Buffs open conference play with a win

Nathan Oster

If you needed any more proof that the landscape of the 1A West has changed, the opening weekend of conference slate saw the league's top two teams from last year, Shoshoni and Rocky Mountain, go down to defeat in matchups with hungry, up-and-coming rivals.

Greybull staked its claim as one of the contenders in this new world, beating the Wranglers 16-8 on Friday night in the first game played on the new turf field.  The Buffs play No. 2-ranked Big Piney, fresh off a 58-0 thrashing of the Grizzlies, later this week. First place in the conference will be on the line.

Coach Jeremy Pouska called the win over Shoshoni "a great step for our program" and gave most of the credit to the defense, which "played aggressively and with high energy from the first whistle to the last whistle."

The Buffs scored first, thanks to a 15-yard run by Lucas Bolzer at the 9:21 mark of the second quarter.  Bolzer also ran in the two-point conversion, pushing the Greybull lead to 8-0.

It stayed that way — the Wranglers a big play from tying it, the Buffs a big play away from going in front by two scores — until the 5:52 mark of the fourth when Bolzer scored his second touchdown, and second two-pointer, of the night, making it 8-0.

Seemingly the entire second half was spent on Shoshoni's side of the field.  In fact, head statistician Ken Jensen reports that the Wranglers had the ball for just 6 seconds in the third quarter, running a single play that resulted in a fumble, and for just 2:18 of the fourth. It showed in the play count, as Greybull ran 65 from scrimmage compared to just 35 for Shoshoni.

The Buffs finished with 187 rushing yards on 60 attempts, an average of 3.12 yards per carry.  Bolzer led the way, racking up 124 on 27 carries.  "I do my best to spread the carries out — recognizing a lot of them are playing both sides of the ball — and not favor any one of them, but with Lucas, every time he touches the ball, he makes the most of it."  The Buffs attempted just five passes, with sophomore signal caller Caden Hunt completing one to Joel Miller for 11 yards. 

Shoshoni finished with 111 yards of offense, with 99 of them coming through the air.

Turnovers were a factor. The Buffs finished plus-four in that category, not giving it away at all while forcing four Shoshoni miscues.  

Freshman Larry Longshore burst on the scene in a big way, intercepting a pass and recovering two fumbles. He finished with 22 defensive points, which was tops on the team.  "That young man had a fantastic game," said Pouska.  "I look forward to him growing in our program."

Other double digit point scorers on the defensive side were Wyatt Didrickson, with 14 including two sacks; Yandel Hernandez with 14; Hunt with 11 including an interception, and Caiden Sorenson with 10.  In all, Greybull defenders were credited with three sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Pouska knows the Buffs have some things to clean up — most notably, the penalties and their red-zone offense.  The Buffs were flagged 15 times on the night. And three times, their offense marched into the red zone and failed to score.  Pouska blamed the mistakes on a lack of experience, citing the youth of the team's offensive line and quarterback, all of whom are leaning on the fly and will be better down the road because of it.

Shoshoni was young, too. In fact, each team suited up just two seniors. In the end, it was Greybull's youth that held sway. "I can't even find the words to describe how it felt when the final horn sounded," said Pouska. "Shoshoni is always well coached and their kids had the ability to score fast.  We just did a good job of negating those big plays."

Greybull will try to extend its win streak to three when it travels to Big Piney on Saturday.  Kickoff is at 2 p.m. "I truly believe we can compete with anyone and that we can win every game," said Pouska. "It will come down to, for one, being disciplined.  We can't have unnecessary penalties that set us back and we can't cought the ball up.

"Big Piney is going to be a good test. We respect them. They're fast and are one of the only teams in our conference that does have an older group of guys left in its program."

The Buffs return home for a Sept. 22 game against Wyoming Indian.