Buffs fall in double OT, face Lusk in playoff opener

By: 
Nathan Oster

By Nathan Oster

The Greybull Buffs saw an opportunity to win their final home game and build some momentum for  the playoffs slip from their grasp on Friday night, losing an entertaining, double-overtime thriller to Lingle-Fort Laramie, 40-34.

As disappointing as the setback was, it didn't change Greybull's playoff fate. With Riverside going down in Shoshoni, the Buffs settled into the No. 3 spot in the West, thanks to a better point differential in games against conference opponents, and will travel to Lusk for their playoff opener on Friday.   Riverside claimed the West's No. 4 seed and plays Southeast.  Wind River, the conference's fifth team, did not make the playoff field.

Lingle-Fort Laramie entered the game with the same record as the Buffs, 2-5, but knowing that it would not in the playoff field.  The Doggers went 1-5 in the 1A East, which unlike the West that lost St. Stephens and Wyoming Indian due to COVID-19 concerns, consisted of seven teams.

Friday's game was an icy slugfest.  On a night when the temps dipped into the 20s, the two teams traded momentum-changing blows, neither leading at any point by more than eight.  The outcome wasn't decided until the second overtime, when the Doggers pounded on a Greybull fumble and scored on their first play from the Greybull 10.

"A heartbreaker for sure," said Coach Eli Moody.  "It was the type of game that's a blast to play in — you just love playing in those highly competitive type of contests — but then when it doesn't go your way, it becomes a pretty tough pill to swallow."

"Effort-wise, I think it was among the best games we've played, but turnovers ended up being the nail in our coffin."

The Buffs looked like the better team early, scoring on two of their first three possessions. The first came on a 31-yard pass from Cale Wright to Isaac Thueson at the 6:00 mark of the first. The two-point conversion was good, making it 8-0.  

Lingle answered with a touchdown and PAT on its next possession to pull to within one.

But the Buff offense kept churning.  It didn't produce points on its next possession, stalling on downs inside the Lingle 5.  But the defense did its job, forcing a punt.  Given a short field, the Buffs capitalized.  A 30-yard touchdown run by Irving Castro made it 14-7.

The rest of the half belonged to the Doggers, however.  Lingle scored on its next drive to tie the game, forced a fumble on Greybull's next drive, and then went ahead, 21-14, on a touchdown pass with just nine seconds left in the second quarter.

The back-and-forth continued in the second half.  Trailing by seven, Greybull needed a spark early and got one on an 84-yard kickoff return by Irving Castro. It was a tone-setting play, according to Moody.  The message at the half, he said, was that the game was theirs for the taking — they just needed to stop shooting themselves in the foot.

"Just an awesome way to start the second half — and it wasn't all Irving.  Blocking was phenomenal.  All nine guys did what they needed to do and Irving put the pedal down.  That really got us jazzed up."

The Buffs proceeded to stuff Lingle on its next possession, get the ball back in good field position, and score again on another Castro run, this one covering 35 yards. That made the score 28-21 — but was also last big play of regulation for the Buffs.

Lingle evened the score with a touchdown on its next possession, and most of the fourth quarter was played on Greybull's end of the field, where Greybull's offense was sputtering and its defense was bending but not breaking. The Doggers tried a late field goal for the win, but missed.

In overtime, Lingle got the ball first and scored immediately on a keeper by Cooper Hill.

The Buffs managed to tie it, using a rarely-called halfback sweep pass in which Castro pulled up and tossed to an open Camryn Chapman in the end zone.  A two-point conversion would have given the Buffs the win, but Castro was stopped a yard short of the end zone.

Just two more plays were needed to decide it. The Buffs got the ball first but turned it over on a fumble.  For the win, Lingle ran the same play it did in the first overtime and Hill made it look every bit as easy, darting through the Greybull defense. While the Buffs had their chances, the Doggers finished with a sizable edge in first downs, 21 to Greybull's 10, and total yardage, 436-222.

Lingle ran an offense "we haven't seen all year — and one that no Greybull team has seen since the last time it placed Glenrock, truly" said Moody. "It's an old-school offense where they try to make you think they are going in seven different directions and trick you every now and then."

Ty Prall was the biggest beneficiary, rushing for 269 yards on 17 attempts and catching two passes for another 45.  Hill finished with 132 yards on 36 carries.  Moody said Prall "hadn't flashed on film in previous games" so the Buffs focused their defense on shutting down their other players. "He picked up the slack" said Moody. The loss left the Buff at 2-6.  

"Obviously, we'd have loved to win, but it was a hard-fought game and sometimes it doesn't go in your favor," said Moody.

The Buffs face Lusk Friday in their playoff opener.  Kickoff will be at 5 p.m.

The two teams saw each other in week zero.  Lusk dominated, winning 40-0, and has gone 6-2 since, losing only to top-ranked Southeast, 35-16, and Rocky Mountain, 62-50.  The Tigers feature the nine-man's top rushing attack, averaging 482 yards per game. Drake Lamp, at 300 per, is the league's top rusher. 

"Their whole offense revolves around (Lamp), who in my opinion, is probably the best running back in the state," said Moody. "In the two games they lost, opponents were able to limit him.  That's going to be the key for us."

Moody said his team has had some success stopping the run this season, and that with a solid week of practice, his team can "be a lot more competitive (with Lusk) than most people around the state think will be the case.

"The first time we played them, turnovers really hurt us.  We've tamed that down a bit and also in the past four to five weeks, we've changed our blocking scheme, which has helped our running game a lot.

"I'm excited and I know the kids are excited.  Sure, the year hasn't gone exactly as we'd hoped it would.  But we've fought. We've done enough to be part of the conversation.  It's playoff time.  Everyone is zero and zero.  It's win or go home."

 

Greybull 8 6 14 0 6 0 — 34

Lingle-FL 6 15 7 0 6 6 — 40

RUSHING — Greybull 34-96 (Irving Castro 17-101, Camryn Chapman 5-14, Cale Wright 7-(-43), Jesus Hernandez 4-18, Avery Swiftney 1-2, Jake Schlattmann 1-4); 

PASSING — Greybull 8-of-13 for 119 yards (Cale Wright 7-12 for 109, Castro 1-1 for 10);

RECEIVING — Chapman 2-16, Castro 2-30, Hernandez 1-2, Thueson 3-71.

DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS — Castro led the way with 34 defensive points (16 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles), followed by Jesus Hernandez with 25 (2 solo, 6 assisted, 5 tackles for loss).  Chase Oster followed with 19, Jake Schlattmann 17, Bryan Galvez 16, TJ Davis 14 and Avery Swiftney 13.