Little Snake River Valley School boys who competed on the championship football and basketball teams:
(Name — year — football/basketball positions)
• Chance Englehart — senior — quarterback/guard
• Sean Rietveld — senior — halfback, defense end/center
• Miles Englehart — junior — receiver, safety/small forward
• Rex Stanley — junior — receiver, safety/forward
• Daniel Wille — junior — fullback, linebacker/point guard
• Conner Lee — sophomore — safety/guard
• Grayson Lee — sophomore — halfback/guard
When the Little Snake River Valley School boys varsity basketball team laced up their shoes March 7 in Casper, Wyo., seven players were vying for more than a 1A state title.
They were playing for their second state championship for the school year.
The Rattlers varsity football team, which competes in a six-man league, brought home a state title in November 2010 after a 67-12 domination of the Hanna Elk Mountain Medicine Bow Miners.
Seven contributors to the football team — seniors Chance Englehart and Sean Rietveld, juniors Miles Englehart, Rex Stanley and Daniel Wille, and sophomores Conner Lee and Grayson Lee — also played for the basketball team.
After 32 minutes in the basketball state championship game, the Rattlers were celebrating another championship with a 79-61 victory over the St. Stephens Eagles.
With the football championship banner already hanging in the school’s gymnasium and a basketball banner to follow, all seven players are now moving on to their next sport — track and field.
But, that doesn’t mean their athletic accomplishments so far this year are lost on them.
“Winning both titles is a great way to finish my senior year,” Rietveld said. “A lot of people don’t like their senior year because it means it is coming to an end, but to win the state title in football and turn around and do it again in basketball is a good thing for me.”
Turnaround for the ages
When football season started in the fall, Chance said no one on the team knew what to expect.
LSRV stopped playing varsity football in 1954 and it took 55 years before the program was resurrected for the 2009 season.
In the team’s first year back, the Rattlers went 3-4.
“My junior year, we got destroyed the whole season,” Chance said. “My senior year, we just got that much better and pretty much let the whole state of Wyoming know we have improved and we know what we are doing.”
Rietveld said the progress the team made was incredible.
“Coach (Michael) Bates was able to show us the game in a year to a year-and-a-half,” he said. “Our first practice last year, we didn’t even know how to put our pads on, and to go from that to running 50 plays at the end of this year is impressive.”
Throughout the 2010 season, the Rattlers closest game was a 16-point victory over Hanna in the regular season. The team finished with an unblemished 10-0 mark.
“None of us knew what to expect in the football season,” Miles said. “So, we all buckled down to be the best we could be, and I think our athleticism really carried us and made us a really good team.”
Because the team competed in six-man football, Rietveld said the games allowed the Rattlers to show off their football knowledge and athleticism.
“In 11-man football, there are big guys and more guys on the line,” he said. “It is hard hitting, but six-man football is more about how fast you can run and how smart you are on the field.”
Wille said there is more room for trickery in six-man football, too.
“There is a lot more space to run and everyone is eligible to catch a pass, so games are high scoring,” he said. “We scored a touchdown in the state championship game on a hook-and-latter play.
“If you break one or two tackles, you have a good chance to get a touchdown.”
New sport, same result
The basketball season went much like the football season for the boys at LSRV.
When the regular season finished, the team had a perfect 22-0 record. The Rattlers basketball team featured only eight players.
“Usually when you are up, the starters sit the bench,” Wille said. “But, with eight players, you all keep rotating in, and even in close games you are expected to play all the minutes you can.”
Wille said he and other players were often asked if they got tired playing so many minutes.
“We do the same thing in practice,” he said. “We don’t get to sit down, don’t get to rest and we don’t get a break because there isn’t lines for drills, so we always keep the tempo up and keep moving.”
Rietveld said having eight players was more of a gift than a problem.
“We knew what everyone on the team could do and what tendencies they had,” he said. “There were no surprises with an 11th man off the bench who you haven’t played with all year.”
Entering the regional championship game Feb. 26, the Rattlers were up against a similar opponent in St. Stephens, a team they beat by 13 earlier in the season.
The Eagles, however, handed the Rattlers their only loss of the season, 62-59.
“Losing to St. Stephens in the regional championship game got us more focused for the state tournament,” Stanley said. “If we would have beat them the weekend at regionals, we would have thought we could handle them easily, but the loss made us prepare harder.”
While the loss may have shaken the confidence of other teams moving forward, Rietveld said the loss only pushed him and his team more.
“We hadn’t lost in half a year, so when we lost, we knew we had to focus,” he said. “We knew what we had to do to win the state title after that.”
Beating St. Stephens in the third meeting and for the state title allowed the team to realize their early season goal, Miles said.
“After the regional championship loss, we knew none of our goals were to go undefeated or to win the regional title,” he said. “(St. Stephens) celebrated like they won their championship, but our ultimate goal was to win the state title.”
Seeds for the future
Two of the seven players will graduate this year.
Looking forward, none of them see any reason to worry about the future of LSRV’s football and basketball teams.
“All the other teams will lose seniors, too,” Wille said. “We will have a pretty good group to start with next year that have been to the championship games and have experienced something that great.”
Rietveld said he sat out a basketball game early in the season, which gave a sneak peek of what next year’s team will be capable of.
“When I missed a game, I heard people talking about how the guys really stepped up in my absence,” he said. “They played really well without me, and I have total confidence they will be great next year.”
While Rietveld and Chance will be missed, Wille said their success this year would inspire a new crop of athletes.
“I think the success has set high standards for the younger guys,” he said. “We live in a small community and a lot of the younger kids watch us practice and see how we act and how we prepare, and I think it will rub off on them.”
With fewer students to pick from than bigger schools, Conner said the talent LSRV has been able to produce is incredible.
“I think it says a lot about our community and our school, the success we have had,” he said. “To have this many good athletes from this small of a place is amazing.”
At LSRV, there are generally between 20 and 30 students in each grade.
While the small numbers may be an obstacle to athletic success for some, in Baggs it produces chemistry because the athletes grow up playing together, Stanley said.
“All seven of us guys have been together since we were in junior high,” he said. “We work together in the offseason and it has helped us come together as a team during the season.”
Chance said when they compete, they work hard, but they also have fun.
“On both the football and basketball teams, we laugh the whole practice and have fun all the time,” he said. “Us seven guys are really a close group and it takes the stress off the big games because we have fun.”
Rietveld said having all the guys stick together is what has brought success to LSRV.
“A big reason we succeed is we are all in all three sports — football, basketball and track,” he said. “We are all athletic and that allows us to do our style of play to beat teams.”
Not only does the team succeed on the field and court, Chance said, but they’re also successful in the classroom.
“We started four guys on our football team who had a 4.0 grade point average,” he said. “I had a 3.8, and my center had a 3.7.
“We are smart on the field and off and we compete in everything we do.”
The legacy the seven players with two state championships will leave at LSRV is important, each player agreed.
“It is great to leave a legacy at the school,” Rietveld said. “We were able to bring two banners and hopefully the other guys who aren’t graduating can get a couple more banners.
“I am glad I was able to be part of something like this.”
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