BIG HORN — Seventy-four seconds. That’s all it took for Big Horn to make its mark on the 2018 football season. Kade Eisele took a handoff and scored from six yards out, and the Rams were off to the races on their way to a 43-0 victory over Thermopolis to open the season.
Big Horn used a fast-paced offense and stout defense to dominate both sides of the ball.
“We installed a few new plays where we can just get going a little quicker and obviously it paid off tonight,” Eisele said.
The offense totaled nearly 400 yards and had an even split between rushing and passing. Quarterback Quinn McCafferty threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns, along with one interception. McCaffery also ran for a touchdown, scoring on a 1-yard sneak.
Moreover, the defense shut down the Bobcats rushing attack all evening and forced two turnovers, both coming on fumble recoveries.
Kirk McLaughlin, in his first game as Big Horn head coach, said there are a few things to work on, like missed tackles and less-than-stellar blocks. However, that is nitpicking an otherwise overwhelming performance.
“How can you be disappointed with the way the game turned out?” McLaughlin said. “Whether I’m an assistant or the head coach, it’s a team win. It feels the same. I want to win regardless, so it feels good.”
McLaughlin said the team did a nice job of adjusting defensively in the second half after a few starters left with minor injuries.
The team also held up defensively when it needed to most. Midway through the fourth quarter, Thermopolis was threatening to score, but with the ball on the Big Horn 1-yard line, the Rams recovered a fumble in the endzone.
“That goal-line stand I was very impressed with,” McLaughlin said. “When you see things like that, I think we’re finishing well.”
The team didn’t start too badly, either. The Rams scored four touchdowns in the game’s first 14 minutes, the first three of which came courtesy of Eisele.
The star running back twice converted mistakes by Thermopolis into instant points for Big Horn in the first quarter. After Cutler Bradshaw recovered a fumble for the Rams, Eisele took the next play 37 yards to the house.
A few minutes later, after Kade VanDyken recorded a safety, Eisele returned the Thermopolis kickoff all the way back for another score, giving Big Horn a commanding 23-0 lead.
Eisele had eight carries for 101 yards on the night. Nearly all of his work came in the first quarter, however, due to cramps in his foot and leg. Eisele left early in the second quarter and didn’t return, but said he feels fine and is eager for next week.
VanDyken snagged six catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns on the night. His first score came from 17 yards out and the second one was a 7-yarder. Both touchdowns came in nearly identical fashion, with VanDyken using his 6-foot-3 frame and considerable leaping ability to outjump his defender and come down with the ball.
“If I had to pick a strength, that’d probably be it,” VanDyken said of his jump ball ability. “I was happy I got to use that this game, and hopefully I can continue to use that the rest of the season. One-on-one situations like that, I feel pretty confident.”
VanDyken said the first week was only a taste of the team’s offensive tempo the rest of the season.
“Every game, we’re going to try to increase it,” VanDyken said. “In the first half we were moving really fast and then at halftime we were saying how we need to improve some cardio and then we can keep moving that fast.”
The resounding victory could be a sign of things to come for the Rams, which would spell bad news for their future opponents.
Big Horn travels to Greybull next Friday.
Thermopolis…0 0 0 0 — 0
Big Horn…23 13 7 0 — 43