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Tigers clinch playoff spot after pounding Rawlins
Lander Valley High School running back Joe Malek finished the game Friday night with 180 yards against Rawlins. Photo by Bruce Tippets

Tigers clinch playoff spot after pounding Rawlins

Oct 13, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

In a do-or-die situation for a Class 3-A football playoff spot, Lander Valley High School crushed Rawlins 38-0 Friday night in the Homecoming game at Bill Bush Memorial Stadium.

The Tigers are the No. 4 seed for the playoffs from the east conference. The victory lifted LVHS to 2-2 in league play and 2-5 overall. The Outlaws are 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the conference standings. LVHS knocked off Torrington for its other league win.

The Tigers pounded it at Rawlins right from the start with their powerful running back Joe Malek, who spearheaded the effort with 25 carries on 180 yards.

"Joe ran the ball hard," LVHS coach Doug Hughes said. "He took advantage of some nice blocking. That was probably the best our offensive line did and our fullback did all year. They really controlled the line of scrimmage."

The Tigers finished with more than 200 yards rushing in the game.

"We are very excited with how our offense is progressing during the year," Hughes said.

Rawlins had only one yard rushing the entire game against Lander's defense. The Outlaws had 28 carries. Rawlins passed for 85 yards. "We just did an outstanding job on defense," Hughes said.

Rawlins put up some decent passing yards against other Class 3-A teams.

"We just came out with a lot of fire," Hughes said. "We had a lot of success early. That early success leads to confidence. "

In the sixth week of the season, the Tigers lost a hard fought 14-8 decision to Buffalo during a snowy game.

"We have been playing physical after our second game," Hughes said. "We have turned the corner and have played a lot better. We just keep on challenging them. They just keep on stepping up."

LVHS will end the season against Riverton High School at 7 p.m. Friday at Wolverine Field. The Wolverines locked up the east conference title, beating Douglas 14-13, and earned a No. 1 seed for the playoffs.

"We know that Riverton is a quality team," Hughes said. "We know that Riverton has a lot of weapons. We will have to really be on our game, if we are going to be successful."

Good start

In front of the biggest crowd of the season, LVHS recovered a fumble on the first possession of the game from Rawlins inside the 10-yard line.

Lander couldn't punch the ball into the end zone and settled for a 28-yard field goal from place-kicker Kyle LaTorre.

After a quick stop by Lander's defense, the Tigers went to the air against the Outlaws and converted on a 30-yard touchdown pass to go up 10-0 after the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, the Tigers used a ball control drive with the running from Malek and Jake Miller to move the ball down the field.

Malek capped off the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. LaTorre missed the extra point, and the Tigers were up 16-0.

In the final two minutes of the first half, LVHS really started to open up the passing game. Quarterback Andrew Von Rein hit wide receiver Jess Oldham for two long passes to put LVHS within striking distance. Von Rein threw an interception to Rawlins in the final few seconds of the half.

Defense shines

The second half belonged to the Tigers. The defense forced a number of turnovers to run away from the Outlaws.

The special teams came up with the first big play. LVHS started the scoring in the third quarter when Rawlins punted in the end zone. The Tigers blocked the punt and lineman Ross Sloss landed on the football for six points. The Tigers scored a two-point conversion from Miller to increase the lead to 24-0. Malek and Miller hauled in back-to-back interceptions for LVHS as Rawlins went to the air play after play, but the defense kept Rawlins out of the end zone for four quarters.

"We let them get behind us a couple of times," Hughes said. "They got some passes that we didn't want to give them. You can't say good enough things about the defense. We put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We created a lot of turnovers. We played physical football. I'm just very proud of them." Later in the third quarter, Von Rein hit wide receiver Jess Oldham for a 6-yard touchdown pass. In the final quarter, Malek had a 3-yard touchdown run, and the Tigers clinched a playoff spot.

"Rawlins was a little disappointed," Hughes said. "They had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder from last year. They wanted to come out and really show something. We talked to the kids about that. We told the kids to control their emotions and just play good hard football. They stepped up and did that."

LVHS 38, Rawlins 0

LVHS 10 6 14 7

RAWLINS 0 0 0 0 -- 0

First quarter

Lander -- Kyle LaTorre, 28-yard field goal, 9:39.

Lander -- Andrew Von Rein, 30-yard touchdown pass to Jaxon Hedges, 6:29, (Kyle LaTorre, PAT), 10-0.

Second quarter

Lander -- Joe Malek, 7-yard touchdown run, (PAT missed), 16-0.

Third quarter

Lander -- Ross Sloss, recovered block punt in end zone, (Jake Miller runs two-point conversion), 7:27, 24-0.

Lander -- Von Rein 6-yard pass to Jess Oldham, (PAT missed), 2:27, 30-0.

Fourth quarter

Lander -- Joe Malek, 3-yard touchdown run, (PAT kick), 5:19, 34-0

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