LARAMIE – The Torrington Blazer football team knew it would need a near perfect game against the Star Valley Braves to have a chance to hoist its first state football championship trophy above their heads at the end of the day.
When the final horn sounded, three turnovers and six penalties resulted in 14 Star Valley points as the Braves knocked off the Blazers, 35-14.
“I don’t know if the score is indicative of how close and how hard-fought the game was at times,” THS coach Mark Lenhardt said. “The kids represented themselves. They represented the community. They deserved to be here.”
The game started out promising with the Torrington defense holding the Braves to a quick 3-and-out.
However, on the third play of the Blazers’ first drive, an interception put an abrupt stop to the drive.
“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes early on,” Lenhardt said. “I thought we came out and made a stop early. Everything went the way you wanted it early. Had we gotten a score, it might have been a different deal.”
With a short field, Star Valley marched 47 yards on seven plays, capped off by a 12-yard run by Brave running back RJ Cazier with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing Torrington drive, a pair of fall start penalties forced the Blazers to punt.
“We made a few too many mistakes. We had penalties at key times,” Lenhardt said. “You can’t go 2nd-and-13 on these guys. If you are 2nd-and-7, you have a chance. If you are 3rd-and-3, you have a chance. The minute you have a penalty that backs us up.”
Star Valley, once again, moved the ball down the field on an 83-yard, 10-play drive, ending with another Brave touchdown to go up 14-0.
However, things started to look up for the Blazers in the closing moments of the second quarter.
Torrington senior running back Bryan Lemmon steamrolled a Star Valley defender en route to a 9-yard run.
The Blazers defense allowed the Braves to drive down to the 1-yard line before holding Star Valley out of the end zone before half.
Down a score, coming out of the locker room, the Blazers got the ball to start the third quarter, but on the first play of the half, a fumble ended the hopes of Torrington attempting to tie the ballgame.
“We were able to get a stop down here at the goal line to make it 14-7 at half,” Lenhardt said. “You go into half, our kids are feeling good. We come out and get the ball. Then we turn the ball over.”
Star Valley took advantage of Torrington’s second turnover of the game with an additional seven points on the scoreboard.
“That’s what Star Valley does,” Lenhardt said. “They play keep away until you make a mistake, and then they take advantage of it. Then it becomes a two-score game. That’s what happened tonight.”
It was the first of 14 points the Braves put on the board in the third quarter, putting the Blazers in a three-score hole going into the final 12 minutes of the season.
On the first drive of the fourth, Lemmon once again found the end zone. This time on a 1-yard run.
Star Valley answered with one more score with 1:24 left on the clock to close out the game.
The Braves offense outgained Torrington 361-240.
“I thought we played better offensively than we could in terms of running the ball,” Lenhardt said “They are stout up front.”
Lemmon led the Blazer rushing attack with 117 yards on 20 attempts, while Torrington senior quarterback Casey Britton added 77 yards on 15 tries. Britton was also 6-of-12 passing for 41 yards. Cade Schwartzkopf caught two passes for 15 yards, while Sam Firminhac had one reception for 15 yards.
Defensively, senior Trace English led Torrington with 11 tackles, while Josh Kinglsey tallied nine stops and a sack for a 5-yard loss. Scotty Woodruff, Lemmon and Braden Meecham added nine tackles each.
“Our kids have nothing to hang their head about,” Lenhardt said. “We really went toe-to-toe. (Star Valley) hasn’t given up a point in their first two games. We came out and did a lot of good things. Our kids don’t have anything to feel bad about.”
The Blazers ended the season 10-1 and for 17 Torrington seniors they closed out their football careers with a 41-10 record.
“That is an awful lot of success and winning. We would have like to cap it off with a state championship but sometimes you run into a good team,” Lenhardt said. “Coach (McKay) Young does a good job. They have a great tradition. I’ll say it again, for as many kids as we have out, they had a great year. We got as much mileage out of these guys as we could. They have a lot to feel good about.”