By Cody Beers, WyoToday.Com
3A East Conference
(Colors: Black and Orange)
Coach Patrick Sweeney – 1st season, 3-3 overall.
2020 Schedule: Powell (41-6 loss), at Cody (42-8 loss), Green River (35-22 win), at Lander (41-21 loss), at Rawlins (42-6 win), Buffalo (27-23 win), Riverton (H), Douglas (A).
Worland (3-3). Key players: senior quarterback Rudy Sanford, junior running back/defender Taylor Pierce, junior wide receiver/defensive back Jorey Anderson, junior receiver Brock Douzenis, junior defender Aaron Carver, defender Lane McBee.
3A East Conference
(Colors: Red and Black)
Coach Troy Anderson – 1st season, 2-4 overall.
2020 Schedule: at Powell (Zero Week, 37-7 loss), at Cody (44-23 loss), Evanston (42-14 win), Jackson (57-7 loss), Douglas (38-14 loss), at Buffalo (13-6 win), Lander (45-31 loss), Worland (A), Rawlins (A).
Riverton (2-5, includes Zero Week). Key players: Quarterback and free safety Damon DeVries, tailback and linebacker Trayton Hyatt, wide receiver Lucas Engle, tight end Jared Lucas, linemen Kaden Gantenbein, Isiah Bemmet, Rylan Koehn, kicker Tanner Johnson, wide receiver/cornerback Blake Dale, sophomore defensive back Nathan Hutchison, punter/kicker Tanner Johnson, linebacker Braden Vincent.
Friday, Oct. 16, 2020; Warriors Stadium in Worland, 6 p.m. kickoff. Listen live on 93.9FM (and watch live at wyotoday.com) for the pregame show beginning at 5 p.m.
It’s been a series of streaks in the 82 games of gridiron encounters between the Worland Warriors and Riverton Wolverines.
Riverton has won 15 of the last 20 games in the rivalry stretching back to the first game played in 1924. The teams are separated by 100 miles and Wind River Canyon on the Wyoming map. Through the years, Riverton dominated the football series in the 1990s, and Worland dominated in the 1960s and 1950s.
Friday’s 6 p.m. kickoff at Warriors Stadium in Worland is huge in terms of the Class 3A playoffs. The game can be heard on 93.9 KTAK-FM and watched by live-streamed video and the radio call at wyotoday.com. Pregame gets under way at 5 p.m.
As things look, heading into the second half of October, both teams need to win-out to bolster their efforts at a No. 3 seed from the 3A East. Riverton faces Worland and Rawlins, with both games on the road, while Worland hosts Riverton and travels to face first-place team Douglas. Friday’s game is about momentum, staying relevant in 3A football, and giving two first-year coaches (Patrick Sweeney in Worland, Troy Anderson in Riverton) a bit of validation concerning the vitality of their programs.
Senior quarterback Rudy Sanford is the son of former Worland coach Wade Sanford, so the football “genes” run deep in the Sanford family.
The senior leader joins a group of five returning starters on offense and defense. And though the Warriors are short on bodies patrolling the sidelines, they make up for it with all-in, two-way players on both sides of the football.
Worland’s passing offense is ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, averaging 188.3 yards per game. Worland’s rushing offense is No. 10, averaging 117.7 yards a game. In total offense, Worland’s offense is averaging 306 yards a game, No. 6 in Class 3A.
Defensively, the Warriors are ranked No. 8 in rushing defense (giving up 197.2 yards a game), No. 12 in pass defense (giving up 139 yards a game), and No. 8 in overall defense (336.3 yards a game).
Individually, Worland junior Taylor Pierce is the No. 8 rusher in Class 3A, averaging 80 yards per game on 4.9 yards per carry (98 carries, 480 yards, 1 touchdown). Through the air, the No. 4-ranked quarterback Sanford has completed 72 of 142 passes for 915 yards, 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. SanfordR 17;s top receivers are No. 2-ranked receiver Brock Douzenis (37 catches, 495 yards, 5 touchdowns), and No. 3-ranked junior Jorey Anderson (32 catches, 416 yards, 6 touchdowns).
Defensively, junior Aaron Carver is Worland’s top defensive point getter, scoring an average of 14.2 defensive points per game (62 tackles, including 4 tackles for loss and a sack). Anderson has recorded 33 tackles and 3 interceptions, while Lane McBee has 40 tackles, including 2 tackles for loss and 2 sacks, and Pierce has 44 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 interception.
First-year Coach Patrick Sweeney is familiar with the Worland players, as he stepped up to assume the top job after 5 years as a Warriors assistant coach. Sweeney likes schematic balance on offense, while Worland uses a 4-man flexible front on defense.
