Big Piney scores comeback win over Cokeville
Robert Galbreath photos
BIG PINEY – Cokeville led by a single touchdown early in the final quarter against conference rival Big Piney on Friday, Oct. 15.
On their second drive in the fourth quarter, the Panthers fumbled and senior Puncher Dalton Bell emerged with the ball.
The Puncher offense lined up at its own 47-yard line. Senior quarterback Thomas Barron recovered a fumble as Panther defenders closed in.
From the backfield, Barron saw an opening and made a snap decision, sending the ball spiraling to senior Jaron Petty. Petty leapt up, completed the pass and landed at the Panthers’ 23-yard line.
Closing in on the end zone, Barron wound up and delivered the ball with dead-eye accuracy to senior Koy Walton in the end zone.
The touchdown demonstrated the Punchers’ ability to recover from errors and deliver explosive, gutsy plays to overcome Cokeville in the second half and score a 28-21 victory, moving one step closer to the playoffs.
“It was adrenaline,” said Barron. “I was just in the moment. I’ve had kind of a struggle with that all season – living in the moment. I lived in the moment there, got the ball down the field and got us to score.”
The Punchers’ whirlwind fourth quarter made up for a difficult start to the game.
“We came out slow,” said Barron. “I’ve got to take some personal responsibility on some things that happened. But we came out as a team and we made it happen. Everybody on the football team – every single one of them – they all worked their butts off like crazy and we won as a team. I’m on cloud nine right now.”
Head Coach Ryan Visser expressed pride in the team’s win.
“We like to make it interesting, that’s for sure,” he said. “Cokeville doesn’t lose much, so anytime you can beat them, it’s a great win. The kids battled their butts off in the second half and made some really big plays. Barron played a heck of a game. Karsyn Gurr had a great game. Dalton Bell – awesome game. Again, it was a group effort. Love this team, love these guys – good win.”
Defense dominated a scoreless first quarter. The Punchers shut down Cokeville’s first drive with tackles by senior Dustin Martin, senior Seth Stoutenburg, junior Thomas Howard and Gurr.
The Puncher defense kept up the pressure up on Cokeville’s second drive. A tackle by Martin behind the line of scrimmage forced Cokeville to punt.
Big Piney chipped away defensively as the Panthers drove the ball into the second quarter. Howard pulled off a tackle for a 12-yard loss.
Cokeville eventually pushed into the end zone as the second quarter opened, putting 6 points on the scoreboard.
The Big Piney offense struggled to make gains on the following drive. Cokeville took possession, but punted due to heavy Puncher resistance, including multiple tackles pulled off by junior Jovany Munoz, senior Seth Stoutenburg and freshman Reuben Stoutenburg.
Returning the punt at the Puncher 20-yard line, Big Piney fought its way to the end zone as the clock ticked down to halftime. Barron completed passes to senior Jaron Petty and Walton, moving the Punchers into Panther territory. Senior Jaspur Brower ate up yards in the next play. Barron passed to Walton, who delivered a lateral to Bell, placing Big Piney at the Panthers’ 34-yard line.
With 12 seconds remaining, Barron fired off the ball to Gurr. Gurr raced into the end zone for the Punchers’ first touchdown.
The first half ended in a 6-6 stalemate.
Cokeville scored on its first drive in the third quarter. Two extra points brought the tally to 14-6 in the Panthers’ favor.
Cokeville kicked off, returned by Bell at the Punchers’ 15-yard line. Bell tucked the ball and sprinted 85 yards into the end zone. Barron completed a pass to Walton for two extra points, tying the match, 14-14.
Cokeville began a long drive to close out the third quarter. Despite tackles by Munoz, Gurr, Bell, Walton, Seth Stoutenburg, senior Karson Cline and a sack by Rueben Stoutenburg, the Panthers eventually reached the end zone as the fourth quarter began. A good extra point raised the tally to 21-14 in Cokeville’s favor.
Big Piney answered on its second drive in the final quarter, when Petty caught Barron’s Hail Mary pass and Walton completed Barron’s second pass in the end zone. Barron completed a pass to Bell for two extra points, edging out Cokeville, 22-21.
The Punchers maintained an ironclad defense as Cokeville tried to move the ball on the following drive. Walton, Seth Stoutenburg, Cline, Brower, junior Brandon Jones and sophomore Zach Murphy each snatched a tackle.
The Panthers’ quarterback sent the ball flying. Gurr jumped into the air and intercepted the ball. Gurr dropped his head down and rushed 60 yards down the field to score the Punchers’ fourth touchdown.
The score stood at 28-21 in Big Piney’s favor.
Cokeville battled time and a determined Puncher defense during the ensuing possession. Freshman Ben Ferguson joined the fray with a tackle. Munoz pushed the Panthers out of bounds. Reuben Stoutenburg pulled off a pair of sacks, the first with help from Murphy.
Challenges remain on the road to the playoffs, with a crucial game against Thermopolis on Tuesday, Oct. 19 clinching the postseason for either team.
“We’re going to be in the film room tonight, meet tomorrow, and get ready for a really good Thermop team and hope for a good senior night here,” said coach Visser.