Squaring off against its third Top 5 team in as many weeks, the Evanston High School football team was unable to find an answer for third-ranked Star Valley Thursday in Afton, falling 40-6.
The Red Devils’ losing skid is now at three games, and with a 1-3 record against 3A West teams, Evanston will have to win this Friday at Powell — also with a 1-3 conference record — to advance to the playoffs.
“Sometimes, you just have to get in the fight,” said EHS head coach Jim Burton. “You gotta do it early. We can’t wait 24 minutes to decide that we want to play football. I think — across the board — that’s what happened. They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect, we just didn’t execute. We talk about executing, and we didn’t do it.”
Star Valley’s Winston Green returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, setting the tone for a decisive first quarter — Braves quarterback Taft McClure scored on a 25-yard run, then threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Zac Patterson to make it 20-0 in the opening frame.
The second quarter featured much of the same, with McClure connecting with Green for a 30-yard touchdown strike; that was followed by a 4-yard touchdown run in the waning seconds of the half by Lane Oesch. Evanston’s Tyler Stokes provided the Red Devils’ lone highlight of the first half, blocking the PAT following Oesch’s score, though the Braves held a 33-0 lead at the break.
“We just told the kids, ‘Hey, you’ve gotta get in the fight — you can’t win a fight if you don’t throw a punch,’” Burton said. “The first half, we just took it, we took everything they had. It seems like adversity hits us, and we take a while to recover. That’s something we have to fix quicker.”
Star Valley scored just once more in the second half — a 24-yard touchdown run by Oesch midway through the third quarter — to make it 40-0. With four minutes left in the third, Evanston embarked on what would become their most productive drive of the night, a 75-yard masterpiece that culminated in the Red Devils’ only score.
“In the second half, we just got back to basics,” Burton said. “First half, we tried to dress it up a little bit, give them some eye candy, and that didn’t work. So we got back to power football, running the option, and it worked. That’s something we have to remember, going forward.”
The drive was highlighted by a 21-yard run by David Perez, as well as hard-nosed running by Carsen Knight and quarterback Jaxin Moore. The drive rolled into the fourth quarter, and on the first play from scrimmage in the final frame, Knight barreled through the Braves’ defense for a 16-yard touchdown. Dylan Liechty’s PAT went wide, but the Red Devils were able to avoid the shutout, 40-6.
“With that drive, it was just getting back to what we do,” Burton said. “Football — especially high school football — is about using what you have. At times, we have to remember what we have to work with — we have a pretty good power run game, we just have to do it. We actually had two or three decent drives that stalled on us — we just have to do that sooner.”
Official stats were unavailable at press time, though unofficially, the Red Devils finished with just 148 yards of offense, a big chunk of that coming on their scoring drive. Star Valley finished with 407 yards of total offense, 126 through the air and 293 on the ground.
Knight led the charge on the ground for the Red Devils, racking up 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries; Perez followed with 34 yards on the ground, as well as two receptions for 16 yards.
The Red Devils close out the regular season Friday at No. 4 Powell, in a winner-take-all matchup — with identical 1-3 conference records, the winner will claim the final playoff spot in the 4A West; the loser will see their season end.
“It’s going to be power on power, for sure,” Burton said. “Powell is a power team — they like to run the ball, and a lot of their passing is play-action. They’ve got big backs, and a big, strong line, so it’s going to be another physical game.”
“Hopefully, the guys are ready to go, ready to work this week,” he added. “We’ve got to mix some things up, try to make sure we get a really good look on our scout teams. We need to make sure we’re prepared, and that we’re ready to play at the first whistle.”