LARAMIE — The Big Horn Rams are the 1A State champions for the second year in a row after defeating the Cokeville Panthers 55-7 Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. The Rams finished two years of undefeated play with a rematch win over Cokeville.
“It feels so amazing to just be down here celebrating this win with these guys, it’s just been awesome,” head coach Kirk McLaughlin said. “The seniors, the juniors have been amazing. When we talk about the finishing on the south end, this what we mean,” he said, pointing at the scoreboard.
Senior Will Pelissier finished the night with three touchdowns, junior Carson Bates earned two rushing, and Pelissier had 232 rushing yards. Senior quarterback Quinn McCafferty threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns and was nine for 10 passing.
The Rams gave up 46 yards and had two long touchdown runs called back on penalties, but the offense earned 22 first downs and the defense held Cokeville to just seven for the night. Seniors Cutler Bradshaw and Nolan Rader had 10 and eight tackles, respectively.
“Our coaches were really trying to develop our scheme this week and it worked to perfection,” Pelissier said. “I don’t think we had a weak link on the field.”
At the end of his first two seasons coaching the team, McLaughlin now has a perfect 22-0 record with the Rams. The Big Horn senior class appeared in the state championship all four years of their high school careers, winning the 1A title three of the four years.
“There’s a lot of seniors I look up to; they’re all mentors of mine,” junior Ayden Phillips said. “It’s going to be hard to replace them, but we’re for sure going to miss them. After last year’s seniors, we thought we couldn’t replace them, but I think we did. I’m just grateful to be around such a great group of seniors.”
The first quarter was scoreless for both teams but ended with the Rams on first down at the 1-yard line. Big Horn marched down the field from their own 15-yard line on passes to Phillips and junior Carson Bates and back-to-back first-down runs by Pelissier. The Rams went on to score three touchdowns in the second and fourth quarters and two in the third.
The Rams owned the second quarter, with Bates taking it in on the first play to take a 7-0 lead after the kick from Cooper Garber.
After a quick Panthers possession, Pelissier took the Rams 30 yards downfield after a punt, and took it left behind a wall of Rams to the 10-yard line on the next play. Bates cut his way to the end zone from the middle, bringing the score to 14-0 after the kick.
The Rams defense kept Cokeville to a handful of yards on the next possession, forcing a punt. After a few stops, McCafferty connected to Pelissier on a 32-yard pass, and Pelissier took it in the last five yards, bringing the lead to 21 after the Garber kick.
The Rams then held the Panthers to another four-play possession. After the punt, the Rams were forced back to their own 18 on penalties, but Bates dragged Panthers players to the Cokeville 49-yard line to end the half in Panthers territory. That drive ended when Pelissier took it in from 38 yards out, bringing the lead to 27-0.
Panthers passes went nowhere through their next possession, and the Rams took the punt at their own 20-yard line, but a first-play fumble gave it right back to Cokeville at the 25.
Cokeville took it in to the 1-yard line, but Pelissier stopped the runner just shy of the goal. Cokeville’s quarterback Matt Thomas then scored on third down, bringing the score to 27-7 after the extra point. On second down, Pelissier broke left and took it all the way home for a 63-yard touchdown, his third of the night. Rams led 34-4 after the kick from Garber with two minutes left in the third, and Big Horn’s Josh Thompson and senior Kyler Ostler had back to back sacks for losses to end the quarter.
The Rams continued extending the lead through the fourth, scoring off the first drive. McCafferty found Ostler, who took it to the 20-yard line, Pelissier ran for five, and Ostler caught another pass in the end zone.
Seconds later, Bates took a second down interception all the way in from 47 yards out, extending the lead to 48-7 after the kick.
“It’s awesome, playing a team like Cokeville, they’re so good, and just playing the way we did, it feels amazing,” McCafferty said.
Another quick Panthers possession ended on a punt to midfield. Next drive, Bates took it to the 20, Pelissier to the 10, and sophomore Jack Walker took it to the end zone, bringing the final score to 55-7.
“I can’t explain the feeling,” Pelissier said. “Pretty sick to finish my high school career with four appearances with this senior class. It’s just a testament to how hard we worked and how well our coaches prepared us.”
“There’s nothing like it,” Bates said. “This is the best. I’m feeling awesome.”