Two years ago, Big Horn saw its bid for back-to-back state titles end with a 20-16 loss to Pine Bluffs in the Class 1A/11-man state championship game. That defeat, on Nov. 11, 2017, was the last time the Rams finished on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Big Horn completed its second consecutive 11-0 season last Saturday with a 55-7 victory over Cokeville in the Wyoming State High School Class 1A/11-man Championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
The seniors on this year’s team point back to that loss to Pine Bluffs as the driving force behind their current run.
“That loss to Pine Bluffs in 2017 was pretty demoralizing,” senior Will Pelissier said Thursday after the Super 25 banquet in Casper. “We watched that game film and we dissected it play by play. So going into the next season we focused on preparation and whenever we played a team we had a little hate in our hearts. We were going out there to kick their butts.”
The Rams then went out and did just that the past two seasons.
Last year’s team set state scoring records for most points in a season (577) and highest points per game average for an 11-man team (52.5). Big Horn scored fewer than 40 points just once (39-7 victory over Greybull) and capped its perfect season with a 56-3 rout of previously unbeaten Cokeville in the state championship game.
Big Horn entered this season having to replace seven all-state players and two Super 25 selections but the Rams never missed a beat. Having six returning all-state selections, five of which were seniors, made for a smooth transition.
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“We had an amazing senior class last year that did some great things,” said second-year head coach Kirk McLaughlin, “but this year’s senior class really provided us with leadership.”
The Rams outscored opponents 539-97, averaging 49.0 points per game (No. 4 all-time). And, outside of a season-opening 40-26 victory over eventual Class 2A semifinalist Thermopolis, defeated every team by at least 27 points.
In the state championship game, Big Horn scored touchdowns on eight of its 11 possessions. The only times it didn’t finish a drive in the end zone were because of a lost fumble and on the final drives of the first half and the game.
“This just shows all the hard work and determination that we put in, especially the past three years for us seniors,” Pelissier said after the win. “It all just came together today. It’s a fairy tale ending to our careers.
“It was a lot of hard work … early mornings and late nights. This season was just a testament to our coaches and all they did for us. It shows how much hard work we put in in practice and in the weight room.”
With 22 consecutive wins Big Horn is tied for 13th for the state’s longest winning streak. Extending that streak won’t be easy considering the Rams have to replace senior standouts like Pelissier, linemen Cutler Bradshaw and Nolan Rader, three-year starting quarterback Quinn McCafferty and three-year starter Kyler Ostler.
“That is one of the best, if not the best, senior classes that has ever gone through Big Horn,” said junior Carson Bates. “We’ve got a lot of work to do next year, but we’re going to try to keep this going.”
Obviously, every winning streak needs a starting point. For Big Horn, that loss to Pine Bluffs in the 2017 state championship game was where it all started.
“That will still bring a tear to my eyes,” Ostler said. “Losing to Pine Bluffs two years in a row, I swore I was never going to lose again. And we just went 22-0.”
Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN