BIG HORN — Shortly before the football game begins, Big Horn lineman Seth Mullinax starts a countdown in the locker room. When it ends, the Rams buckle their chinstraps in unison, hear the “click” that makes and prepare to charge onto the field.
“The world’s greatest sound,” quarterback and linebacker Quinn McCafferty called it.
Head coach Kirk McLaughlin loves the sound as well. He picked up the idea several years ago when he coached in the Wyoming Shrine Bowl and implemented it this season.
“When everybody does it together, it gives you just a little bit more juice as you walk out the doors to the field,” McLaughlin said.
Running back and defensive back Will Pelissier agreed, and said the team hopes to continue the tradition going forward.
“That means game time,” Pelissier said. “It really gets the energy going.”
With their chinstraps in place, the top-ranked Rams should be revved up Friday night as they host Upton-Sundance for Homecoming Week.
The fourth-ranked Patriots stand at 3-0 after finishing 7-3 last year. Upton-Sundance has averaged 46 points in those three wins and 480 yards of total offense, a hair above Big Horn’s averages of 45 points and 460 total yards so far. The offenses may be fairly even, but the Patriots’ defense has surrendered 18 points per game, while the Rams have only allowed 2.3 points per game.
Pelissier said experience has helped the defense communicate and work well together so far.
“We’ve been clicking on all cylinders, so (we’re) feeling good,” Pelissier said.
The Patriots offense centers on dual-threat quarterback Clayton Louderback, who leads 1A in passing yardage and is third in rushing.
“They have a really good scheme that’s going to be a challenge to match up against,” McLaughlin said. “They’ve got good enough athletes to make plays and are well-coached.”
Upton-Sundance was a quality team last season as well, though it didn’t look like it against Big Horn. The Rams trounced the Patriots 53-13 on the road last year, due in part to early penalties and turnovers from the home team. Big Horn amassed 500 yards of total offense, including more than 300 on the ground. Defensively, the Rams gave up a few long running plays but only allowed three completions for 26 yards.
Big Horn appears to be a more complete team this year, and Friday will provide a good indicator for the Rams, who travel to Pine Bluffs next week. The results of those two games will significantly impact seeding for the playoffs later in the season, so if the Rams come away unscathed, they will sit in the driver’s seat to have the top seed and likely two home playoff games.
McLaughlin said the next two weeks are extremely important measuring points.
“You gotta respect every opponent, but these [next two games] definitely amp it up,” McCafferty said.
To be as prepared as well as possible, Big Horn has a mid-morning walkthrough on Friday during home games to loosen up and focus on the opposing schemes once more.
Later in the day, players arrive about two-and-a-half hours before game time to stretch, get taped and begin locking in mentally. The coaches also go through any last-minute adjustments.
About an hour before kickoff, the Rams warm up in small groups and then as a whole team. Upon returning to the locker room, most of the players sit in the locker room and listen to music or gather their thoughts. The coaches then say a few words, followed by a short prayer.
Next, Mullinax starts counting down, and the players know what to do: Buckle up.
The game begins at 7 p.m. at Big Horn High School.