It was another tough week for the Rangers last Friday in Cokeville in their 30-0 defeat at the hands of the Cokeville Panthers. Despite the lopsided score being reminiscent of other defeats, Rangers head coach Bart Jernigan explained that this particular game was much closer than it looked on paper.
“Defensively, we played a decent game, but had some momentary lapses in focus and execution that Cokeville capitalized on. Cokeville is a well-coached, disciplined, and physical team, and you have to be more consistent to get the win against them,” he said.
Well-coached is no exaggeration, either. Panther head coach Todd Dayton and his assistant coach Keith Nate were recently honored on Oct. 1 with a ceremony rededicating Panther Field as the Nate-Dayton Field in honor of Nate’s upcoming retirement after 41 years.
“I thought we had moments of brightness in the game, but we were inconsistent with our execution of our schemes and our physicality. We moved the ball offensively, but we failed to punch it in when we got into the red zone,” Jernigan said.
In reflecting back on the game’s successes, Jernigan also shared that he liked the Rangers’ ability to keep the ball moving, their high level of energy going into the game and their level of tackling.
“We ended up winning the turnover battle, which is a focus of our program. Defensively, we executed our game plan well for about 85% of the snaps,” he added.
Looking back at specific points of failure, Jernigan explained that their inability to finish drives at critical moments, contain the Panthers’ edge run game and generally being worn down as the game went on.
“We lost our focus and composure at times and gave up some painful penalties,” he said.
Despite the Rangers’ mixed successes this season, long-time fans know that even mixed successes are far better than the losing streak of the last two years that was only recently broken. With recent Ranger victories and the possibility of the Rangers making it to the playoffs this season, Jernigan hasn’t overlooked the significance of what their successes have meant for the program.
“This season has been a step forward for the program. I think you must credit the work that our players have put in throughout the years and off-season. I also think that our staff at all levels (from Jr. Ranger to middle school to high school) have put in a great deal of work with our kids that have helped improve some things. I believe that a bigger number of our kids have been more bought-in and made a more concerted and stronger effort to put the work in over the past year. Increased attendance at summer workouts and summer camps have certainly been key in helping us improve. We are not where we want to be as a program, but we are closer now than we have been in some time,” he explained.
Jernigan also highlighted the heightened morale of the Rangers this past season, adding that he believes the kids “have done a good job of keeping their chins up and playing hard through both successes and failures this season.”
Despite the Rangers’ recent losses to both Lyman and Cokeville, Jernigan was steadfastly optimistic about their chances at the playoffs this season.
“We still have a shot at the playoffs going into week seven. That hasn’t been the case in a long time. So I think these kids deserve a lot of credit for the work that they have put in to get us to this point,” he said.
The next game for the Rangers will be an away game against Lovell on Oct. 15.
“Lovell is a talented and physical team. We are going to have to increase our physicality to get the win this week. We have to be mentally ready to go for a full 48 minutes if we are going to be victorious. This is a huge game as we need to win it to control our playoff destiny. I am excited to see our boys go out and battle this week,” he added.
Following their game this week, the Rangers will return to Kemmerer for their last regularly scheduled game of the season against Big Piney on Oct. 22, at 6 p.m.
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