By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Chase Dougherty made sure to stay calm and composed when Team Las Vegas captain Stetson Wright informed him on Friday night that he would be stepping into the starting lineup for the squad’s Saturday game against Team Union Home Mortgage.
On the inside, though, Dougherty was bursting with anticipation for the chance to ride at the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol.
“I was so excited,” Dougherty told PBR.com late Saturday night via phone. “I wasn’t able to get on (Friday), but just being able to watch. Just the energy around here, even having no fans. I wanted to be a part of it so bad as far as getting on. When I was told I was getting on, I tried to hide my smile and act normal, but I was jumping for joy on the inside.”
Well, Dougherty made sure to give Wright his own reason to beam on Saturday night.
Dougherty clinched Team Las Vegas its second consecutive victory when he rode Jungle Can Do for 86.5 points, giving Vegas a 257-85.25 win over Union Home Mortgage.
The ride was extra important seeing as a buckoff would have kept the door open for three-time World Champion Silvano Alves to try to give Union Home Mortgage its second consecutive walk-off victory in as many nights.
“I didn’t know we could clinch it, but I knew we had to pretty close,” Dougherty said. “I knew I could at least put us ahead. I wasn’t really paying attention to the scores. I was just trying to do my part.
“We were up against a really good team. I was a little worried about it when I woke up this morning and found out who we were going against, but I knew if our team went out there and did our jobs like we are supposed to it would work out.”
Dougherty’s ride also came after he let one slip away earlier in the evening when Fig Jama got him down in 7.24 seconds.
Saturday was a great bounce-back win for Team Las Vegas inside the at the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena.
Yes, Team Las Vegas is 2-0 and tied with Team Cooper Tires for the Division A lead – Cooper Tires currently holds the tiebreaker with a higher total aggregate score – but it is no secret they got a lucky break Friday night with an 88.25-0 win over Team YETI.
The Monster Energy Team Challenge features 12 teams, 48 bull riders and two Divisions (A & B). The Top 3 teams in each division, based upon win-loss record, will qualify for Championship Weekend and a single-elimination tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12 in front of fans.
“At the end of the day, a win is a win, but in the back of our minds, yesterday we were all kind of disappointed in ourselves even though we got the win,” Dougherty said. “We felt like we like we let some people down, so we were really trying to show up and show out today. Show them who we really are.”
The unit did just that, especially 2017 Canadian Pro Rodeo Association champion Garrett Smith.
Smith set the tone for Team Las Vegas by giving it an early 83.5-point lead with his ride on CopperPoint to begin the game.
The ride wound up being the only one for either team in Round 1, and then Smith smashed his foot on the gas pedal in Round 2 by riding Diamond Willow for 87 points, giving Vegas a two-ride lead.
“I finally felt really good,” Smith said. “The first one wasn’t quite as good. I almost messed him up. The second one I felt more like myself. That was a really cool bull.”
Team Union Home Mortgage, which lost Mason Taylor for the second half of the game after he aggravated a prior riding wrist injury, then made it a bit interesting when Luciano de Castro rode Quid Pro Quo for 85.25 points to make it a one-score game.
It would be for naught, though, as Dougherty slammed the door shut with his qualified ride. Tested Crazy then bucked Alves off in 3.49 seconds with the game already over.
“This is a way better way to get a win for us,” Smith said. “To go against a team like that, and guys you looked up to, to get a win like that was pretty incredible.”
Team Las Vegas is the only squad in the 12-team Monster Energy Team Challenge that has no rider ranked inside the Top 35 of the PBR world standings. In fact, the team is composed strictly of PRCA bull riders.
Unlike the other PBR riders, who became accustomed to riding without fans at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Team Las Vegas had to quickly adjust to not only no fans, but also the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon.
The intimate barroom style-setting features multiple LED screens, a much smaller arena floor and lasers galore.
Team Las Vegas also has had to adjust to the flow of a PBR event compared to a rodeo event.
“We are pretty stoked,” Smith said. “This is so much fun now, and I feel like we are all starting to settle in and riding like ourselves now. We needed to kind of settle in and just be more of ourselves. It is weird with no crowd, and it is kind of quiet.
“We have kind of knocked the rust off and broke the ice. I think we should be good to go now.”
However, there will be a new challenge for Team Las Vegas, and the other five Division A teams set to compete Sunday in Vegas.
The teams have an extremely early game time.
Team Las Vegas is set to take on Team Wrangler at 7:30 a.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET on CBS Sports Network/RidePass).
“I know we are all going to bed pretty early tonight,” Smith said. “I don’t think any of us are used to getting on at 7:30 in the morning.”
Smith has drawn Ponotoc and RJ, and Team Las Vegas will be making no changes to its starting lineup.
“We would like to be there about an hour early maybe,” Smith said. “We don’t like to get there too early, but it is nice to kind of get everything ready and not be in a hurry. It will certainly be early for us.”
Brennon Eldred (concussion) will be drawing back into the competition for Team Wrangler and Joseph McConnel after sitting out Saturday night’s 347.25-0 loss to Team Can-Am.
Team Union Home Mortgage will attempt to dethrone Team Cooper Tires (2-0) during the CBS Game of the Week at 12:30 p.m. ET on national television.
Smith said there is no question that Team Las Vegas, and all of the teams, will be ready to go once they climb into the bucking chutes, with or without a cup of joe. It is hard not to with 1,800-pounds of bovine strength standing underneath you.
“With these bulls, your motor is going to be running, especially when you crawl down on one,” Smith concluded. “I don’t think we will be too sleepy.”
Professional Bull Riders – Team Challenge – Game 5
Las Vegas, NV, 2020
Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Garrett Smith, 83.5-87-170.50
2. Chase Dougherty, 0-86.5-86.50
3. Luciano De Castro, 0-85.25-85.25
Mason Taylor, 0-0-0.00
Silvano Alves, 0-0-0.00
Marcus Mast, 0-0-0.00
Brady Portenier, 0-0-0.00
Stetson Wright, 0-0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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