Facing off against the Sugar-Salem Diggers for the sixth straight season the Braves and their Idaho rivals have combined for nine football state championships in Idaho and Wyoming. The match up has proved to be one of if not the most difficult game on the Braves schedule and on Friday night they were yet again shown a few things that will need to be corrected should they want to defend their 2022 state title in November.
Star Valley three three interceptions on their own half of the field and the Diggers scored three touchdowns off those mistakes in a 31-14 final. The good news is the loss will do nothing to affect the Braves march on their Wyoming schedule. In fact, in both 2018 and 2022 Star Valley lost to the Diggers and still won the Wyoming 3A state title.
It’s like I told the guys, they don’t give out trophies in September and we don’t order championship rings in September,” said head coach McKay Young. “We did want this one pretty bad and we prepared for this one like it was a state championship but we told the guys no matter what happens we get to play next week.”
“It’s a great rivalry. We feel it’s an iron sharpens iron situation and unfortunately we were on the other end of it tonight. But I love how our guys kept competing and there’s no quit in these guys. The are some great lessons to learn here. Adversity teaches a man a lot about himself and we faced some adversity tonight. We’ll bounce back and we’ll be fine.”
Sugar-Salem moved down the field to start the game with a blend of power running and efficient passing until Porter Merritt intercepted James Chase to give the Braves the ball inside their own ten yard line. The momentum didn’t last long as Tristen Hilton was intercepted by Abe Baldwin just two plays later and nearly took the ball in before being stopped at the three-yard line. Carson Harris scored and the PAT gave Sugar the early lead. Star Valley did answer with an impressive drive of their own capped off by a sneak touchdown by Hilton to tie things up.
It was the last time the Braves would be that close. After trailing 14-7 Baldwin picked off Smith McClure and returned his second interception to the ten-yard line just before the half to push the Digger advantage to 21-7.
Star Valley gambled coming out of the locker room at midfield but were turned away on downs as the Diggers scored again to break the game open 28-7.
The Braves didn’t give up as they forced a 20-yard field goal on another possession and scored on another Hilton sneak after a 38-yard pitch and catch from Cooper to Kash Lancaster. The team then recovered an on-side kick but were unable to move the ball.
Harris wound up with 143 total yards and three combined touchdowns for Sugar-Salem and Chase completed 75% of his passes and found the end zone twice.
Star Valley was led by Jesse Leavitt who had 51 rushing yards on ten carries.
It was the first of four consecutive home games for Star Valley who will host Riverton next Friday.
The JV team won in Sugar City, 28-14 and the Freshmen won on Friday afternoon, 28-8.
- Football Roundup
It was an eventful evening on the gridiron for the regional teams in the SVI footprint. Cokeville hosted #3 Lovell in a bid to avoid an 0-2 start and pulled off a 33-18 victory. According to Wyoming-Football.com, the Panthers have not started a season 0-2 since 1987.
2A’s top ranked team in the wyopreps.com Coaches and Media Poll rolled as the Lyman Eagles blanked Pinedale 40-0. Mountain View used a long kick-off return to help stake their lead in a 24-6 win at Rich County. Kemmerer saw last week’s win turn into a memory as they lost in Thermopolis, 34-0.
In 3A, #2 Cody trampled Worland, 64-7 and #3 Powell routed homesteading Lander, 50-0. Evanston and Riverton engaged in a shootout with the Red Devils pulling out the 34-27 victory to end the game. Green River lost to Rawlins, 25-12 while Jackson picked up a win at Wood River (ID) in overtime, 31-28.
In 4A, the top two teams did nothing but show that there is a serious gap at the top of the class. Top-ranked Cheyenne East pounded #3 Thunder Basin, 52-7 while #2 Sheridan rolled in Laramie, 58-7. #4 Natrona edged #5 Cheyenne Central, 14-13.