Broncs bid for state comes up short


The Jackson Broncs finished their 2021 football season in the same manner 2020 ended: watching their “Broncs” rivals from Cody celebrating a state championship. It was a tough pill to swallow for Jackson seniors, who hoped to go out on a winning note at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie last Friday. But the 41-24 loss was made tolerable knowing you gave your all. And these Broncs did.

Some gave all, all gave some

What does ‘no quit’ look like?

Brody Hasenack, battling an early season bull riding injury and reined in by his coach all year, still managed a thousand-yard rushing season. Defenses knew #2 was getting the ball and still couldn’t stop him.

In the state title game, Hasenack was laid out on the trainer’s table as his teammates headed for the locker room at the half. With a left ankle heavily taped and noticeably limping, Hasenack missed only a series or two in the 2nd half, and still racked up 143 yards and 3 touchdowns on 25 carries.

With time running out on the Broncs’ season, coach David Joyce called Hasenack’s number on three straight running plays to get his halfback one final score he could remember.

What does heart look like?

Gunslingers sling. That’s what they do. The Jackson Broncs rode Sadler Smith’s golden arm all the way to Laramie and they weren’t about to rein in their star quarterback because of an interception or two or four. With a target on his back, Smith accounted for an eye-popping 450 yards of offense Friday—rushing for 101 yards and passing for another 349.

Sadler was 28-50 throwing the ball but it was his 4 interceptions—3 returned for Cody touchdowns—that were the painful difference in the title game. Still, you have to be prepared to take the good with the bad with a throwing game. Quarterbacks have short memories (you have to) and they keep doing what they do. Without Sadler’s passing prowess, the Broncs wouldn’t have even made the post season.

And there were a host of other heroes on the field Friday. The receiving corp, the linemen, the defense. And how about Braden Hills? The sophomore kicker walked on to the storied UW field, home of the Pokes and notoriously swirling winds, and nailed a 31-yard field goal for the game’s first points and a 3-0 Jackson lead.

Right in it

Jackson did what they had to in the championship game to put themselves in a situation to win. Trailing 14-10 at the half, Broncs did a good job bottling up the 3A’s best rushing attack in Cody. The dangerous Chaz Cowie, steady Jackson Schroeder, and college-bound talent Luke Talich found precious little running room all game long.

But Cody made halftime adjustments, especially on defense. They saw something in Jackson’s quick out-outs to Nate Keipert. The secondary played up tighter to the Jackson receivers and jumped those quick-out routes.

First, it was outside linebacker Remy Broussard with an 89-yard pick-6 as Jackson was driving for a go-ahead score in the 3rd quarter. That made it 21-10 Cody.

Jackson again put together another impressive scoring drive but this time it was cornerback Matt Nelson who swiped a Smith pass and returned it 59 yards for another score. Nelson later intercepted another Smith pass at his own goal line and returned that 100 yards for a TD and a 41-10 Cody lead.

Jackson dominated in nearly every offensive category: 34 1st downs to Cody’s 15, 98 offensive plays from scrimmage for 581 yards, compared to Cody 48 plays for 281 yards. It was the 4 interceptions for 248 yards in total that doomed Jackson.

Moving forward

For Cody, it was a continuation of dominance. An affirmation of a successful program that is the class of the conference right now. Cody finishes the year 11-0 and returns several standout players next year, and not only did their varsity team go undefeated this season but their freshman and JV teams were never beaten in 2021.

For Jackson, 2021 was their year. The Broncs finished with a 9-3 record.

Several 3-year starters like Sadler Smith, Brody Hasenack, Colter Dawson, Nate Keipert, and Sam Scott are all seniors. Clancy Meagher, Alexei DiDanoto, and Braeden Weyrich are also graduating. Jackson will also lose most of their interior linemen in Henry Berezay, Will Pew, Matt Carney, and Ryan Ransom.

It will be tough for Jackson to reload next year but Joyce excels at getting the most out of his programs.

Loud and proud

It’s a tough loss for these Jackson Broncs.

The kids will get over it—perhaps quicker and easier than their parents and coaches. Mostly because they get it better than anyone. They alone know the sacrifice and dedication it took to get as far as they did.

This championship game and those three hours on the field playing the best in the 3A. The three-month season to get there beginning with two-a-days in August. And the three years many of them have been playing together at the varsity level.

By now they understand that it’s never been about football, really. It’s about growing young men into functioning adults.

Athletics teach fundamental life skills so many in our society seem to be lacking today judging from social media alone. Sports are part of the educational experience precisely because they so often and so effectively teach essential life lessons like ‘winning with humility and losing with grace.’

The stats, the score. Those things are already beginning to fade into the past. What this game and this sport means to these student athletes is far, far deeper than a 41-24 loss.

The hugs, the handshakes, looking an opponent in the eye and offering congratulations. Those shared special moments are precious. On a field of battle Friday, there was a winner and there was a loser. And that’s okay. Competition is okay.

And the Jackson Broncs football team is okay.

photo: nichols

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