Oct 25, 2013 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorThe Tigers claimed the second seed from the Class 3-A Easst conference and gets to host a first-round playoff game.
Two momentum-changing interceptions in the fourth quarter by Lander's Reb Lindwurm led to a dramatic 22-21 victory over Riverton Thursday night at Bill Bush Memorial Stadium.
The win in the cross-county rivalry game secured a No. 2 seed for the Tigers from the Class 3-A East conference and the right to host an opening-round playoff game next weekend.
The Wolverines will be the No. 3 seed. RHS will more than likely have to travel to play Star Valley in the opening round of the playoffs.
All the other Class 3-A East teams play Friday night to wrap up the regular season.
"We can match up and play with anybody in this state if we decide to do it," RHS coach Pat Patterson said. "We moved the ball up the field, but we just didn't take care of business. We have to build on that. We showed that we can play with Douglas for three quarters. We are a good team. We just have to show that more."
After starting the season 0-3 -- and without scoring a touchdown in the first two games -- the Tigers finished the year by winning four of their last five games to end the season at 4-4. RHS also ended the regular season with a 4-4 record after having won four straight earlier in the season.
"I thought that our kids played their hearts out," Lander coach Doug Hughes said. "It's a game that they really wanted. They gave us everything that they had. I couldn't have been more proud of them."
Lander punter Jaxon Hedges played a vital role Thursday. In the final two minutes, Hedges had a punt from his end zone that went 67 yards.
Earlier Hedges punted 62 yards that pinned Riverton near its own goal line and led to a safety for Lander on the next play.
Hedges also was the star in the backfield for the Tigers getting 128 yards on 11 carries, including a long touchdown.
Mistakes and missed opportunities
The Wolverines had a number of opportunities in the first period to take the early lead but couldn't find the end zone.
RHS moved the ball to the 1-yard line and 18-yard line against Lander's bend-but-not-break defense.
RHS was stopped short of the goal early in the first period when Lander's defense came in with a goal line stand after the Wolverines marched down the field for 64 yards after the opening kickoff. Riverton went for it on fourth and 1 but fell short of the goal line.
"The first one was my fault," Patterson said. "I thought that we got in the first one. The last one we didn't want to take a time out. I take responsibility on that one."
Later in the first period, the Wolverines had the ball inside Lander's 20-yard line and again were kept off the scoreboard when they turned the ball over on downs.
RHS placekicker Dietrik Becker also missed a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter.
The first interception from Lindwurm came when the Wolverines were on the verge of taking command of the game.
RHS quarterback Austin Patterson was intercepted by Lindwurm at the 6:30 mark of the final period and returned it 50 yards, moving the ball down to Riverton's 10-yard line.
The Wolverines were up 21-16 at the time of the play.
"Reb jumped a hook route," Hughes said. "He was in the right position. That really changed the whole outcome of the game."
Lander took the lead for good moments later when quarterback Pete Spriggs scored on a 10-yard run. The Tigers tried for a 2-point conversion, but the Wolverines stopped the attempt.
Lindwurm's second interception came with under a minute left when the Wolverines were going for the potential game-winning score.
Lindwurm jumped high to haul the pass into his arms.
"Reb did a really nice job both on offense and defense," Hughes said. "We haven't used him that much in the passing game, but we thought that we could use it to our advantage. We thought people would be overlooking him. He was able to make some big catches for our offense to keep moving."
Lindwurm finished with two catches for 47 yards on the offensive side of the ball.
Coach Patterson played a two-quarterback system in the final game of the regular season.
Brandon Fullerton, the starter in every game this season, started under center before giving way to Austin Patterson in the second quarter. Patterson started at wide receiver.
"That is the package that we worked on this week," coach Patterson said. "It was really the spark that got us going. (Austin) still has some work to do. He played a great game."
After the switch, Fullerton moved to wide receiver. He and Patterson combined for several completions.
Fullerton started the third quarter at QB, but Patterson came later in the period.
Fullerton was 6-14 passing for 83 yards. Patterson was 17-29 for 233 yards.
Fullerton also caught five passes for 78 yards from Patterson, including a 13-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone for the first score of the game for the Wolverines in the final minute of the first half.
"Brandon is a great wide receiver," coach Patterson said. "We knew that going into this season. It didn't matter who was the quarterback that the other one would be a great receiver."
Fullerton is a junior and Patterson is a senior. Riverton's Logan Hartbank pulled in eight catches for 127 yards.
"We still think that Brandon is going to be the quarterback next year," Patterson said. "Anytime we can get reps for him will help us in the future."
The Wolverines came in with a much bigger line against the Tigers.
"I thought that the line played pretty well for the most part," Patterson said. "We had time to throw. We just couldn't run a lot of stuff that we wanted to run inside the tackles because we couldn't get any footing."
The game was played on a wet field that turned frosty in some spot later in the game.
Riverton's leading rusher, Tristan White, was nursing an injury during the week and managed 25 yards on 10 carries.
"I don't know if his not being 100 percent made a difference in the game," Patterson said. "I think that it hurt us that he couldn't push of the leg and push for those extra yards."
Points on the scoreboard
After a scoreless first quarter, Hedges ran away from Riverton's defense for a 72-yard run on the first play of the second period for a 7-0 advantage.
In the third period, Lander made it 9-7 lead when Kyle LaTorre sacked Patterson in the end zone following the first big punt by Hedges.
Jack Mazurie scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up 16-7.
White spearheaded the Wolverines comeback on a short touchdown run of his own, cutting the score to 16-14.
The Wolverines took their first lead of the game on a 24-yard run from Pattterson down the sidelines for a 21-16 lead to set the stage for the thrilling final minutes.
The emotional intensity was high between the two county rivals.
After turning in a impressive first quarter on defense, Casey Savage was held out of the second half based on a coach's decision after a personal foul. Savage plays linebacker and on the offensive line.
"He lost his temper," Patterson said. "We can't have that. "We can't lose our cool in a game that was close."
Savage's teammate Riley Reichert was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter.
"It was a high emotion game," Patterson said. "You know that emotions are going to be high. You have to keep your cool. You can't do silly things after the whistle."
Reichert will now have to sit out Friday's playoff game under rules of the Wyoming High School Activities Association.
Lander 22, Riverton 21
LANDER 0 7 9 6 -- 22
RIVERTON 0 7 7 7 -- 21
Lander -- Jaxon Hedges, 72-yard run, (Hedges PAT), 7-0, 11:49.
Riverton -- Austin Patterson 13-yard pass to Brandon Fullerton, (Dietrick Becker kick), 7-7, Final minute of half.
Lander -- Kyle LaTorre safety on Riverton, 9-7, 10:10.
Lander -- Jack Mazurie, 4-yard run, (Hedges PAT), 16-7, 8:12.
Riverton -- Tristan White, 1-yard run, (Becker kick), 16-14, 1:12.
Riverton -- Austin Patterson, 24-yard run, (Becker kick), 21-16.
Lander -- Pete Spriggs, 10-yard run, (Two-point conversion stopped).
Rushing -- Lander Jaxon Hedges 11-128 yards; Jack Mazurie 13-46 yards; Riverton Tristan White 10-25 yards; Austin Patterson 11-46 yards.
Passing -- Pete Spriggs, Lander, 7-14 104 yards; Brandon Fullerton, Riverton, 6-14 83 yards; Austin Patterson, Riverton, 17-29 233 yards.
Receiving -- Hedges 4-50; Reb Lindwurm 2-47; Riverton Logan Hartbank 8-127; Brandon Fullerton 5-78; Ian McMenamy 7-62.