Buffs pin hopes on strong returning cast

by nathan oster

After making it to the state semifinals last year, expectations are sky high for the Greybull Buffs heading into the 2016 season. Coach Marty Wrage is just fine with that.

“I told the kids they earned it,” said Wrage, who is entering his third season at the helm. “They worked hard in the offseason to improve themselves and 25 kids went to camp.

“So they did what they needed to do to prepare themselves. If they continue to work hard and stay healthy, we should have a good season.”

Coaches ran players through two-a-days Monday through Friday before capping the week with an intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday morning. As of Monday, the roster stood at 35.

The Buffs lost six seniors to graduation, including Shrine Bowlers Jordan Jackson and Lane Nielsen, but begin this season with nine returning starters on each side of the ball.

“It’s been a little different (without those seniors), but our offense and defense have evolved to fit the players that we have this year,” said Wrage. “We have a lot of depth, which is good. Kids have stepped up to fill the spots.”

The Buffs open the season with a Week 0 game in Shoshoni Friday night. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. It won’t count in the standings, but Wrage said he and Shoshoni head coach Tony Truempler agreed this summer, while they were serving on the North coaching staff in the Shrine Bowl, to “to make it as much of a game situation as we possibly can,” including in special teams.

“We hope to do our base stuff, what we have worked on in practice,” said Wrage. “It’ll be an opportunity to give kids another chance to pick things up. Hopefully things go well early so it allows us to give everybody a lot of playing time.”

The Buffs begin the season ranked second in 2A, behind only Glenrock, on wyopreps.com. Wheatland and Big Horn sit in a tie for third, followed by Mountain View in fifth.

Wrage said he’s aware of the poll and the respect his team is getting.

“All it does is help us, as coaches, make sure the kids are focused on what we’re doing,” he said. “We can’t worry about polls. We talked to the kids about how often preseason polls are almost like rumors. And we talked with them about what we did last year. We have to start over now. It’s a new year, we have new players and a lot of work to do.”

The Buffs will open the regular season with a Sept. 2 home game against Thermopolis.