There was a lot of build up for a game featuring two winless teams but there was a sense of urgency from both the Green River Wolves and the homestanding Braves.
Star Valley had their best offensive showing this season with over 300 yards rushing and just under 500 total as they pulled away for their first win of the current campaign.
“Green River was very good for us on a lot of levels,” replied head coach Chris Howell. “We were able to get the enormous monkey off our back, put ourselves in position to get into the playoffs and get our seniors a win on their last night at home. We cleaned up a lot of the mistakes we have been making. We were clean on special teams; Hyrum continued to kick the ball very well. Offensively, we broke some big plays were able to throw the ball effectively and ran it well too. Jessie had a great night from a personal perspective, obviously not done if our lineman and receivers don’t block well for him. Defensively, we finally got an interception and turned it into points. I thought we did a good job against the run for the most part, still need to eliminate chunk yards. I thought we were physical and played with a certain amount of toughness. We are going to need to continue to do that going forward.”
Jesse Sanders had a banner day as he rolled up 241 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and another 87 yards and a score through the air for a total of 328 all-purpose yards. His rushing total is the fifth-most in a single game in school history behind Brian Hunsaker’s 244 against Thermopolis in 1989.
The Braves led for the first time all season on the very first play as the offense executed a reverse pitch back to Reese Hiibel to hit Sanders on a 46-yard touchdown after a nice opening return by Tad Graham.
Star Valley scored on defense as Sean Pittman intercepted Tyler Vendetti and ran it into the end zone from 20 yards out and a 14-0 Braves lead.
The Wolves answered with Vendetti’s shifty running and eventually tied the game on an interception for a touchdown by Jacob Olsen. Hyrum England booted a 19-yard field goal to give the Braves a 17-14 halftime lead.
Green River scored on the opening possession of the third quarter on the legs of Vendetti who eventually finished with 74 yards rushing as the Wolves took their only lead of the game 24-21.
It was all Star Valley from that point on as Sanders sprinted for a 59-yard touchdown run which was followed up by another 46-yard score in the third quarter. Sanders now has 697 yards on the season.
The win also assured the team would not go winless on the season, something Star Valley has avoided in it’s history going back to the inaugural season of 1928.
Now the Braves (1-5) hit the road for the final two weeks of the regular season with a trip to Worland this week that will determine whether or not Star Valley extends their five-year playoff streak. The Warriors (2-4) would also need a week eight victory over Green River to make the post-season. The Warriors employ an old-school misdirection running attack that has paid dividends at times this season.
“Worland is pretty good on defense,” added coach Howell. “They have done a good job against some good teams. They have not allowed much in the passing game, so we will really have to [shore] up our pass protection. Offensively, they are running a scheme very similar to Jackson and really create some challenges stopping the run. The scheme they run really creates a numbers dilemma and puts a lot of stress on the edges. In order to stop them this week we are going to have to be very good up from and do a great job tackling on the edges.”
• Roundup – The freshman team defeated Green River 38-6 to move to 6-1 on their season. The junior varsity suffered their first loss of the season, 29-16, on the road to the Wolves to also move to 6-1 on the year.
• Game Notes…Reese Hiibel now has 1,046 yards passing on the season. He is the eighth player in school history to pass for at least 1,000 in a season…Cole Critchfield is currently 6th in receptions in a season (34), 2nd in total varsity receptions (52) and 4th in career receiving yardage (674)…Jesse Sanders is just the 6th player to rush for at least 200 yards in a game…His 328 combined yards may be a school record…With a 100-yard game in Worland, Sanders would pass Aaron Allred (‘95), Brian Hunsaker (‘90), Charlie Jenkins (‘06) and Allen Lainhart (‘82) on the single-season list.