by nathan oster
It was an opener well worth the wait.
After seeing the plug pulled on their annual rivalry game with Riverside, the Greybull Buffs took the field Friday night a determined bunch and by night’s end they had sent shockwaves across the state with a 35-19 win over Mountain View.
That’s Mountain View. As in the reigning 2A state champions. The No. 3 ranked team in 2A. Oh, and the team that just one week earlier, snapped Cokeville’s 22-game win streak.
Coach Marty Wrage paused when asked where the win ranked on the list of victories since he took over as the Buffs head coach at the start of last season. While a couple others probably trump it — first and foremost, the win last year in Lovell — this one is up there on that list.
“A great opening game for us, as far as effort,” said Wrage. “We played hard. We were physical … more physical than they were. I think that was the difference.”
Greybull scored the first points of the game, as quarterback Riley Hill connected with Jordan Jackson on a 3-yard touchdown pass. Dylan McEwan plunged in for the two point conversion, making it 8-0. A turnover set up the drive.
Mountain View made a statement of its own in the second quarter, getting rushing touchdowns from Spencer Madsen (covering 70 yards) and Dane Covington (3 yards) to surge in front 12-8 at halftime.
Despite the deficit, Wrage felt his team was in good shape going into the second half.
They had moved the ball effectively on offense, but just hadn’t cashed in their opportunities.
Oftentimes, it was because of penalties or breakdowns.
“Mentally it looked like our first week,” said Wrage of his team’s first half struggles. “We made a lot of mistakes — kids lining up in the wrong places or shifting at the wrong time. Simple things. We didn’t communicate well, particularly on offense.”
In the locker room, coached hammered on the importance of better focus.
The kids “locked in” on that message in the second half, playing better on both sides of the ball.
Mountain View managed to draw first blood in the second half, using a 21-yard pass from Covington to Keagan Genzer and the extra-point kick that followed to go up 19-8, but it was all Greybull after that.
A second Hill-to-Jackson scoring strike, this one covering 13 yards and coming with 2:23 left in the third, pulled Greybull to within five at 19-14.
Moments later, Dawson Forcella brought the Greybull faithful to their feet. His interception gave the Buffs a short field to work with. It took some persistence, but they cashed it in. A penalty put them in a third-and-very-long situation, but Hill responded by firing darts to Jackson and, on fourth down, to Cade Dooley to extend the drive and give the Buffs a first down inside the Mountain View 5. Dawson Forcella’s 2-yard plunge put the Buffs up 20-19, and when Hill and Johnson hooked up yet again, the lead moved to three, 22-19.
From that point on, it was one big play after another by the Greybull defense.
Cade Dooley squashed one Mountain View drive, intercepting a pass and taking it 28 yards the other way for a Greybull touchdown to make it 28-19. Dawson McEwan and Brayan Castro would also record interceptions by game’s end. The Buffs closed out the scoring with a 25-yard pass from Hill to McEwan and an extra-point kick that made it 35-18.
Wrage said it was a total team effort, noting that both the defense and the offense made more big plays in the second half than they allowed. Statistically, it was nearly a dead heat, as Greybull finished with 289 yards of total offense compared to 260 for Mountain View. Almost all of Greybull’s came on the right arm of Riley Hill, who connected on 20 of 31 passes for 267 yards.
Greybull ran 34 running plays and gained only 22 yards, but Wrage said it was necessary. “Their inside six — front four and two linebackers — are awful good and we knew it would be tough to run the ball. We had to do it though to set up the passing game.”
While it lost some key performers to graduation, Wrage said the Mountain View team they saw Friday night was very similar, schemewise, to the one that crushed his team 42-6 last year in Mountain View.
“The big difference this time was that we were a lot more physical on offense and defense,” said Wrage. “We were the aggressors. Last year we didn’t initiate as much. Nor did we bounce back well. This year, the kids stayed focused. When they got down, instead of saying, ‘Oh, here we go again,’ they just fought harder.”
Wrage said the message he’d be sharing with his team Monday night at practice was that the win over Mountain View brought “a responsibility to carry, too. It put a target on our backs, for one thing. So we need a good practice this week. It meant a lot to the kids. They have worked hard. We enjoyed the win. But there’s a lot of season left.”
The Buffs now enter a stretch in which they will play four of their next five games on the road.
First up is Big Piney. Kickoff is at 3 p.m. Friday in Big Piney.
Wrage described the Punchers as a physical team with good size.
“They’re better than they were last year,” he said.
While they were drubbed by Lovell last weekend, the Punchers played better than the final score indicates. “And they’ll be fired up to play us,” said Wrage. “They’ve been on the road a lot and get us at home.”
Greybull 35, Mountain View 19
G — Jordan Jackson 3 yard pass from Riley Hill (Dawson McEwan run).
G — Jackson 13 yard pass from Hill.
G — Dawson Forcella 2 yard run (Jackson pass from Hill).
G — Cade Dooley 28 yard interception return.
G — McEwan 25 yard pass from Hill (Hill kick).
RUSHING — Greybull 34-22 (Dawson Forcella 12-43, Dawson McEwan 6-23, Riley Hill 16 for -45). Mountain View 30-106.
PASSING — Greybull (Riley Hill) 20-of-31 for 267 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. Mountain View 13-of-25 for 154 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs.
GREYBULL RECEIVING — Cade Dooley 5-79, Jordan Jackson 5-54, Dawson McEwan 3-35, Miguel Gomez 1-18, Dawson Forcella 6-81.
GREYBULL DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Lane Nielsen led the way with 31 defensive points, coming on 10 assisted tackles, 3 unassisted tackles, including five tackles for losses. Next in line were Dawson Forcella and Jose Carmona with 27 points apiece, followed by Dawson McEwan with 22, Riley Hill with 16, Elias Ewen with 14 and Gabe Keisel with 13.