A rough high school football season came to an end last Friday night for the Laramie Plainsmen after a 58-13 loss at Cheyenne Central.

Laramie (1-8) failed to make the 4A playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.

The Plainsmen scored on a Ben Malone to Mason Branch 4-yard touchdown pass with 7:25 left in the first half. That cut the Cheyenne Central lead to 16-7. The Indians scored the next 35 points and blew out LHS.

Laramie head coach Paul Ronga felt that pressure on the quarterback and turnovers were the difference.

“Absolutely. We had an offensive line breakdown tonight (Friday night). We weren’t able to handle their blitz, and the pressure on (QB) Ben (Malone) was inconsequential, in a sense of, what it did in terms of forcing plays from him. A ball being put on the turf. Us getting down into the red-zone and not cashing in, so all of that manifested (itself).”

The Plainsmen were held to 166 yards of total offense and committed four turnovers.

Cheyenne Central (2-7) scored off of all four LHS giveaways. Keegan Bartlett accounted for 254 yards of offense and was responsible for six TDs. He ran for 175 yards and three scores and added 79 passing yards and three more TDs. The Indians also got a team safety and an interception return for a touchdown.

An interception in Central territory by the Indians led to Bartlett’s 31-yard TD run and a 7-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the first quarter. An intentional grounding penalty in the end-zone by Laramie resulted in a team safety for Central with 44 seconds left in the opening quarter. The Indians turned the free-kick into another TD, this was a 14-yard pass from Bartlett to Jackson Whitworth. That made it 16-0.

After a 52-yard kick-off return by Jackson Devine, the Plainsmen drove 10 plays for a touchdown. Malone connected with Branch on a quick slant.

The next offensive play for Central saw Bartlett keep the ball and run 83 yards for a TD. On the next offensive play for Laramie, Xander Jarosh intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 40 yards for a score and a 30-7 lead. A fumble on a sack near midfield was returned by the Indians to the Laramie 24-yard line. The next play was a TD pass from Bartlett to Ethan Reisdorfer, which made it 37-7. That was the score at halftime.

In the second half, the Indians scored off a fumble by LHS. That led to Bartlett’s five-yard TD run. Their next possession came after a Laramie punt. Central drove 87 yards on seven plays for a touchdown. Bartlett found Whitworth for a 13-yard TD pass. It was 51-7.

The Plainsmen scored on a Malone 2-yard touchdown run with 8:19 left. They recovered an onside kick but turned the ball over on downs. The Indians capped the scoring with Mason Counter’s 34-yard TD run.

Central finished with 430 yards of total offense. On defense, in addition to the takeaways, the Indians registered eight sacks.

Ronga added, “It all goes back to a scheme that Laramie needs to get better with, and that is, not necessarily, the offensive line as well, but the defensive line also. We need to do better on both sides of the line of scrimmage. When we don’t do that, we don’t have success, and you saw that tonight (Friday night).”

With his first season now complete, the focus shifts towards the offseason and improving the team before 2022.

Ronga said, “It’s one of the things that was mentioned to me before I got here. That Laramie is lacking in size. Laramie is lacking in strength, and Laramie is lacking a little bit in the speed department, as well. What you see when you look at the film and see the teams we play against, that they seem to do well and they excel in those areas where Laramie lacks in those areas, so that is the main emphasis, the main goal, and priority one, is that we need to get our players bigger, faster, and stronger. We need to get our players committed to an offseason in the weight room, and where they’re doing camps, and they’re doing clinics, and they’re thinking about football all season (year), not just showing up on Aug. 8 (the first day of practice).”

It’s been a rough few years for LHS football, as the Plainsmen have won only four games over the past three seasons combined.

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