BIG HORN— Quinn McCafferty and Will Pelissier share a close bond on and off the football field. Don’t inquire about their tastes in music, though, or sparks might fly.
Pelissier likes hip hop while McCafferty prefers country and classic rock. Before games, McCafferty sometimes listens to Eric Church or Lynyrd Skynyrd to get pumped, while Pelissier keeps things quiet and tries to relax.
Audio differences aside, the two Big Horn sophomores form a dynamic duo. Their pairing goes back years, when McCafferty threw the ball to Pelissier at recess in elementary school. That set the foundation for this season, where they have excelled in new starring roles for a championship-bound squad: McCafferty at quarterback (and sometimes linebacker) and Pelissier at running back, receiver and defensive back.
Neither one played many varsity snaps last season. This year, however, McCafferty and Pelissier have a strong chance to be named All-State, something only four sophomores accomplished under head coach Michael McGuire.
McGuire said both players have met his high expectations this season. Pelissier is one of the team’s most versatile athletes and McCafferty’s throwing skills enable the Rams to use a wide variety of formations.
McCafferty spent a lot of time in the summer after weight lifting sessions working with Pelissier and other receivers on routes and timing.
It took McCafferty a few weeks to settle in, but he now feels comfortable behind center.
“(McCafferty) has a really good grasp of our offense right now, and has done a really good job of taking a good leadership role along with that,” McGuire said.
Of course, McCafferty is not the first of his name to succeed at Big Horn. In fact, a McCafferty has been named All-State for the past five years, and Quinn McCafferty could make it six this year, as he leads 1A in almost all passing categories.
Connor McCafferty was the 2A offensive player of the year in 2013, while Nolan McCafferty was last year’s 2A defensive player of the year. Quinn McCafferty credited his brothers with helping his work ethic and leadership skills.
Connor McCafferty had terrific seasons as a junior and senior quarterback, throwing for a combined 57 touchdowns and a mere 5 interceptions those two years. Compare his sophomore year to Quinn McCafferty this season, though, and it’s no contest. The current Big Horn sophomore’s performance outpaces his brother’s campaign. He has completed 60 percent of his passes, thrown for more than 1,600 yards and tossed 19 touchdowns with only 7 interceptions.
McCafferty frequently targets Pelissier. They have connected on 19 passes for about 400 yards and 7 touchdowns so far. Two of those scores came against Pine Bluffs in Week 3. The first one was a 38-yard beauty down the middle when Pelissier lined up in the slot and outran his man. The second occurred on the first play of overtime as McCafferty hit Pelissier out of the backfield for a 10-yard score.
Pelissier has nearly 1,000 yards rushing and averages more than 8 yards per run, but received only one carry in that first matchup against the Hornets. He will get more touches Saturday because Eisele is questionable with a hip injury. If Eisele can’t go, Pelissier may also handle kicking and punting duties.
He proved his mettle toward the end of last week’s game at Cokeville. With Eisele out, the football only touched sophomore hands. McCafferty kept handing it off to Pelissier, who picked up 4 and 5 yards at a time during Big Horn’s 17-play final drive that ran out the clock and secured a 12-7 Rams win.
McGuire called it a championship-level drive and credited Pelissier’s ability to run on the outside and between the tackles.
“We’ve asked a lot of Will this year and I think he’s really responded well to it,” McGuire said.
Saturday’s game will demand more from both players, who figure to play almost every snap. They stressed consistency and toughness against Pine Bluffs.
“Last time, we got ahead and then let up a little bit,” McCafferty said.
If McCafferty and Pelissier play up to their abilities Saturday, it could be a fairytale ending to the season for the talented underclassmen. Just don’t ask them to agree on a celebration song.