The Broncs football team defeated the winless Riverton Wolverines 28-17 last Friday, following a dominant second half by the Jackson defense.
Struggling in their first road contest of the season the week prior in Pocatello, the Broncs (3-1) were able to get back on track in front of a lively home crowd at home.
Playing at a higher level than their record may suggest, the Wolverines (0-4), led by quarterback Nathan Hutchison, kept up with the Broncs through the first quarter before the Jackson offense began to pull away. Once the Broncs got into a rhythm, their many offensive weapons became too much for the road team to handle, and the Broncs began extending their lead late in the first half.
Running back Brody Hasenack continued to be a cog for head coach David Joyce, rushing for three touchdowns and pacing the offensive attack on the ground. Hasenack, who missed the first game of the season due to injury, has shown no sign of his bull riding injuries slowing him down four weeks into the season. The senior has continued to be Joyce’s most reliable playmaker.
Hasenack finished with an astounding 210 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns. He found gaps in the offensive line all night, and frequently broke off chunk plays for big yardage. Reliable in all situations on the field, Hasenack has earned the trust of Joyce.
“I don’t hesitate to give him the ball in any situation, whether it be third-and-15, first-and-10, second-and-1 or fourth-and-11,” Joyce said. “I don’t even think about it, because he’s so automatic with that stuff. You physically have to get him to the ground, because if you don’t he’s going to keep running.”
Broncs quarterback Sadler Smith threw three interceptions during his 19-of-30 night through the air, but he too showed off his creativity as a playmaker. The signal caller danced in the pocket and extended multiple plays on third and fourth and long, often resulting in first downs and an extended drive.
The senior threw for 311 yards, with 32 yards rushing.
While Joyce commended the scrambling ability of Smith, he also recognized the importance of his team putting his senior ahead of schedule on the offenses down and distance, something they haven’t done a good job of thus far in the season.
“[Smith] did a great job of that, but we did put ourselves in a hole with either a false start penalty, or we would miss a [block],” Joyce said. “They did a good job hitting us in space. It kind of put us behind on the sticks.”
Another one of Smith’s favorite targets, senior Nate Kiepert, hauled in four receptions for 65 yards in the victory.
Finding success through the air, the Wolverines offense gave the Broncs defensive backs fits early in the night.
Late in the second quarter, with Riverton driving and looking for a big score before halftime, the Jackson pass rush began to click. The Broncs made several key sacks to limit the rhythm of Hutchison and the rest of the Riverton offense. The Wolverines, who were running a two-minute drill to end the first half, were stood up by several Broncs defenders.
Senior Colter Dawson and juniors Jack Jenkins and Lukas Gralund all swarmed the backfield for sacks on Riverton’s final drive of the first half to seize momentum heading into halftime.
Dawson, who made several key tackles on defense, also contributed 126 receiving yards on offense, including a bruising 70-yard touchdown in which the tight end broke past several defenders in his pursuit of the end zone.
While Riverton proved it has talent, the Broncs let the Wolverines hang with them early on. While eventually pulling away, the trend of letting inferior opponents stay into the game for longer than necessary has been a theme thus far in the season.
“I felt like at the beginning of the game, we kind of overlooked Riverton,” Hasenack said. “They played really hard with a lot of effort and we didn’t have or show as much effort as I wanted. But you know, we got the win and it felt good in front of the home crowd.”
Coming out strong out of the gate is something Hasenack said the team has worked on this season.
At one point in the game, Hasenack looked up at the score and noticed the Wolverines were fighting back. It offered an immediate wakeup call.
“I feel like we need to figure out how to do that a little sooner: Wake up and play football,” Hasenack said.
With the Broncs back in the win column they will look to continue their momentum Friday as the team hits the road to play Star Valley.
Expecting a rowdy home crowd on the road, Hasenack had a message for traveling fans.
“Come down and cheer loudly,” he said. “We have to beat Star Valley.”
The game will kick off at 7 p.m.