Hopkins rushes for six TDs in 69-8 LFL victory

LINGLE – On Senior Night, Lingle-Fort Laramie senior Slade Hopkins ran over, around and through the Saratoga Panther defense en route to six touchdowns in the 69-8 victory.

Hopkins scored on rushes of 18 yards, 24 yards, 12 yards, 20 yards and two from 50 yards.

He did that in only three quarters.

“He had a huge day. Our offensive line got off the ball, which is key. They’ve been playing well this week,” coach Brandon Gifford said. “I knew he’d have a big game if we did those things. I’m happy for him. He got to do it under the lights one last time. It was a monstrous game. Couldn’t have asked for more.”

Coming into the game, the Doggers were on a two-game skid and were looking to get back on track before the start of the Class 1A 9-Man playoffs.

“It’s always good to get a win. Winning kind of resets you and gets you back into remembering, hey, this game is still enjoyable,” Gifford said. “Those back-to-back weeks, the heart-breaking loss to Southeast, and we just didn’t look like ourselves against Pine. It felt like we lost that spark and fire.”

The Dogger coaching staff made it a point of emphasis all week leading into the Saratoga game.

“We are a good football team, and let’s remember it’s a game that’s supposed to be enjoyed. Our kids looked and felt like they were enjoying themselves again. It’s nice to have some of that momentum going into next weekend in the playoffs.”

Once the game kicked off Friday, it didn’t take long for Lingle to find its swagger once again. Sophomore kick returner Kaiden Riggs got the ball rolling in the first quarter for the Doggers. It took him a handful of seconds to take the opening kick back 75-yards to put Lingle in front 7-0.

Six of the next seven Dogger touchdowns went to Hopkins. The only exception was an 8-yard pass from senior quarterback Brian McCoid to junior Nolan Spears in the opening seconds of the second quarter, giving LFL a 21-0 lead.

By the end of the third quarter, the Doggers pushed their lead to 54-8, but the Doggers weren’t done scoring with the running clock rule in effect.

Freshman quarterback Brady Cook connected with Spears on a 20-yard touchdown, and as time wound down on the game, Cook rushed for a 3-yard run, pushing the lead to 61 points.

On the defensive side of the field, senior Corey Ducheneaux tallied two interceptions.

The first came with 10:23 left in the second quarter, and Ducheneaux’s second pick came with 7:29 left in the third quarter. Both turnovers led to two of Hopkins’ touchdowns.

Saratoga’s only points of the game came with 5:11 left in the second quarter on a 31-yard touchdown pass.

It also marked the final home game of the careers of seven seniors – McCoid, Cooper Fauber, Hopkins, Ducheneaux, Owen Schilreff, Boyd Oliver and Hadley Fleming.

“They were freshmen when we won a playoff game in 6-man. Then they had to endure a couple tough years in 9-man transitioning,” Gifford said. “For them to stay with it and stay the course and bring us back around full circle to a 6-2 regular season after we were 3-5 the two previous years, it’s a testament to them growing, staying with it and bringing those young kids along. Now, our young guys have a platform to continue to climb.”

With the win, the Doggers earned a No. 3 seed from the Class 1A 9-Man East Conference. They will travel to Cowley to face the No. 2-seed Rocky Mountain Grizzlies on Friday.

“Winning helps. Winning cures a lot,” Gifford said. “Rocky Mountain is a tough team. They are very, very big up front. They have athletes on the edge, and their quarterback is a real good athlete. Schematically, we’ll have to come up with some stuff to help our defense out a little bit. Our offense just needs to keep making plays.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.