Rangers suffer Homecoming heartbreak against Cokeville

Rangers Tanner Schramm (No. 20) and Owen Barton (No. 50) bring down a Cokeville ball carrier during Friday’s 28-7 loss to the Panthers. (GAZETTE PHOTO/Don Cogger)

Gabe Emery scores touchdown in 28-7 loss; Lyman next

KEMMEER — Plagued by turnovers and a fast start by the Cokeville offense, the Kemmerer High School football team saw its hopes for a second straight Homecoming win dashed Friday, falling to the Panthers 28-7.

The loss drops the Rangers to 1-3 on the season; Cokeville improves to 3-1.

“We definitely would have liked to come away with a victory, but we made it hard on ourselves with four turnovers,” said KHS head coach Bart Jernigan. “Cokeville put the ball on the ground a couple of times, as well, we just never got to it. But with that many turnovers, it’s always going to be an uphill battle, especially against a team as disciplined as Cokeville. I thought that right there was the difference in the game.”

Cokeville took a 21-0 lead going into the locker room at the half, courtesy of touchdown runs of 18, 10 and 26 yards by running back Jack Dayton. The Rangers ran the ball well in the first half, though promising drives were quickly derailed by turnovers.

“We ran the ball well — we created opportunities to score two to three more times during that game,” Jernigan said. “We just made it a little easier on them — a couple of our turnovers gave them short fields to work with. But overall, I was proud of the effort of our boys — there’s a lot to build on going into the last half of the season, so we’re excited to see where it goes from here, see if we can get into the playoffs.”

Showing the temerity the team has become known for this season, Kemmerer came out fired up in the second half, holding the Panthers to just one more touchdown, while scoring one of their own, a 34-yard touchdown run by Gabe Emery that made the final score 28-7.

“It sucks to be down 21-0 at half, I don’t think there’s a nicer way to say it,” Jernigan said. “But the reality is, you don’t reverse that in one play. So we told the kids to focus on that individual execution, play by play. And responding to adversity, I was proud of the way our kids responded in the second half, especially our upperclassmen. You have visions of how Homecoming is going to go as a kid — and even as a coach — and when things don’t go to plan, it’s tough. I was very proud of how our kids responded in a positive manner, and worked their butts off to compete in the second half. I hope that progression is something they note, even though the result wasn’t what we wanted.”

The Rangers finished with 224 yards rushing, led by Logan Emery, who finished with 18 carries for 79 yards. Cole Rogers followed with 63 yards on 16 carries, while Gabe Emery finished with 62 yards on five carries, including Kemmerer’s only touchdown.

“I thought our ground attack was pretty good — our O-line did a great job of getting out and getting movement against their backers,” Jernigan said. “That’s a very talented linebacker crew for Cokeville, and I thought our guys played well. And I thought our backs ran hard, and finished forward — that was a big point of emphasis for us last week.”

Defensively, Logan Emery led the charge with 21 defensive points, followed by Gabe Emery with 19 points and Rogers with 17 points. Graison Kelley and Owen Barton rounded out the double-digit scorers, with 16 points and 10 points, respectively.

“Defensively, we missed a lot of tackles that we shouldn’t have, and that’s been a consistent point of emphasis for us,” Jernigan explained. “But there were also some moments where we were pretty darn stout against an offense that I think is really hard to stop. There’s a reason Cokeville’s been able to run that T system for years and years – it’s effective, and they’re really good at running it. But I thought our kids did a really good job in certain spots of the game of responding to it.”

The Rangers continue 2A West Conference play at home Friday, when they welcome in Lyman (3-2, 0-2 in 2A West), a team looking to rebound from back-to-back losses to Lovell and Mountain View.

“Lyman’s tough — they’re coming off back-to-back losses, so they’re going to be hungry,” Jernigan said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve hit that kind of streak, so they’re going to be as smash-mouth as ever. Coach Anderson does a great job of putting his kids in a position to win, and they just execute and play hard. We have to match that intensity, and I think we can do it — but we’re going to have to build on what we did against Cokeville, and take it a step higher and further. We’re going to have to come ready, and with our mental focus correct. I think it’s another opportunity for the kids to show the growth we’ve made as a program. We’re excited for it.”

“I thought there were a lot of good things to build on — we just need to keep that in mind as a team,” Jernigan added. “We need to focus on that process for next week, so that we can take that next step, and put ourselves in position to compete for the playoffs.”