BIG HORN — For the second straight year, the Big Horn Rams are one win away from a state title berth.
The Rams used a speedy attack to run by the Lyman Eagles Friday in Big Horn, 52-14, securing their place in the semifinals Friday in Lovell.
Big Horn jumped out to an early 21-8 lead and never let the Eagles within two scores.
“It was huge for us to be able to start with the wind, and we felt like if we were able to get a couple possessions in that first quarter when we had it, it would be big for us,” head coach Michael McGuire said. “Our kids did a good job of capitalizing on any mistakes today, and that was one of the things that really helped us out.”
Christian Mayer spearheaded the fast attack Friday. He intercepted a pass on Lyman’s first drive, setting up a 24-yard touchdown pass from Connor McCafferty to Ryan Kobielusz two plays later. After a Lyman punt, Mayer got behind the defense and McCafferty dropped the ball into his hands for an 85-yarder. Lyman punted again and McCafferty finished a drive with an 11-yard keeper for a 21-0 start.
This is the first time in two years Lyman won’t be playing for a 2A title, and McGuire said he knew the defending champs were a good football team, but hoped to use speed to their advantage.
“We have playmakers at all the positions, Christian and Connor, Colter, Seth Kite, Ryan (Kobielusz), they’re all good threats,” he said. “We have a lot of guys if we get the ball in their hands they make plays for us. I thought our O-line was great today. Lyman’s a big, physical football team and I thought our O-line really hung in there well and did a good job.”
The Rams came out of the half with a 21-8 lead and quickly extended it to 40-14 after a 49-yard run from Carzoli, a 49-yard end around from Mayer one play after a Lyman fumble, and a another Carzoli run this time from 75-yards out.
Big Horn’s defense was the other half of the equation Friday, as they held the second-rated statistical 2A offense at bay, allowing the Rams to build their big lead.
A McCafferty pass caught up in the wind in the second quarter, and the Eagle interception set up their first score from running back Tui Magalogo along with a two-point conversion. Lyman’s chance to make it a one-score game was stopped by the Rams defensive front on fourth down at the Big Horn eight yard line.
While Big Horn gave up 237 yards on the ground to Magalogo and quarterback Landen Bradshaw, they corralled that within 69 carries for a 3.4 average. As Lyman ran the ball 69 out of their 77 total plays Friday, the clock wound down on any comeback attempt.
“Our defense has been improving all year and they played well today,” McGuire said.
“There was a time there in the second quarter where we kind of got unsound and started doing our own thing but we got that stuff straightened out at halftime and I thought our kids did a really good job in the second half especially defensively.”
The Rams fumbled three times, but only one was a first-half turnover and it was answered by a stop from the Big Horn defense.
After Friday, McCafferty has now thrown 26 touchdowns to just two interceptions this season. With his two rushing scores Friday, he has run for 11 scores on the year.
Carzoli ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns as well. The senior added a third-quarter inteception to his tally. Mayer’s two catches went for 116 yards and his score.
Big Horn’s Max Lube took back an interception in the fourth quarter to end scoring.
“I told them I was proud of them, but this isn’t where we want it to end,” McGuire said of his message to the semifinal bound squad.
“We have bigger goals, don’t be satisfied with where we’re at. Come back Monday with a workman like attitude and get ready to go back to work,” he added.
Team totals BH-Lyman
First downs 7-16
Passing yards 126-41
Total plays 32-77
Total offense 398-278
Return Yards 77-14
Connor McCafferty 3-6-1INT, 2TDs
Carzoli 10-144 2TD, McCafferty 9-78 2TD, Corey Sturza 2–2, Max Lube 3–3, Christian Mayer 1-51 1TD, Richard Stanley 1-4
Christian Mayer 2-116 1TD, Ryan Kobielusz 1-10 1TD
Lyman Rushing:Tui Magalogo 31-138 2 TD, Landen Bradshaw 38-99.