Little Snake River Valley football team earns trip to state title game
It was halftime, and the Little Snake River Valley six-man football team was in a tight contest, leading Saturday’s home playoff game in Baggs, Wyo., 18-12, against Kaycee.
Rattler team members gathered behind the press box, talked and then a chant started. At first, it sounded like a murmur, but it grew louder with the words, “Won’t be beat.”
And louder, “Won’t be beat.”
And louder, “Won’t be beat.”
On Saturday, the Rattlers weren’t, and they haven’t been at all, this season.
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Stout second-half defense held the Buckaroos scoreless, and a third-quarter offensive onslaught ensured a Rattler victory, 42-12, helping LSRV earn a trip to the state championship game in Laramie, Wyo., in the program’s second year after a long absence.
Even though the score was close at halftime — at one point, the game was tied, 12-12, in the second quarter — LSRV senior Sean Rietveld said the Rattlers could tell Kaycee was on the ropes.
“We watched them quite a bit during that second quarter, and we could tell they were getting tired and running out (of energy),” said Rietveld, who led the team in rushing with 161 yards and two touchdowns. “We just got fired up and knew if we worked harder than them (in the second) half, we knew it wouldn’t be a problem. And we did.
“We had the energy, we had the momentum and every score just hurt them.”
In the third quarter, LSRV scored in bunches.
The Rattlers started the second half with the ball, and drove it nearly 50 yards in five-and-a-half minutes, hitting pay dirt with a 1-yard dive into the end zone by 229-pound Jacob Ready.
Ready’s touchdown was set up on the previous play when quarterback Chance Englehart hit Rex Stanley for a 19-yard gain on fourth down.
On the ensuing Buckaroo drive, the Rattlers forced a turnover on downs in four plays.
The Rattlers next offensive play found the end zone again, as Rietveld ran it 28 yards for a touchdown.
LSRV attempted and recovered an onside kick, and scored on its first offensive play when Rietveld took the handoff on a sweep heading left, stopped and threw the half-back pass to the right and found Stanley — who led the team in receiving with 117 yards — for a 32-yard touchdown.
Within a 14 second span, the Rattlers scored 12 points, and led 36-12.
“We knew that if we kept pounding them and kept hitting them hard, that we would take over,” junior Daniel Wille said. “… We had way more horses than they did.”
From there, the Rattlers’ defense took over.
“Holding them scoreless in the second half was huge for us,” Wille said. “The first half, it took us about a quarter and a half to get our feet under us.”
Coach Michael Bates said the goal was to “bend but don’t break on defense. Games during the regular season are won by offense, but championship games and playoff games are won by defense. The last time we played these guys, they scored 44 points on us, and today, 12. So, that speaks volumes.”
A big part of the second-half defense was the play of Ready, who finished with five tackles despite a bevy of double teams.
“He is one of those guys that would play at any level, 11 man, eight man,” Bates said. “He is just a tremendous athlete. He goes 100 percent.”
Buckaroos running back Shawn Straub kept Kaycee in the game in the first half. Trailing the Rattlers, 12-0, Straub scored two touchdowns to tie the game.
From there, it was almost all Rattlers.
“It was a lot of punishment,” Englehart. “It was a hard-hitting game.”
Offensively, the Rattlers finished with 451 yards, with Englehart leading the team in passing, completing seven of 13 passes for 169 yards. Wille had 76 yards rushing and scored one touchdown.
Defensively, LSRV limited Kaycee to six first downs in the game. Cole Gourlay had a team high eight solo tackles and seven assisted tackles. Rygel Russell finished with one solo tackle and a team high 10 assisted tackles.
Up next, the Rattlers face Hanna Elk Mountain Medicine Bow at the state championship game in Laramie on Friday.
“It’s what we’ve planned since the beginning of the season,” Wille said. “We are all highly, highly competitive, and that’s where we want to be. We want to be on the big stage.”
He added the team is going to be “focused all week during practice. It’s supposed to get colder. We are going to just have to tough it out and come ready to come and play.”
The cold weather is OK with Englehart, who said with a laugh, “That’s all right. When the snow comes, we run. I don’t have to worry about passing.”
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.