Puncher football team captures playoff berth
BIG PINEY – Overwhelming the Riverside High School Rebels from Basin at Puncher Stadium on Thursday, Oct. 20, the Big Piney High School football team scored a pivotal 34-0 victory, earning a spot in the playoffs for the 1A, 9-man State Championship.
Due to multiple tiebreakers shuffling the seeding in the conference, Big Piney will travel to play Pine Bluffs in the quarterfinals on Friday, Oct. 28, at 6 p.m.
Head Coach Jeromy Moffat expressed pride in the team’s triumph during the final home game and Senior Recognition Night.
“We came out and did what we had to do Friday against Riverside and won the game,” he said. “Sending these seniors and this football team off our home field with a win was such a great way to finish the regular season.”
The Puncher defense held Riverside to less than 100-yards rushing.
“Defensively, we knew their weapons and shut them down,” said Moffat. “I challenged the kids to jump into the top five in the state in total defensive (points) and I believe that with this game, we may have accomplished that goal. It was a total team effort.”
Senior Hunter Fisher stepped in as safety for the first time and intercepted two passes. Senior Thomas Howard picked off a pass and senior Brandon Jones recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Junior Dylon Woodward played a “great game at defensive end,” Moffat added.
The Big Piney offense rushed for 311 yards, resulting in three touchdowns.
“Offensively, we established our running game early,” Moffat said. “Junior Reuben Stoutenburg was a workhorse, rushing for 18 carries totaling 146 yards and a touchdown. We also got near 100 yards and a touchdown with sophomore Caden Clifford and Howard had some tough inside runs for 33 yards. Our next guys up on the depth chart stepped in and preserved the shoutout. Junior Jackie Meador was able to break a big 30-yard run.”
Big Piney rolled onto the gridiron scrapping for a fight as the first quarter began.
Junior Karsyn Gurr returned Riverside’s kickoff to the Punchers’ 37-yard line. Stoutenburg carried the ball to the 44-yard line.
Clifford took the handoff from junior quarterback Champ Snively and charged across midfield.
Despite heavy pressure, Snively completed a pass to Gurr for a first down.
Clifford churned up 9 yards on his next carry. Stoutenburg reached Riverside’s 21-yard line for another first down.
Clifford carried the ball to the 9-yard line then swept up the left side of the field into the end zone to score the Punchers’ first touchdown.
A solid Big Piney defense stopped the Rebels’ first possession. Junior Zach Murphy, Woodward, Fisher, Clifford, Howard and Brandon Jones each pulled off tackles. Brandon Jones broke up a pass and Riverside punted.
Big Piney returned the kickoff at its 21-yard line. Stoutenburg gained 9 yards on a carry. Gurr reversed for a first down. Stoutenburg and Howard both ate up yards.
Clifford dashed up the right for a first down. A carry by Stoutenburg advanced the line of scrimmage to Riverside’s 2-yard line. Snively dove into the end zone for Big Piney’s second touchdown.
The Big Piney defense hammered away at Riverside as the second quarter began. Murphy, junior Roger Young and Brandon Jones each pulled off tackles. Fisher took down a Rebel twice. Murphy and Howard made a tackle in the backfield. Howard leapt up for an interception.
Big Piney came up short on the subsequent drive. Riverside took possession, although a tenacious Puncher defense shut down the Rebels.
A sack by Woodward resulted in a loss. Sophomore Ben Ferguson swept in and intercepted the ball.
The Punchers regained possession and Snively sent the ball spiraling to Brandon Jones for a first down. Stoutenburg and Clifford relentlessly drove forward for another first down.
Snively completed a pass to Fisher, open in the end zone, for a Puncher touchdown. Howard ran in the conversion.
The Puncher defense hounded Riverside on its next possession, including tackles by Woodward, Brandon Jones and Meador. Fisher intercepted the ball and rushed 70 yards.
At halftime, Big Piney held a commanding 20-0 lead.
Riverside opened the third quarter in possession until it fumbled the ball, recovered by Woodward.
Snively pitched the ball to Stoutenburg and Stoutenburg rushed into the end zone for a touchdown.
Senior Esther Van Grol kicked off for the Punchers. An ironclad Big Piney defense ground down Riverside as the Rebels took possession with tackles by Brandon Jones, Howard, Clifford, Woodward, Fisher, Stoutenburg and Murphy.
Rocky Mountain fumbled in the Punchers’ end zone. Brandon Jones dove in for the recovery and a Puncher touchdown. Stoutenburg drove the ball in for 2 points after touchdown.
Van Grol kicked off again. Rocky Mountain advanced before Fisher intercepted a pass.
Woodward recovered a fumble by Riverside on the Rebels’ first possession in the fourth quarter.
Meador, Woodward and senior Hampton Jones pulled off tackles to close out Rocky Mountain’s second drive in the fourth quarter.
Ferguson stepped in as quarterback in the fourth quarter and picked up yards. Meador rushed for 30 yards and a first down.
Pine Bluffs is No. 1 in the 1A East Conference, and Friday’s game will be an uphill fight. The Punchers are up for the challenge, though.
“We have been in that underdog role all season and have proven we can compete with anyone,” said Coach Moffat. “To be the best, you have to beat the best. We will prepare as we have every week and be ready to go Friday night under the lights.”