There were 11 seconds left in the first half. Kaycee High School had watched its early lead against the Sheridan High School freshman squad narrow by an unstoppable offensive barrage, and the Buckaroos were running out of time to build it back up.
Kaycee’s first pass was smacked out of the air by a Sheridan defender, and the clock ticked down to just seven seconds.
But the second attempt made it to the hands of senior Dylan Fauber in the end zone, and Kaycee surged back into a comfortable 20-point lead just as the buzzer sounded for the second half. That offensive tenacity carried the Buckaroos to a 78-52 win even with a halftime loss of junior Harley Davis.
A Saturday morning start time didn’t stop the Kaycee High School stands from filling up for the team’s first home game.
“For the first time in history, we have more people at a 1A game than there is at the NFL,” joked Kaycee’s announcer over the loudspeaker.
As the two teams lined up for the national anthem, the difference between the squads couldn’t have been more stark: Kaycee’s 12 men took up just a portion of the field, whereas Sheridan High School’s massive 30-player team spanned nearly the entire sideline.
“It definitely affects the freshness of players,” Largent said. “I think it reflected really good on our team and our boys and our conditioning that they could hang with those boys and continue to give them a game.”
The visitors’ near-endless pool of substitutes couldn’t lift them past the smothering Kaycee blockers that allowed the Buckaroos’ offense time to plan and execute passes.
“We really emphasize blocking,” Largent said. “We tell our center everything starts with him. If he doesn’t get a good snap and get up and block, then there’s nothing we can do. And if the quarterback doesn’t get the ball in his hands, there’s nothing we can do. But other than those two things going right, a play doesn’t go anywhere if the blockers don’t get their jobs done.”
Sheridan scored a touchdown on the first play, but the tally was recalled on a penalty and the tide shifted the home team’s way. Aggressive blocking allowed Kaycee’s quarterbacks to line up passes that spurred the Buckaroos out to a 26-point lead, while the defense— junior Sam Ramsbottom and senior Rhys Stafford combined for eight unassisted tackles— held the visitors to just 14 points.
Sheridan slipped a few rushes past the Kaycee defense to creep within sight of a tie score with two consecutive touchdowns. It was then that the last-minute touchdown put the Buckaroos back in a comfortable lead going into the second half, 46-26.
Davis, who had been instrumental in many of the Buckaroos’ first-half tallies, was sidelined at the half with a wrist injury. Meanwhile, the home team’s stalwart defense relaxed slightly as the game clock ticked down. Sheridan scored a series of touchdowns, including a last-minute rushing tally.
“There was definitely some fatigue coming into play there down the stretch,” Largent said. “The other team’s not wearing down at the same pace. They’re running six fresh guys in every play.”
Still, Kaycee’s relentless offense — senior Ethan Devlin ran for 110 yards, and overall the Buckaroos rushed for 330 and passed for another 217 — kept the home team in a comfortable lead. The 26-point final margin marked the closest game of the Buckaroos’ season.
“I think we had 650 total offensive yards,” Largent said. “The boys were up and down the field a few times. Our offense was doing a great job in almost all aspects. … Defensively, I think Sheridan threw some things at us that we hadn’t seen in a while that are going to help us make some adjustments.”
Next weekend, a 3-0 Kaycee squad takes on its second conference opponent at home versus Hulett, a 0-1 team still looking for its first victory.
“All in all, I think it was a really good game for us,” Largent said. “They showed us a lot of different scenarios, and it was probably the toughest game we had this season. … I honestly think Sheridan showed us enough and played us tough enough that if we were prepared like we were going to play them again, I think we’ll be able to cover Hulett or really any opponent.”