It’s always a good idea to establish the run in the world of high school football, and the Lovell Bulldogs did just that in their home and season opener Friday night at Robertson Stadium, racking up 355 yards rushing en route to 438 yards of total offense in a 45-8 pounding of the Wright Panthers.
Lovell’s yardage came in big chunks, and junior halfback Dino Collins set the tone early, following fullback Steven Picket and then bursting off tackle and down the left sideline for a 60-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game following the opening kickoff.
“That was the game plan. We wanted to run,” coach Doug Hazen said. “We thought we could run the ball and on that first play we game-planned for how we thought we could block it. The kids executed it and ran it exactly the way we wanted to. It was an off-tackle iso play.
“Steven did a great job, as did our O line. Our yardage Friday is a credit to our offensive line. They blocked all night. When you have three guys near 100 yards it means the O line is doing their job.”
Collins only played one half as Hazen played his second- and third-string players the entire second half. Still, Collins led the team with 126 yards on eight carries, a 15.75-yards-per-carry average.
Dimas Patina got the bulk of the work in the second half and finished with 106 yards rushing on 18 carries, scoring two touchdowns, and fullback Steven Pickett added 81 yards on eight carries – all in the first half – and scored three touchdowns. Backup fullback Ryan Clark recorded 39 yards rushing on six attempts in the second half.
Junior quarterback Dylan Hultgren was very efficient in his varsity debut, completing five of six passing attempts for 83 yards, hitting big target Cody Savage three times for 74 yards and Pickett out of the backfield twice for 9 yards.
“When we asked him to throw he was spot on,” Hazen noted. “He operated the offense very well.
Fans were just getting settled into their seats on a clear but windy evening when Collins went 60 yards on the first play from the line of scrimmage following a 20-yard opening kickoff return by Pickett. Cody Savage booted the PAT and Lovell led 7-0.
An interception by Collins set up Lovell’s second touchdown later in the first quarter. The six-play drive included a 33-yard run by Collins and a five-yard bootleg by Hultgren that set up a 10-yard run right up the gut by Pickett. Lovell led 14-0 after the first quarter.
The Bulldogs scored on all three possessions of the second quarter, capping drives of 74, 54 and 57 yards as the Lovell offense ran like a well-oiled machine.
Lovell opened up the passing game a little more on the first drive of the quarter. Hultgren hit Savage for 28 yards down the right sideline, and strong running by Collins and Pickett set up a six-yard touchdown run by Pickett as Lovell went up 20-0 (PAT missed).
An interception by Dillon Pickett set up a 54-yard scoring drive that included a 23-yard run by Steve Pickett and a 19-yard pass to Savage that set up a five-yard scoring run by Patina. Lovell led 27-0.
A 27-yard slant from Hultgren to Savage and a 15-yard run through traffic by Patina keyed the final drive of the half for the Bulldogs. Steven Pickett took it right up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown run as Lovell led 33-0 at the half.
Lovell scored on five of six possessions in the first half and out-gained Wright 314 to minus 2 in total offense.
“For us it always starts up front,” Hazen said. “We have a very physical offensive line and a (physical) defensive line, as well. When you have a good D line the offense has to be concerned about them, and it takes pressure off your linebackers, who are free to run and make plays.”
Massive substitutions by the Bulldogs led to Wright finding more offensive success in the second half, but not before the Panthers fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a short 25-yard drive for the Bulldogs capped by a one-yard run by Patina.
Trailing 39-0, Wright finally got on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter when quarterback Kodiak French completed a 73-yard drive with a one-yard sneak, then hit Arren Jones for the two-point conversion.
The Lovell junior varsity offense continued to gel as the game went on and eventually drove 90 yards for a touchdown as Patina and Ryan Clark ran hard. Clark scored from two yards out as Lovell led by the final score of 45-8.
Four players finished with 11 defensive points each for the Bulldogs: linebacker Collins, end Savage, end Cody Clark and cornerback Nathan Grant. Ritch McCollam had 9 defensive points.
Long road trip
The Bulldogs will make the long drive to Sublette County this week where they will take on the Pinedale Wranglers Friday at 7 p.m. to open 2A West conference play. Pinedale fell to Riverside Friday night in Basin, 30-14.
Last year the Bulldogs hosted the Wranglers in the second game of the season and won 27-6, but Hazen said the score is deceiving.
“That was an ugly game for us,” he said. “They frustrated us early. We didn’t get going until later in the game. That’s a point of emphasis this year – starting faster.
“They really loaded the box and blitzed a lot. It will be interesting to see if we can run the ball as effectively as last week.”
Hazen said the Wranglers ran a spread offense against Riverside most of the time Friday night, noting that he expects to see a “trips” formation operating out of the shotgun.
By David Peck