TORRINGTON – On Tuesday afternoon after school, the Torrington High School football team made the short drive south to Yoder to spend some time working out on Southeast’s turf field.
When the Blazers march onto the University of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium at 3 p.m. Friday, it will only be the second time this season they’ve played on turf in 2018.
The first came in week one at Glenrock in a 20-16 victory over the Herders.
Meanwhile, Star Valley is no stranger to playing on turf since they play all of its home games on it.
“It’s really beneficial in the kicking game to get guys out here and spend some time on the turf because it is different,” THS head coach Mark Lenhardt said. “It’s a huge advantage if you know how to play it. Star Valley plays on turf, so they are familiar with it. It’s going to be a situation where we are going to have to adjust. That’s why we are here.”
The Blazers (10-0) come into the Class 3A state championship game with some unfinished business after coming up short in a 20-0 loss to Cody a year ago.
“That is something that is in our kids’ minds. It’s not something we talk about because last year is last year, and this year is a new season. We are going down there to focus on playing one play at a time and hopefully, we’ll play a little looser than we did (against Jackson).”
Lenhardt said this is the best team they’ll have faced all season.
Star Valley comes into the game with an 8-2 record, with both losses coming to out-of-state schools.
“We are going to have to play very well to beat them,” Lenhardt said. “We need to go out and play loose and play like we’ve been there before because we have.”
The Braves present some matchup issues for the Blazers. Lenhardt understands that and hopes to be able to give Star Valley matchup issues in return.
“They have some areas where we don’t match up well. I’m hoping we have some that they don’t as well,” Lenhardt said. “They have some areas where we are just going to have to step up and make some plays.”
When Lenhardt broke down Star Valley, he saw some comparisons to that of what his team saw against Jackson.
“Coach (McKay) Young does a great job offensively with them in terms of that he knows how to attack you a bunch of different ways,” he said.
Brave R.J. Cazier will be another running back Torrington will face who has topped the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
“They are a big gap scheme team, meaning they run a lot of power game, similar to what Jackson runs,” Lenhardt said.
On the other side of the ball, there is only one team who gives up fewer yards per game than Star Valley. That is Torrington.
“They are physical inside, and they read their keys well,” Lenhardt said. “They do a good job of keeping the ball in front of them, so you don’t see them giving up a lot of big plays. Hopefully we’ll find a way to exploit that.”
The Blazers know they will have their hands full Friday afternoon if they want to hoist the championship trophy above their heads.
“Like we’ve told the guys. There aren’t going to be any tricks or anything different. It’s about how we go out and execute. The team that doesn’t turn the ball over or make mistakes and beat themselves is the one who is going to give themselves a chance,” Lenhardt said. “We have to limit the big play, and we are going to have to create a few on our own. The big thing is, we have to find a way not to beat ourselves.
Fourth state title meeting: Friday will be the fourth meeting between the two teams for the state championship. The first came in 1990 when Torrington defeated the Braves 20-6. That year was the last time the Blazers won a football state championship. The other two years – 1992 and 1996 – both ended with Star Valley victories.
Common opponents: Torrington and Star Valley have defeated Jackson, Evanston, Worland, Green River and Riverton in 2018.
Last meeting: Star Valley defeated Torrington 38-14 in the 2017 on Sept. 8, 2017 in Afton.