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Friday’s matchup of dos Broncs at War Memorial Stadium for the 3A state title should be all anyone could ask for in a championship football game. Two evenly matched teams, each with their own narrative, their own motivation to win.
Cody hopes to defend its 2020 title and remain unbeaten in 2021. Jackson hoping to avenge that bitter loss in the championship game last year, and striving to wash out of their mouths the nasty taste of a last-minute 21-15 loss earlier this regular season when the Orange & Black let one slip through their fingers.
Payback, redemption, retaining the throne…it’s all there. High drama on the high plains in Laramie this Friday afternoon.
Coaches talk X’s and O’s
Both these teams are well-coached. Both coaches saying the right things going in, showing respect, leaving nothing for the opponent’s locker room bulletin board. Jackson head coach David Joyce admired the Cody team for how “machine-like” and solid they are on film. They play the game right, and they don’t typically beat themselves. You want to defeat Cody, you are going to have to earn it. Stuff like that out of the 5th-year coach.
“When you watch Cody, they are good at what they do. So consistent. They are so tough to beat because their kids know where they are supposed to be and they don’t make a lot of mistakes with regard to their assignments,” coach Joyce said. “You physically have to beat them and move them out of the way. And with their athletic talent, that’s hard to do.”
Meanwhile, Cody coach Matt McFadden noted Jackson’s quick-strike passing identity is morphing into a more complete offense of late.
“They’ve changed a little bit or maybe have been holding back some things,” McFadden told KODI play-by-play personality Cole Havens recently. “The biggest thing is their quarterback Sadler Smith. He’s running the ball extremely well. He’s become a big part of their running game as well as [Brody] Hasenack. They are now a little more run heavy, and part of that is the time of year, the weather, November in Laramie.”
Wind could again be a factor in Laramie on Friday as it was last week in Douglas. Whether it grounds Jackson’s passing attack or not remains to be seen but McFadden is well aware of a Jackson team that was able to grind it out on the ground last week against the Bearcats.
“They’re doing what they do. They still have the big explosive plays and good athletes,” McFadden says. “But that QB run game has allowed them to have some longer, extended drives and keep the ball away from their opponents, where earlier in the year they were kind of quick strike. Now they are now grinding out some 12-, 13-, 14-play drives. On defense, they’ve shored up their secondary a little bit but they are going to do what they do on defense.”
Joyce admits he’s been holding Brody Hasenack back some to keep him fresh and healthy. The reins are off now.
“I expect they will really try to take Sadler Smith out of the run game and force the ball into Brody’s hands with more carries. That’s fine with me,” Joyce says. “I’ve been holding the reins on Brody all year long. We are not holding him back any more, and hopefully we can keep Sadler involved in the run game to a degree. And if it’s not too windy there are things I know we’ll have an opportunity to take some shots with.”
As far as the Cody defense, Joyce knows his team has their work cut out for them.
“In the run game, what makes Cody good is their outside linebackers [Remy Broussard and William Thomasson] are both long and physical. They force you back to the middle where those interior linebackers [Grayson Beaudrie and Jackson Schroeder] are really muscular, really thick, and great tacklers. And then you have [strong safety Luke] Talich on the backend, sort of third tier—and he’s so fast—you’ve got a lot to deal with.”
Skill position potluck
The 3A showdown features playmakers galore. Conference standout running backs in Brody Hasenack, for Jackson, who is averaging 126 yards a game—2nd best in the 3A. Cody has a dangerous backfield-by-committee featuring Jackson Schroeder and Chaz Cowie. D1 prospect QB Luke Talich is also more of a running threat than passer.
Jackson has any number of offensive arrows in the quiver. Nate Keipert is the deep ball threat. He has size and speed to give any cornerback problems. Slot receiver Sam Scott has proved Smith’s go-to guy building on a synchronicity the pair developed in Scott’s record-setting season last year when Keipert was lost to injury.
Colter Dawson is the X factor. The hulking tight end has improved his catching ability but it’s his YAC (yards after catch) that makes the senior so dangerous in the passing game. There are simply few players in the conference that can or want to tackle Dawson in the open field, but the big man was very quiet last week in Douglas.
Jackson may have a slight edge with their ‘bigs.’ The Teton County Broncs have been stuffing the run all season with their defensive lineman—Ryan Ransom, Matt Carney, Henry Berezay, and Lucas Gralund.
Cody boasts a couple of good ones in Daniel Gorman and Danny Becker.
Keeping the hog mollies fresh will be key as both teams like to run their offense with tempo. Conditioning could be a factor late in the game.
Tigers don’t change their stripes
Both coaches and players know each other well at this point. There are few secrets though both coaches have admitted to scheming up a few things the other side has never seen on film.
“We have played them, basically the same dudes, for two years now,” Talich told the Cody Enterprise. “They are not going to change anything because they think they are just going to line up and beat us mano a mano. We’ll see how that works out for them on Friday.”
Gimmicks and surprises are not what Jackson’s players are depending on right now. In fact, Joyce said it was just the opposite.
“We aren’t going to get too far away from who we are because it’s been good enough to get us here,” Joyce says. “Our kids want to know who they got. No tricks. They want the opportunity to beat Cody straight up and we are going to give them that chance.”
Listen to Jake Nichols broadcast of the game LIVE on KZ95.3FM and kz95.LIVE.