Thunder Basin High School football coach Trent Pikula felt the last 15 seconds of Friday night’s game with Cheyenne Central lasted 45 minutes.
The Bolts entered their clash with the Indians ranked No.3 in the WyoPrep.com football coaches and media rankings. Despite going 0-3 on Friday, Pikula knew Central’s football team was not an easy win.
The Indians led the Bolts until the end of the third quarter. Cheyenne took an early 7-0 lead on a 62-yard quarterback run from Keagan Barlett with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bolts were able to reduce the Indian’s lead with a 27-yard field goal behind senior Cade Ayers to make it 7-3 in the third quarter.
The story of the match for both teams was great defensive positions. Central and Thunder Basin combined for 11 punters and five turnovers on downs throughout the game.
The Bolts’ mantra all season has been to step up when it matters most. That’s exactly what Thunder Basin did on a single game late in the game on Friday.
After the Bolts defense forced a central turnaround on the downs, the senior quarterback turned around and threw a strike at wide receiver Kayden LaFramboise who took the distance of 70 yards for Thunder Basin’s only touchdown of the game.
But that would be the only touchdown the Bolts needed, as the Thunder Basin defense was able to hold onto the 10-7 lead throughout the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
The Indians managed to prepare for an equalizer with two seconds left, but the kicker left him to win the game.
“Defensively we just played the lights,” said Pikula. “It’s as good as you can play (on defense). Central is 0-4 but it’s not a 0-4 team.”
Central went through the glove of Class 4A in their first four games of the season. The Indians have faced Kelly Walsh, Natrona County, Sheridan and Thunder Basin before. All four teams were playoff teams a year ago.
Pikula is happy with the team’s 3-1 record in the first month of the season. The Bolts beat Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South and Central and lost to No.1-ranked Rock Springs.
“These are mostly teams that people thought were in the playoffs,” said Pikula. “I wish we could get that Rock Springs game back, but being 3-1 at this point after playing the schedule that we played, I’m pretty happy with it.”
Against Central, Thunder Basin’s offense totaled 245 offensive yards in 59 games. Baker was 15 of 29 assists for 147, a touchdown and an interception that came on a long throw just before half-time.
Senior Caden Randall led the backfield with 16 carries for 68 yards. Nic Black added seven carries for 31 yards and gave the Bolts much needed boost in late-game practice.
“Offensively I don’t think we’ve really found our rhythm yet,” said Baker. “But when we do, I think we’re going to be pretty dangerous.”
Defensively, the Bolts limited the Indians to 293 yards on 62 plays. The Thunder Basin defense made eight plays for negative yards and seven more plays for under two yards.
Baker reiterated Pikula’s thought that Central were a better team than their record would indicate. The team’s 3-1 record is not something Baker or his teammates are tilting their heads at at this point in the season, he said.
“We’re 3-1 and this loss came in Rock Springs so you can’t be disappointed with that,” said Baker. “Obviously we want to be 4-0 but we’re 3-1 and that’s pretty good. You just have to take it week after week.”
The next challenge for the Bolts will be a big rivalry game between the cities of Campbell County (2-2) on Friday. The Camels are off a big 67-15 victory over Cheyenne South this week.
The Bolts have beaten the Camels all five times the school has played since the opening of TBHS in 2017. But Baker knows the Campbell County team is not an opponent to be taken lightly.
“They’ve got guys this year and I’ve known a lot of these guys and played against them since we got into midget football,” Baker said. “They’re going to bring it and they’re going to be on their pitch and we have to be ready to play.
“They’re not the camels they’ve been the last few years. We know that.… It’ll be a fun game. Those crosstown games are always fun.”
The Camels and Bolts will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Camel Stadium.