It’s always the game circled on the calendar for both teams—an age-old rivalry known as ‘Fall Brawl’—as the Jackson Broncs travel US 89 to take on Star Valley for the 84th meeting between two teams that don’t much like each other.
Both football teams need this game badly as the Broncs and Braves begin conference play.
Jackson (3-1) is coming off a 28-17 win over Riverton last week. Despite the victory, Jackson watched its coaches prep poll ranking drop again from #2 to #3. The Broncs were once ranked #1 and picked by coaches around the state to win it all.
Star Valley (2-2) is ranked #4 in the coaches prep poll. They pounded Rawlins last week 74-7.
Jackson coach David Joyce said his kids don’t put much stock in polls or rankings. They are focused on controlling what they can control, and taking care of business in Afton.
“This is senior class knows what it’s like going down there. For many of them it will be their third trip to Afton,” Joyce said. “It’s a good environment. It seems like there is a voodoo hex where there is always one big play, one trick play they pull off like a random act of chaos. We’ve been talking to the kids all week about situational football—when and where it seems they like to take their shots and trick plays, and to be ready for that.”
Jackson again will try get the bigger Braves in open space where they can take best advantage of their speed.
Broncs QB Sadler Smith has been putting up eye-catching numbers of late, spreading the ball around to his plethora of weapons—Nate Keipert, Colter Dawson, Sam Scott, Clancy Meagher, and others. Still, Smith has been plagued by interceptions. Turnovers and penalties, in general, were an issue last week in the win over the Wolverines.
The difference-maker tonight might be on the defensive side of the ball for Jackson. Like last year, the Broncs have been stingy to rushers. Few teams have been able to run with any consistency on the stout interior line and strong linebacker core of the Orange & Black.
“They like to run the ball but I think they are going to have to pass the ball against us, and that gives our defense the advantage,” Joyce said.
Star Valley’s main ball carrier is again Lane Oesch. At 5’11”, 175, the senior is not among the biggest of Braves’ running backs who have traditionally been of the bruising variety. Jackson did a good job bottling him up in last year’s 24-14 win in Jackson.
Star Valley’s quarterback is a running threat himself. Junior Taft McClure was also 8-8 last week with 4 touchdown passes.
Braves coach Mackay Young is expecting a big test for his team.
“Jackson is a balanced team. They throw it a lot but they have a fantastic running attack too. We’ll just try and stop them on the ground and limit them through the air,” Young told SVI Media. “We’ll have our hands full for sure.”