Cody kicked off the 2019 football season with a committee-like approach in its’ 28-6 win over Riverton, with four different players scoring Friday night.
“We’ve got scoring threats all around – even our offensive linemen,” Nic Talich said with a chuckle.
Offensive guard Steven Conner capped off the scoring with a 50-yard fumble recovery touchdown which sealed the road win for Cody with about five minutes remaining.
“He was coming in to make an additional block and the ball just popped into his hands,” Coach Matt McFadden said. “It made his night.”
Like most season openers Cody’s game was far from perfect as many fresh faces got their first taste of varsity football. But a handful of first-timers delivered quality performances on Friday and one newcomer, Reese Ward, excelled in the spotlight. Ward rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown in his first varsity game.
“It was just kind of fun,” Ward said. “They needed me and I did what I could.”
The Broncs racked off 265 rushing yards, 192 in the second half alone, but they got off to a slow start.
Cody received the ball first and appeared to be off to the races as Talich rumbled across the goal line from six yards out to go up 7-0.
But despite getting a few opportunities to break the game open, penalties and turnovers held the team back.
About halfway through the second, Blake Dale scored on a 41-yard reception to give Riverton its only score. The Wolverines missed the two-point conversion and it was 7-6.
After trading possessions Cody kept a one-point lead going into the half.
McFadden said the team made a few simple adjustments in the locker room that would pay large dividends when players jumped back out on the field.
“We just settled down a bit. We weren’t doing a very good job of communicating and doing our jobs,” McFadden said. “But the O-line made some adjustments, we called a few more counter plays, adjusted coverage.”
Riverton drove to the Cody 45-yard line with a few big gains to start the third, but Gus Mahieu sacked Riverton quarterback Damon Devries for a 10-yard loss, stymying Riverton momentum on the drive.
After drawing a Riverton punt, the Broncs took over and got to work, kicking off a seven-play 73-yard scoring drive.
A Drew Trotter 16-yard run and a Talich 11-yard gain brought the Broncs to the 33-yard line. Then, a few plays later, Cody Phillips took a hand off 28 yards to the end zone. He finished the night with 94 total yards on eight carries.
After Jackson Gail kicked home the PAT it was 14-6.
On the next possession the Broncs defense got another third-down stop, which led to a Riverton bobbled punt on the next play. Even though Cody started its next drive with great field position but returned Riverton the favor, committing its fourth fumble of the game.
A Duncan Radakovich sack forced Riverton to punt once again on its next drive and Cody drove quickly downfield to start the fourth. Talich brought the Broncs to the goal line off a 10-yard gain and on the next play Ward ran in his first varsity score with 8:51 left.
“The linemen made the biggest hole for me,” Ward said.
The Wolverines started pushing the ball downfield on the next drive but it hardly mattered as Hunter Hays picked off a Devries pass.
As the Broncs approached midfield, Ward took a handoff from Hays which was stripped by a Riverton defender. Then Conner saved the play, scooping up the pigskin, breaking one tackle and running 50 yards to make it 28-6. It was not surprisingly, his first ever varsity touchdown, but Conner didn’t play it up.
“He was just regular old Steven,” Jeff Williams said. “He just hands it off to the ref and we’re all going crazy.”
Keaton Stone recovered a Riverton fumble on the next possession and the final seconds of the game ticked off with Hays taking a knee.
McFadden said he was most impressed with the improvement his defensive line showed between the team’s scrimmage last week with Big Horn and the first official game. Williams led the team with five unassisted tackles.
As well as the Broncs tore up the ground game, McFadden said he would like his team to air it out more moving forward. Hays only finished with one pass completion on four attempts for 16 yards.
“We need to get the passing game going,” McFadden said. “We’ve got a couple of receiving weapons that we can get to. We’re going to work on cleaning up coverage.”
Cody (1-0) plays Friday at Worland (0-1). Kickoff is 7 p.m.