Emotions ran high after a season-ending 26-0 loss to Greybull at home Friday night.
Phillip Harnden photo
The saying “Any given Sunday” applied to Friday night at the Sheldon Henderson stadium. But not in favor of the Herders.
The undefeated Herders felt their first loss of the season in the all-or-nothing semi-final round of the playoffs. The 26-0 loss to the Greybull Buffaloes ended the season for the purple pride; many say it was too soon.
“We put out an excellent effort and played hard, but it just didn’t work out for us,” head coach Ray Kumpula said of the upset.
Greybull came with something to prove against the feared Herders and prove themselves they did. Many fans believe that, had Greybull not had a bad week mid-season when they lost to Mountain View, it would have been the Buffaloes and Herders in championship.
Greybull ended up in the west’s second seed after losing to Mountain View in week six. The Buffaloes were without their quarterback for the game and caused them to stumble into the 2A West No. 2 slot. But by all other measures, they should have only met the Herders in Laramie. Instead, that set up the playoff matchup.
The Buffaloes appeared to have a tailored defense against Glenrock. And it worked.
“I thought we were prepared well for Greybull. It was a good game until the half when they got momentum,” Schwindt said.
It is a rare feat to shut down a powerhouse offense like Glenrock’s. But to also roll through one of the best defenses in 2A was an effective one-two punch that no one could have anticipated.
Star runner Schwindt wasn’t able to snatch up those big yard breakouts with an injury early in the first quarter.
“On a kickoff return (after Greybull’s first touchdown), I got hit in the back and on the hip,” Schwindt said. “I just couldn’t run much. I felt bad, like I was letting my team down.”
Kumpula knows that it takes more than one player to win or lose, but repercussions can be felt when a key player is out.
“We didn’t lose because Schwindt was out. But it does take extra effort without him. We lost an explosive force and his breakaway potential.”
Overall, the season was a great one for the Herders. They not only won, but owned nearly every play. There was little doubt about the Herders winning. Fans discussed how big the spread would be, rather than if they would win.
After setting such a strong pattern of consistent performance the loss came as a gut punch to parents and fans of the team.
“This loss doesn’t take anything away from the season we had,” Kumpula said.
For nine weeks the Herders dominated their opponents on the gridiron with an average of more than a 32 point lead at the end.
To lose by 26 and never cross the goal-line was a crushing blow for the team that many thought was unstoppable this season.
Kumpula would have obviously liked another week of play, but he is keeping his eyes on the future.
“In life you either succeed or learn,” he said. “The junior varsity finished 7-1 and the potential is there for another strong season next year.
“We need to encourage our players to be three-sport athletes and involved in the summer programs. Last year started a momentum that this year continued. Next year needs to keep it up.”
But for the seniors their high school career ended, not with a gracefull loss of a mediocre season, or the full sprint of a championship, but with a crash as the full momentum of an amazing season unexpectedly hits a brick wall.
“It’s tough on the team. We were on a high all season,” Schwindt said. “We did a lot of good things over the season that we can be proud of.”