by nathan oster
It’s onto Lyman, as they say, for the Greybull Buffs, who are trying to turn the page this week after a disappointing outing Friday night in Lovell.
The Bulldogs sacked Greybull quarterback Riley Hill nine times, played turnover-free football while forcing three Greybull miscues and dominated time of possession in a 33-18 win over the Buffs in a Class 2A West Conference game.
The Buffs had to make some changes on their offensive and defensive lines, due in part to an injury to Dade Greene, who didn’t play a snap. Lovell, with a talented, experienced group of guys in the trenches, took advantage.
The Buffs led only once in the game and it came on the final play of the first quarter, when Brayan Castro scored on a 16-yard run. At the time, it staked the Buffs to a 6-0 lead.
But Lovell stormed back, scoring the game’s next two touchdowns. Both came on runs by Porter Nichols — the first on a run of 7 yards, the second on a 2-yard plunge, to make it 13-6.
The Bulldogs never trailed again, and Nichols was a big reason. He finished the night with 181 yards on 36 carries. As a team, Lovell gained 232 yards on the ground. Every bit as important, they ran 59 rushing plays, consuming large chunks of clock in the process.
The Buffs never really got their offense on track. They pulled to within one, at 13-12, with a 14-yard pass from Hill to Miguel Gomez midway through the second quarter, but were outscored 20-0 over the next two quarters of game action.
Lovell was leading 33-12 when the Buffs got a second Hill-to-Gomez touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter. For the rally to continue, though, they needed a quick defensive stop. It never happened. Lovell gained a few more first downs to essentially extinguish the Buffs’ hopes.
Coach Marty Wrage said Lovell did a good job of exposing his team’s weaknesses, one of which is its inexperience. “We were down a few people and stretched a little thin, but the bottom line is, they wore us down,” he said.
While Lovell did most of its damage on the ground, the Buffs had to live and die with the pass because their running game sputtered. While Hill’s nine sacks no doubt factored in, the Buffs finished the night with 7 rushing yards on 36 carries. Castro was the leading rusher, with 28 yards on five attempts.
Despite near constant pressure from the Bulldogs, Hill finished with a productive passing night, going 25 of 39 for 322 yards. Gomez caught nine balls for 124 yards, Castro nine for 100 and Brock Hill three for 31.
The Buffs had 10 penalties for 97 yards; Lovell had six for 54 yards.
Wrage said the Buffs had a sense of what the Bulldogs were going to do defensively, but just couldn’t execute their plan. “They bring seven or eight guys (to pressure the quarterback), and they come in different spots, with a lot of twists and line games mixed in. It does make it hard for offensive linemen — particularly if the lineman are playing different positions to begin with.”
Wrage said the Bulldog offense “did a good job of using their running back to exploit weaknesses in our defense,” adding that his team will learn from the experience.
While it was a disappointing night overall for the Buffs, Wrage said several kids played good games. “It always gets overshadowed in a loss, but the kids are working hard and really improving. You just have to evaluate and move on. I can tell you, we haven’t lost any hope yet as players or coaches.”
The loss certainly muddied the waters in the race for the 2A West’s four playoff berths.
While Mountain View leads the pack with a 4-0 record, the Buffs now find themselves in a dogfight. Big Piney is 4-1 and has Lyman remaining on its schedule.
Greybull and Lyman, meanwhile, currently sit in a tie for third place, each with 2-2 records, so their game this weekend will be crucial to both teams’ playoff aspirations. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Lyman.
Even Pinedale, at 2-3 in the league, and Lovell, at 1-3 but with a big win over the Buffs, are clinging to life in the playoff chase. Kemmerer, 0-4, is the only team that appears to be out of the picture.
“A win last week would have knocked at least one more team out,” said Wrage.
Since it didn’t happen, more teams will head to the final two weeks with a shot at playoffs.
Wrage said a four-way tie is even within the realm of possibility heading down the stretch.
He called Friday’s game with Lyman a matchup of contrasting styles. While the Buffs have been relying on the pass in recent weeks, Lyman likes to run the ball — and chew up the clock in the process. “We need to get them stopped and we need to force some turnovers,” he said.