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Rain can't ruin Tigers' resolve

Sep 17, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor

At one point during the second quarter of Lander's gridiron battle against the Bobcats of Thermopolis on Friday evening at Bill Bush Stadium, it looked as if bullets were falling from the sky as they passed in front of the light standards which tower over the field before falling to the already-saturated playing surface below.

It wasn't long into the proceedings of the Tigers' 12-0 victory against the visitors from Hot Springs County until the Bobcats' white jerseys were drenched in mud, making their already-difficult-to-read numbers virtually indecipherable.

But, that's just fine with us because this was old-school football at its finest as far as we're concerned.

I'll be honest.

When I came to Wyoming over two years ago, I expected football games to be battles in Lambeau Field-like conditions, with the whole nine yards of The Frozen Tundra and all.

Instead, all I've had is a few rain games, with Friday's contest simply the latest.

We weren't looking forward to the miserable conditions forecast for the game, especially seeing how it was still 80 degrees only 24 hours before.

However, as the rain intensified, a funny thing happened as I stood on the sideline being pelted by Mother Nature's aquatic assault.

It was akin to back in my Army days, when we would be out training in less-than-ideal conditions and it would get to the point where you were past the misery and discomfort of it all and actually began to embrace the elements.

"If it ain't rainin', we ain't training'" was a time-honored camouflaged mantra.

Well, you can take the boy out of the Army, but you can't take the Army out of the boy.

So, despite being soaked, I stuck it out until the end of the first half, as I usually do, before I ascended the grandstand to the press box -- and loved it.

Anyway, back to the game.

The home came out and played with a resolve I've not seen in this club in the three seasons I've been covering them.

Oh, yes, it was the green-and-black, Tiger-striped soldiers who would win the battle on this day, as Lander dug into the muck and mire defending their home field from the invaders from the north as though their lives depended on it.

No high-flying aerial attacks, no fancy trick plays -- none of it.

Remember, before the forward pass was legalized in the laws of the game, football was simply a battle of wills, with each side knowing exactly what the other was going to do.

"Watch the run!"

No kidding.

Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the Tigers' effort was the ability to force the opposition into the mistakes they have made themselves all too often in recent years.

One got the feeling despite the score remaining only 6-0 into the third quarter, the home side was in complete control from the outset.

Guess you had to be there.

It was the Tigers' first home win since a 22-21 classic against Riverton four years ago.

So, now, head coach John Rounds' charges have already matched their win total from last season in only three games.

Modest improvement, but it's all relative, so baby steps, people.

Showing signs

Let's hear it for Fremont County's seven varsity football squads.

After all, Lander's win, along with Riverton's home victory against Glenrock, tripled the local win total on the season from one to three in one fell swoop.

However, still work to be done, as the aggregate record still stands at 3-18 after the first three weeks of the season.

Now, we head into conference play for the final five weeks, when everything is ratcheted up a notch on the intensity scale as postseason berths are fought for, making everything more interesting.

Three stars

We have a pair of football heros and a state champion golfer making the grade this week.

No. 3 Brody Dempster, Lander, football

Not to stereotype a lad, but Dempster is becoming a short-yardage scoring machine for the Tigers.

The Lander senior has been a terror on both sides of the ball this season, but if you need to punch the ball in from a yard -- or less -- out, he's your man.

Dempster has scored four touchdowns for the Tigers this season -- all from one yard out.

You got it -- four carries, four yards, 24 points.

In fact, Dempster has scored four of Lander's five touchdowns on the current campaign, including the Tigers' last four consecutive, with his pair of plunges against Thermopolis on Friday added to the two he put on the board on the road last week in Glenrock.

Well done.

No. 2 Treyton Paxton, Riverton, football

The Wolverines' junior signal-caller has now started four varsity games in his high-school career and is beginning to carve out his own niche in Big Red lore, aside from being "Easton's little brother."

No, the younger Paxton acquitted himself quite well on the field of battle in the Wolverines' 50-48 home victory against Glenrock on Friday, going 22-of-34 for 329 yards in the air and nine carries for 58 yards on the ground, including scoring runs of one and 36 yards only 11 seconds apart to win the game for the Wolverines.

Excellent.

No. 1 Jaren Calkins, Lander, golf

As we've said on many occasions, certain athletic accomplishments will grant one automatic No. 1-star status.

Among those is being crowned a state champion, which the Lander freshman was at the Class 3-A state golf championships in Douglas on Friday.

The young Tiger posted a very Easton Paxton-like score of 71-72-143 in his first shot at state glory to not only lift the individual trophy, but also leading Lander to the boys team title, as well.

Not bad for a kid who still has three years of high school golf left in his bag.

Very cool, indeed.

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