LARAMIE — Kade Eisele set the tone for the game on the opening kickoff.
The Big Horn senior fielded the kickoff at the 9-yard line waited for his blocks to develop, found a seam in the middle of the Jonah Field turf and outran the remaining Panthers for a 91-yard touchdown.
“We stress setting the tone and our kickoff blocks were just phenomenal,” Eisele said.
The outcome was seemingly never in doubt after that. Big Horn (11-0) scored touchdowns on its next two possessions and routed Cokeville 56-3 in the Wyoming State High School Class 1A/11-man Championship game Saturday at War Memorial Stadium.
“We like to start fast and you can’t ask for a better way to start the game than that,” first-year Big Horn head coach Kirk McLaughlin said. “Kade had a whale of a ball game … I knew he was going to show up today.”
Eisele and the entire Rams offensive unit showed up ready to play Saturday.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior rushed for 207 yards and two scores and added two receptions for 48 yards to go along with his opening kickoff return, giving him 346 all-purpose yards for the game.
Big Horn finished with 516 total yards against a Cokeville defense that was allowing just 168.2 yards per game on the season.
“We’re very dynamic and we have playmakers all over the field,” Eisele said. “We utilize everyone and that’s what makes us so good.”
In addition to Eisele’s three touchdowns, the Rams also got three TD passes from junior quarterback Quinn McCafferty (13 yards to Kyler Ostler, 21 yards to Carson Bates and 48 yards to Kade VanDyken) and a 1-yard scoring run from McCafferty.
“It comes easy when our O-line is opening holes like they do and our playmakers are making plays like they do,” said McCafferty, who completed 11 of 15 passes for 246 yards and the three scores.
As well as the offense played for Big Horn, its defense was just as impressive, limiting Cokeville (10-1) to just 142 yards.
When the Panthers did manage to get into the red zone, thanks primarily to two Big Horn miscues on punt returns, the Rams defense shut the door.
Cokeville took over at the Big Horn 23 after a fumbled punt late in the first half with a chance to take some momentum into the locker room. The Panthers got to the Big Horn 3 with a fresh set of downs, but four running plays went for 0, 1, -1 and 2 yards and the Rams maintained their 28-0 lead.
Perhaps feeling like the game was getting out of control, longtime Cokeville head coach Todd Dayton called a timeout before the fourth-down play.
“That was a big momentum changer,” McLaughlin said. “During that timeout I told the kids, ‘This is a big play here. If they score they get the ball back to start the second half.’ But the kids got a big stop on fourth down.”
The Panthers had another first-and-goal early in the second half, but three plays netted only 4 yards and they settled for a 22-yard Brayden Johnson field goal to avoid the shutout.”
“I feel like our defense hasn’t been given the credit we deserve,” said Big Horn senior Cutler Bradshaw, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles. “Our first-team defense allowed only 17 points all year.”
The state championship is Big Horn’s third since the games were moved to War Memorial 10 years ago. Cokeville’s record at War Memorial dropped to 4-1.