Senior linebacker Deven Ibach makes a tackle during the Rams 2A quarterfinal win over Lyman Nov. 1 in Big Horn. The Rams defense has taken advantage of a state-best 34 turnovers this season. Big Horn (9-1) plays Mountain View (8-2) in the 2A state championship game Friday in Laramie. (The Sheridan Press/Brad Estes)Senior linebacker Deven Ibach makes a tackle during the Rams 2A quarterfinal win over Lyman Nov. 1 in Big Horn. The Rams defense has taken advantage of a state-best 34 turnovers this season. Big Horn (9-1) plays Mountain View (8-2) in the 2A state championship game Friday in Laramie. (The Sheridan Press/Brad Estes)

2A Championship Week: Key to Rams season may have been shoring up defense

BIG HORN — Much acclaim goes to the Big Horn offense, but aligning with the notion of “defense wins championships” may have ultimately vaulted the Rams to War Memorial Stadium.

Early in the year, defensive deficiencies coupled with penalties and turnovers caught up with Big Horn in a week-three loss at Burns, where the Rams comeback attempts were sabotaged by mistakes on offense. Since then, the run-stopping ability of the defense compensated for times when the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders. The result: seven wins in a row and a 2A state championship berth Friday.

The turning point came with a period of adversity in uncommon fashion when the Rams toughest road stretch of 2014 was made more difficult by a heavy snowstorm.

Big Horn was scheduled to play in Wheatland the first Friday of October, but the snow that shifted most Wyoming sporting events that weekend pushed the game back to Monday. Even as the Rams escaped the physical Glenrock team with a 27-7 victory, they knew an even longer trip was just three days away on Friday.

“I really do I think it was the Glenrock-Wheatland week,” senior OL/DL Miles Novak said Tuesday after practice in regard to when their defense really turned things around.

“Glenrock has a really tough offense and we had to step up on defense or we were going to lose, and we knew that,” he said.” We stiffened our necks, and we just did our jobs. From then on our defense just got better.”

Passing the weeklong physicality test, the Rams went into Wheatland and held onto a 28-26 win that came with one fumble recovery and four interceptions by the opportunistic Rams secondary.

From there, the Rams closed out the regular season at home, winning 50-20 over Moorcroft then stymieing Tongue River 46-0.

A Rams defense that after the one loss was giving up more than 190 yards on the ground and was ranked third from the bottom of the class, shored things up and entering this weekend is allowing around 150 yards per game, up to sixth in overall team defense.

Forcing turnovers has been the Rams constant as their state-leading 23 interceptions on top of 11 fumble recoveries buoys a +17 turnover margin.

And carrying the high-octane offense like the one the Rams have, averaging 3.4 takeaways per contest will usually get the job done.

“It was good for our defense to get going because even though our offense can score 40-some points per game at home, our defense wasn’t shutting down other offenses,” senior linebacker Colter Carzoli said. “Teams would come back even though we drowned them in say the second quarter.”

The Rams meet Mountain View Friday at noon in Laramie.

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Brad Estes

Sheridan Press sports editor

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