by nathan oster
The Greybull Buffs scored in just about every way imaginable Friday night in their season opener against Thermopolis, getting four touchdowns on the ground, two through the air and another three from their defense in a 63-0 drubbing of the Bobcats.
The physical tone that was evident for all to see on Friday night was actually set four nights earlier at practice, when Coach Marty Wrage informed the Buffs that the game plan would be to run the ball until they scored on the Bobcats.
“Whether it took one drive or two, we were going to establish a ground game and we were going to stick with it,” said Wrage. “We needed to prove it to ourselves. It may not always happen at the beginning of the game like that, but it’s something we need to be able to do to be successful.”
Wrage said in the preseason he envisions his team having a 50/50 split in terms of rushing and passing, but for the opener, that wasn’t the case. The Buffs didn’t begin the game with good field position, thanks to a big special teams play by the Bobcats. But they marched the length of the field — doing all of it, as promised, on the ground — until Dawson Forcella plunged in from 1 yard out, making the score 6-0.
The 16 rushing plays consumed more than six minutes of the clock and set the tone.
The physicality continued when the Bobcats finally got their hands on the ball.
Twice, they began drives deep in their own territory, and twice, the Buffs forced turnovers and converted them into points. The first came on a strip-sack by Ralph Petty; Forcella scooped it up for the score. The second came on a passing play, when Jose Carmona was credited with the recovery and the touchdown. By the end of the first quarter, it was 22-0.
The Buffs added three more scores in the second quarter, as quarterback Riley Hill threw for a pair — one covering 34 yards to Miguel Gomez, the other covering 12 yards to Zack Keisel —before Keisel plunged in from 8 yards out to give the Buffs a 43-0 lead.
In the second half, with the mercy rule in effect, the clock ran.
By night’s end, the Buffs had scored three more times.
Forcella scored his third touchdown of the night on a 21-yard interception return.
Dawson McEwan had the final two on runs of 2 and 18 yards.
The Buffs finished with 225 rushing yards on 29 attempts, an average of 7.9 yards per attempt. Through the air, Riley Hill was 3 of 3 for 50 yards and two touchdowns while brother Brock Hill went 1 of 4 for 1 yard.
It was a night to forget for the Bobcats, who mustered just 69 total yards and had five turnovers. Thermopolis finished with 26 yards on 17 carries and was just 5 of 16 passing for 43 yards.
Wrage called it a good “team” win, citing not only the contributions of his starters, but also the work of his reserves. “What was nice was that when we went to our reserves, the kids we put in did their jobs and we didn’t have a lot of missed assignments,” he said. “For freshmen and sophomores to do that, it says a lot about how they prepared in practice.”
Wrage said he was especially pleased with the defense, noting that while “we knew it would be a strength,” it exceeded even his own lofty expectations against the Bobcats. “I think our defense will continue to create turnovers, by hits that cause fumbles, interceptions and on special teams.”
It was also a good night for Greybull’s four-headed rushing attack, as Dawson McEwan rushed six times for 93 yards, Forcella gained 62 on eight, Keisel had 49 on seven and Brayan Castro had 17 on two. Each has a different running style, Wrage said, which should make them a challenge all season for opposing defenses.
Wrage was asked, a couple days after the game, if the Buffs might have benefited more from a tougher opener. “I think it’s OK to have a game like that, as long as the intensity stays up,” he said. “I’d be worried if there had been big lulls and dips, but since there wasn’t, and since we worked hard in practice, I don’t think it’s going to be a concern. We’ll get tested as the weeks come up.”
Time will tell if that “test” comes this week. Kemmerer is this week’s opponent and the Rangers will be coming off a 47-7 loss to 1A Rocky Mountain. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Kemmerer.
Wrage said Kemmerer has shown a lot of different looks — “one week they may throw a lot, the next, they run it a lot” — and that he expects them to play with a “nothing to lose” mindset against the Buffs. “It makes it a little unpredictable, but for us, the key is going to be being sound on offense and defense. We’ll keep things pretty basic.”
Thermop 0 0 0 0 — 0
Greybull 22 21 7 13 — 63
G — Dawson Forcella 1 yard run (kick failed)
G — Forcella fumble recovery in end zone (Zack Keisel run).
G — Jose Carmona fumble recovery in end zone (Forcella run).
G — Miguel Gomez 34 yard pass from Riley Hill (Ralph Petty kick).
G — Keisel 12 yard pass from Hill (Petty kick).
G — Keisel 8 yard run (Petty kick)
G — Forcella 21 yard interception return
G — McEwan 2 yard run (Petty kick)
G — McEwan 18 yard run (Petty kick)
RUSHING — Greybull 29-225 (Dawson McEwan 6-93, Dawson Forcella 8-62, Zack Keisel 7-49, Riley Hill 5-9, Brayan Castro 2-17, Brock Hill 1—5.
PASSING — Greybull 4-of-7 for 51 yards.
RECEIVING — Keisel 1-12, Gomez 1-34, Hill 1-4, Cade Dooley 1-1.
DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Players who scored in double figures in defensive points included Ralph Petty with 17, Gerardo Corral with 14, Riley Hill 13, Dawson Forcella 12 and Jose Carmona 11.