LARAMIE — Star Valley’s season seemed dead in the water on Sept. 7. Following a 36-7 loss to Sugar-Salem, Idaho, the Braves were 1-2 and, even more concerning, their starting quarterback and starting running back were seemingly lost for the season after suffering broken collarbones in the loss.
Friday, however, both quarterback Dean Shaw and running back Wyatt Moore were on Jonah Field celebrating Star Valley’s 35-14 victory over Torrington in the Wyoming State High School Class 3A Football Championship game.
“I went over to Dean Shaw’s house after he got injured,” Star Valley head coach McKay Young said. “The doctor told him he would be out six to eight weeks so we got out the calendar and started doing the math. I remember telling him it was up to the rest of the guys to make sure they did their part to keep things going until he was able to get back on the field.”
The younger Braves complied.
Sophomore quarterback Brant Nelson filled in for Shaw and junior RJ Cazier proved to be more than a capable replacement for Moore. Cazier, who rushed for 1,085 yards and 18 touchdowns during the season, added 127 yards and two more scores on Friday.
Cazier’s first touchdown gave the Braves a 7-0 lead to cap a seven-play, 47-yard drive after Chase Merrell picked off Torrington quarterback Casey Britton.
Star Valley (10-2) doubled its lead early in the second quarter when Nelson found a wide-open Will Johnson for a 14-yard score.
But Torrington (10-1) answered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive, capped by Bryan Lemmon’s 9-yard touchdown run in which he bowled over a Star Valley defender at the goal line.
“I felt like we controlled the first quarter,” Young said, “but then in the second quarter they got it going. We were nervous going into the locker room. They were getting the ball and they kind of had things figured out.”
That all changed on the first play of the third quarter. Johnson hit Britton after a short run and Logan Hoopes recovered at the Torrington 32. Six plays later David Castillo scored on an 8-yard run to push the lead to 21-7.
Young was asked if that was the turning point.
“No question,” he said. “We were able to get a turnover and score right away and that certainly gave us the momentum the rest of the way through.”
After that, the Braves went back to their tried-and-true running game. After Lemmon added his second TD of the game to cut the margin to 28-14, Star Valley chewed up nearly 7 minutes off the clock, running the ball on 12 of 14 plays. Shaw plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out to put the game on ice and put the finishing touches on his comeback season.
“When Coach Young came and talked to me after I got injured we weren’t planning on anything, but we were hoping,” Shaw said. “It’s a state championship and we won so I can’t ask for anything more.”
Added Young: “Honestly, this year more than any other year was a process … day by day and game by game. It’s so cliché and everybody does it, but that’s the kind of group we have.”