Dylon Case finally broke free. On the third play of the second half, the Bearcats’ offensive formation caught Buffalo off guard and the lone score of the game proved to be all that was needed.
Douglas’ senior tailback sprinted into the end zone, quickly turned around and offered an open embrace for teammates as they celebrated the first score of the season.
“It’s great to go up to Buffalo and get a win,” head coach Jay Rhoades said. “We hadn’t won up there the last two times . . . it’s a tough place to play.”
The Bearcats’ defense was relentless during their season-opening 7-0 shutout on Friday night at Mike Moon Field, making big stop after big stop and preventing the Bison from creating any sort of offensive push.
Buffalo was limited to just 117 rushing yards. Leading up to the game, putting a stop to their athletic rushing attack was a key focus.
“This game has always been a battle . . . this was kind of a surprise,” Rhoades admitted. “As explosive as they are on offense, I really thought it would be tough to contain them all night. I knew we were good enough to do that, but to hold them to zero points was a different story.”
The Bearcats’ 7-0 win was the lowest scoring game around the state on Friday. Worland came close with a 14-7 win over Powell, but the defensive performance by Douglas was one that certainly sent a message.
The thing that impressed Rhoades the most on defense was their ability to hinder the big play. A phrase used by a fellow coach became increasingly relevant as the night went on.
“Coach (Wes) Gamble always says, ‘keep the cup’,” Rhoades said. “There were a couple of plays where they got outside and created some space but our pursuit angles were able to stop the big play. That was huge.”
Case carried the ball 23 times for the Bearcats and accounted for 166 yards of Douglas’ 217 total yards.
Under center, junior quarterback AJ Yeaman completed 4 of 9 passes for 33 yards and threw an interception. It was Douglas’ lone turnover of the game and as the night progressed, Yeaman began to settle in but made sure not to push too much as the defense carried them to a win.
“We’ve got some work to do on offense,” Rhoades noted. “We were so close to popping some long plays. Some guys are trying to do too much. We just have to be better fuindamentally with our feet, run crisper routes, pull the trigger on passes . . . there’s a few things that held us back but we’re developing.”
Gamble, Douglas’ defensive coordinator, installed a new scheme this year for the Bearcats that could pay dividends against some of the more athletic offensives in 3A.
If a week-one shutout on the road against a tough Buffalo team symbolizes anything, it’s that added comfortability with a new scheme could mean much more to come.
Back On the Road
Rhoades and the Bearcats will pack up once again on Friday and travel to Hot Springs, South Dakota for a week-two matchup with the 2-0 Bison.
Douglas shut out head coach Ben Kramer and Hot Springs last season 34-0 at Bearcat Stadium. It’s the only time the two teams have faced during Rhoades’ tenure as head coach, but they’re a team that shouldn’t be overlooked.
“They’re a bunch of tough kids up there,” Rhoades said. “They’re very well coached . . . I have a lot of respect for coach Kramer, they’re tough, hard-nosed kids. They’re quite a bit smaller but we don’t overlook them at all.”
The Bison started a number of young players up front last season. Rhoades said that they will be very physical and with a year of experience last season, will be much better and ready to go.
“The plan is to wear them down,” he said. “They’ve got some speed but we can out-athlete them with sheer numbers. If we’re not prepared for them, they’ll knock us around.”
Kickoff from Woodward Field in Hot Springs is set for 6 p.m. on Friday.