BIG HORN — The Big Horn High School football team had a few offensive goals heading into Friday’s semifinal matchup against Pine Bluffs.
One of those involved gaining at least five yards on the first play from scrimmage.
Will Pelissier picked up 74 yards and a touchdown on the opening play for good measure, catapulting the Rams to an overwhelming 68-13 victory Friday night at Big Horn High School.
“It looked like the Red Sea opened,” Pelissier said. “I just had to run straight.”
The win puts the Rams at a perfect 10-0 and advances them to the 1A state championship game in Laramie next Saturday. They also finished the season 6-0 at home, treating the local crowd to a dominant performance.
Pelissier’s score was the first of nine touchdowns for the Rams in the opening half, including a 40-point second quarter. Big Horn annihilated the Hornets in all facets of the game.
The Rams’ starters scored on all eight of their offensive possessions and had a defensive and special teams touchdown as well.
“Once you get that ball rolling, it’s tough to stop,” head coach Kirk McLaughlin said. “It takes a lot of discipline to stop us, and our kids wanted it.”
Kade VanDyken returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown to make it 54-0. The pick-six was the fourth score in under six minutes for Big Horn and came less than a minute after the Rams deflected a punt right into Quinn McCafferty’s arms for a 10-yard return touchdown.
McCafferty went 2-for-3 through the air and both completions resulted in touchdowns. He hit VanDyken on a 24-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to put the Rams ahead 34-0 and found Carson Bates on fourth down for a 30-yard strike a few minutes later.
Kade Eisele ran for 161 yards and five touchdowns and made several tackles for loss on defense.
McLaughlin said the team’s line did an excellent job paving the way on both sides of the field.
“It was a team effort all the way, but it starts with our line,” McLaughlin said.
Indeed, the Rams gashed the Hornets on the ground, rushing for more than 300 yards. Pine Bluffs could not get anything going offensively either, as Big Horn limited the Hornets to 36 total yards in the first two quarters.
McLaughlin was nearly speechless afterward and expressed his pride in the team.
“We didn’t hang our hat on beating [Pine Bluffs] the first time,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got goals, and the kids are motivated. They’re going to keep plugging away and I’m just so dang proud of them. I don’t even know what to say.”
If the Big Horn coaches had any lingering doubts about the team’s motivation heading into the game, a video they showed the players Thursday night helped with that. Assistant coach Andrew Marcure compiled clips from Big Horn’s two losses last season to the Hornets — including in the state championship game — and mixed them with the team’s victory in Pine Bluffs earlier this season.
Big Horn senior Jack Nance said the video helped the team maintain its focus Friday night.
“Usually nothing makes me tear up, but that (video) made me tear up,” Nance said. “We kept saying the whole game, ‘Remember a year ago, remember those times where they just came up on us.’ We lost state to them and just kind of kept that anger within us.”
“I probably watched it three or four times before this game,” Pelissier said. “It just got the juices flowing. It just made you want to go out and play, made you want to go out and kick some butt.”
All season, Big Horn’s motto has been “Finish the Fight.” The Rams are one win away from doing just that.
The team plays Cokeville in Laramie next Saturday at 1 p.m. for the state championship.
Pine Bluffs…0 0 0 13 — 13
Big Horn… 21 40 7 0 — 68