Bulldogs crush Kemmerer to move closer to playoff berth

David Peck
The Lovell Bulldogs took a huge step toward qualifying for the Class 2A playoffs by manhandling the Kemmerer Rangers at home Friday evening, 50-0.

The win improves the Bulldogs to 5-2 on the season, 3-2 in the 2A West. A win against Thermopolis this Friday would seal a playoff berth for the Bulldogs.

Kemmerer came in 1-5, with only one win over Glenrock on the team’s record, and the Bulldogs dominated the game for 48 minutes.

“They were already a young team — they only have three seniors – and some of their better players were hurt,” coach Nicc Crosby said. “They really had taken some steps forward, but the seniors that they graduated last year were big contributors, and to only have three seniors this year and deal with injuries, that’s pretty tough. I’ve gotta give their younger guys credit for battling in there. There were times when they really did make it tough on us.

“Overall, we were a lot more talented and experienced than what they have. Fundamentally, they’re a pretty sound team, and they made some good adjustments on some of our plays that were successful earlier in the game.”

The Bulldogs scored on their first six possessions of the game and added a punt return for a touchdown, as a balanced offensive attack produced 173 yards passing and 156 rushing. Junior quarterback Davin Crosby completed 11 of 16 passes for 173 yards, and senior running back Jared Mangus led the ground attack with 103 yards rushing on just six carries, averaging 17 yards per carry.

“Davin has been awfully steady this year throwing the ball,” coach Crosby said. “The line has done a great job protecting him, and the receivers do a good job getting open. Kemmerer primarily played man, and I thought there were a few times our receivers made some extra good plays to create some space and get open,

“When you can run the ball as well as we do, too, teams can’t load up the box, so it’s just nice to have a complementary running and passing attack.”

Game action

After forcing the Rangers three and out on the first series of the game – senior lineman Weston Crumrine batting down a pass on third down -- the Bulldogs scored in one play – a 50-yard burst by Mangus, who broke into the Kemmerer secondary and took the football to the house. A two-point run failed, but Lovell led 6-0 just two minutes into the game.

“Jared has as good of field vision as any back I’ve ever coached,” Crosby said. “He does a good job of setting up his blocks. Our stalk blocking has really improved. We have some more experienced receivers like Blake Wilson and Adnan Khan who were already awfully good blockers from the receiving position, and our other guys have made great strides this year and turned some of those nice gains into big gains and long touchdowns.

“That 50-yard run Jared had right at the beginning of the game was a prime example. Owen (Walker) had a nice little block, and Jared gets the edge. Those wide receiver screens have also been really good with the blocking where we’re getting out on the perimeter.”

The Bulldogs again forced Kemmerer three and out, and Mangus fielded the punt at the Lovell 40 and dashed 60 yards for a touchdown, giving Mangus 110 yards and two scores on two touches. The conversion failed, and Lovell led 12-0.

After forcing a third Kemmerer punt with no first downs, the Bulldogs scored in two plays, slicing through the Ranger defense like a knife through butter. Crosby hit Mangus for 42 yards, then found Khan in the left flat, with the speedster bursting through traffic to pay dirt. This time the two-point conversion – a run by Crumrine – was good, putting Lovell up 20-0.

Kemmerer actually gained two first downs on the ensuing series, but two plays after the chains moved for the second time, Wilson picked off Kemmerer quarterback Tanner Schramm, and Lovell drove 68 yards to score again. Crosby hit Wilson for 15 yards and Khan for six, and after some running plays and a chop block penalty, Crosby converted a fourth and 10 into a first down with a 15-yard pass to Khan down the left sideline to the Kemmerer 27. Given new life, the Bulldogs scored in three plays: a Crosby keeper for nine, a Braxton Felkins run for eight and a 10-yard touchdown pass to Khan. Michael Harris ran in the two-point conversion, and Lovell led 28-0 early in the second quarter.

The Bulldogs completed two more scoring drives before intermission. Lovell capped a 58-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Mangus (Crosby two-point run) after Crosby kept the drive alive on fourth and four with a 29-yard pass to Walker, followed by a 20-yard pass to Matthew Newman. The pass to Walker is a new dimension for the Lovell offense this year, coach Crosby said.

“Owen has really been running the back-side post hard on Davin’s rollouts,” he said. “It’s always been an option in our rollout passing game, but it hasn’t been particularly utilized until this year.”

The Bulldogs then converted a Ranger fumble into a touchdown with a 26-yard drive culminating with a one-yard run by senior James Love. Mangus booted the PAT to put Lovell up 43-0 at halftime.

The Bulldogs took the second half kickoff and drove 46 yards in four plays. A 39-yard run by Mangus set up a two-yard run by senior Carson Asay. The PAT made it 50-0 and with it the running clock mercy rule that comes with a 45-point margin in the second half.

The junior varsity offense played the final two possessions for the Bulldogs, and the defense, also featuring plenty of young players, ended the final three Kemmerer drives with a three and out, a fumble recovery and an interception by Walker.

Each of the four senior linemen – Crumrine, Harris, Love and Asay -- got to carry the ball in the game, and all four reached the end zone with a two-point conversion or a touchdown as Crosby honored his seniors for the hard work they do in the trenches.

Crumrine left the game in the first half with an MCL injury, and Crosby is hopeful that he can return to the lineup soon, even if with a brace.

Of Crosby’s 11 completions, four went to Mangus for 64 yards, four to Khan for 45 yards, one to Walker for 29 yards, one to Newman for 20 and one to Wilson for 15. After Mangus’ 103 yards on the ground, Crosby had eight carries for 24 yards, Felkins three carries for 17 yards and Parker Steenbakkers three for eight yards.

Final home game

The Bulldogs will host Thermopolis in the final game of the regular season Friday at 7 p.m. The Bobcats are 2-5 on the season, 2-3 in conference play, with wins over Kemmerer 34-0 and Pinedale 20-0.

If the Bulldogs win, they’ll be in the playoffs and can finish as high as third place, but a Thermopolis win would put the Bulldog playoff hopes in jeopardy, depending on other outcomes and tiebreakers.

The Thermopolis offense is fueled by brothers Armani (quarterback) and Delmonico (receiver) Dukes – “the Dukes of Hot Springs County,” Crosby joked, adding, “They’ve accounted for well over half of their yards from scrimmage. Their defense is much improved. Earlier in the year they held Mountain View to 14 points.

“They’ve been close to a couple of other wins. They’re definitely a dangerous team. Their quarterback is an above average passer and a really good runner.”