This season was something that Jason Stoddard had worked for since his head coach, Brent Walk, focused a lot of attention on him as a promising sophomore.
Countless hours spent on the practice field, in the weight room and studying film prepared him for one of the most prolific defensive seasons in recent memory.
“Coach Walk taught me the defense,” Stoddard said. “Once I got that down my reads have come faster and things have started to click faster.”
A standout defensive back at Mountain View, Stoddard anchored one of the best defenses in Class 2A. For his efforts, the senior was awarded as Super 25 Defensive Player of the Year at the annual banquet Friday night.
“I worked really hard for this,” Stoddard said. “Coach Walk has helped me a lot since I was a sophomore with learning the defense, being able to know where to go and where to be.”
He gave Walk all of the credit for the award.
Stoddard was Class 2A’s most prolific tackler last season, averaging 23.3 defensive points and 9.5 tackles per game. Seventy-nine of his 125 tackles were solos. He also finished with five interceptions, two tackles for loss, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick.
The Buffaloes opened the regular season with a 18-0 loss to Cokeville and finished the regular season with a disappointing 41-15 loss to Greybull. Both of those games stuck with Stoddard from the final whistle up until the opening kickoff on the following Friday.
“We got a lot of criticism at the beginning when we lost to Cokeville, saying we were a young team and whatever,” Stoddard said. “Once those young kids got the young out of them, they started to figure stuff out and starting rolling, just kept getting better and it felt great to kind of shut up the haters, if you know what I mean.”
Stoddard helped Mountain View get over the upset hurdle and defeated Glenrock 35-28 in the state championship game. It was the first state title for the Buffaloes since Stoddard’s freshman season in 2014, just before he took over in the defensive backfield.
His 23.3 defensive points per game were more than any other Class 4A or 3A defensive player regardless of position. His 9.5 tackles per game were only bettered by Wright’s Dax Yeradi across all of Wyoming. No one else got within 20 tackles of Stoddard’s solo number.
Stoddard’s award was a historical marker for Mountain View. Former head coach Don Dinnel won Super 25 Coach of the Year honors back in 1995 but no player in program history had ever won Super 25 Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year honors. The Buffaloes have had 18 selections overall and have now been represented in back-to-back seasons.
In a year full of defensive standouts, Stoddard was the one left standing tall. Star Valley’s Josh Dawson had a prolific season but the Braves’ dominance over opponents took him out of games at halftime and limited his statistics. Kelly Walsh linebacker Joey Geil had the tackles and big plays as the anchor of a semifinalist but the Trojans three regular-season losses hurt.
This season was the perfect concoction for Stoddard. After a few years as a valuable defensive weapon, he was at the top of his game while the Buffaloes’ offense grew into its own at the right time.
Finally, he won his state championship as a starter. Everything else has been icing on the cake.
“State championship is definitely top, that was the main priority and winning with that team was awesome,” Stoddard said. “This is definitely a close second.”