TORRINGTON – The Torrington and Southeast high school football teams begin postseason play on Friday evening.
The 2A East top-seeded Torrington Blazers host the Cokeville Panthers for the second consecutive year in the first round, while the 9-Man East No. 3-seeded Southeast Cyclones travel nearly 400 miles to Cowley to face the West’s No. 2-seeded Rocky Mountain Grizzlies.
The Blazers will host a Cokeville Panther team who has lost two games in a row, while Torrington has won seven straight contests.
The Panthers have lost two consecutive games, including a 28-21 loss to Big Piney on Oct. 15 and 21-6 to Lovell on Oct. 22.
Prior to that, Cokeville began the season 5-1 with the team’s only loss coming to defending 2A state champion, the Lyman Eagles. In the five wins, Cokeville has outscored their opponents 171-25, giving up a maximum of 12 points in those games and shutting out Pinedale and Kemmerer.
“(They are a) well coached team. The kids play hard on both sides of the ball. On the o-line, they fire off. They stay low. They stay engaged and sustain their blocks,” Stienmetz said. “The quarterback throws the ball well. He commands the offense well.”
The dual threat Panthers can put up a lot of points on the scoreboard, they love to chew up the clock.
“They also want to control the clock by having the ball, yet they still have the big players in (Treyson) Dayton, (Landon) Walker and (Jack) Dayton,” Stienmetz said. “They can run the ball. They can throw the ball. They do a lot of things well.”
On the defensive side of the field, the Panthers bring in the No. 2 defense in Class 2A, giving up 191.7 yards per game.
“They run a 4-4, cover three. We know what we are going to get, but they execute well. They tackle well. They get to the ball well,” Stienmetz said. “Any yards we do get, we are going to have to fight for any extra yardage. They are very stingy when it comes to giving up yards.”
Stienmetz stressed ball security, winning the turnover margin, tackling well and execution will be keys if Torrington wants to advance to the semifinal round.
“Execution is going to be key on both sides of the ball,” Stienmetz said. “It’s going to be a great battle Friday.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Cyclones will make the trip to Cowley and Rocky Mountain into a multi-day adventure, leaving Thursday and returning Saturday.
Southeast will have their hands full against the Grizzlies, who are coming into the playoffs with a 7-1 record. Rocky Mountain’s lone loss came to Shoshoni in week two.
“It’ll be a big test for us. They are big. They have some big kids and run some good stuff at you,” coach Mark Bullington. “In the age of film, you know what they are going to run all year. There shouldn’t be any surprises.”
Bullington and the Cyclones are coming off a 40-6 win over Wright.
“Everybody is healthy. We played pretty good football the other day,” he said. “The kids are starting to come around both offensively and defensively.”
In addition to the size of Rocky Mountain up front, the quarterback will also be a focus for Southeast.
“The quarterback likes to run the ball a lot He was hurt at the first of the year,” Bullington said. “He’s a big, tall kid with some pretty good speed.”
Bullington noted they aren’t afraid to throw the ball either.
“He’s got a couple of receivers he really likes, and he can throw it a long way,” he added.
On the other side of the field, Southeast expects to see a zone defense out of the Grizzlies. It’s something the offense hasn’t seen much of this year, but it’s something the offense runs against in practice all the time.
“We’ll have to find the holes, sit and hopefully, we can make those, as coach (Shawn) Burkhart calls it, dink and dunks to keep them honest,” Bullington said. “They won’t send a lot. When it’s a passing situation, they will drop. They run a 3-3 or 3-2. Their philosophy is, they think they can stop anyone with those three big guys up front.”
Bullington said the key to the victory will be getting the ball in the hands of senior running backs Cord Herring and Ryan Clapper, while senior quarterback Grant Logsdon will need to hit his open receivers.
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. Friday.