Laramie, Wyo. The clock struck zero, but the celebration had only begun.
The Little Snake River Valley School Rattlers football team rushed the field waiving their helmets and jumping in the air.
In the middle of the field, the team huddled, knocked helmets, shouted and embraced each other.
As the huddle of players grew tighter, a hand rose above the helmets tightly grasping the game ball.
The ball’s keeper was senior Rattlers quarterback Chance Englehart. As Englehart stretched his arm higher in the air, junior Rattler Daniel Wille let out a roar of excitement.
The scoreboard shined brightly at the backs of the Rattlers — 67-12, it read.
To the team’s left, the crowd of hundreds of Baggs, Wyo., residents cheered wildly for the team that captured their hearts on its run to winning Wyoming’s six-man state championship game.
On Friday, the Rattlers suited up against the Hanna Elk Mountain Medicine Bow Miners at War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Coming into the game, the Rattlers were undefeated with a record of 9-0. They left the game one win and a championship better.
The trouncing of the Miners was something more than special for the Rattlers. It not only meant they had reached their pre-season goal of winning the state championship for the first time, but also finishing their year undefeated in only the second season of the program’s current incarnation.
Last year was the first time in 51 years LSRV and Baggs, a town of about 350 people located 40 miles north of Craig, had their own football team.
As the team made its way to the north end of the field Friday to receive their trophy, Englehart was at a loss for words.
“There is nothing like it,” he said looking at his teammates receiving congratulations from friends and family. “It’s insane, it’s a relief, it’s happiness, it’s awesome.”
As Englehart bounced from enthusiastic hugs to photos and the trophy ceremony, he never let go of the game ball.
He said he would part with the memento Monday, when the team placed the ball and another symbol of their season — the golden shovel — into the school’s trophy case.
The golden shovel, which rested in a pot of dirt not far from the celebration, had special meaning for the team, senior Rattler Sean Rietveld said. Burned into the handle are the results of the team’s undefeated run.
“It represents hard work,” Rietveld said. “It’s got … all the way to (9-0) and that’s a great feeling, but we still have to burn this game onto it though.”
Rattlers head coach Michael Bates said he was still digesting the result of the game and the significance it holds for the team and the town.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “The first state championship in football for this team … it’s a feeling, we were telling them, that no matter what time of your life, you are going to be able to walk in that gym and see that banner and know that you were part of something special.”
The Rattlers bit first in the game, scoring with 6:41 remaining in the first quarter. By the end of the quarter, the Rattlers were on top, 12-0.
In the second quarter, the Rattlers started to pile on the points, leading 24-0 before HEM scored their first touchdown with 2:37 remaining in the half. But, the Rattlers answered 17 seconds later with another touchdown.
The Rattlers capped the first half 36-6, and came out swinging in the third quarter.
LSRV scored twice, putting them up 49-6 before HEM answered with their last touchdown of the game with 5:38 left in the third quarter.
The Rattlers were relentless, as they scored two touchdowns in 41 seconds.
With the third quarter winding down, a Rattler standing on the sideline said, “Is it still the third quarter?”
Assistant coach Jack Cobb quickly responded.
“Hey, save it,” he said with a smile. “Enjoy it — it’s a beautiful day.”
The Rattlers’ last score of the game came with 7:45 in the fourth quarter to cement the final score at 67-12. LSRV finished with 384 rushing yards and 68 passing yards, coaches said.
“The kids played just the way we wanted them to,” Bates said. “The game plan was perfect, they understood what they needed to do and they came out and played well.”
Bates said his team’s defense was what won the game.
“I think our defense is just that mature,” he said. “They understand the game and they help each other out, that’s for sure.”
‘A special team’
Bates said teams like the 2010 Rattlers don’t come around often.
“I might never get one again,” he said. “But, I hope I do get one again next year.
“They’ve done everything we have asked them for and the community has done everything for this team.”
The game had another special meaning for the coach. Bates said it was his childhood dream to coach at War Memorial Stadium.
“I didn’t want to leave,” he said looking down at the turf. “That was awesome, but that makes me hungry to come back again for sure.”
For Rietveld, the undefeated season was not only icing on the cake, but somewhat of a surprise.
“We started the season and we knew we were going to have some competition,” he said. “We knew we’d play some tough teams and every game we just took it a step at a time and before we knew it, it was 9-0.
“We realized, ‘We’re in the state championship, we’ve got to finish this thing.’”
But, the win was bittersweet for Rietveld.
“It’s sad because we have to take the jersey off, and this is the last time I’ll ever play football for Snake River,” he said. “But, I’m just so excited. The other seven teams, they lost their last game.
“Our last game we won, so it is just a great feeling, great all around experience and I couldn’t be happier.”
Sophomore Jacob Ready said he was still emotional about the game as he and the team hit the locker room. Ready said he even shed a few tears of joy on the field with his teammates.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “This is the best feeling I have ever had in the world.
“We worked our butts off this year — this just finishes it out. I mean, we are undefeated and state champions.”
Wille said the game was one he would never forget.
“This is just spectacular — the atmosphere, the stadium, our whole town driving the three hours to come support us here,” he said. “The town has been behind us 110 percent all season, and it is nice to repay them with a championship.”
‘Love these boys’
Baggs resident Sue Lee said she spent most of the game screaming and cheering her heart out for her hometown Rattlers.
“My voice is gone, there is nothing left of me,” she said with a laugh.
Simply put, Sue said, “I love these boys.”
“They are incredible, they are dedicated and they just work really hard as a team,” she said. “They put a lot forth and I am really proud of them.
“They couldn’t have done better.”
Sue’s husband, Brent, shared the sentiment.
“Second year playing ball and we’ve already got a state championship,” he said. “It’s great. Great athletes, great attitude — it doesn’t get any better.”
Brent said the Rattlers football team drew big crowds all season.
But, Sue said the championship game might have drawn most of the small town’s residents.
“They closed down things to be here,” she said. “It is just incredible.”
Mingling with the team after the game were Baggs residents Tom and Jess Packard, whose freshman daughter, Karen, plays for the school.
Tom said he was overjoyed with the win. He also said he believes there are “many more coming.”
The values the athletes would take away from the win, Tom said, were numerous.
“It shows them they can do it as a team no matter what the endeavor,” he said. “Teamwork and pride — pride in everything that you do. Knowing that it takes a lot of hard work to get to the top.
“Now it’s, ‘How much hard work are you going to put in to stay there.’ So that’s the next level, I guess.”