Top of the Mountain: The 2022-2023 Pine Bluffs Hornets

Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 11:57 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The Pine Bluffs Hornets had some big plans for the 2022-2023 football and basketball seasons. Multiple key starters on both squads were entering their senior year. They had to follow up on a state title in basketball and a 9-1 record in football.

It wasn’t going to be easy, so the seniors got to work for the seasons ahead.

“At the beginning of the year, I knew that I was gonna have to step up. We had a few kids last year, so me and Sloan stepped up on defense and then I played a little bit more at receiver,” said Collin Jessen.

“Me and Collin really were kind of undersized muscle-wise. I’m the shorter guy so we kind of hit the weight room a lot, but we worked on speed workouts and everything. I focus on speed in the off-season, so I just got faster,” said Alex Sloan.

Once players like Collin and Alex stepped in to their new roles, the wins started coming. They went 9-0 to start the year before running into a familiar face. They met Rocky Mountain in the playoffs, the team that put them out last year.

With a shot at redemption, the team wouldn’t let the moment slip away twice.

“It was just coming down to executing the game plan and actually playing ball. We felt the times we lost was not necessarily a fluke, but there was things we could’ve done so much better and played a better game,” said Stu Lerwick.

They beat Rocky Mountain and then beat Shoshoni the following week, taking their throne at the top of 9-man football.

After that, it was right back to work. Basketball season was coming up, and the Hornets had to reset for their second state title run.

“We were pretty confident. Obviously not overconfident. We gotta take it one game at a time, because if you don’t win the first two games, you’re not gonna win the third, right? Just win the last game of the season was the main goal,” said Dalton Schaefer.

The team built momentum headed in to the state tournament, but hit an unexpected snag. They lost to Big Horn in the regional tournament. They clawed their way back to face Big Horn again in the state title game, and marked a chance for Pine Bluffs to redeem themselves yet again.

“It was just kind of like relief and ready to play. We knew we could beat Big Horn because we beat them in January, but we knew that we’d come up short and that tells us they’re a good team,” said Lerwick.

The Hornets ended up beating Big Horn 49-38, meaning their goals for the year had officially been met. A journey that started when they were kids had now ended.

“I think we’ve played together since third grade or something like that, so it’s been a long time. It’s just nice to go out on top with all of them because we’ve played together our whole life and known each other our whole life, so getting to do something like that with them was just special,” said Ryan Fornstrom.

There time on the field and on the court may be over, but the banners hanging from the rafters mean their place will forever be cemented in Pine Bluffs’ history.