A strong running game and a dominant defense propelled the Lovell Bulldogs to a 48-8 win over the Shoshoni Wranglers in the Lovell home opener Friday evening at Robertson Stadium.
Having dispatched the Wind River Cougars 78-0 in Week 1, the Bulldogs have now outscored a pair of Class 1A opponents 126-8 with 2A West power Mountain View coming up Friday in Uinta County.
“Overall, I was pleased,” head coach Nicc Crosby said. “I felt like, defensively, our execution and communication was a lot better than against Wind River. Offensively, it was nice to finally have a little bit of success passing the ball. Our protection was good when we passed.”
After forcing the Wranglers three and out on their first series, the Bulldogs drove 50 yards in six plays with junior quarterback Cason James firing a perfect strike to senior receiver Thomas Hinckley on fourth and 10 for a 39-yard touchdown pass. Aden Mayes booted the PAT to put Lovell up 7-0.
“Thomas and Aden (Mayes) have been blocking well, so we had wanted to see if we could reward them,” Crosby noted. “It was nice to get Thomas a couple of touches, and we want to do the same with Aden.”
A blocked punt set up a short scoring drive a few minutes later. A penalty set the Bulldogs back 10 yards after they had the ball at the Shoshoni 9-yard line, but senior Quinton Hecker burst for 15 yards to set up a one-yard quarterback keeper by James to put Lovell up 14-0 with the PAT.
Shoshoni drove to the Lovell 36 on the next series, but Bishop Trainor broke up a pass on third down and a strong pass rush forced an illegal pass to a lineman on fourth down.
Lovell fumbled the ball on the ensuing series and punted on the next, but a strong punt pinned the Wranglers at their own 5, and after a short punt, the Bulldogs drove 32 yards to make it 21-0 as halfback CJ Lindsay powered 13 yards to the 7 on fourth and three, then carried to the 1. Tyler Nichols punched it in from there.
The next three series, two by Shoshoni and one by Lovell, ended with interceptions, leaving Lovell up 21-0 at halftime. Junior Ezra Harlow picked Shoshoni quarterback Tryston Truempler on a deep pass, and after Truempler returned that favor against James, Aden Mayes went high to snare a Truempler pass near the end of the half.
Lovell drove 61 yards to go up 28-0 on the first series of the second half as Lindsay, Hunter Harris and Nichols ran hard, with Harris eventually scoring on a seven-yard run.
Shoshoni went three and out, then snapped the ball over the punter’s head, giving Lovell the ball at the 2. Nichols, filling in behind center for the banged up James, scored on a keeper to put Lovell up 35-0.
Despite another fumble on offense that hurt their field position, the Bulldogs continued to play well on defense and eventually scored again to lead 41-0 when a 25-yard counter by Hecker set up an 11-yard run by Harris (PAT failed). On the ensuing Shoshoni possession, sophomore Casen Hiser snared a tipped pass for an interception and returned the pick 40 yards for a touchdown. Lovell led 48-0.
Crosby was not happy with the Bulldogs’ interception and three fumbles, two of them lost.
“Ball security has to be a point of emphasis,” he said. “We can’t turn the ball over that many times and hope to compete with Mountain View. We’ve got to secure the ball better.
With Lovell subbing extensively on defense, Shoshoni finally put together a scoring drive as Kade Fike scored on a four-yard run and added the two-point conversion, making the final score 48-8.
The Bulldogs finished with 296 yards rushing on 39 carries, a 7.5-yard average per carry. Shoshoni also carried the ball 39 times but gained 76 yards, 1.9 yard per attempt. Harris led the way for the Bulldogs, rushing for 101 yards on 13 carries. Lindsay added 93 yards on 10 carries, Hecker 40 yards on two carries and Nichols 34 yards on nine attempts.
Truempler completed five of 20 passes for Shoshoni for 97 yards, and three Lovell quarterbacks completed five of 10 passes for 45 yards. James was three of six for 44 yards to lead the Bulldogs. Harris caught three passes for 8 yards and Hinckley one for 39 yards and a touchdown.
“We still have to improve our communication with our pull checks,” Crosby said of his team’s offensive execution. “We’re certainly improving. We’ve got to know who’s protecting the pull and make sure we’re protecting it well.
“We’ve got lots of depth (at running back). We’re trying to take what the defense gives us and get multiple people involved.”
Crosby also stressed communication on defense.
“We really wanted to focus on communication between our linebackers and the secondary, and it was a lot better,” he said. “Our linebackers are getting their run/pass read quicker. We’ve made some big strides overall. Even though it (the pass) was deflected, Casen Hiser had a good read on his interception, and we had another good deflection in the flat by Tyler Nichols.”
Big road trip
The Bulldogs will open conference play Friday at 3 p.m. at Mountain View in a battle of 2-0 teams. Mountain View has defeated Cokeville 41-0 and Big Piney 52-6 so far this season.
“They will attack the perimeter and do it again and again and again,” Crosby said of the Buffalos’ spread offense. “Their inside runs are solid, too. They do a good job attacking the whole field. They use a jet sweep, counter and option.”
Top performers for a senior-laden Mountain View squad are quarterback Braeden Walk, running back Kimball Madsen and receivers Ashton Schofield, Briggin Bluemel and Trevor Sweeney.
Defensively, the Buffs run a four-man front and mix up their coverage and schemes well, Crosby said.
Crosby noted that the current strong group of Mountain View seniors won the state title as sophomores and played for the title as juniors, losing to Buffalo.
“This group has played together and won a lot games together,” Crosby said. “They are really well coached and have several playmakers who attack the whole field.”
By David Peck