DAYTON — At the time, the Tongue River High School football team’s 28-14 home victory over Pine Bluffs in 2016 stood as a relatively mundane regular-season final score. Fast forward two years, and that game holds a little more distinction.
The game represents the last time the Hornets lost, and the Eagles will look to rekindle some of that 2016 magic Friday at 6 p.m. when they play host to Pine Bluffs.
In addition to the 2016 affair, TRHS and PBHS have played numerous meaningful football games in recent memory — very meaningful, in fact. Later in 2016, the two met in Laramie to decided the best 1A football team in the state — a game the Hornets won 10-7. Three years ago, in their final regular-season game, the Eagles needed a win over the Hornets to simply make the playoffs, which resulted in a run to the state championship game.
“There’s a good rivalry there,” Eagles head coach Steve Hanson said. “We’ve seen each other to determine the postseason and determine the state championship. They’re a program that everybody has to be geared up to play.”
Since their state championship meeting in 2017, the two squads have gone in opposite directions. TRHS has fallen on hard times, going 2-9, while PBHS has won 18 in a row.
Hanson believes his team played its best game of the season last week in a 54-13 loss at Upton-Sundance. On the surface, that may appear as a lopsided loss, but the Patriots look like one of the more stout teams in 1A, positioned at 3-0 with a couple lopsided victories and a two-score road win over a 2A team.
“For our program — coming off a disappointing game in Moorcroft and very disappointing game against Lusk, outcome wise — to go into Upton-Sundance, yes we gave up some big plays, but we chewed up the clock on them, and we were able to be more physically dominant at the line of scrimmage, at times,” Hanson said. “We were able to kind of impose our will on to them, which was a huge morale boost for our boys that are finally beginning to realize what our identity is.”
The Eagles stuck to their game plan. They ran 64 offensive plays, rushed for almost 200 yards, threw the ball effectively when needed; however, turnovers and defensive stops led to the game getting out of hand.
TRHS will look to play some more ball-control offense Friday and hope to clean up some of those mistakes against an explosive PBHS team.
The Hornets have yet to allow a point this season, outscoring their opponents 102-0. Their offense has accumulated more than 300 yards per game and has balance with 172 passing yards while adding 137 yards on the ground.
“Pine Bluffs has more playmakers than Upton-Sundance,” Hanson said. “We knew which three to coral for Upton-Sundance. … Pine Bluffs has two straight-ahead-bull-dozer-type runners. They are big physical kids. They have a big rangy QB who is an athlete. They have two or three guys on the outside that are returning starters that can hurt you that are over 6 feet tall that have good speed and good ball skills, and their lineman, they’re big physical heavy line.”
It’s another tall task for TRHS, which is looking for its first win of 2018 and to snap its eight-game losing streak. The last time the Hornets came to Dayton, the Eagles got the better of them, and they’ll look to do the same Friday.