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2A Championship Week: Rams big play offense hinges on offensive line play

SHERIDAN — West Coast offense?

Let’s call it Sheridan County offense.

Big Horn head coach Michael McGuire joined the Rams last fall after three state title game runs, winning twice, as an assistant coach under Don Julian with Sheridan (2009-11), building a sort of 2A affiliate of the Broncs newly successful football program.

Like the Broncs live by the philosophy “if you can’t out-grow ‘em, out smart ‘em,” Big Horn in its now two-year 19-2 run under McGuire has become a class favorite due to similar offensive prowess.

The Rams averaged more than 400 yards of offense in McGuire’s first year last season, finishing in the semis, and this year have topped 2A again in total yards and a variety of other categories.

As the Broncs rely on strong offensive line play under line coach Kevin Rizer, sending a host of players to Chadron State after recent state title runs, McGuire says the most important contributor in their offense is the guys up front. The West Coast style emphsais on passing still relies on an interchangeable run game.

“The biggest key to our offense’s success is our offensive line play,” McGuire said. “Coach (Andrew) Marcure has done a great job preparing those guys all season. We have a reputation of a high flying team because of our big play ability but we really hang our hat on running the football and being physical up front.”

While linemen garner less media acclaim, senior Miles Novak knows what they do makes the big plays possible.

“It’s a big deal,” Novak said of the line’s role in the explosive unit. “I’ve never been a skill guy, I’ve been a lineman and a bigger kid, but I liked to block.

“I know we’re just as important as anyone else because without the linemen we’re not going to go anywhere.”

McGuire pointed out that they’ve thrown the ball just 17 times through their two postseason games while scoring 73 points on offense in postseason wins over Lyman (52-14) and Lovell (28-19).

“We try and use the strengths of our personnel and put them in the best situations we can to win,” McGuire added.

“Talent at the skill positions is something we’re fortunate to have but our line is what makes it all run.”

Spearheading those talented players is senior quarterback Connor McCafferty. He doesn’t throw much, but when he does it’s usually a completion.

His 28 touchdowns lead the state of Wyoming, and he throws one at a rate of every 5.1 pass attempts.

Meanwhile he’s thrown just two interceptions, and choice-option give runs out of the shotgun spread have allowed him to run for 11 more scores this year.

“It’s pretty fun, they try to make everything fun,” McCafferty said of the coaching staff.

“It’s nice because you know they’re going to do everything they can to make us the best prepared we can be, so we can go out there and win,” McCafferty said.

The offensive line pushes a fifth-ranked rushing attack that creates those gaps for wide receivers. The Rams eat up 222.4 yards per game on the ground, with back Colter Carzoli hitting for 1,115 yards and nine scores behind the big boys up front.

McCafferty has run for 507 this year. The balance gives the Rams the ability to blow a game wide open, and anyone who saw them play this year at home knows that as they scored 50-plus in each game on Dow Field in 2013.

McGuire’s learning curve should be scary for the rest of the state.

“I was able to bring a lot of what we did at Sheridan with me to Big Horn, as well as some things I did when I was at Riverside,” McGuire explained. McGuire has won a state title before as head coach of Riverside in 2008. “I learned a lot at Sheridan, and we have used some of those concepts to be successful here.”

Now, on the eve of a 2A title game, this Rams coaching staff has developed its own identity and is ready to reach the top of this football class, with hopes of bringing home the first title for Big Horn High School in almost a decade and the fifth in school history.

“Our offense has been developed through our coaching staff’s experiences and what we feel fits our personnel best,” McGuire added. “It just so happens right now we have very talented and fast players at our skill positions which allow us to play a style unique to 2A football.”

“It is the best thing ever,” McCafferty said of when the offense is clicking. “It’s so much fun.”

About

Brad Estes

Sheridan Press sports editor

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