By: Shawn O’Brate

LANDER – This past Friday night the Lander Tigers took on the Rawlins Outlaws after just a three-day span of practices spawning from last Monday night’s resumption of the Riverton rivalry game in which the Tigers won in overtime. 

Even with the limited rest and practice the Tigers looked put together to the fullest extent as they took on the last-place Outlaws who came into the game 1-4 with their only win coming in the first week of the season when they beat Pinedale.

Coach John Scott’s Tiger defense knew they had a tough matchup on the backend of the Outlaws’ team as Rawlins came into the game with Dian Henson, the state’s best rusher, who averaged 97.8 rushing yards per game through five weeks. 

Right away it was obvious that Rawlins would not even attempt to pass the ball, running up the gut and around the edges as best as they could. For the most part, Lander contained Henson and the rest of the Outlaws’ backfield, holding the whole team to 145 yards total at the end of the game. 

Lander senior Gabe Harris made a tackle for a loss of yards against Rawlins Friday night in Lander. (p/c Carl Cote)

After a poor punt by the Outlaws early in the game, the Tigers would start their first drive from the Rawlins’ 34-yard line. The Tigers would take their sweet time, running 10 plays to get into the endzone with a one-yard touchdown run by Gabe Harris – the recipient of the game-winning catch against Riverton in OT. 

Rawlins’ strong run game was easily shut down by Defensive Coordinator John Rounds, forcing multiple punts and consistently giving the Tigers some of the best starting field position that any team in Wyoming has had in one game. 

The biggest “disaster” for the Tigers in the game came early in the second quarter with Matisse Weaver’s 27-yard field goal. Rawlins would take the ball and drive it almost 70 yards after the block, eventually getting to the red zone with their legs, but it would all be for nothing as a busted play in the backfield led to the only pass by the Outlaws’ QB Jaxson Allard. 

Senior quarterback Brennon Stauffenberg ran the ball against Rawlins Friday night in Lander. (p/c Carl Cote)

Allard’s pass was quickly snuffed out and intercepted by Gabe Harris who returned it 50 yards down to the Outlaws’ 21-yard line. The Tigers would get it 20 more yards downfield before handing off to Weaver for the easy goal-line smash TD to make the game 14-0.

Right before the halftime horn would sound, the Tigers found themselves with the ball on the Outlaws’ 16-yard line. That’s where Lander quarterback Brenon Stauffenberg threw a perfectly placed dime into the back corner of the endzone for an over-the-shoulder touchdown pass to Evan Stephenson, the savior of the Lander game on Monday. 

“That was the only player who could have gotten that pass,” Ernie Over said live as he called the game for WyoToday.

And after that dime of a touchdown the halftime score would be 21-0 in favor of the Tigers. Once the teams returned to the gridiron they wasted no time as Stauffenberg started letting loose a little, tossing passes left and right, including a well-placed ball to Harris in the soft spot of the Rawlins’ zone defense that went for 35 yards to the one-yard line. 

On that one-yard line the Tigers would get stuffed on the run, largely in part to the Rawlins’ defensive line playing against the run in practice non-stop. But, it would not matter as Stauffenberg rolled out on a play-action call that left Stephenson wide open with nobody around him in the endzone for at least 10 yards in every direction. 

Stephenson’s second touchdown grab of the day, and third touchdown reception in four days, essentially put everything to bed as the Tigers would soon put in their second string offense and defense for most of the last quarter. 

Coach Scott praised Stephenson and his growth this season as a receiver after the game while talking to Over during WyoToday’s Click-it-or-Ticket Postgame show:

“[Evan] really helps us a lot,” Scott said. “We have pretty good inside slot receivers … but once we get the outside guys [like Stephenson] involved a little bit, even taking shots downfield a little bit, it really helps open up the inside … It’s great timing for him to be able to make those catches and to do that.”

That 28-0 score would stick and stay on the scoreboard for the rest of the game, ultimately kicking the Tigers (2-1) up to third place in the 3A East standings behind Buffalo (2-1) and Douglas (3-0). Remember, Buffalo barely beat the Tigers two weeks ago by a score of 29-21 which is the only reason the 3-3 Bison team is sitting above the 5-2 Tigers team. 

Right now Lander leads all 3A East teams in points scored (207) and only trails Douglas by 11 in points scored against them (97) all season.

Up next for the Tigers is the 4-3 Worland Warriors on Lander’s Senior Night Friday afternoon at 6 p.m. Lander’s final home game will be a battle; if they come out victorious and Buffalo struggles against Riverton or Rawlins in their final two games, then Lander could finish the season ranked second in the 3A East.