By Chris Samuels EBS Contributor

BIG SKY AND JOLIET – The Big Horns experienced the “joys of victory and the agony of defeat” on the gridiron in the last two weeks.

On Sept. 30, the Park City Panthers visited Big Sky and the home team defense sacked the Park City quarterback on the Big Horns’ 18-yard line as time expired to clinch Lone Peak’s thrilling 55-54 win. The following week, the Big Horns hit the road to take on the Joliet J-Hawks and ran into a buzz saw that ultimately defeated them 56-21.

The Big Horns’ record stands 5-2 and they need one more victory in their next two games to secure their first-ever 8–man playoff birth.

“Our team experienced a thrilling victory over Park City that had major playoff implications and then a truly disappointing loss to a solid Joliet team,” said Lone Peak head coach Adam Farr. “We now have to rebalance from those games and focus on building momentum and confidence as we head into our final two games of the season. The goal has always been to make the playoffs and that opportunity is within reach, we just need to go out and execute this Friday against Absarokee.”

The Park City game was an epic back-and-forth battle with neither team ever taking a commanding lead. Sophomore quarterback Frankie Starz threw a screen pass to senior fullback Rhett Leuzinger, who rumbled in 35 yards for the final score to put the Big Horns up 55-54 with 4:56 to play. That set up the Panthers’ final drive, which culminated in a sack on the game’s last play.

Starz threw a record-breaking eight touchdown passes in that match-up, shattering his brother Eddie’s record of five. Leuzinger hauled four passes into the end zone while senior receiver Howie Robin grabbed three touchdown receptions and senior receiver Liam Germain added one. Junior kicker Milosz Shipman kicked five PATs. Frankie also added an interception on the defensive side of the ball.

The Big Horns traveled to 8-man C Southern Conference newcomer Joliet on Oct. 6 in a showdown of 5-1 teams. Joliet has just moved down from Class B football, where they played 11-man football for quite some time.

The J- Hawks played like an 11-man team with a strong running game behind a large and effective offensive line. Joliet took the opening kickoff back en route to a 50-7 halftime lead. The Big Horns played an inspired second half, closing the score to 50-21 before giving up the last score of the game to Joliet.

Frankie threw one touchdown pass to Robin and Leuzinger rushed for two touchdowns. Shipman added three PAT’s. On defense, sophomore linebacker Austin Samuels and senior Jackson Wade each snagged interceptions.

Lone Peak assistant coach Austin Barth said the playoffs are still in sight for the Big Horns. “Hopefully, the players use this game versus Joliet to find some motivation and we can make a run deep into the playoffs,” he said.

On Thursday, Oct. 19, the Big Horns will play their last regular-season home game of the year, against Ennis. The Senior Day game will start at 7 p.m. The first round of the state playoffs begins Oct. 28.