BIG HORN — The still-undefeated Big Horn Rams football team beat the Southeast High School Cyclones 48-7 at home Friday to advance to the 1A state championship. The defending 1A champion Rams will face the Cokeville High School Panthers next week at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie for a rematch of last year’s championship game.
“Hats off to Southeast, they came out and played a hell of a game, they had us on our heels a little bit early,” McLaughlin said.
Senior Will Pelissier had the first touchdown of the game at the end of a full-field drive off the kickoff. Pelissier ended in the end zone another four times.
“It was a great game, great atmosphere, seemed like all of Big Horn came out to support us. It was awesome,” Pelissier said.
Senior Cutler Bradshaw left the game early with a dislocated shoulder, and the coaches had to shuffle the team a bit.
Head coach Kirk McLaughlin said he had players stepping up all over but singled out Ethan Weiss, Gentry Latin Sean Walker for playing well when Bradshaw left.
“Kids stepping up all over the place,” McLaughlin said. “We just had guys flying around; they stayed true to the system.”
The team ran the ball up the middle heavily this week, and found success with it through the night.
“We went a lot of outside last week, and then coach (Andrew) Marcure really put a good game plan in to go up the middle, and it seemed to work.,” Bates said.
The Cyclones possession ended with a field goal kick to the bottom bar, and the Rams made a quick charge downfield with back-to-back first-down passes to senior Kyler Ostler and junior Ayden Phillips. Juniors Carson Bates and Luke Mullinax had a long run each with Mullinax breaking through several tacklers and coming down just shy of the end zone. The Rams brought it in with a quick handoff to Pelissier, bringing the score to 13-0.
The teams had a quick possession each, and the next possession the Rams marched downfield on a diverse set of plays including several short passes to Phillips. At the goal line, the Rams stacked right and Bates broke left to bring it in at the end of the half.
Big Horn rallied in the third quarter, scoring three touchdowns.
“Proud of our guys for coming out in the third quarter, really turning things on, really executing and getting the job done,” McLaughlin said. “It was a big third quarter for us.”
Big Horn held the Cyclones to four downs on stops by senior Nolan Rader, and after the punt Pelissier took it all the way downfield from the 34-yard line, skidding into the end zone when a Southeast defender caught his ankle.
Next Cyclones possession, Quinn McCafferty forced a fumble on second down and Big Horn took over.
The two teams exchanged fumbles again, and then Bates busted through the rows of Cyclones to the 3-yard line and finished on the next play, bringing it to 34-0 after the kick.
“They were making huge holes, it was so easy for me as a running back to just follow them,” Bates said. “It was sweet.
Rader didn’t let Southeast get far, and Pelissier took the next first down all the way to the end zone and a 41-0 lead.
In the fourth, Pelissier busted through a steady string of tacklers for his fifth touchdown of the night.
“The O-line did an amazing job, tight ends, receivers, everyone was making good blocks tonight,” Pelissier said. “There were a few plays where I just didn’t see anyone, it was open.”
The Cyclones scored their only points of the night on a five-yard touchdown pass with six minutes left in the game.
The team is focused in on Cokeville, who they consider a strong team that Pelissier said probably has some hate in their heart for Big Horn after last year’s championship loss.
“We’ll lay it all out there one last week and try to get another one,” McLaughlin said.
McCafferty said he’ll have to clean up a few mistakes, but he’s confident in the team.
“I felt like I was a little too loose with the ball,” he said. “I think we can clean it up for next week.”
Bates said they’ll have to step up their expectations since Cokeville’s always a disciplined team.
“It’s just great to get that feeling again going to state championship,” McCafferty said. “It’s awesome.”