Second-half comeback leads to Wrangler touchdown

Robert Galbreath photo Senior Ethan Jensen, center, receives congratulations from freshman Wylee Willson after scoring his fourth-quarter touchdown. Also pictured is freshman Keegan Nance, right.

PINEDALE – Eating up yard after yard, the Pinedale High School Wrangler football team relentlessly advanced up the field against the 3A Rawlins Outlaws in the second half of the Sept. 2 home game on Sunny Korfanta Field at Gene Andrews Stadium.

A determined drive by the Pinedale offense in the third quarter cut deep into Outlaw territory. Although the Wranglers eventually lost possession, for the first time in the non-conference matchup, Pinedale nearly broke through to the end zone.

In the fourth quarter, Pinedale senior Dyson Dana returned the Outlaws’ kickoff to Pinedale’s 20-yard line. Fellow senior Ethan Jensen plowed up the middle for a 4-yard gain.

Jensen tucked the ball. A pair of Outlaw defenders closed in. Quick on his feet, Jensen pivoted to the left, found an opening in the Rawlins defensive line and raced 80 yards down the field for a touchdown, leaving the Outlaws in the dust.

Rawlins ultimately won Friday’s game, 39-6.

The excitement on the Wrangler sideline and in the stands following Pinedale’s fourth-quarter touchdown drowned out any noise from Rawlins’ side of the gridiron. The Wranglers proved they were capable of throwing a punch when the chips were down.

The explosion of energy on the field boosted confidence and showed Pinedale football is hungry to compete.

“The Wranglers continue to get up and make positive strides,” said Head Coach David Thrash. “The offense put together two strong drives, completing passes and breaking tackles, for strong runs in the second half. Converting when it counted with a pass connection between (quarterback) Luke Gray and Bodie Jensen moved the ball to open some blocks by the offensive line where Ethan Jensen could find space for positive yard gains and pass connections with Colby Bailey, all leading to Ethan finding the edge and reaching the end zone.”

The Pinedale defense also stepped up its intensity as the game progressed.

“The defense had a strong showing anchored by middle linebacker Jake Hammer and well-balanced help from each position. This resulted in multiple close calls for turnovers and tackles for loss.”

Grinding up the yards

The Outlaws scored a touchdown returning the opening kick and drove the ball over the goal line for 2-point conversion.

Pinedale junior Owen McMillen returned Rawlins’ kickoff at the 5-yard line and advanced over the 20-yard line. Ethan Jensen pushed forward toward the 30-yard line before Pinedale lost possession.

Rawlins returned the ball to its 48-yard line. Despite the Outlaws’ good field position, the Pinedale defense tightened up. Ethan Jensen, senior Cade Covill and Hammer caught the first tackle. Juniors Cordelle Lane and Doug Dexter shut down Rawlins on the next play.

Ethan Jensen took down an Outlaw with McMillen.

A tackle by Dexter forced a turnover on downs.

Rawlins took possession as the first quarter came to a close, carrying the ball into the second quarter. The Pinedale defense made Rawlins fight for each yard. Ethan Jensen, McMillen, Dexter and Hammer were each in on tackles.

Rawlins landed within two yards of the end zone. Hammer sniffed out the quarterback, his sack pushing the Outlaws back five yards.

Rawlins eventually broke through and reached the end zone, adding two points after touchdown to the tally.

The Pinedale offense struggled to gain on its first drive in the second quarter. The Outlaws scored a third touchdown returning the Wranglers’ punt.

During Pinedale’s subsequent drive, Gray completed a pass to Bodie Jensen for an 8-yard gain. Ethan Jensen carried the ball up the middle for a first down. Junior Dustin Larsen pushed the Wranglers up another four yards.

Rawlins intercepted Pinedale’s pass before scoring a field goal as the first half came to a close.

The Outlaws led, 27-0, as the opponents headed for the locker rooms.

Rawlins scored on its first drive in the second half.

Senior Leo Labrador returned Rawlins’ kickoff to the Pinedale 25-yard line. Ethan Jensen drove the ball forward to the 30-yard line.

Gray completed a pass to Bodie Jensen for a first down. Ethan Jensen picked up another seven yards and plowed over midfield on the next play for a first down.

Larsen advanced the Wrangler offense into Outlaw territory. Ethan Jensen leaped over the Outlaw defense, landing at the 35-yard line for a first down.

Freshman Cale Dauwen got in on the action, eating up enough yards for a first down. Under heavy pressure, Gray completed a pass to Bailey for a first down before the Wranglers lost possession.

Rawlins scored once more on its subsequent possession. Ethan Jensen chased the Outlaws’ runner out of bounds, preventing any points after touchdown.

Senior Dyson Dana returned Rawlins’ kick to the 20-yard line. Ethan Jensen moved the ball to the 24-yard line before his 80-yard run to the end zone for a Wrangler touchdown.

The Pinedale defense, including tackles led by Labrador, junior Joe Boylan and Dana, forced Rawlins to punt. Pinedale ended the game in possession with Gray completing a pass to senior Holden Saxton.

Pinedale hosts 2A Conference rival Lyman on Friday, Sept. 9. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“All in all, the Wranglers are continuing to move in a positive direction and will continue to clean up mistakes and build on the foundation they’ve started,” said Coach Thrash.

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