And just like that, the team roping is going to come down to the tenth round in a neck and neck battle between Erich Rogers and Cory Petska, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, Luke Brown and Jake Long, and Riley and Brady Minor.
Rogers and Petska still control their destiny, but things got a lot more interesting on the final Friday of the 2017 WNFR. Round 9 was the third round on a killer set of steers, and some teams made the best of it–like Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, who tied the world record in 3.3 seconds. And some–like Erich Rogers and Cory Petska and Luke Brown and Jake Long–lost a chance to go into Round 10 running away with it.
"We were 14th out tonight, and they just started clicking them," Driggers said. "I got a really good start, snapped it on him and turned him and he heeled him fast and pulled back like everybody's been waiting on him to do, and next thing you know, you look back and 3.3 and I'm throwing my hat. I ride out the back to go get my rope, and I look back and Junior is on the ground!"
They'd drawn a really good steer, and Nogueira rode better position than he'd ridden all week through the corner–and when he realized he was 3.3, he thought his horse jumped.
"I just raised my hand, and he moved, and I couldn't find the saddle horn and I had the reins in my hand," Nogueira laughed. "I stood on my feet, and everybody was standing up ready to cheer, and then everybody was quiet! I lost my hat, said 'WOO' got on my horse and took off."
Despite the laughter, both men were aware of the blessing that being 3.3 in Round 9 of the WNFR was.
"It seems impossible when you start thinking about 3.3," Driggers said. "I amateur rodeoed for a long time on short scores, and I was only 3.3 one other time and the steers are always slow. It's a blur. It's crazy because even when you're 3.8 or 3.9 you kind of half way remember what happened. That steer stood up in the box and had perfect horns–everything that you could ever dream. He started good and when I left there I just said I'm going to let it all out right here."
When Chad Masters and Jade Corkill were 3.3 in the ninth round of the 2009 WNFR, Nogueira was a kid in Brazil watching reruns of the Finals on YouTube.
"I was trying to train horses and work on my roping and I've watched that run over and over and when they said 3.3, I found on the website and on YouTube later," Nogueira remembered. "And I still watch it. Chad (Masters) just reached and now after I've been here it sounded impossible to beat 3.3. Everything has to be just perfect and smooth–have a great flag and a great finish."
Now Driggers and Nogueira get to go at 'em tomorrow in Round 10. Brown lost his rope tonight, moving them down to seventh in the average at 36.20 seconds on seven head. Rogers, without riding Dustin Bird's Dolly who is out due to injury, missed and tried to fish but didn't have any luck, moving them to second in the average with a 45.80 seconds on eight head. Chad Masters and Travis Graves are out of the PRCA world standings race, but are currently winning the average with a 55.80 on nine head. The Minors, who won fourth with a 4.0 second run in Round 4, are third in the average with 47.10 seconds on eight head.
If the rodeo ended tonight and the average paid out now, Rogers and Petska would be the world champions with $258,647.50 won, each, including the $54,576.92 they'd win for second in the average. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira would finish outside the average money and be second still with $222,317.09 and $223,046.76, respectively. Luke Brown and Jake Long would get $11,423.08 for seventh in the average, and they'd finish third and fourth in the standings with $221,880.51 and $213,351.72, respectively. Riley and Brady Minor, who were fourth tonight with a 4.0, would finish third in the average worth $43,153.85 a man and move to fourth and third in the world standings with $215,952.27 a man. As always, nearly anything can happen in Round 10 and anyone else dropping out of or moving up in the average, or winning big day money, could prove to be spoilers.
1. Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, 3.3 seconds, $26,230.77 each
2. Clay Smith and Paul Eaves, 3.7 seconds, $20,730.77 each
3, Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens, 3.9 seconds, $15,653.85 each
4. Riley Minor and Brady Minor, 4.0 seconds, $11,000.00 each
5. Tom Richards and Jeremy Buhler, 4.1 seconds, $6,769.23 each
6. Dustin Egusquiza and Kory Koontz, 4.3 seconds, $4,230.77 each