Rangers herd Glenrock in season opener, 25-7

Glenrock quarterback Brady Dona is manhandled by a good portion of the Kemmerer defense, including Colter Krell (No. 71), Gabe Emery (No. 40), Tanner Schramm (No. 20) and Owen Barton (No. 50). (GAZETTE PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Offense grinds out 344 yards; defense forces three turnovers

KEMMERER — The Kemmerer High School football team kicked off its 2023 campaign in fine fashion Friday, thumping visiting Glenrock 25-7 at Ranger Stadium.

The Rangers didn’t attempt a single pass, simply because they didn’t need to — the three-headed monster of running backs Cole Rogers, Logan Emery and Gabe Emery combined for nearly 350 yards rushing, while Kemmerer’s defense allowed the Herders just 244 total yards.

The win avenged a season-opening 36-6 loss to Glenrock in 2022, and was the Rangers’ first Week 1 win since 2018.

“I was proud of the overall team effort,” said KHS head coach Bart Jernigan. “I thought that offensively we made some good plays, but defensively — that kinda that stood out for me most. I was a little bit worried; the first couple of defensive plays we had, they kinda moved the ball pretty fluidly on us down the field. We came up with a turnover, and I think they probably had maybe a third of the yards for the full game on that first drive, so that kinda of had me a little bit worried. But I was most proud of our defensive effort — the way we kind of cleaned up our mistakes and played really well. It was a good way to start the season and a good way to kick things off this year and set that expectation where it needs to be.”

Though the two teams are not conference rivals, the Rangers and the Herders do share some history — they played each other regularly in the early 2000s, and when Kemmerer won the state championship in 2005 and played for back-to-back state titles in 2007 (a 22-0 win) and 2008 (an 18-0 loss), Glenrock was their opponent in all three.

“Glenrock and Kemmerer have a pretty deep history,” Jernigan said. “If you look at the state championships era of [the mid-2000s] I know we’ve played them in some very heated contests in those eras, so there’s kind of a little bit of a rivalry now. If you talk to the people around town, a lot of them express a lot of hate towards Glenrock. Like, ‘If there’s one game we win, let’s go take care of this one.’ And that rivalry does carry some weight. It’s not as big a rivalry as it has been in the past, but I know that historically it’s held a lot of weight. When we went over there last year and played very poorly — they did a great job, but we played very poorly, so it was definitely a point of pride for us this year that we start the season off playing better, regardless of the outcome. We wanted to play in a manner that we felt set up the course for the rest of the season.”

After punting on their opening drive, the Rangers got things going when they got the ball back later in the first quarter. A sustained drive with nice runs from Gabe and Logan Emery culminated in a 15-yard touchdown run by Cole Rogers, giving Kemmerer a 6-0 lead.

Logan Emery added to the scoring in the second quarter, finding the end zone on an 8-yard run to make it 12-0; the two-point conversion attempt was shut down by the Glenrock defense, and the Rangers went into halftime with a 12-0 lead.

“Offensively, our game was good,” Jernigan said. “We were able to ride all three of our backs. I think it was about 13, 14, and then 17 carries, so we were balanced, and that’s one of our big goals — to spread the ball around and help share some load, and I saw some kids do a really good job of that.”

The Rangers scored twice more in the second half — a 60-yard touchdown run by Rogers, and a 5-yard touchdown run by Gabe Emery.

Kemmerer’s defense proved opportunistic, picking off Herders quarterback Brady Dona twice, and recovering a fumble.

“We turned them over three times, and anytime you do that, you have a good shot at winning your football game,” Jernigan said. “There was a certain positivity there and communication there [defensively], and then the aggressiveness — we were flyin’ around. Top to bottom, athlete to athlete, we’re probably as athletic as we’ve been there in a while. So you’ve got kids flyin’ around, working to get the ball, not staying blocked — it can be convenient as a player, especially as you’re away from the play, you think ‘Oh, my teammates got it,’ and you stay blocked. But as you fly to the ball, good things happen and I think that first play was an example of that. You’ve got one corner who pops the ball out, and on the other side of the formation was the other corner who recovered the ball, so you’ve got two kids on opposite ends of the field flying to the middle of the field to make a play.”

Offensively, Rogers led the charge with 165 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, an average of almost 13 yards per carry. Logan Emery finished with 108 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, while Gabe Emery — an All-Conference lineman last season — rumbled to 71 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Quarterback Tanner Schramm added eight yards on four carries.

“Our backs were really solid across the board from top to bottom,” Jernigan said. “They did a really good job — all three of them did a really good job.”

Jernigan credited his offensive line — as well as his wideouts — for giving his backs room to run.

“I saw our offensive line did a really good job blocking against a bigger, stouter unit across from them than what was seen in practice, so I was really pleased by their reaction to that,” Jernigan said. “A lot of times, you see smaller guys get shell-shocked, but I don’t think our kids got down for even one second, so I was super proud of how they handled that.”

As for the receivers, they made the most of what they could do in a run-first offense, springing the backs for some big yards.

“The blocking from my wide receiver positions was actually really stellar — we popped a bunch of big plays off of their blocks, so I would have to give the credit to our wideouts,” Jernigan said. “Bryson McGill, Bryce Brown and Kyle Fox are all kids who played all game at wideout and you don’t necessarily think blocking from wideouts, but we didn’t actually throw a pass all game. That can feel like a thankless position, but what they did really opened up our ability to get in that second level and push the ball deep with our runs and make some of those big plays, so I’d have to shout them out.”

Logan Emery led the defense with 18 points, including an interception, a forced fumble and four unassisted tackles. Bridger Anderson followed with 14 points — including four unassisted tackles. McGill and Gabe Emery finished with 13 points each, McGill credited with an interception and a fumble recovery. Roany Proffit and Graison Kelley finished with eight points apiece.

The Rangers are on the road at Thermopolis Friday to take on the 0-2 Bobcats. Despite the win, Jernigan said the Rangers have plenty to work on between now and then.

“Well, there’s plenty to clean up,” he said, laughing. “The scoreboard can make you feel good, but the film can give you a reality check. We need to be a little bit more physical with the maintenance of our down blocks, and get a little bit more movement, avoiding uphill creep in some of our blocking schemes. We’ll have to be solid in coverage this week. There were a couple of miscommunications in terms of coverage, and we got lucky with overthrown passes and underthrown passes. So we’ll have to be a little bit more clear on our coverages and make sure we know where they’re going. Glenrock showed us a bunch of different fronts — we saw variations of pretty much every type of front that we’ll see, and we handled it decently well, but I think just getting more familiar with that and a little bit more sound. Defensively we’ve just gotta be sound in the past coverage — I think we’ll be tested this week at Thermopolis.”