SHERIDAN — The Big Horn Rams fell to the eventual 2A runner-up in their last two playoff campaigns.
Head coach Michael McGuire enters his second playoff campaign in as many years with the Rams, and expects a playoff seasoned squad in Lyman Friday at 2 p.m.
Two years ago Lyman hosted and ran Big Horn’s season to an end, 54-0, and last year Lovell ended the Rams season in the semis. Friday the Rams are at home, looking to turn that trend when Lyman drives the 400 some odd miles to Big Horn.
Lyman defeated Lovell in last year’s 2A state title game, and Lovell beat Lyman in 2011’s championship.
“We expect them to be very well prepared,” McGuire said. “They are battle tested and have kids who have played in very big games. Beating a defending champion is always a difficult task because those teams know how to win and expect to win. We have our work cut out for us.”
Of course last year the Rams season ended in the worst way, their only loss all year coming in the 2A semifinal elimination to Lovell. At home, the Rams gave up an early lead, dropping a one-point game. Most of the starters from that squad are gone now.
“This is a different year, a different group, and we’re focused on the present, which is preparing for a good Lyman team,” McGuire said. “I’m sure our kids learned from last year and are very motivated to finish stronger this season.”
The Rams enter the playoffs after two wins over bottom table competition in Tongue River and Moorcroft to end the regular season.
Big Horn has scored 50 points in all but one home game this season — they scored 46 last week against TR — but Lyman brings a tougher test on defense. McGuire said getting out to a fast start is always their goal, but could prove even more beneficial this week.
“We always preach starting and playing fast,” he said.
“This week maybe even more so because Lyman is such a run-dominant team,” McGuire said. “You don’t want to fall behind because they can and will run clock efficiently. If we can start fast and get them out of their comfort zone, force them to pass more, that plays into our hands.”
Lyman defeated Greybull 36-26 last week on the road. They run the top rush offense in 2A, averaging 328.5 yards per game with 29 scores. They meet the top overall offense in Big Horn, who is averaging 208.5 yards per game, having scored 46 touchdowns this season. The Rams put up 42.1 points per game to Lyman’s second-ranked 33.8.
In a game between the top two offenses in class 2A, the Rams front seven will look to stop the run, getting the ball back to their potent offense and Connor McCafferty, who has tossed 24 scores to one interception in 2013. He has rushed for nine more TDs.
Lyman offensively is comparable to the Rams 2A East foe Glenrock.
“The schemes they run are different but the mentality is very similar,” McGuire said. “They are a big football team that is going to line up and run the ball at you for four quarters.”
They run right through their QB, Tui Magalogo, who leads 2A in rushing yards with 171.5 per game and 11 scores. The Rams’ Colter Carzoli is ninth with 107.1 per game and five TDs. Big Horn’s seventh-ranked defensive unit is led by Carzoli and Mason Lube, ranked 15th and 16th in 2A in defensive points. Lyman’s defense is ranked third overall.