After battle with Natrona, Bulldogs prep for opener at Wind River

From now on they count.

Having worked out a few kinks with a week zero exhibition game against the Casper Natrona JVs Saturday, the Lovell Bulldogs this week turn their attention to their season-opener this Friday evening in Pavillion against the Wind River Cougars.

Lovell fell to Natrona 12-7 Saturday afternoon at Robertson Stadium, and while the score was much closer than a week zero loss to the Natrona JVs in Casper a year ago, first-year head coach Nicc Crosby said he’s not into moral victories. Still, he learned some things about his team in its first live action game.

“The kids fought all the way to the end,” Crosby said. “In practice it’s really hard to duplicate game speed, and when you (the players) know your own stuff it’s a little tough to gauge what you’re executing.”

Lovell sophomore fullback Casen Hiser runs for daylight as Casper Natrona tacklers pursue during the Bulldogs’ loss to the Mustangs Saturday at Kevin P. Robertson Memorial Stadium as teammate Kobe May looks on.
Sam Smith photo

Crosby said he and his staff did very little game-planning for Natrona while still working on installing their own schemes, adding that coaches wanted to “get a good look at lots of kids.”

Lovell took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a seven-yard run by junior halfback CJ Lindsay set up after the Natrona center snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head. Aden Mayes booted the PAT.

Natrona cut the lead to 7-6 in the second quarter on a 28-yard scoring pass and missed PAT, then scored again just before halftime on a 19-yard pass and went for two, but Amos Monterde intercepted the conversion pass. Monterde had also intercepted a pass in the first quarter, Crosby said. There was no scoring in the second half.

“Some of our kids responded to the pressure of the game better than others,” Crosby said. “This was a good opportunity. They (Natrona) are well coached. This was a gauge of things we are doing well and plenty of things we need to work on before Friday.”

Asked to judge his team’s strengths after the week zero game, Crosby said, “Physically, we’re big, we’re strong and we’re fast. I’m pleased with that. I love our effort, and Friday we fought clear to the end. The kids were exhausted, but they left it all on the field. That was good to see. I think we, as coaches, need to do a better job communicating and rotating players in.

“We were able to move the ball, and whenever we used good technique, we were able to control the line of scrimmage. Schematically, I feel we knew our responsibilities, but we struggled to execute against some of the looks Natrona gave us. We knew where we needed to be, but having the right technique was inconsistent.”

Team outlook

Offensively, Crosby said, the Bulldogs will employ a pro slot formation and will install more of the passing game this week “so we can be more balanced.” The quarterback position is still a bit up in the air, Crosby said. Senior Zane Hitz and junior Tyler Nichols have been sharing snaps from center, but also in the mix is junior Cason James, who transferred from Rocky Mountain High School. James was a running back for the Grizzlies but may see time under center this week at Wind River.

“We’d like to look at Cason James, and by next week we should have a decision made going forward at the quarterback position,” Crosby said.

The Bulldogs will employ a quartet of running backs and fullbacks in speedy CJ Lindsay (halfback), hard-running senior Hunter Harris (halfback/fullback), strong sophomore Casen Hiser (fullback) and quick sophomore Dallen Mangus. Slot receivers/backs are senior Quinton Hecker, Tyler Nichols when not at quarterback and sophomore Amos Monterde.

Ends — tight and split – are junior Aden Mayes, senior Thomas Hinckley, junior Aaron Jones, sophomore Bishop Trainor and Zane Hitz when not at quarterback.

Senior Jaxson Jasso will anchor the offensive line at center, with senior Coy Trainor (250), junior Myzek McArthur, junior Jacob Mangus and sophomore Kobe May working at guard and sophomore Quinn Lindsay (280), junior Bronson Hall (245), freshman Connor Strom (215) and sophomore Sam Cornia rotating in at tackle.

The same linemen will line up in Lovell’s 4-3 defense with McArthur, Jones, Jacob Mangus and Cornia at end and Quinn Lindsay, Jasso and Hall at tackle, with May providing depth. Strom will see time at both end and middle linebacker, Crosby said.

Other linebackers are Coy Trainor and Hunter Harris in the middle and Nichols, Hiser, James and CJ Lindsay on the outside.

“We’ll be shuffling the deck a little bit this week,” Crosby noted.

Cornerbacks are Hecker, Ezra Harlow, Mangus, Monterde and Bishop Trainor with Hinckley, Mayes, Hitz and Nichols at safety. Kickers are Mayes and Hitz.

The Bulldogs kick off the regular season at 6 p.m. in Pavillion Friday and will host Shoshoni September 13 at 7 p.m. before opening the conference season at Mountain View on September 20.

By David Peck