LINGLE – After being ineligible for the playoffs last year because of their choice to opt down to 1A six-man, the Lingle-Fort Laramie Doggers football team gets a crack at the postseason this year.
The addition of Gillette’s Thunder Basin High School into 4A this fall bumps everyone down the ladder, which causes the Doggers to lie in the six-man classification, making them eligible to fight for a state title.
If LFL was able to reach the postseason last year, they would have gone as the third seed in the east. 2016 started a little rocky for the Doggers, losing to Little Snake River in Week 1, 61-28, and falling to Guernsey-Sunrise in Week 2, 39-32.
After starting the year 0-2, LFL righted the ship with a big win over Normative Services Institute, 79-37. The Doggers continued their winning ways, besting Midwest and Hanna-Elk Mountain by a combined score of 130-82. LFL’s winning streak was derailed against Kaycee, who is the two-time defending 1A six-man state champion and riding a 20-game winning streak. The Buckaroos got the best of LFL, picking up the 59-6 win.
LFL’s offense came alive to close out the season. They picked up a 74-18 win over Hulett in Week 7 and demolished Rock River 93-13 in the final game of the season.
LFL’s rushing attack proved to be the strength of their offense. They rushed for 227.8 yards per game, ranking them seventh in the class. Their 42 touchdowns on the ground tied for fourth in the six-man.
In the passing attack, the Doggers stood at 11th, averaging 91 yards through the air per game. LFL ranked 11th in six man in passing touchdowns (12) and interceptions (five).
Garrett Cooper was the biggest cog of the Dogger offense, accounting for 143.3 total yards per game. He accounted for all of LFL’s passing yards (91 YPG), while adding 50.8 yards per game on the ground. He had 15 rushing touchdowns to pace the Doggers, while adding 12 through the air.
Not far behind Cooper in offensive production was Dallen Fleenor, racking up 126.1 yards per game. He was LFL’s top rusher, accounting for 68.8 rushing yards per contest, paired with a team-high 42.4 receiving yards per game. He accounted for 15 total touchdowns, with 11 on the ground and four through the air.
Preston Bowers was the team’s second-best rusher, accounting for 61 yards per game rushing. He added 13.4 receiving yards per game and had 13 touchdowns during the season. Jacob Korell and Ty Mueller were also big offensive producers, combining for nine touchdowns in 2016.
On the defensive side of the ball, LFL ranked 10th across the board in six-man. They allowed 205.1 yards on the ground and 112.9 yards through the air per game, both of which ranked 10th in the class. Surrendering 318 total yards per game put the Doggers 10th in total defense.
Although allowing a chunk of yards, LFL still had a solid defense in other categories. Their 23 allowed rushing touchdowns was tied for fourth best, while their 16 passing touchdowns given up tied for 10th. The Doggers paced six-man football in tackles for loss, with 54, and ranked fifth in sacks, with 13. In the turnover department, LFL came away with 13 fumble recoveries (seventh) and five interceptions (tied for fourth).
Cooper was just as valuable on defense as he was on offense, averaging 22.1 defensive points per game. He averaged 8.9 tackles per game, while filling out his stat sheet with 11 tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery, an interception and a blocked kick.
Fleenor was a ball hawk on defense, coming up with seven turnovers including four interceptions. He paired his seven turnovers with seven pass breakups, seven tackles for loss and two sacks, while averaging 6.7 tackles per game. Preston Bowers was third on the team in defensive points per game, with 15.3. He had 5.8 tackles per game along with seven tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception and a blocked kick.
Brandon Hill (13.5), Korell (13) and Mueller (10) rounded out the top performers on defense. Hill tied for the team lead in tackles for loss, with 11, while averaging 5.7 tackles per game. Mueller had a knack for finding loose balls, coming away with a team-high five fumble recoveries. Jaden McDuffie paced LFL in sacks, with three.
Looking at last year’s roster of 19 players, four will not be back in a Dogger uniform this fall due to graduation. Cooper, Fleenor, Bowers and Jared Shepardson, who was a big contributor on both sides of the ball last season, are all not returning. Losing their top three players on offense, in regards to all-purpose yards, and top three defensive producers creates some big holes to fill this season. There were seven juniors on the LFL roster in 2016, so they will need to step up and replace the production from last year’s seniors if they want a shot at the playoffs.
*Many of the stats used were compiled by WyoPreps and Wyoming-football.com.