Seven Grizzlies receive all-conference honors, two all-state

David Peck

A solid 5-4 season including a near upset in the first round of the Class 1A, 9-man playoffs, resulted in the Rocky Mountain Grizzlies receiving all-conference honors for seven players, two of whom were also named all-state.
Senior Wil Loyning and junior Tucker Jackson were chosen for the 1A, 9-man All-State Time, and they were joined on the 1A West All-Conference team by senior Brenner Moore, juniors Lafe Files and Hayden Wambeke and sophomores Tayt Beall and Triffen Jolley.
The featured running back, Loyning led the Grizzlies with 885 yards rushing on 196 attempts, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and 98.3 yards per game. He scored eight touchdowns. He also caught eight passes for 98 yards and one TD.
As an outside linebacker, Loyning finished fourth on the team with 97 defensive points and third on the team with 45 tackles. He intercepted two passes.
“Besides just being the leader on our team both vocally and by example, he’s just a good football player,” coach Jessee Wilson said. “He’s not a huge guy, but he ran for almost 1,000 yards and caught several passes. The way we spread the ball around in our system, he wasn’t getting nearly the carries a player on another team would, but he was our bell cow.
“He was a good back, shifty with good moves, and he made guys miss. Teams had to plan for a good dose of Wil Loyning. He had several games over 100 yards. He won’t blow your doors off with his speed, but with his field vision he’s able to make cuts and break the play downfield.
“As a linebacker, he averaged more than 10 defensive points per game, and he did a good job setting the edge and had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He’s a hustle guy who was all over the place. He’s an all-around great kid, as tough as they come.”
Jackson, a receiver and free safety, didn’t play last season and came out late this season, but he made up for lost time in a big way, leading the Grizz with 23 receptions for 452 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 19.7 yards per catch. On defense, he averaged 17.5 defensive points per game, third on the team, and 6.8 tackles per game (third) while intercepting six passes, three of them returned for touchdowns.
“Tucker is a great athlete. He didn’t play last year but has a great understanding of football,” Wilson said. “He was a sparkplug when he came in and finished second in the state in receiving yards per game (75.3). He had many five- to 10-yard routes that he would break into 30- or 40-yard plays. He’s a big, strong kid at receiver, and if you put him on an island, he’s going to win the battle. And he did it all in six games, missing the first two and the Cody game.”
Moore was a standout out tight end and defensive end for the Grizz. He averaged 13 defensive points per game and 6.2 tackles per game and had 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks in just six games, missing three with a late-season injury.
“He’s just a presence, a force on the offensive and defensive line,” Wilson said. “Defensively, he shined. He was effective doing his job, and he covered up a lot of stuff for us. He made a lot of plays, stopped them before they became a problem. He was all over the field … He really held down his side of the line. He’s big, strong and athletic and could get off blocks well. He sometimes would chase down a play from the other side of the field.”
On offense, Moore was a powerful blocker at tight end and caught 13 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown.
“He was a great blocker and a sure-handed receiver,” Wilson said. “Against Lingle we would flick it out to Brenner, and he would get 15 yards, 10 after the catch.”
Files was a tall, strong-armed quarterback who completed 80 of 170 passes for 989 yards and nine touchdowns, with 12 interceptions. He also carried the ball 68 times for 251 yards on the ground with six touchdowns.
“Lafe is a great arm talent who could put the ball just about anywhere he wanted,” Wilson said. “He could throw the ball pretty well and for the most part made decent decisions. He was the second leading rusher on the team, really a second back. He had some really timely, big runs at big points in the game.”
Wambeke was a force on the offensive and defensive line as a guard and nose tackle. He finished with 53 defensive points and 25 tackles including six tackles for a loss, two sacks and a blocked kick.
“Hayden is a big, imposing player, a big, strong farm kid,” Wilson said. “He was one of the few players with significant varsity experience (to start the season), and we relied on Hayden a ton to work with the younger linemen. He did all of the dirty work on both sides of the ball.
“He was a great pulling guard who had a number of pancake blocks and looked to physically punish people on the line. He’s a big kid who works hard and has a mean streak on the football field, which is what you want in a lineman.”
Beall played offensive guard and defensive end for the Grizzlies who came on strong as a sophomore.
“I’m so excited about that kid,” Wilson said. “He’s going to be a really good, good player. As a sophomore he came in and played tough. He completely understood our schemes and his job, his role. He had three sacks and several tackles (23).
“He did a really nice job lead-blocking on pulls. He was a pretty solid down blocker, too.”
Jolley played middle linebacker on defense and was an H back (hybrid fullback and tight end) on offense.
“We could move him all over the field (as an H back) in the I formation or the spread,” Wilson said. “He could take on some of the best players on the other team, and his offensive numbers don’t reflect the impact he had on our team. He’s a great blocker and can run the ball, too.”
Jolley had 20 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown, and he was the team’s leading tackler on defense, finishing with 174 defensive points, 19.3 points per game, and 84 tackles, 9.3 per game, including 54 solo tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, five sacks and three fumble recoveries.
“Triffen shone on defense,” Wilson said. “He was fifth in the state in total defensive points and would have led the state if he hadn’t missed one game when he was sick.
He was all over the place and made tons of tackles week in and week out. He’s just Mr. Hustle.”