Grizz take down rival Buffs 18-7

Ryan Fitzmaurice
In a crucial conference game, the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies made the big plays when they counted, giving the team a pivotal 18-7 win against their Greybull rivals.

The Grizz are now 4-1 and fourth in the 9-Man West.

“I was happy with our focus over the course of the week and the energy and excitement that we played with,” head coach Jessee Wilson said. “The excitement level and energy we played with, to me, makes a big difference.”

In a battle of two teams that have found their success when dominating the running game, the Grizz flipped the script Friday. Senior halfback Wil Loyning still got his touches, carrying the ball 20 times for 72 yards, but it was the air attack which gave Rocky the edge. Lafe Files threw 11 for 24, for 114 yards and two touchdowns, while Greybull only was able to put together 54 yards of passing offense, with three completions and three interceptions. 

“That’s where we want to be,” Wilson said. “It’s about balance. Lafe played his best game of the year. He probably should have thrown for 200 yards if we didn’t drop a couple. He throws for over 100 yards, two touchdowns, no picks. That’s a pretty decent stat line, and that’s only going to go up as we get more confident in the passing game and don’t have to rely so heavily on the run game.”

While the Buffs still got their yards on the ground, turning 40 carries into 179 yards, it was never enough to bridge the gap.

“They’re going to pound it. That’s what they do. If you beat a rock with a hammer, it’s going to break eventually,” Wilson said. “I’m not upset with the way they ran. I thought we did OK defending it. I like to think of defense  like a fence. We build a fence, and they have to find the holes in the fence. We did a good job of putting that fence together.”

Greybull got their momentum early off that run game, breaking a 35-yard run to midfield on the second play of the game. But, fumble plays later stopped all of their progress.

After a Rocky three-and-out, the Buffs had a fourth-down conversion attempt go awry when they put the ball on the ground again, giving the Grizz a 30-yard short field.

Hard running by Loyning got the Grizz within three yards of the end zone, but the Grizzly running game was jammed up by the Buffs on first and goal, second and goal and finally third and goal, leaving the Grizz with a fourth down of their own to convert.

Files recovered from a dropped snap to find Brenner Moore in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown pass. The PAT was no good, giving the Grizz a 6-0 lead.

“We went down and ran the ball right down the field, but then we got to fourth down and I was like ‘not again.’ It was déjà vu from last week. Gosh dang,” Wilson said. “I know that Greybull plays pretty aggressive, and I don’t blame them. We run the ball 30 times a day, so it really primed them for that play action and being able to hit Brenner. Then again, I’m really surprised, with us passing on the goal line, that someone hasn’t pulled me aside and talked to me yet.”

The Buffs again advanced to the Grizz 40 and again found themselves stuffed on a fourth and short, the defensive line bursting through the seams to tackle the quarterback before he had a chance to hand the ball off. 

Greybull would next challenge in the second quarter. After bursting a 25-yard run through the center of Rocky’s line, Greybull found themselves on Rocky’s side of the field. They failed to advance any farther than the 30, though, as Rocky stopped two runs for short gains, and knocked down two pass attempts to force the Buffs to turn the ball over on downs. 

The Grizz were stymied in the next possession, but Jake Bischoff  would give the Grizz a resurgence as he picked off a high-arcing pass from the Greybull quarterback, giving Rocky another short field. 

This time it wouldn’t take them a dramatic goal-line standoff to get it in. 

After taking it for a 20-yard run himself, two plays later quarterback Files found Tucker Jackson on a slant for a touchdown. After an unsuccessful PAT, the Grizz led 12-0.

The Grizz thought they would carry all the momentum into the locker room, but the Buffs had a nasty surprise in the half’s waning seconds, completing a 35-yard pass to get into the end zone. 

Instead of a domineering two-score lead, the Grizz instead had a dwindling 12-7 lead heading back into the locker room.

“It was a good call by them again. We had to pull our starter out because he got his knee banged, and then they targeted the guy we put in,” Wilson said. “It was a good move by them.”

The Grizz and the Buffs both had opportunities fall through as the second half began. After Files found Jackson for a big gain, the Grizz found themselves stopped on fourth down on the Buffs 30. The Buffs drove the ball to midfield in response, but a short pass to convert a third down ended up in hands of Loyning for the Grizzlies second interception of the day.

After two hard runs from Loyning and a 10-yard catch by Moore, Files did the rest himself, running the next 22 yards on a quarterback keeper for the game’s final score, 18-7.

“It was a great run. We’ve been harping on Lafe all year, ‘Hey, man, stay in the pocket. Stay in the pocket. Stay in the pocket. Stay in the pocket.’ And then he gets flushed and makes a great run,” Wilson said. “The other thing though, too, Tucker Jackson makes a sweet block in the end zone. It’s having the awareness that Lafe has one guy to beat. He maintains that block for three seconds and to not get a holding call? That’s great work.”

The Buffs would not be able to challenge in the final quarter and a half of play, their fate sealed by a Jackson interception. 

“I told the team, if they score again, it’s going to take time,” Wilson said. “When you play a wishbone team, they want to control the ball; they want to control the clock as much as we do. We’re similar in a lot of ways, but we have the ability to make those flash plays, too.”
The Grizzly defense was led by another monstrous performance by Moore, who had 23 defensive points, including five assisted tackles and nine solo tackles.

“He’s just realizing that he’s a stud,” Wilson said. “He’s realizing that he’s bigger and stronger than his opponents, and his preparation and study of other teams pays off, too. Most importantly, I think he’s just sick of playing around, and now he’s just going for it.”

Triffen Jolley was just as much of a menace, recording five assisted tackles, 10 unassisted tackles, two tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery.

Hayden Wambeke had two tackles for loss, four unassisted tackles and two assisted tackles. 

Jackson recorded six receptions on the day for 88 yards and a touchdown, making him Rocky’s most potent offensive threat.

Moore had three receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown. 

Alongside his passing, Files ran it six times for 36 yards and a score. 

It’s on to the next conference rivalry for the Grizz as they travel to Basin to face the 3-2 Riverside Rebels at 7 p.m. Friday. Both teams share the same conference record of 3-1. 

“Our most important goal is to win,” Wilson said. “But, our big goals are to make sure we limit number 31 Ty Strohschein because he does have that big play ability. In all the film I’ve watched, he usually has that one big, long 70 to 80—yard play. We can’t allow those huge plays. That’s the key on defense. On offense, it remains the same. We need to continue to play confidently.”