BIG PINEY – The final score at the annual cross-county rivalry game between Pinedale and Big Piney on Friday, Sept. 17, did not adequately reflect improvement in the Wranglers' game.
The Wrangler offense played tighter, moving the ball cleanly down the field and avoiding turnovers. On the defensive end, Pinedale closed ranks in the second half, preventing Big Piney from scoring after its first drive in the third quarter and forcing the Punchers to turn the ball over several times.
Big Piney scored three touchdowns in the first half and maintained the lead offensively through the game. When the final buzzer sounded, the Punchers won, 28-0.
“There were a few positive takeaways for us as a team,” said head coach Clay Cundall. “We didn’t have any turnovers offensively, which is a major positive. Turnovers have been an issue for us, so we’re pleased that we were able to take care of the ball. On the other side of things, we created a few takeaways via fumbles and an interception.”
The first quarter proved difficult for Pinedale to find its feet. The Wranglers stared down 93 yards on their first drive. Big Piney scored on its first drive, making good on the extra point.
Junior Ethan Jensen and senior quarterback Konner Ziegler ate up yards on the next drive before the Puncher defense brought them to a halt.
Tackles from sophomore Bodie Jensen and senior Tim Hosler put a dent in Big Piney’s next drive.
The Punchers managed to break through the Wranglers defensive line and score a second touchdown at the beginning of the second quarter.
The Wrangler defense toughened during Big Piney’s next drive in the second quarter. Sophomore Jayce Ramage led the first tackle. Senior Bryton Nelson charged forward and made a sack.
Ethan Jensen, Nelson, sophomore Cordelle Lane, junior Luke Gray and sophomore Dustin Larsen each took a Puncher down before Big Piney completed a pass into the end zone for its third touchdown.
The Wrangler offense chewed up yardage during its ensuing drive. Starting from the Wrangler 20-yard line, Ethan Jensen took the handoff and ran up to the 32-yard line for a first down. Zielger and Bodie Jensen moved the ball up before meeting a wall of Punchers.
Big Piney lead at halftime, 21-0.
The Punchers scored on their first drive in the third quarter, although the Wranglers put up a fight. Larsen pulled off a tackle for little gain. Ethan Jensen and Bodie Jensen pulled down a Puncher each.
Multiple penalties forced Big Piney back before the Puncher offense made it into the end zone.
Big Piney fumbled the ball on its second drive in the third quarter. A wall of Wranglers swooped in and Hosler emerged from the pile holding the ball.
Zeigler attempted to move the ball for Pinedale in a series of runs, gritting his teeth against one Puncher hit after another.
The Wrangler defense stepped up its intensity during Big Piney’s next drive. Larsen and Ziegler led the first tackle. Freshmen Tristan McCoy and Joseph Bain hit the Punchers with a series of tackles.
Big Piney held onto the ball into the fourth quarter, hounded yard-for-yard by the Wranglers. McCoy pulled off his second tackle.
Sophomore Austin Green made a sack behind the line of scrimmage. Big Piney failed an attempted field goal.
Tackles by Bodie Jensen and Gray slowed Big Piney on its second drive in the final quarter. Lane forced a fumble recovered by the Wranglers.
Ziegler and Ethan Jensen put their heads down, relentlessly driving the ball down the middle before the Puncher defense closed in and forced Pinedale to punt.
A tackle by Larsen prevented Big Piney from making a significant gain on the return. The Puncher quarterback sent a pass down the field. Junior Holden Saxton leapt up and intercepted the ball.
“Moving forward, we need to emphasize capitalizing in important situations,” said coach Cundall. “We left some big plays on the field as a result of not being able to capitalize in key situations. That, combined with areas like blocking and tackling, need to improve if we are going to take steps forward this season.”
The Wranglers take on Cokeville for the Homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 24.