Riverton looked impressive for a half last Friday, leading Lander 24-17 at intermission. But it was the Tigers who displayed fire in their collective guts in the second half, out-scoring Riverton 28-7 as second-team Tiger runner Eli Mazurie ran rough-shod up and down and all over the bigger Cardinal and Black defense behind a slick-blocking and athletic Lander line.
Simply, it was ugly — just like the Tigers and Coach John Scott hoped it would be.
The 45-31 loss hurt in more ways than one. It was gut-wrenching. It was the third-straight loss in the county rivalry for the Wolverines. It vaulted the Tigers into the No. 2 position in the 3A East Conference. And it left some doubt about a once-promising season, which could end without a trip to the 3A playoffs.
But with the new week, a new challenge and optimism awaits in Worland Friday night.
It’s time to flip the scoreboard — a scoreboard that’s revealed the Wolverines being outscored 206-130 in 2020 (an average of being outscored 34-22 in 6 games).
Flipping the recent disappointing outcomes must start on defense for the Wolverines. Riverton is ranked dead last in Class 3A against the rush (262 yards a game), having given up 1,572 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns in 6 outings. But the Wolverines are second in Class 3A against the pass (107.7 yards a game), having given up 646 yards and 7 passing touchdowns. Offensively, the Wolverines are decent (No. 8 rushing offense, No. 4 passing offense). On the ground, the Wolverines have gained 882 yards on 147 carries (4 yards a carry) with 12 rushing touchdowns. Through the air, Riverton is averaging 160.7 yards a game and has completed 57.7 percent of its passes with 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.
Senior Trayton Hyatt is Riverton’s top rusher, having gained 431 yards on 101 carries (4.3 yards per attempt) and 6 touchdowns. Riverton dual-threat senior quarterback Damon Devries has 422 rushing yards on 93 carries (4.5 yards an attempt) with 5 touchdowns.
Riverton’s passing offense has been a strength. Devries has completed 74 of 128 passes (57.8 percent) with 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Devries’ main targets include junior Lucas Engle (27 catches, 362 yards (13.4 yards per catch), junior Blake Dale (21 catches 263 yards (12.5 yards per catch), and senior tight end Jared Lucas (14 catches, 222 yards, 3 touchdowns).
Defensively, junior noseguard Kris Topaum (42 tackles, 3 sacks) and senior Kaden Gantenbein (41 tackles) anchor the defensive unit. Other key contributors have included sophomore Nathan Hutchison (34 tackles, 1 interception), senior Broden Mathes (44 tackles), senior safety Damon Devries (25 tackles), senior Kailer Girgen (21 tackles, 5 pass breakups), junior Brandon Kautz (19 tackles) and senior Isiah Bement (20 tackles).
PREDICTION:Riverton’s 2020 season has been nearly as mysterious as this weird year of COVID-19, a presidential election, near-record heat waves and uncertainty. The Wolverines up-and-down season hit another downer last Friday in a 14-point setback to cross-county rival Lander. Will the Wolverines’ shoulders continue to slump? Or, will Riverton’s porous run defense force some 3-and-outs against one of the best passing offenses in the state, including successfully slowing 2 of the best receivers in all of Wyoming? A pair of first-year coaches and their staffs match wits in a must-win situation for both teams. Friday is about pride and “want-to” on the road in Washakie County. Who wants it more? Riverton struggles, yet it’s close, and could go either way — Wolverines 20, Worland 19.
Riverton vs. Worland (Riverton leads series 44-37-1)
The Last 20 meetings:
Sept. 27, 2019 — Riverton 17, Worland 7
Sept. 21, 2018 — Worland 33, Riverton 30
Aug. 29, 2014 — Worland 24, Riverton 21
Aug. 30, 2013 — Riverton 37, Worland 6
Aug. 24, 2012 — Riverton 27, Worland 9
Aug. 26, 2011 — Riverton 12, Worland 7
Oct. 30, 2009 — Worland 38, Riverton 37 (2 overtimes, 3A quarterfinals)
Sept. 3, 2004 — Riverton 52, Worland 0
Sept. 8, 2000 — Riverton 10, Worland 7
Oct. 30, 1999 — Riverton 24, Worland 13 (3A semifinals)
Sept. 10, 1999 — Riverton 27, Worland 0
Sept. 11, 1998 — Riverton 34, Worland 0
Sept. 12, 1997 — Worland 27, Riverton 7
Sept. 13, 1996 — Riverton 21, Worland 14
Sept. 8, 1995 — Riverton 21, Worland 14
Sept. 9, 1994 — Riverton 28, Worland 8
Sept. 10, 1993 — Riverton 16, Worland 0
Sept. 11, 1992 — Worland 9, Riverton 0
Sept. 13, 1991 — Riverton 35, Worland 6
Sept. 8, 1989 — Worland 21, Riverton 11