BIG HORN — The Big Horn High School football team has bulldozed most of its opponents this year, particularly at home. When hosting, the Rams have won their five games by at least 37 points and an average score of 55 to 11.
Dating back to last season, the Rams have come away victorious in eight consecutive matchups on their home field. However, the last team to win in Big Horn will make the trek north this week as the Rams welcome Pine Bluffs for a playoff semifinal matchup Friday evening.
The teams have plenty of recent history, as this week marks the fourth matchup between the programs in the last two seasons.
The Hornets won both games last year, taking down the Rams 22-21 in overtime last September in Big Horn and winning the state championship 20-16.
This season, the Rams traveled to Pine Bluffs in Week 5 and soundly defeated the Hornets 42-7. Big Horn ended the Hornets’ 19-game winning streak thanks to a superb defensive performance and standout game from Will Pelissier, who rushed for more than 200 yards and had five total touchdowns.
The Rams head into the game with a perfect 9-0 record, while the Hornets stand at 6-3. Both teams are coming off resounding victories last week. Big Horn took care of Wind River 67-8, while Pine Bluffs defeated Shoshoni 54-0.
Despite the convincing win earlier this year, the Big Horn coaches believe the team will have its hands full against the Hornets.
Head coach Kirk McLaughlin said an aggressive opening will set the tone.
“We’ve gotta start fast, we’ve gotta be physical,” McLaughlin said. “We need to remind [Pine Bluffs] early — and every single play after that — how physical we are.”
Similarly, assistant coach Colter Brantz said the Rams have to come out as tough as they did in the first game, when they scored on their opening drive and dominated the second half.
“[The Hornets] are a team that wants to be a bully,” Brantz said. “If you want to be a bully but somebody punches you in the mouth, it’s a lot harder.”
Brantz also said the Rams must avoid complacency against a team they already beat this year. He pointed to the 2010 Big Horn team that won its Week 5 matchup against Thermopolis 42-7 — the exact same week and score as Pine Bluffs this year — but lost in the state championship 13-9 to the same team.
To make sure the players are raring to go, the coaches will discuss last year’s state title game, particularly when the Rams gave up a 60-yard touchdown run to end the first half and fall behind 13-3.
“(We’ll) have them relive that moment and think about what they can do differently,” Brantz said.
The Rams’ senior class has gone 18-2 at home over its four years and will look to improve that mark in its final career game in Big Horn. Playing on the artificial turf at home — as opposed to the grass field in Pine Bluffs — should help Big Horn’s speedy playmakers as well.
Lineman Jaxon Parker is one of 12 seniors and said a fast, physical game should lead to a victory for the Rams.
“(We) come into the game expecting [the Hornets] are going to be up to competition,” Parker said. “Play fast and play physical — we know if we do that, we’ll be the ones to come out on top.”
Against a well-known opponent, the Rams have the chance to return to the championship game for the third consecutive season.
Friday’s game kicks off at 5 p.m. at Big Horn High School.