Oct 19, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Staff WriterRAWLINS -- A 31-18 victory over Rawlins on Friday night at Outlaw Stadium has vaulted the Lander Tigers into the Class 3-A football playoffs.
Now, the stakes have risen for the Tigers when the Riverton Wolverines visit Bill Bush Memorial Stadium this Thursday, Oct. 24, in a Fremont County showdown. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
The winner will be the No. 2 seed for the playoffs from the Class 3-A East conference and earns the right to host an opening-round game in the playoffs.
The Tigers are now 3-1 in the conference. Lander beat Buffalo 21-0 last week for a two-game winning streak.
"Our kids were a little bit down because they didn't play up to their capability," Lander coach Doug Hughes said on Friday night in Rawlins. "At the end of the game you have to remind them there are a lot of positives to come out of this game, even though we didn't play as well as we would have liked."
Riverton lost to Douglas Friday night in one of the most showcased games in Class 3-A. Douglas has the East's No. 1 seed locked up for the postseason.
"I think that we could have been a little bit more focused," Hughes said. "You can't but help look at Riverton as a huge game. We talked all week in practice not to do that. It's just human nature to do that. We will learn from that."
In 2012, the Wolverines knocked off Lander at Wolverine Field on the way to the conference crown. Two years ago. Lander won a thriller against Riverton at Bill Bush Memorial Stadium.
"We like playing at home," Hughes said. "We are a little bit more familiar with the territory. We are excited to be playing at home and a chance for a second-place finish in the conference standings."
The Tigers started fast a chilly night in Carbon County.
Lander took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a quick strike by running back Jack Mazurie, who powered in for a 5-yard touchdown and 6-0 lead. A key play on the drive was a 10-yard pass from quarterback Pete Spriggs to Jess Oldham to move the ball down to the 5-yard line.
"I thought that we had spots that we did really well," Hughes said. "We ran some plays well. Our quarterbacks and running backs ran the ball hard."
In the second quarter, Spriggs got the second touchdown on a 40-yard breakway. The score came at the 6:23 mark of the quarter. Lander was stopped on the 2-point attempt.
Both the teams centered their attacks on the ground game.
"We did take advantage of single coverage a few times," Hughes said. "We got some plays on the passing game. We just missed too many open receivers. We dropped too many balls. We didn't capitalize on some of the scoring opportunities that we did have."
Both teams scored well in the final two periods of the contest.
Early in the third quarter, Mazurie recovered a fumble to set up Lander's third touchdown of the game.
Spriggs scored again on a 45-yard touchdown, run making a number of Rawlins defenders miss on the grass. The score put Lander up 18-0 with nine minutes left in the third quarter.
"Pete ran the ball really well," Hughes said. "He picked up some nice blocks. He is very shifty in the open field. He really helped us establish a lead that allowed us to get some of the younger kids in later in the game."
Later in the quarter, the Tigers took a commanding 24-0 lead when running back Jaxon Hedges scored on a 4-yard touchdown run at the 2:04 mark of the period.
"Jaxon is a load to bring down," Hughes said. "He gets his knees pumping high. He gets that forward lean."
Hedges was also a dangerous receiver for Spriggs.
"In one of his receptions he carried three, four or five kids on his back for about another 20 yards," Hughes said. "We need to get the ball to him more often."
Rawlins scored its first touchdown of the game with just over a minute left in the period on a 10-yard pass play.
Lander clinched the game when Spriggs scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Rawlins scored two late touchdowns in the final period. The last one came as time expired.
"When we had the game under control we wanted to get some of our younger kids some varsity experience and get them a taste of the varsity field," Hughes said. "You can't blame Rawlins. They just kept on playing."
Lander 31, Rawlins 18
LANDER -- 6 6 12 7 -- 31
RAWLINS -- 0 0 6 12 -- 18
Lander -- Jack Mazurie, 5-yard run, (PAT blocked), 6-0, 7:12
Lander -- Pete Spriggs, 30-yard run, (Two-point run failed), 6:23.
Lander -- Pete Spriggs,, 45-yard run, (PAT missed), 18-0, 9:22.
Lander -- Jaxon Hedges, 4-yard run, (Pat missed), 24-0, 2:04.
Rawlins -- Jalen Krenig, 10-yard pass to Brett Penman, (Two-point run failed), 24-6, 1:16.
Lander -- Pete Spriggs, 1-yard run, (Keaton Scott, PAT), 31-6, 9:03.
Rawlins -- Jalen Krenig, 30-yard pass to Kody Palmer (Two-point run failed), 31-12 4:45.
Rawlins -- Jalen Krenig 15-yard run on final play. 31-18.