Kemmerer Rangers fall to Buffalo in playoff game

GAZETTE PHOTO / Michelle Tibbetts

Coach Jernigan reflects on 2018 season

Junior quarterback Dawson Schramm decides whether to pass or run the ball in the first-round playoff game against Buffalo on Friday, Oct. 26. The Rangers fell 56-20 to Buffalo in their first playoff game since 2012. 

The Kemmerer Rangers football team competed in the first-round 2A playoff game on Friday, Oct. 26 at Buffalo.

The Bison went up 35–0 to end the first quarter, then added another 14 points to bring the halftime score to 49–0.

Kemmerer came back in the second half to put some points on the scoreboard. Senior Josh Thatcher had two touchdowns, and Thomas Archibald had a touchdown for the Rangers. But it wasn’t enough, and Kemmerer’s football season ended with a 56–20 loss to Buffalo.

Kemmerer finished the 2018 football season with a 4–5 record, the best the team has had for several seasons. 

"It was a great experience for our young men to be able to compete in a playoff situation," said Rangers head coach Bart Jernigan. "There was a palpable excitement around last week that I think will benefit our kids going forward. The atmosphere of the game was incredible and our traveling contingent of fans really added to that. Our boys gave their all. Obviously, we would have loved to have won, but we did not execute at a high enough level to do so. It is our hope that this year's playoff appearance is something that we will be able to build off in the years to come." 

The Buffalo playoff game was the conclusion of an up-and-down season for the Rangers. After only winning one game in the 2017 season, the Rangers were determined to make a name for themselves in 2A.

Kemmerer earned a victory because of the Saratoga forfeit. Then the Rangers beat Lyman 28–6 at home to earn their first conference win since 2012. The Rangers rode that momentum and traveled to Pinedale to beat the Wranglers 14–7 to earn 3–0 record early in the season. The Rangers struggled to maintain their early-season success, though, and lost to Big Piney (32–7), Greybull (26–14), Glenrock (49–0) and Mountain View (42–0).

But when a playoff spot was on the line, the Rangers came through. Kemmerer beat Lovell 12–0 to earn the No. 4 seed and a playoff game against Buffalo, a first playoff appearance for the Rangers since 2012.

"This season was a very productive season. Our players showed a ton of growth and did some things that had not been done here in quite some time," Jernigan said. "This probably sounds like an oversimplification, but I thought the biggest growth this season was the fact that our boys made more plays than they had in the past years. When we needed someone to rise up and execute in a tight spot, they were more apt to make the play this year than last. That boils down to a lot of things: maturity, athleticism, strength, individual fundamentals, coaching, and execution. But all those things were much improved this year for us. As for moving forward, I would like to see us improve our toughness in terms of competing with top level-opponents, our discipline, and our consistency." 

On offense for the Rangers against Buffalo, sophomore AQ Martinez ran for 87 yards on eight carries. Senior Josh Thatcher had 12 yards on seven carries. Donny Proffit had 28 yards on six carries.

On defense for the Rangers against Buffalo, Martinez had two solo tackles and two assisted tackles. Anthony Tibbetts  helped out on four tackles and brought two down on his own.Jeydon Boyd had four unassisted tackles against the Bison. Senior Carson Carlson had four solo tackles and two assisted tackles. Donny Proffit  Hayden Walker and Thomas Archibald each had two assisted tackles and one unassisted tackle. Colter Brunski had two solo tackles for the Rangers and Dilsad Kalasch brought down a solo tackle. Colter Julian helped out on two tackles, and Easton Rydstrom, Cameron Adams and Brendan Miller assisted on one tackle each. Josh Thatcher had one assisted tackle and two unassisted tackles, and Dawson Schramm brought down one tackle.

This season, Martinez averaged 96.2 yards of offense per game. Thatcher averaged 78, Schramm 36.7, Walker 20.4, Carlson 19.2 and Proffit 10.3.

Kemmerer seniors Josh Thatcher and Carson Carlson take down a Buffalo player in the first-round playoff game at Buffalo on Friday, Oct. 26.

The Rangers finished their season 6th in 2A for team defense. Kemmerer finished 5th in 2A for rush defense, and 9th in 2A for pass defense. This season, Hayden Walker averaged 5.9 tackles per game. Jeydon Boyd averaged 6.7 tackles per game. Thatcher averaged 4.3 tackles per game. Lowell Ellis and Donny Proffit each averaged 5.2 tackles per game. Anthony Tibbetts averaged 4.3 tackles per game.

The Rangers are losing a big class of seniors after this season. Coach Jernigan spoke to what that senior class has done for the Kemmerer Ranger football program.

"This senior class was incredible this year. I personally have a lot of gratitude and appreciation for them and the legacy that they leave here," Jernigan said. "They are leaving some big shoes to fill for the classes behind them. We had a significant amount of juniors and a sophomore get playing time this last year, and they are going to have to take that helm on this next season. I'm optimistic in their ability to do so. That will start with the work we put in in the weight room and other sports the rest of the year. Our best players are three-season athletes, so we need to grow that number.

"We also need to get more kids on board and planning to play," Jernigan continued. "At our size of enrollment, we need every student that we can get to maximize ourselves. We need to grow our numbers in all three upper classes (next year's seniors, juniors, and sophomores) to provide the stability and leadership that it takes to win on Friday nights. We also need to embrace the incoming freshman and help them acclimate to the high school level. Hopefully those potential players see the success of this year, realize that they can be an integral part of growing the program, want to represent the community, and, ultimately, choose to have a great time making memories that will last a lifetime." 

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