The longest active losing streak in Wyoming high school football came to end Friday, as the Kemmerer Rangers snapped an 18-game skid with a 20-0 shellacking of 2A West rival Pinedale at the Wranglers' home field.
“The kids have worked really hard up to this point of the season, and throughout the last couple of years,” said head coach Bart Jernigan. “To see all that work pay off finally is nice — hopefully, we can continue to do this on a little bit more consistent basis.”
Stats weren’t available at press time, though by all accounts, the Rangers succeeded in every aspect of the game.
“I think our offense did a really good job grinding out the ball — we ran really hard, and blocked well up front,” Jernigan said.
“We kept our running backs clean to the second level most of the time. Doing that really made a big difference for us.”
Turnovers win games, and the Rangers had plenty of them. Jernigan credited his defense with being in the right place at the right time, consistently.
“Defensively, we were just stout,” he said. “We turned Pinedale over three or four times, and were able to make some big plays that made their offensive efforts difficult. I thought, across the board, we did a lot of great things, even on special teams. It was an all-around effort by the whole team; everything was pretty crisp and clean.”
It’s been a long road for the Rangers to get to this point, though the kids who have stuck with the program through its lean times are now poised to see that hard work pay off.
“It makes me proud of the effort the kids have put in,” Jernigan said. “It’s not been easy — there are many people who have dropped off, due to the lack of success we’ve had the last few years. These kids have stuck through it, and it was awesome to be able to see them go out and execute at a high level. I’m just very proud of them, and I enjoyed every second of it.”
“The best part of it was coming off the field to the sidelines at the end of the game, and seeing the joy on our kids’ faces,” he added.
Asked who stepped up in the decisive win, Jernigan credited Rigan Walker and Matt McMillan with leading the charge, though he was quick to call it a team effort.
“Riggen Walker probably had the game of his life — I think he had an interception, a fumble recovery, a kick return for a touchdown and another run for a touchdown,” Jernigan said of his junior standout.
“He had a bunch of tackles in between all of that. He had a great game. Matt McMillan I thought did a great job anchoring our offensive line. He’s our senior leader up there, and was consistently getting to his spots and making big plays.”
Jerniagan also praised his offensive and defensive lines for getting the job done.
“In the trenches, our O-line and D-line groups impressed me with their effort, and the grit that they showed,” he said.
The Rangers (1-1) travel to Thermopolis this week to take on the Bobcats (0-0), a team that’s been sidelined the last couple of weeks due to COVID.
“Thermopolis is a little bit of an unknown for us — they haven’t played a game for a couple of weeks,” Jernigan explained.
“They had a scrimmage, then they got quarantined, so we have a little bit of film on them. We’re looking to hopefully put ourselves in a position to win — they’re a good team, so obviously they require some prep. But it is good to have a week where the focus is on us, and what we’re doing.”
As for what the Rangers need to work on this week to prepare, Jernigan said the focus will be cleaning up the team’s ball handling.
“We ended up with a couple of missed snaps that could have been problematic — thankfully, we were able to recover them,” he said.
“We need to make sure we’re clean with the ball, as well as clean with penalties — we have to make sure we tackle well in the open field this week. Thermopolis runs more of a spread offense, so we have to be able to make plays in space. On offense, we just have to continue maintaining our blocks, and executing our runs.”