by nathan oster
A Week 0 matchup against Tongue River was just what the doctor ordered for a Greybull team that features new starters at several key positions in the offensive and defensive backfields, as well as a freshly minted coaching staff.
The two teams played their varsity units for the opening half before turning it over to the JV kids in the third quarter. While it won’t count in the standings, the Buffs won the “game” 26-7, as their varsity outscored the Eagles 26-0 before the JVers allowed the Eagles to score their only touchdown of the game in the third quarter.
Brock Hill got the start at quarterback, following in the footsteps of his brother Riley, a GHS standout who is playing at Chadron State this fall. While the passing game wasn’t there in the opener, he guided the Buffs on four first-half, touchdown drives.
Caleb Bottom, Zack Keisel, JaCorey Qualls and Irving Castro were credited with the scores.
“We definitely have some room to improve in our passing game, but our running game and our defense were pretty strong,” said Coach Eli Moody.
He credited the line with “getting a good push” and Qualls, who played a lot of fullback, for blocks that sprung big runs for the Buffs. The Buffs started Dade Greene at center, Gage Hunt and Calvin Farrow at guard and Gerardo Corral and Ben Kraft at tackle.
As a group, they certainly got the job done.
The Buffs were fortunate that they were able to run the ball because it wasn’t working through the air. Several times, Hill connected with receivers on short routes. The longest, a connection between Hill and Felipe Gaytan, covered between 25 and 30 yards.
“We struggled in our mid- to long-range passing though,” he said. “We need to work on running sharper routes and we need more balls that are on target.”
Moody raved about his team’s defense in the first half, citing Greene for his excellent work in the trenches and the linebacking corps for their aggressive, sideline to sideline play.
“We saw a lot of good stuff to build on,” he said.
It wasn’t a perfect outing, however. In addition to the passing game, Moody said the Buffs need to cut down on their turnovers — the Buffs had two touchdowns called back because of them — and do a better job of wrapping up on their tackles.
The Buffs face Rocky Mountain in their regular season opener Friday in Cowley. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Grizzlies lost a talented crop of seniors last year and are expected to be a young 1A team this season.
“We’re pretty lucky we got to play Tongue River before them because they run a double wing and some single wing, similar to Tongue River, so we have some experience with that type of offense,” said Moody. “We’re going to have to get the kids coached up. They like to throw the deep ball, so our safeties and corners will need to be ready for that, too.”
Moody said he feels good about where his team is heading into the opener.
“We just continue to emphasize to the kids that, yes, we’ve been practicing good and playing good, but this team has the potential to be great,” he said. “I think they’ve seen flashes of that. On JeCorey’s 83-yard run, he was putting people on their butts, basically just running through them.
“I think when kids see stuff like that, it gets them excited about their potential this year.”