Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Alex Kuhn
Sports Editor 

In an injury plagued season Ten Sleep fights through the adversity


November 2, 2016


Pioneer Adam Thurston avoids two Hulett defenders during Ten Sleep's 66-33 win on Sept. 3.

TEN SLEEP - In the first game of their football season the Ten Sleep Pioneers dressed a total of six players against Hulett and won 68-33. That win would be the Pioneers lone win during their 1-7 2016 campaign.

After their win, Ten Sleep was able to get four more athletes to join the team, raising their total to 10, but was hit with a string of injuries afterward. One of which included junior Byron Powell who had seven total touchdowns in their first game, and with injuries mounting the Pioneers were forced to play with six to seven players.

In their final game of the season the Pioneers lost to Dubois 80-6 but used the game as an opportunity to get those returning players as much experience as possible on every part of the field.

"A lot of guys got playing time especially the freshmen," said TSHS football coach Jake Zent. "The kids we do have coming back will have a lot of experience and hopefully we'll be able to get our numbers up so we can give kids some breaks."

After the Dubois game coach Zent told his team he was proud of them for closing out the season, Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way but if you can learn from it and stand up after you're going to be a better person.

"We're so proud of those guys for what they did. It's hard to go out there, see everything going wrong then get on your teammates for making mistakes. But this group didn't do that they went out there and supported each other and that's a real sign of maturity. In that you go out there do your best and keep going. It gave us some good chances to learn and improve and I can't wait to see what they can do with it in basketball," said Zent.

There were three seniors on the team this season and if it were not for Troy Taylor, Devon Bedtka and Chris Sayles, the Pioneers would not have fielded a team after the injuries hit.

"If they wouldn't have gone out we couldn't have finished the season. We really relied on them; Devon Bedtka had the game of his life in our last home game of the season against Meeteetse. He had some nice runs and good catches. I'm very grateful they saw a need, stepped up and were willing to be a part of the team," said coach Zent.

Some of the better moments for coach Zent and his team included the season opening win and the refusal to give up by the team.

"We started out with the win with only six guys and it took a lot of guts. But for nobody to quit this season as tough as it was and playing with the odds stacked against us. They knew practices weren't going to be the easiest; we couldn't replicate any game-like scenarios because we didn't have the people.

"Trying to work within the situation they were given offered a lot of life lessons for them," said coach Zent. "Things won't always go your way at times and they will be tough but you need to work through it. So hopefully they'll be able to apply these lessons in the school room and other areas outside football."

Coach Zent also spoke about how selfless his team was and the great leadership they got from junior Corey Rice. "We have some real quiet guys on our team like Zach Dorn who did everything we asked him. Whether that was playing a new position or trying something new from week to week. He was our quiet guys that held things together. He'd make a big catch or big block and more often than not he was the guy in the background trying to do the dirty work so that other people could have success. And I appreciate what he did this year," said coach Zent.

"I can't say enough about Corey Rice, he was the leader, especially on offense, and really did a good job of keeping the level head out there regardless of how things got. He learned to have a short memory to forget mistakes. He was a great leader and there are great things in store for him," said coach Zent.

While his young team gained valuable experience, coach Zent also learned from this season and looks to apply that for next year's team, "The importance of being flexible, you never know what you're going to have. Against Dubois we had to have a kid play center who never played center and that happened half way through the game. It's hard to put that much pressure on a kid when your third-string quarterback or center goes down then you're forced to put a kid in who has never done that before. We have to make sure we put our kids in the best position to have success," said coach Zent.

One of the goals for next season will be to grow the program's numbers, giving the team some depth and players a breather. Like every football coach, coach Zent wants his returning players to be active in the offseason. "Our biggest things will be to work on our speed and our strength. A lot of the teams we played this year had such incredible speed and it was tough for us to contain anyone on the outside. Our defense up the middle was stout but when they got around to the outside it got ugly real fast," he said.

Zent added, "Another thing will look to improve is our numbers. We have to get more kids out so we can have better practices and be more competitive in games. There isn't another team out there that's going to be getting worse, so we have to take steps to get better."


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