“It gradually came together and it was fun to watch to see the kids buy in to what we were trying to do offensively and defensively.” -- Anderson.
CASPER — Trailing Torrington 3-0 in the fourth quarter of the Class 2A state championship game on Nov. 14, Lyman didn’t panic. The host Trailblazers had taken the lead on the final play of the first half on Chase Miller’s 29-yard field goal.
“We went in at halftime and nobody was freaking out, other than me because we couldn’t get anything going offensively and that’s my job,” Lyman head coach Dale Anderson recalled earlier in a phone interview. “We just felt like we had to keep doing what we do and something would break.”
The Eagles finally broke through when their defense stopped Torrington on a fourth-down attempt and senior running back Preston Brewer capped a 52-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown run. Following a Torrington turnover, senior quarterback Carter Smith scored on a 5-yard run and the Eagles’ defense did the rest in the 14-3 victory that gave Lyman (11-1) its first state title since 2012.
As a result, Anderson has been named the 2020 Super 25 Coach of the Year. Also considered for the honor were Cheyenne East’s Chad Goff and Southeast’s Mark Bullington.
Lyman won its first four games of the season, including a 16-0 shutout of Cokeville for its first victory over the Panthers since 1994, before a 6-0 loss at Big Piney on Sept. 25.
“I think that loss refocused everybody,” Anderson said. “We realized that we had to be better than that. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to us in retrospect.
“It was hard to take at the time, but I think that really did point us in the right direction. From there, the kids kept getting better each week … It was really fun to watch.”
The Eagles clinched the top seed in the tough West Conference with a 21-15 victory over defending state champion Mountain View in the regular-season finale. It was Lyman’s first conference title in eight years.
Lyman came into the season having not posted a winning season since the undefeated 2012 state championship season in Anderson’s first year as head coach. The Eagles were 5-5 last year, losing to Thermopolis in the quarterfinals. They broke a five-game losing streak in the postseason with a 42-7 rout of defending Class 1A/11-man state champion in the quarterfinals and followed that with a 37-15 victory over Upton-Sundance in the semifinals before defeating Torrington in the title game.
“It was just kind of a steady process,” Anderson said of the Eagles’ season. “We felt all along we could be a fairly competitive team because we had some pieces in place. We knew we would have to stay injury free because we didn’t have a lot of depth.
“It gradually came together and it was fun to watch to see the kids buy in to what we were trying to do offensively and defensively.”
The Eagles had one of the top rushing attacks in 2A, averaging 204.3 rushing yards per game and finishing with a classification-best 27 rushing touchdowns. It was on defense, however, where Lyman really made its mark. The Eagles led 2A in rushing defense (62.6 yards per game), total defense (162.5 yards per game) and led the state by allowing just 7.1 points per game.
Brewer and senior lineman Hansen Bradshaw were both Super 25 selections, while senior Joseph Turner and junior Rho Mecham were second-team selections. Those four, along with seniors Carter Smith, Jett Dickerson and Braxton Sabey and sophomore McKoy Smith were named to the Wyoming Coaches Association Class 2A all-state team
Winning a state title with them made it even more enjoyable, Anderson said.