Many times a game is all about making plays. After Big Horn seemingly made all of the big plays a week ago in a 42-7 win over the Lovell Bulldogs, the Bulldogs turned the tide at home this week, making key plays in a 39-14 win over a solid Big Piney Puncher squad.
This game was the proverbial “score not indicative of how close the game was” scenario as the Punchers came to Lovell with some size and a quick and effective quarterback in sophomore Jake Pape, then battled the home team to a draw for much of the first half.
After an exchange of punts to start the game, the Punchers tried a fake punt on their next series, but the Bulldogs stopped the run, getting the ball near midfield. Lovell drove for a score as junior Brandon Teter burst around the end on a jet run and scored from 30 yards out. He also booted the PAT to put the Bulldogs up 7-0.
Big Piney responded with a drive that culminated in a three-yard run by Dalin Hughes. The PAT failed, leaving Lovell up 7-6.
Lovell led 14-6 following a two-yard keeper by quarterback Beau Green and the ensuing PAT, but Big Piney answered with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Pape to JD Fear, then executed a two-point conversion to knot the score 14-14.
The Bulldogs quickly jumped back on top with a 70-yard strike from Green to senior wide receiver Britton Woody on a broken play that saw Green evade the pass run, roll out and find Woody down the right sideline. The PAT was blocked, but Lovell led 20-14 and carried that lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Bulldogs nearly scored again in the final seconds, knocking at the door following a 21-yard pass from Green to Shawn Mollett to the Puncher 8. But Adam Willoughby stepped in front of a pass to Konner Davis in the end zone to end the Lovell threat as time expired in the first half.
It was all Lovell in the second half, at least on the scoreboard and in the playmaking arena as the Bulldogs outscored Big Piney 19-0.
“We made some small alignment adjustments with our defensive line and our linebackers, but we also made some better plays,” coach Doug Hazen said, noting interceptions by Green and Riley Abraham. “Once we got up on them, they had to pass more, and that took them out of their game.
“If it’s close Big Piney is tough. Their bread and butter is running. They have big kids.”
Lovell couldn’t move the ball on the first series of the second half and went three and out, but after a punt, the Bulldogs quickly got the ball back when Green snared a Pape pass for an interception and returned it about 15 yards to the Piney 43.
“That was a huge play,” Hazen said. “We go three and out – that’s not how you want to start the half — but the interception changed the momentum.
Lovell drove into the red zone mixing a short passing game with effective running by Tyler Teter, Green and Abraham. On fourth and goal at the one, Ty Teter spun into the end zone for a touchdown but was ruled down just short of the goal line.
Big Piney had new life, but four plays later Abraham stepped in front of a Pape pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown. The pick six put Lovell up 26-14 (PAT failed), and wanting to keep the momentum Hazen called for an onside kick on the kickoff. Lovell recovered and drove 46 yards in nine plays as Ty Teter punched it in from three yards out. The PAT was wide, but the two quick touchdowns had Lovell up 32-14 and had Big Piney reeling.
“In the third quarter we kind of piled it on,” Hazen said. “That (the big plays) changed the game.”
The Punchers kept battling and drove to the Lovell 3, but on third and goal Konner Davis hit Chancy Hunt for a three-yard loss and Pape slipped down for a loss on fourth and six.
Following a Lovell punt, Big Piney drove into Bulldog territory again, but the Bulldogs held, then drove 87 yards in nine plays. Ty Teter slashed for 62 yards on five carries during the drive, and Green burst 25 yards around left end for the touchdown. Brandon Teter’s PAT put Lovell up by the final score, 39-14.
“The final score is deceiving,” Hazen said. “It wasn’t a blowout. It was close well into the third period. They’re going to beat some teams this year. They’re a well-coached team.”
Work in progress
Although the Bulldogs reversed the fortunes of the first week, they still have work to do, Hazen said.
“They got 14 points. That’s not going to lose you every single ballgame, but we have to tighten things up,” Hazen said. “Their plan was to run right at us and they did exactly what we thought they’d do. I give them credit. Their quarterback was a better runner than we expected him to be. We made some timely plays.”
As for the offense, Hazen said offensive coordinator Bob Weber called an excellent game and was “true to the game plan.”
“We emphasized running the football, and we were able to stay with that and not get distracted with the other options that we have. Ty Teter ran hard, and Beau played one of his better games last week.”
The Bulldogs finished the game with 252 yards rushing and 119 passing as Ty Teter rushed for 129 yards on 25 carries, Green 69 yards on 15 carries, Brandon Teter 33 yards on four carries and Abraham 19 yards on six rushes. Green completed five of 13 passes for 119 yards. Brandon Teter caught two passes for 24 yards, Mollett two for 25 yards and Tyler Teter one for 70 yards.
Big Piney finished with 184 yards rushing and 70 passing.
Abraham tallied 24 defensive points to lead the Bulldogs on six assisted tackles, two solo tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and an interception returned for a touchdown. Green added 20 points on eight assisted tackles, four solo stops and an interception. Kaleb Mayes had 17 defensive points, Trace Murphey 16, Davis 15 and Merrill Beck 13.
The Bulldogs will make the long drive to Pinedale Friday to take on the 2-0 Pinedale Wranglers, who have won two games on the road to start the season, beating Thermopolis 28-6 and Kemmerer 27-14.
Hazen said the Wranglers feature a tall, rangy quarterback who can throw the ball and also run with it on bootlegs, along with a quick receiver who “is probably their best play. He’s a strong runner and is a good, solid football player.”
Kickoff in Pinedale is scheduled for 7 p.m.
By David Peck