It wasn’t the fast start the Cody Broncs hoped to start the 3A state championship game with, but it wasn’t necessary in a convincing 41-24 win over Jackson on Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
The defending state champions used three consecutive interception returns for touchdowns in the second half to build an insurmountable lead and repeat as champions.
“That third quarter was obviously huge for us and put the game away,” coach Matt McFadden said. “Those interceptions were back-breakers for Jackson.”
Jackson got on the scoreboard first on a 31-yard field goal from Braden Hills in the opening quarter.
Cody (11-0) took the lead later in the frame on a 16-yard scoring strike from Luke Talich to Kellon George to put Cody up 7-3.
Jackson took the lead on a Brody Hasenack 29-yard score with 4:22 to go in the second quarter.
Jackson led 10-7 with 2:10 to go in the half, just enough time for the Broncs to put together yet another late second-quarter touchdown, something they have done all season long.
George caught his second touchdown pass with 11 seconds to go, this time a 24-yard strike from Talich.
“We practice the two-minute drill a lot,” Talich said. “We know what we need to do. We know how many timeouts we have and know when to stop the clock. My offensive line did a great job and I was able to find Kellon.”
It was a momentum shift that stretched into an improbable third quarters.
With Jackson driving into Cody territory, junior linebacker Remy Broussard intercepted a Sadler Smith pass and rumbled 89 yards for the touchdown.
That put Cody up 21-10 midway through the third.
“Before the game we had been talking about those out routes,” Broussard said. “They got me on a couple of those. Then at halftime coach (Scott) Schnell and I talked about it. When they tried it again I did what he said and I was right there for it.”
Grayson Beaudrie threw the key blocks for Broussard as he streaked down the right sideline for the score.
Less than three minutes later, Cody cornerback Matt Nelson stepped in front of a Smith pass for a 59-yard interception return for a touchdown to make it 28-10 Cody.
Nelson’s encore pick six, however, put the nail in the coffin for Cody.
With Jackson driving again, Nelson jumped a route and snagged a Smith pass in the end zone and raced 100 yards for the score.
That put the Broncs up 35-10 with 10:24 to go in the fourth.
“I think we just have a bunch of tough guys who are in it until the end,” Broussard said. “They don’t give up. They will fight until the very end.”
Smith tested Nelson again later in the fourth quarter, again with a similar result. The junior recorded a diving interception to set Cody up in prime field position.
Talich then hit Drew Trotter in stride for his third touchdown pass of the game, this time a 17-yarder with just 3:43 remaining in the game for the 41-10 Cody lead.
“After all those interceptions I was just shocked. I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Talich said. “When Matt got that last pick, we went out on offense and it was like a new start to the game. It felt like the offense hadn’t been on the field in forever.”
The offense hadn’t been on the field much in the second half. Cody had the ball for just 1:13 in the third quarter and still built the huge lead.
Jackson added a couple of short rushing touchdowns by Hasenack, but the outcome had been decided long before those.
The celebration was then on as the Cody faithful stormed the field, and there was plenty of faithful there eager to celebrate.
Hundreds of fans were on hand to watch the Broncs win back-to-back state titles.
“It just makes us grateful for where we live,” McFadden said. “We have such a great community, administration, parents, cheerleaders, band. We had a ton of former players in the stands. It was pretty special.”