of “live” football when the teams face each other at the line of scrimmage for offensive and defensive sets, according to Wrage.
Greybull will scrimmage for two quarters against Thermopolis and two quarters against Shoshoni. A third scrimmage pitting the Bobcats against the Wranglers is also planned. By night’s end, all three teams will have played the equivalent of four quarters.
Wrage said a major emphasis for his team would be the importance of taking care of the ball on offense — “from catching it to putting it away and protecting against turnovers,” which often determine the outcome of games.
“We are optimistic about this season,” said Wrage. “This is a hard working group of kids, and the ones we have all want to be here. It’s a quiet group, very business-like. On the field, they do their work. Off it, they are a close-knit group.”
Fans are welcome to come out to Friday night’s scrimmages to get a glimpse of the Buffs.
The first scrimmage will begin at 6 p.m.
Greybull opens the regular season with a Sept. 4 home game against Riverside. It’ll be the first of eight contests this season for the Buffs, who after playing their first two at home will have four long road trips — to Big Piney, Newcastle, Pinedale and Lyman — in a span of five weeks.