Coming into the week, the Cokeville Panthers found themselves on the outside looking in of the WyoPreps coaches and media poll 2A rankings for Football. It was the first time they were in this position all season, stranger still it came in a week in which Cokeville was coming off consecutive one-sided victories.
Mountain View came into their 5th game of the season with the same 3-1 record as the Panthers but fresh off their first loss of the season to the Lyman Eagles the prior week dropping them from 3rd in the rankings to 5th. The Buffalos were looking to get the momentum back on their side following this setback and the Panthers were looking to show people they still deserved that top 5 position in the 2A landscape.
While the team outlook for this game was tantalizing enough, the biggest individual story of the ballgame was certainly the battle of 2A’s 2 leading rushers across the state in Jack Dayton of Cokeville and Jayce Schultz of Mountain View who ranked 1 and 2 respectively. Dayton held just a 23 yard advantage on the season’s rushing crown but was coming off consecutive games in which he tallied 3 scores in each.
On this day though, Dayton failed to find the end zone at all with his legs he did complete the biggest play of the afternoon with his arm. Granted, it was Kayson Walker who did about 95% of the work on the score, it was a touchdown pass none-the-less and it came on a fake punt on the 2nd to last play of the 1st half. With just :18 seconds left in quarter number 2, the Panthers found themselves with a 4th and forever on their own 43 and sent out the punt team who, rather than actually punting, decided to take the snap and throw a pass into the flats to upback Kayson Walker. The play did not initially fool the Buffalos or anything, the defense swarmed the Panther ballcarrier just about 5 yards passed the line of scrimmage but it did not matter as Walker broke free of roughly 4 or 5 tackles before taking it 57 yards to the end zone with :03 seconds remaining in the half for the touchdown.
The score extended the Cokeville lead from 6-0 to 12-0 and became 14-0 after Landon Walker took a QB sneak in for the 2-point conversion. This was all the momentum swing Cokeville needed as they came out of the halftime locker room with a spark while Mountain View seemed apprehensive initially and was being beaten off the line on both sides of the ball for much of the 3rd quarter. Cokeville took their opening possession of the 2nd half and turned it into a 22 yard Tanner Hatch touchdown reception from Landon Walker and once the game got to 21-0 the Panthers never gave it back. The score would hold up until the clock hit zeros.
In a mildly humorous side note, Hatch would later catch an interception in the 4th quarter in the exact same end zone in the exact same spot in said end zone. Hatch also added a 25 yard reception on a 3rd down and long earlier in the drive he would eventually score on and made several pass deflections that helped earn him player of the game on the SVI broadcast of the game.
Dayton did manage to add another 100+ yard rushing game despite his lack of scoring production on the ground with a 110 yard performance, though to Mountain View’s credit defensively they did hold him to under 4 yards per pop. Actually both run defenses came out with a point to prove about the hype for this game being about the 2 top rushers in 2A but both were held under 4 yards per carry and Schultz managed just 25 yards in the game and the Buffalos as a team totaled just 48 rushing yards.
The biggest bright spot of the game for Mountain View apart from their defense was the play of Sophomore quarterback Isac Linford, who’s stats may have been unimpressive just 8 for 21 for 73 yards and a pair of interceptions, however the big thing here is perspective. Firstly, the young man is as mentioned above just a Sophomore playing at the varsity level so some early struggles would be expected normally, but the second point is that his stats would have been significantly better on this day with some assistance from the pass catchers. Linford may not have a great day on the stat sheet, but those that watched live or on the broadcast can attest, he was throwing darts to his receivers all day. His best throws came over the middle where a number of drops and/or spectacular defensive plays prevented his numbers from looking far better and arguably from him having his 1st passing touchdown of the season. The young southpaw was a victim of several dropped passes and some game script once the team fell behind that forced him to need to force the ball deep at times which led to the 2 interceptions.
For Cokeville the win should vault them back into the top 5 where they would argue they never should have left in the first place, next week the Panthers will be back at home taking on Rich (UT) who has played a few Wyoming teams already, having just lost to Lovell 26-0 this week, and previously this season beat Kemmerer 21-0 and lost to Mountain View 12-10. That game will kickoff at 4pm and will have video coverage here on SVI 3 and radio coverage over on the Wave.