There will be a new number one ranked team in Class 1-A 9-Man football after Thursday night in Pavillion. Big Piney won every statistical category except the most important one, the score in Wind River’s 28-21 win over the Punchers.
The Cougars used the big play, bend-but-don’t-break defense, and a surprisingly effective passing game to beat the top-ranked Punchers.
The conventional wisdom says stop Cooper Frederick from running the ball and you stop the Cougars. Well, there was nothing conventional about the Wind River team effort Thursday Night. Frederick battled for rushing yards with a Puncher defense set up to stop him. That left openings for the rest of the team with Chris Burk, Brayden Tatro, and Juaquin Stevens all running the ball well and big plays on special teams and defense filling in the offense.
“When we bounced into our wildcat and the overload, they’ve never seen that,” Wind River head coach Rod Frederick said.
Though it is week four of the regular season, because of forfeits, it was only the second varsity game of the season for the Cougars and it showed with a whopping 10 penalties for 75 yards, but what was also on display was a tenacious defense combined with a deceptive offense.
“Once Cooper got the ball they rolled to him it left Brayden and Juaquin wide open,” Frederick said.
Senior Aidan Ruby had his best day ever as a Wind River football player with a pair of touchdowns. The first came on a 16-yard pass from Frederick with just 1:18 remaining in the opening half that erased a 7-0 Big Piney lead. Frederick combined with Stevens on the conversion and Wind River took an 8-7 lead.
Big Piney likes to throw the ball behind senior quarterback Champ Snively, but Frederick had his number, intercepting a pair of passes. The first ended the half.
On the opening kick of the third period, Ruby took the ball at the two-yard line, made a narrow cut, then raced down the east sidelines for a 98-yard kickoff return. The run failed, but the Cougars were firmly in front 14-7 just 12 seconds into the second half.
Lightning struck again for Wind River on the next series. Snively made a long completion to Jarret Fear, moving the ball to the Wind River 22-yard line, but Frederick was waiting on the ensuing play.
Frederick jumped a slant pass at the 22 and sprinted unabated 78 yards on a “Pick Six” for a 20-7 Wind River lead. Burk added the point after conversion run on a wedge up the middle and the Cougars had a two score advantage just 1:20 into the second half.
The Punchers closed the gap on a 48-yard scoring pass from Snively to Fear with 4:10 remaining in the third, but the Cougars answered with a long, time-consuming drive capped by a one-yard Burk plunge with 6:26 left in the game.
Big Piney is powerful and throws the ball well but isn’t blessed with great speed aside from running back Caden Clifford. The Cougars hit Clifford hard in the opening half.
“Blake Snyder hammered Clifford a couple of times and put him out of the game,” Frederick said.
The Punchers marched on a quick six play drive to cut the margin to seven points on a nine-yard Snively run with 4:57 left on the clock.
They never got the ball again as Wind River milked the clock effectively on their final drive, picking up a pair of first downs before stalling near midfield.
Facing a fourth-and-two at their own 49-yard line, Wind River head coach Rod Frederick called a time out. The Cougars returned to the field and lined up to attempt the first down conversion. Burk sold a hard count cadence and Big Piney jumped. The Cougars picked up the first down on the encroachment penalty.
Burk and Frederick combined to pick up another first down as the clock ticked away.
Wind River had a final fourth-down conversion with just five seconds remaining after a delay of game penalty. Frederick called time out a final time and the Cougars lined up to punt.
The Punchers put all nine players in the box, setting up a block, but instead of snapping the ball to the punter, center Kyzaia Jones snapped it to Burk who ran backward from the line of scrimmage and ran out the clock in the process.
“I felt like I was running from my big brother when I was little,” Burk said.
The Cougars make the short trip to Ethete on Thursday to play Wyoming Indian.
Wind River 0 8 14 6 – 28
Big Piney 7 0 7 7 – 21
BP – Reuben Stoutenberg 1-run (Roger Young kick ) 4:43
WR – Aidan Ruby 16-pass from Cooper Frederick (Juaquin Stevens from Frederick) 1:18
WR – Ruby 98-kickoff return (run failed) 11:48
WR – Frederick 78-interception (Chris Burk run) 10:40
BP – Jerret Fear 48-pass from Champ Snively (Young kick) 4:10
WR -Burk 1-run (pass failed) 6:26
BP – Snively 9-run (Young kick) 4:57
Total Offense: Wind River 177, Big Piney 303
Rushing Offense: Wind River – 35-91, 26-143
Passing Offense: Wind River: 86, Big Piney 160
Individual Rushing: Wind River – Blake Snyder 1-3, Chris Burk 9-12, Cooper Frederick 16-40, Aidan Ruby 3-11, Brayden Tatro 5-13, Juaquin Stevens 1-12, Big Piney -Reuben Stoutenberg 14-88, Champ Snively 3-7, Caden Clifford 8-47, Zavier Clifford 1-11
Individual Passing: Wind River – Cooper Frederick 4-8 86, Big Piney – Champ Snively 7-9-2 160
Individual Receiving: Wind River – Brayden Tatro 2-60, Juaquin Stevens 1-16, Aidan Ruby -15, Big Piney – Reuben Stoutenberg 1-16, Jarrett Fear 3-93, Karsyn Gurr 2-22, Zach Murphy 1-19