Punchers edged out in close game

Joan Mitchell photo Senior quarterback Champ Snively waits for the snap from senior center Zack Murphy during the Sept. 22 game against Wind River. Also pictured is junior Caden Clifford, No. 11.

PAVILLION – Despite a determined effort by the Big Piney High School Punchers to close the gap in a neck-and-neck game against conference rival Wind River on Thursday, Sept. 21, Big Piney ultimately fell, 28-21.

Following a halftime score favoring Wind River by a single point, 8-7, the Panthers went on to score two touchdowns early in the third quarter, pulling ahead, 22-7.

Digging deep, the Punchers battled back with a touchdown as the third quarter progressed. Big Piney matched Wind River in touchdowns during a physical fourth quarter, though in the end, the Punchers came up short in bridging the 7-point deficit.

“It was a tough loss in Wind River,” said Head Coach Jeromy Moffat. “It was a week of adversity with sickness and injuries and a quick turnaround from the Saturday game with Greybull. That being said, we made too many mental mistakes that ended up costing us the game.”

The Puncher offense managed to outgun Wind River in rushing yards, 306-156.

“We had a lot of success on the ground and in the air, but three missed red zone chances will cost you in a competitive game like this,” said Coach Moffat. “The game had a playoff feel and we knew five or six plays would dictate the outcome.”

Moffat praised the Big Piney defense for making a strong stand.

“Defensively, I am very proud of our effort and toughness,” said Moffat. “Minus a pass play, we held Wind River in check.”

Taking defeat as an opportunity to grow, Big Piney is looking forward.

“A loss can fuel a team and we plan on learning from this defeat and will come out stronger mentally for that second half of the season playoff push,” Moffat added. “The kids are even more hungry now and we are encouraged heading into this week.”

The Big Piney defense shut down Wind River’s first drive in the opening quarter, including tackles by seniors Karsyn Gurr, Preston Bennett, Dylon Woodward and Roger Young and junior Ben Ferguson. Senior Zach Murphy pushed Wind River’s running back behind the line of scrimmage, forcing the Panthers to punt.

Taking possession, the Puncher offense steadily moved the ball into Panther territory with runs by senior Seth Stoutenburg, junior Caden Clifford and Gurr.

Stoutenburg grabbed a handoff from senior quarterback Champ Snively and dashed up the field for Puncher touchdown number 1. A good kick by Young placed Big Piney ahead, 7-0.

The Puncher defense hounded Wind River on the Panthers’ subsequent drive. Clifford and Young made a sack in the backfield and Young recovered a fumble.

Wind River scored in the second quarter, resulting in a near stalemate favoring the Panthers, 8-7, at halftime.

Wind River made a pair of touchdowns early in the third quarter, widening their lead, 22-7.

Big Piney responded with a touchdown of its own. Snively completed a perfect pass from Wind River’s 48-yard line to Gurr, who rushed 15 yards into the end zone.

Wind River reached the end zone again midway into the fourth quarter. Refusing to throw in the towel, Big Piney scored on the following possession.

Senior Jerrett Fear returned Wind River’s kickoff to the Puncher 40-yard line. Freshman Zavier Clifford rushed 12 yards for a first down. Snively completed passes to Woodward and Gurr.

Snively then kept the ball and charged into the end zone. Young planted a perfect kick.

A solid Puncher defense forced Wind River to punt on the Panthers’ final possession, including tackles by Zavier Clifford, Murphy, Woodward and Bennett.

Big Piney travels to play Evanston’s junior varsity squad this Thursday and returns to conference play at home against Shoshoni on Thursday, Oct. 5.