Saturday afternoon at Jonah Field in Laramie marks the 10th time the Shoshoni Wranglers and Pine Bluffs Hornets have met on the gridiron.
All those games came in the last 13 years with most in 11-man, but the last two in 9-man action.
The Wranglers fell hard twice to the Hornets in their initial contests back in 2009 and 2010 when Shoshoni had the longest losing streak in school history at 19 games.
Since those two lopsided games, the teams are 3-3 under head coach Tony Truempler.
They’ve met twice in the playoffs, most recently in a quarterfinal game at Shoshoni in 2020 won by the Wranglers 48-6.
Pine Bluffs won the last two regular-season meetings by similar scores, edging the Wranglers in 2021 34-25 on the Nebraska border in eastern Laramie County, and on opening day this season in Shoshoni 34-26.
Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at War Memorial Stadium marks the first time the two teams have met in a championship game.
Pine Bluffs arrived after a controversial win over Rocky Mountain at home last Friday 35-33.
With just over a minute to play the Hornets faced a fourth down and one. The ball moved close to the line of gain requiring a measurement.
Game officials pulled the chains tight and ruled Pine Bluffs short and signaled the ball for Rocky Mountain. Pine Bluffs coaches complained, and the officials measured again, this time awarding the ball to the Hornets who kneeled in victory formation to run out the clock.
Rocky Mountain noted that either there was no clip attached to the chain, or the clip had fallen off during the measurement procedure, but either way, Pine Bluffs won the game.
The Hornets were untested in their East 9-man conference but had three close games with teams from the West in Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, and Big Piney, the last two in the post-season.
The Hornets are unbeaten at 10-0 and ranked first.
Shoshoni is 9-1 overall with that lone loss to the Hornets and had three close games as well in a 28-24 win over Big Piney, a 28-20 win against Rocky Mountain, and a 25-14 win over rival Wind River.
In the opening game in August, Pine Bluffs was able to limit Shoshoni’s juggernaut style running attack allowing Pehton Truempler, the leading rusher in 9-man at present with over 2,000 yards, to a season-low 101. Cannon Campbell added 17 in the game, but the Wranglers finished with just 93 total yards on the ground.
The low total came from a lackluster blocking effort by the Wrangler’s offensive line. Since that game they have stepped up their play and are now perhaps the best run blocking team in the state.
Korb Dewitt, Julian Cabello, Jaxon Stanley, Tucker Maddock and Kellan Linnan are all solid run blockers that can move defensive linemen and linebackers well off the line of scrimmage.
Shoshoni stayed in the game via the pass with quarterback Alex Mills and flanker Trey Fike combining for 146-yards on nine receptions. Mills was 16-of-32 on the game for 244 yards and was intercepted twice.
Pine Bluffs countered with Dalton Schaefer who gained 177 yards on the ground but was injured late in the game and missed several following games as result.
Hornets quarterback Stu Lerwick was 7-of-12 for 81 yards against the Shoshoni secondary with an interception, a season-low for the 6-2 senior. Since then, Lerwick has been on a roll, completing 116-of-191 attempts for 25 touchdowns and just two more interceptions, He had 2028 yards entering the game against Rocky Mountain last Friday and averages 203 yards per game and 17.5 yards per completion. His favorite receiver is Ryan Fornstrom who averages nearly 100 yards per game and is over the 1,000-yard mark in receptions this season with 15 touchdowns.
Both Fornstrom and Lerwick lead the state in their respective categories.
As is always the case in championship games, the title comes down to defense.
Both teams play solid run defense, and both have good coverage and a solid pass rush.
Saturday’s game promises to be one of the best played among the five divisions of Wyoming prep football that descend on the Gem City on Friday and Saturday.