Punchers’ gutsy second-half rally comes up just short

Robert Galbreath photo Junior Roger Young, left, makes a block for junior Karsyn Gurr, right, to run the ball on Thursday.

BIG PINEY – In anexplosive second-half comeback, the Big Piney Puncher football team rallied from a 15-0 halftime deficit to overtake the Shoshoni Wranglers, 24-22, in the fourth quarter of the Oct. 6 conference game at Puncher Stadium.

The game suddenly came down to the wire.

Despite a determined stand by the Puncher defense, Shoshoni eventually drove the ball into the end zone. Big Piney shut down the Wranglers’ attempt to convert.

Shoshoni managed to hold onto its 4-point lead as the final seconds of the game ticked down for the win, 28-24.

Big Piney’s ability to dig deep and recover from a bumpy first half and pull out the plays necessary to close a significant gap against a tough rival testified to the team’s fighting spirit and grit.

“Shoshoni is a very good, disciplined team,” said Head Coach Jeromy Moffat. “They are the defending State champs and are returning almost their entire roster from last year. I was extremely proud of our kids for showing resiliency and responding with some big plays on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

During the first half, sophomore Caden Clifford and senior Reuben Stoutenburg “moved the ball well” offensively, Moffat added, with the Big Piney defense “holding its own” against an experienced Shoshoni offense.

In the second half, the team “made adjustments offensively,” said Moffat.

“We established a running game, then found some soft spots in the quick passing game to keep us ahead of the chains,” he explained. “Once we were able to put together a few first downs, I knew we would have a few shots downfield to (senior) Hunter Fisher and Stoutenburg with them keying on (junior) Karsyn Gurr. It is a compliment to our offensive line giving (junior quarterback) Champ Snively time to throw. I was also happy with Gurr for accepting the role of decoy and making some big catches.”

The Puncher defense “played its heart out” against a sizeable Shoshoni front line.

“Being a bit undersized, we had a hard time stopping their running game,” Moffat said. “The effort and heart was there, and we battled hard ‘til the whistle on every single play. These kids will never give up, and I could not be more proud of the toughness they showed against a bigger team. (Senior) Brandon Jones had an excellent game at corner with an interception and some big pass breakups.”

A tale of two halves

The Puncher defense ground down Shoshoni’s opening possession in the first quarter. Senior Thomas Howard and junior Dylon Woodward made the first tackle. Clifford took down Shoshoni’s runner. Woodward and junior Roger Young both led tackles.

Clifford, junior Zach Murphy and Jones stopped the Wranglers in their tracks. Gurr swept in for a tackle/ Howard took down a Wrangler in the backfield. Pressure by Young resulted in an incomplete pass, forcing Shoshoni to punt.

Shoshoni scored a touchdown on its last drive in the first quarter and scored again early in the second quarter.

The tally favored the Wranglers, 15-0, as the teams hit the locker room.

A reenergized Big Piney burst onto the gridiron in the third quarter. The Puncher defense promptly shut down Shoshoni’s first drive. Jones broke up a pass. Clifford tackled the Wrangler’s runner in the backfield.

Jones leapt up and intercepted a pass at Shoshoni’s 18-yard line.

Senior Seth Stoutenburg charged forward for a 4-yard gain. Clifford chewed up yards. Stoutenburg advanced for a first down.

Clifford took the handoff from Snively and dashed into the end zone to score Big Piney’s first touchdown.

Shoshoni responded with a touchdown.

Jones returned the Wranglers’ kick to Big Piney’s 32-yard line. Gurr reversed for a 3-yard gain. Snively sent the ball spiraling to Fisher. Fisher raced 55 yards into the end zone and scored the Punchers’ second touchdown.

Tackles by Young, Stoutenburg, Howard, Clifford and Murphy ended Shoshoni’s next drive.

The Punchers took possession as the fourth quarter began.

Clifford and Stoutenburg churned up yards. Snively completed a pass to Gurr for a first down and repeated the play for a 9-yard gain.

Howard drove forward for a first down. Clifford took the ball and reversed to advance the line of scrimmage.

Fisher completed a pass from Snively at Shoshoni’s 2-yard line despite heavy pressure. Snively dove into the end zone for a Puncher touchdown.

On Shoshoni’s ensuing drive, Woodward swept in with a tackle, forcing Shoshoni to fumble. Senior Braunsn Smith recovered the ball.

Following a carry by Stoutenburg, Snively delivered a pass to Gurr. Stoutenburg completed a 49-yard pass play into the end zone, pulling Big Piney into the lead, 24-22.

Shoshoni managed to score a touchdown in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and retake the lead.

On Friday, Oct. 14, Big Piney travels to play Wyoming Indian High School with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m.

The fall to Shoshoni “stings,” but the team is looking forward to the next two weeks of conference play, said Coach Moffat.

“We will work hard to regroup and refocus next week at Wyoming Indian,” he added. “We are confident with where we are at and know we can compete with the best in the state. The next weeks are going to be a heck of a ride, and I and our coaching staff could not be more proud of the 23 kids on our roster.”