Talk about a super sub! With starting quarterback Kirby Winland shelved with a dislocated thumb, fellow senior Bill Despain stepped in behind center for the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies Friday night against Burlington.
The result? A 48-12 win for the Grizz as Despain ran for four touchdowns and passed for one more as the Grizzlies routed the intradistrict rival Huskies at the RMHS Field in Cowley.
“Offensively, we had a chance to prepare without Kirby, and Bill did a great job leading our team throughout the first half,” Coach David Hayes said. “It’s great to have a player who has had experience in that position and can go out there and make plays. Bill couldn’t have done this without solid preparation throughout the week and all other positions performing at a high level. Let’s just say we had great play from many players.
“Defensive and special teams players performed the way they were supposed to, controlling Burlington throughout the first half. Once again we had solid play from multiple players.”
The Grizz took a little bit of time to get rolling on offense, but once they did, they were nearly unstoppable. The first drive ended with a fumbled snap that was recovered by Burlington. Despain picked off Burlington quarterback Tallon Wiles, however, setting up the first of seven consecutive touchdown drives for the Grizz.
Rocky drove 57 yards to score. Senior Tyler Lindquist chewed up yardage on the ground with runs of 11 and seven yards, then Caleb Horrocks burst around right end for 16. A holding call and an illegal forward pass call set the Grizz back twice, but Despain finally followed a line surge for a two-yard run, and Rocky had a 6-0 lead (run failed).
After a Burlington punt and an exchange of fumbles, the Grizzlies drove 44 yards to score again. Despain converted a key third-down pass to Lindquist 17 yards, then Despain zipped around left end for 25 yards and a touchdown. Cole Simmons converted for two points, and Rocky led 14-0 after the first quarter.
Rocky scored five times in the second quarter to put the game away.
On the first drive, Despain found Travis Banks over the middle for 23 yards, then dashed around left end for a 23-yard touchdown run (21-0). The next drive included just one play after a short field caused by a short Husky punt. Despain found Cole Wambeke deep down the right sideline for a 32-yard touchdown strike (28-0).
It then went from bad to worse for the Huskies. Caleb Horrocks returned an interception 28 yards to score (35-0), and on the ensuing kickoff Wyatt Horrocks hit the return man to force a fumble and Gareth Flowers recovered for the Grizz. One play later, Despain broke free for a 33-yard touchdown run (42-0). A 14-yard run by Cordell McFarlane a few minutes later put the Grizzlies up 48-0 (PAT blocked).
The Grizz led 48-0 at halftime and after three quarters, and as coaches substituted liberally for the home team, Burlington added two long touchdown runs by Kyle Broederlow in the fourth quarter.
“Overall, we came out of the game feeling great,” Hayes said. “All players gained quality experience with the JV taking over in the second half, which is always a great opportunity. Our varsity squad came out with no setbacks, and our trench gang along both fronts was as strong as they’ve been all year. This is very important looking ahead.”
Rocky Mountain finished with 346 yards of total offense – 264 rushing and 82 passing. Despain ran for 86 yards on six carries and scored four touchdowns. Lindquist added 48 yards on 10 carries, Wyatt Horrocks 43 yards on seven carries, Brian Crawford 40 yards on 10 tries, Caleb Horrocks 16 yards on three carries, McFarlane 14 yards and a touchdown on one carry, Lathan May 10 yards on two attempts and John Higgins seven yards on one carry.
Despain completed three of five passes for 72 yards, May one of one for 10 yards. Cole Wambeke caught one pass for 32 yards and a touchdown, Travis Banks one for 23, Lindquist one for 17 and Eisaac Flowers one for 10.
Lindquist had seven tackles, Ben Estes, Wyatt Horrocks and Dylan North five each.
Home playoff game
As the second seed from the 1A West, the Grizzlies will host the third seed out of the east, Upton-Sundance, in the first round of the playoffs Friday at 6 p.m. The “U.S. Patriots” are a strong team that will come in with a 5-3 record.
The Patriots and Grizzlies had two common opponents this season in Wind River and Tongue River. Upton-Sundance beat Wind River 41-0 in the first game of the season, and Rocky defeated the Cougars 22-0. Rocky fell to Tongue River 14-7 in week one, but Upton-Sundance beat TR 54-14. The Patriots also beat Pine Bluffs 38-0, Southeast 60-0 and the Gillette sophomores 60-8 but lost to Lusk 16-6, Moorcroft 11-0 and Lingle-Ft. Laramie 34-14.
“The Upton-Sundance Patriots will be a challenging foe for the Grizz as they are large along the front with speed at the skill positions,” Hayes said. “As we prepare for the Patriots it seems as though they altered their offense mid-season to support their skill sets, which presents quite the task. They like to attack the edges while keeping you honest between the tackles with a speedy and talented quarterback/running back in Jet Materi.
“The keys to the game are to play aggressive, strong tackling, be assignment sound and execute plays.”
The Grizzly Booster Club will hold a pregame tailgate party at the high school from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., serving burgers and chips. The Cowley Rec District will hold a “trunk or treat” event immediately following the game in the parking lot.
By David Peck