The Rocky Mountain Grizzlies celebrated homecoming in style Friday night, living up to the “Conquer the Kitties” theme by shutting out the Wind River Cougars 22-0 on a festive evening in Cowley.
The Grizz were solid on both sides of the ball, moving the ball on offense and pretty much bottling up the Wind River attack when on defense.
The win improves the Grizz to 3-1 in the Northwest 1A Conference behind only undefeated Cokeville with three conference games to play.
“We took some good, positive strides Friday night,” Coach David Hayes said. “Offensively, we moved the ball well. However, our red zone scoring was poor. Various mistakes and miscues cost us points. We need to be more successful in the red zone to get where we want to be.
“Defensively, we held our own and made it tough for Wind River to keep drives alive. This was very encouraging. Our defensive line did a great job stopping Wind River’s run game at the point of attack by forming a solid wall and creating opportunities for our linebackers to make plays. Our defense as a whole played well.
“We also continue to improve on special teams and throughout the game it showed as field position was continuously in our favor.”
Rocky moved the ball early behind the running of junior halfback Cordell McFarlane on the first series of the game, advancing from the Rocky 30 to the Wind River 45, then threatened at the 12 when quarterback Kirby Winland hit Bill Despain on a sideline route for 33 yards.
Two plays later, McFarlane burst around right end for a touchdown, but the score was called back on a chop block and the Grizz eventually gave the ball over on downs.
Rocky again drove deep into Cougar territory on the next series, thanks, in part, to completions of 18 and 14 yards to Despain, but an odd circumstance may have cost them a score when, on third and 19 from the 21, Winland completed a pass to Travis Banks, who made a nice catch and worked to the 10. That should have made it fourth and eight, but Wind River was given the ball and a first down going the other way.
The Grizz had field position, however, and after forcing Wind River to go three and out, the home team drove 48 yards in five plays. After gains of nine and 13 by Caleb Horrocks, McFarlane blasted up the middle from 17 yards out to score. The try for two failed, but Rocky led 6-0.
Following a short Wind River punt, the Grizz drove 54 yards to score again. Winland completed a pass to McFarlane for 14 yards on third and five to extend the drive, and a 16-yard run by Tyler Lindquist had the Grizz in business at the 18. After a six-yard completion to Cole Wambeke, Winland powered 11 yards to the one on a quarterback sneak, then on third and goal from the one, the lanky quarterback stretched out over the top of the pile for a touchdown. Horrocks converted the two-point run to put Rocky up 14-0, a lead they carried into the half.
The Grizzlies scored quickly on the first series of the third quarter as Horrocks broke free for a 56-yard run. Horrocks punched in the two-point run, putting the Grizz up 22-0. That ended the scoring for the Grizzlies, but they were also able to hold Wind River out of the end zone to win by three touchdowns.
Rocky finished with 378 yards of total offense to 106 for Wind River, rushing for 239 yards on 39 carries, a 6.1-yard average.
Horrocks finished with 133 yards rushing on 12 carries, averaging 11.1 yards per carry. McFarlane added 50 yards on nine carries, Lindquist 40 yards on six attempts.
Winland completed 10 of 22 yards for 138 yards. Despain caught four passes for 80 yards, Wambeke two for 27, Cole Simmons one for 15, McFarlane one for 14 and Banks one for 11.
“Our O line and D line worked well as a group,” Hayes said. “John Higgins and Wes Homewood have been consistent all year, and now we are improving as a group along the entire front. Shay Bond played well at guard, and Triston Rusch and Ben Estes played well along the defensive front, as well. It was encouraging. We will look to improve in this area every week.
“Caleb Horrocks had a great outing on both sides of the ball, and Travis Banks made some big plays. Travis is really starting to play some quality football for us. We had solid play from multiple players who are not mentioned, and we are proud of their efforts. This doesn’t mean we are content, by any means, as we have a lot to improve on and prove down the stretch.”
Chiefs on the road
The Grizz will continue conference play when they take on the Wyoming Indian High School Chiefs in Ethete Friday night. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Wyoming Indian has struggled to a 0-5 record so far this year, falling to Riverside 78-0, Wind River 74-0 and Shoshoni 77-7 among their losses. The Grizz can improve to 4-1 in the conference with a win, then face a key contest in Basin against the Riverside Rebels on Oct. 17. The Rebels are also 3-1 in conference play this week.
By David Peck