BIG HORN — The game ended nearly as soon as it began. Will Pelissier returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, jump-starting the Big Horn High School football team on its way to a resounding 55-14 victory Friday night over Upton-Sundance.
Pelissier scooped the ball up near the sideline, made one defender miss and outran the opposition to the end zone.
“That’s a heck of a way to start and really get the juices flowing,” head coach Kirk McLaughlin said.
Pelissier’s return was the first of many long scoring plays for the Rams, who improved to 4-0 on the season. Big Horn had six scoring plays of at least 20 yards and racked up more than 400 yards of offense in the dominating win.
Three of those big plays occurred in the second quarter, when the Rams offense clicked on all cylinders. Kade VanDyken intercepted a pass in the first minute of the second stanza and scored less than two minutes later on a 31-yard touchdown reception. VanDyken caught the ball on a comeback route, juked by his defender and ran for the easy score.
Less than three minutes later, VanDyken beat his opponent down the sidelines and ran under a perfectly-thrown ball from Quinn McCafferty for a 62-yard strike. McCafferty threw for 182 yards and three scores on the night, while VanDyken tallied 103 yards and two touchdowns receiving.
Kade Eisele scampered 36 yards on the next possession for the third of his four touchdowns, putting the Rams up 41-0 with 3:23 left in the second quarter. Eisele finished the game with 166 yards rushing.
Big Horn played nearly flawless football for the first 21 minutes of action, apart from a few holding penalties, which plagued the team throughout the night. The Rams gave up a 37-yard touchdown pass before halftime, which prompted the coaches to challenge the players to come out strong in the second half.
That is exactly what happened, as Big Horn added two more touchdowns in the first four minutes of action to seal the game for good. The Rams took advantage of a fortunate bounce on the second-half kickoff, with Eisele scoring on the ground from 27 yards out two plays later.
Big Horn kicker, receiver and defensive back Jack Nance booted the opening kickoff about 30 yards downfield and eventually recovered the ball after it bounced back toward the Rams.
“Everybody was super surprised by it,” Nance said. “None of the Upton-Sundance players rallied around it and I just picked it up.”
Nance also converted seven of eight extra points and was part of the Big Horn defense that held the Patriots’ offense in check all night. The defensive starters came out late in the third quarter and only gave up seven points and about 120 yards of offense.
McLaughlin said the defense excelled against an Upton-Sundance team that came into Friday’s matchup averaging 46 points per game.
Nance said physicality was key to the team’s defensive success.
“We set out to be the team to just punch them right in the mouth and show them that we’re here to play,” Nance said. “We really pride ourselves on that. If we’re not the most physical team on the field, then we’ve got something wrong.”
McLaughlin is pleased with his team’s dominant start to the season but said they can’t take anything for granted early on. That especially rings true next week when the Rams make the long trek down to Pine Bluffs for a rematch of last season’s state championship game.
“I don’t know about them, but this game’s been circled on our calendar,” McLaughlin said.
Big Horn plays at Pine Bluffs next Friday.
Upton-Sundance…0 7 0 7 — 14
Big Horn……….20 21 14 0 — 55