JACKSON, Wyo. – The Jackson Broncs begin their quest for a state title tonight as they tackle the Riverton Wolverines in the 3A Wyoming quarterfinals.
While the West matches up as the more dominant conference compared to the East, Riverton (4-4 overall, 3-2 in conference) will be no pushover for Jackson (6-3, 3-2).
“They’re a good football team. They have talent to win games. They’ve got a receiver that can go vertical and a quarterback that will throw it. They’ve got a decent running game and play sound defense,” head coach David Joyce said. “It’s playoff football. There shouldn’t be an easy teams or easy weeks in playoff football. We’re going to have to go down there and play cleaner football than we did against Powell. We are going to have to play four quarters. And they’ll have the home crowd in their favor.”
The Broncs are coming off an emotional win last week, but it was a game that could have sent mixed-messages to some players. Coach Joyce called it a “win ugly” kind of game where, even without your best effort you find a way to hold on and win a close one. These type of games are often viewed as character building—you get more from them as a player than you do from a blowout win.
Still, what about the flip side? You barely got by a team that should have been an easier mark. At home. On Senior Night.
And the Panthers look very much like a Star Valley team no one has been able to best in a long while. Like Star Valley, Powell is big and leans on their opponents all game long with a relentless Power I running attack that wears defenses down.
If Jackson struggled with Powell, what are their chances in a rematch with the Braves?
But first things first. Jackson will need that offense that plays with swagger and not the one that tensed up in the second half of last week’s game. They need to get off the bus mixing up the play calling and getting everyone involved. The Broncs’ offense can be deadly when it catches teams keying on Jeydon Cox.
The defense is right where it wants to be. Jackson has given up few big plays this season and, lately, has been simply hawkish in the secondary. Jackson dares teams to put the ball in the air against D-backs like Peter Goettler, Evan Brunner, Sam Lopeman, and Brody Haseneck. Bad things have been happening to teams that try.
Riverton has been hard to figure out this season. They can be dangerous, especially if Jackson wants to overlook this game as a tune-up for the Braves.
On one hand, the Wolverines have been tough at home (3-1)—their only loss in the season opener against the second-best team in the state: Cody. Yet Riverton struggled with teams Jackson has thrashed—Worland and Evanston.
Riverton is also coming off an OT loss to the Douglas Bearcats, 13-7. Head coach Patrick Patterson will have the Wolverines ready to play, that’s for sure.
Focus should not be a problem for Jackson. Joyce thought the emotion of the halftime Senior Night celebration last week caused some players to come out flat in the second half against Powell. The Broncs tend to find more of a single-mindedness on the road.
Execution will be key. They can afford to be sloppy against Riverton and get out of there with a win. Not so with the Braves, who will be Jackson’s next opponent if Star Valley beats Douglas today at 3 p.m.
Jackson vs Riverton. 6 p.m. kickoff in Riverton, Wyo. Play-by-play coverage on KZ95 (95.3FM and KZ95.live)