WHEATLAND – For the second straight season, the Torrington High School football team will be the top seed from the 2A East Conference when the playoffs begin on Oct. 29.
Torrington locked up the top seed on Friday with a 21-12 victory over the Wheatland Bulldogs, spoiling their Senior Night.
“It wasn’t the prettiest, but a W is a W. We’ll take this victory for sure against a very hard-fought, well-coached team,” THS coach Russell Stienmetz said.
After a defensive struggle for much of the first quarter, senior quarterback Beau Bivens found senior receiver Chase Miller, who sprinted 40 yards as time wound down on the opening quarter.
It was the spark the Blazers needed to get the offense rolling, according to Stienmetz.
Once the teams flipped ends of the field, Bivens found Brenden Flock on a 44-yard completion. Following Miller’s point after, Torrington led 7-0, and it was a lead which the Blazers never surrendered for the remainder of the night.
On the ensuing drive, Wheatland drove the field, putting its own points on the board, but the THS defense held on the two-point try, leaving the Blazers holding on to a 7-6 lead.
Over the next two possessions, teams were forced to punt, but senior defensive back Deagan Keith was able to get his hands on the punt, blocking the kick. Kieser Wolfe recovered the punt and was stopped just short of the goal line.
On the very next play, Bivens called his own number, lowering his shoulder and bowling through the Wheatland defense to extend the Torrington lead to 14-6.
The score remained the same until midway through the third quarter when Bivens found a wide-open Wolfe in the end zone for a touchdown.
It proved to be the final points Torrington scored of the night, but the Bulldogs were going to make things interesting.
Over the final five and a half minutes of the third quarter, the teams fumbled the ball five times, with four of them changing possessions. Mix in a number of penalties by both teams, including three consecutive holding calls on Wheatland, it really drug out the quarter.
“That third quarter seemed to take an hour and a half,” Stienmetz said. “It just kept getting uglier and uglier. We need to stick more to our fundamentals and basics.”
With 8:04 left in the game, a Wheatland running back broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run. Once again, the Blazer defense stuffed the Bulldogs on the two-point play.
The remainder of the game belonged to the defenses. Torrington was forced to punt once and turned the ball over downs on another occasion, while Wheatland turned the ball over downs twice, including one last pass attempt on a fourth-and-four with a minute remaining in the game.
After the pass fell to the ground, Torrington was able to go to a knee, securing the win and the 2A East Conference championship.
Bivens led the team in rushing and passing, collecting 22 yards rushing on 11 attempts and throwing for 135 yards and eight completions. Miller was the top target for Bivens with 58 yards on four receptions, while Flock hauled in one catch for 44 yards. Wolfe had three catches for 33 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, Keith led the Blazers with 20 defensive points, including 9.5 tackles and a pass breakup. Senior linebacker Cole Parriott added 19 points, including a team-high 14 tackles and a pass breakup.
“It was a team contribution,” Stienmetz said. “Hearing the stats, there was no one who totally dominated. It was a team effort.”
The Blazers, the winners of six straight games, wrap up the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at Wiseman Field against the Burns Broncs (2-6).
Stienmetz said a lot of the pressure is off next week having locked up the top seed already, but he doesn’t want his team to get too comfortable.
“We sure don’t want to take a step back,” he said. “We want to take another step forward and see what we can do.”