LARAMIE – For Pine Bluffs, it was only fitting that Haize Fornstrom had the ball in his hands for the Hornets’ final offensive play Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
The do-it-all senior drove Pine Bluffs down the field in the final minutes, capping the drive with a head-over-heels dive into the end zone to give the Hornets a 20-16 victory over Big Horn in the Wyoming State High School Class 1A/11-man Football Championship.
“Ten is our best player and we’re going to put the ball in his hands,” Pine Bluffs head coach Will Gray said.
In a battle of defending state champions, Pine Bluffs appeared to be in control midway through the fourth quarter. The Hornets led 13-3 with the ball against an injury ravaged Big Horn squad, but the Rams rallied.
They recovered a fumble at the Pine Bluffs 40, and nine plays later quarterback Quinn McCafferty connected with Will Pelissier for a 12-yard touchdown on fourth-and-7 to make it 13-10 with 3 minutes, 56 seconds remaining.
Twenty-one seconds later Big Horn had the lead. One play after recovering a fumble, McCafferty hit Colton Bates on a post pattern and the Rams had their first lead of the day, 16-13.
“We never hung our heads and we never stopped playing,” Big Horn head coach Michael McGuire said. “Pine Bluffs just made more plays than we did.”
Most of those plays came courtesy of Fornstrom, who finished with 148 yards rushing and completed 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards.
On the Hornets’ game-winning drive, which started at their own 48 thanks to a 38-yard return by Andrew Fornstrom, Haize Fornstrom took over.
On third-and-4, he ran for 5 yards. Later, facing third-and-11 at the Big Horn 27, he threw a dart to Ishmael DePaulitte for 14 yards on the sideline.
Following a 7-yard completion to Andrew Fornstrom, Haize Fornstrom took the handoff and ran off right tackle. He was hit by a Big Horn defender at the goal line and helicoptered into the end zone.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid,” Gray said of his senior quarterback. “He’s one of the special ones. I’m just glad he’s on my team.”
Big Horn got the ball back with 43 seconds on the clock and moved to the Pine Bluffs 35, but two passes into the end zone fell incomplete and the Hornets started celebrating their second state championship.
“The first one was for the community,” Haize Fornstrom said, “but this one was for us.”
Pine Bluffs took a 13-3 lead into the half thanks to an improbable series of plays in the closing seconds. With the Hornets facing third-and-9 at their own 20, Big Horn called a timeout thinking it might be able to get the ball back. But the Fornstrom-to-Fornstrom connection was good for a 20-yard gain and Pine Bluffs took a timeout with 15 seconds remaining and the ball at its own 40.
Haize Fornstrom then took the snap, stepped away from pressure and avoided a couple would-be tacklers. Sixty yards later he was in the end zone with 0:00 on the clock.
“I just read some stuff and everybody blocked the right people and it all just worked out right,” he said matter-of-factly.
Teammate Hunter Jeffres, who led the Hornets with 10 tackles, was a bit more effusive in talking about Haize Fornstrom’s play.
“In the fourth quarter we thought we were done,” Jeffres said, “and then Haize put us on his shoulders.
“The whole state gets to watch (University of Wyoming quarterback) Josh Allen on Saturdays. Well, we pretty much get to watch him on Fridays and Saturdays when Haize is playing.”