LARAMIE – While the scoreboard may show a loss, getting State Championship experience should prove valuable to the Green River Wolves in the future. A big start by Star Valley and a struggling Wolves offense would lead to the first 3A State Title since 1996, 31-15.
After only winning two games in two years, the Green River Wolves wrapped up a successful season at War Memorial Stadium on Friday. The Braves were able to use a big first half to take the title. Green River did not quit and scored twice in the fourth to get on the scoreboard.
Star Valley finished with 484 yards of total offense, including 251 yards on the ground in the first half alone. They finished with a total of 412 yards on the ground. Kellen Hansen had 179 yards on the ground and Collin McGinley also went over 100 yards with 137 yards for the Braves.
The Wolves finished with 248 total yards offensively, being held to only 58 yards on the ground. GRHS had 190 yards through the air. Vendetti finished 17-27 with 182 yards through the air. Croft caught eight passes for 33 yards while Jacob Olsen finished with 80 yards receiving.
The Braves looked sharp to start the game. A 28-yard pass play to Brave Hunter Jacobson moved Star Valley into Wolves territory. Another SV first down moved them to the Wolves 26, but the Green River defense stepped up. After forcing a third down, Brenden Hopkins blew up an attempted shovel pass. An eight-yard loss forced a Brave punt.
The punt gave the Wolves their first offense possession at their own three-yard line. A couple of runs moved the ball out of the shadow of the endzone, but the Wolves punted back to Star Valley.
The first play of the next drive went to the Brave fullback Collin McGinley who broke a big run, moving the Braves into striking range. After moving inside the 10, Star Valley quarterback Reese Hiibel leapt in from two-yards out to take the first lead of the game, 7-0.
The Braves would continue to spread the Wolves offense out, forcing them to expend a lot of energy for little reward. Facing another third down, Tyler Vendetti finally broke through with a pass to Chance Hofer to get the offense moving at the end of the first quarter.
Vendetti would scramble, moving the ball into Star Valley territory. Facing third and three after the run, Vendetti kept the ball, giving the Wolves a fresh set of downs. A penalty moved Green River back, stalling the drive and the Wolves had to punt back to SVHS.
A 45-yard punt by Green River’s Keanu Hill put the Braves inside their own 20.
It was short lived as Kellen Hansen took the ball on the first play 80 yards to move inside the Wolves five. Only a diving Vendetti stoped him from scoring. Hansen finished the drive to put the Braves up two scores.
Vendetti would go through the air, hooking up with Jacob Olsen to try to get on the first half scoreboard. Green River was stopped again, giving the ball back right back to the Brave offense.
Another run straight up the gut by McGinley went for 48 yards, setting the Braves up at the Wolves 11. The Wolves defense was able to get a break on a dropped pass and hold Star Valley to a 29-yard field goal.
With 4:35 left in the half, the Wolves tried to get something before the half. Again, Star Valley’s defense stayed home as GRHS was stopped again and forced to punt.
The Wolves caught a break as Star Valley’s Sean Pittman would cut the return for 60 yards and a score, but a penalty took the points off the board. The Wolves defense could not take advantage of the break as Hunter Jacobson took the ball and moved into the red zone on one run.
Doing everything to keep the Braves from the endzone, Chance Hofer came up big with an interception in the end zone with two minutes in the half to stop the drive.
Green River let the first half wind down, calling the timeout with one second left and 60 yards from the goal line. The Wolves went to a double pass but couldn’t convert to close the half down 23-0.
Looking to get it going to start the second half, Chance Hofer took the opening kickoff 50 yards to give the Wolves possession in Brave territory. The Wolves offense could not take advantage as they would punt to the Braves. Hill again came up big, pinning the Braves at their own one-yard line.
Another big run moved the ball to the mid-field. The Wolves defense were able to force a fourth down, but a fake punt set up another score for the Braves. The 12 play, 99-yard drive put the Braves up 24-0.
As the fourth quarter closed in, the Wolves gave the ball back to Star Valley, who marched right down the field. With 22 seconds in the third, the Braves punched it in from one-yard out to take the 31-0 advantage.
One the final play of the third quarter, Vendetti found Olsen for a 15-yard pass play. To start the fourth, Vendetti found Candon Croft and Olsen through the air to move to the SVHS 11-yard line.
After Croft had moved to the five, Vendetti kept the ball, punching it in from five yards out to avoid the shutout.
The Braves covered up the onside kick and went back to running down the clock. The Wolves stopped SVHS and went back to work on offense. A pass to Olsen had Green River back on the move.
Vendetti found Kalen Kester for his first catch of the season and 51-yards later stood alone in the endzone. After a two-point conversion, the Wolves pulled within 16 with 7:49 left, 31-15.
On the kickoff, the Braves again held on to the onside kick. GRHS defense led by Brenden Hopkins forced another Star Valley fourth down, and the Braves punted with 5:16 left. On the first play following the punt return, Vendetti looked long again, but the Braves were ready this time, intercepting the throw.
With the game closing out, Chance Anderson continued to go hard on defense. Two Anderson tackles forced another fourth down. Blake Waite and the defense held on fourth and one to give Vendetti and the offense another shot at a quick score.
A quick pass to Croft and a Vendetti keeper moved the ball to midfield. Vendetti found Olsen for the sixth time of the game but, on the next play, he threw his second interception. It was academic from there as the Braves ran out the clock.