Ben Malone accounted for 250 yards of offense and four touchdowns to lead the Laramie Plainsmen past the Cheyenne South Bison, 42-19, last Friday night.

It was the first victory of the 2021 season and the first in the Paul Ronga era. The win snapped a nine-game losing skid that dated back to the 2020 victory over the Bison.

Laramie (1-7) kept alive its shot at a playoff berth in Class 4A. They led 14-0 early in the second quarter and 28-7 midway through the third. Cheyenne South (0-8) pulled within 28-19 early in the fourth. The Plainsmen tacked on two TD runs by Malone that sealed the victory.

LHS head coach Paul Ronga said after the win last Friday night on the Plainsmen Postgame Show on KOWB, my hat’s off to the players.

“Just an excellent job by this group. I mean, we were dead and buried, and we were forgotten. There was even contemplation about possibly forfeiting our season with the attrition of players, and the multiple tragedies we’ve had happen. As I told the players when I first met them, I’ll always be the last man standing and so will we, and we are still alive for the playoffs. Our season begins on Monday, again. (I’m) very happy about everything that happened tonight.”

Ronga said the difference was how sound his team was on both sides of the ball.

“We were able to get the running game going. Again, nothing can be spoken more about having success and playing defense and running the ball. If you’re able to do those two things, you could have success in games, and the scoreboard can be in your favor. I think you saw that happen and manifest today because we did run the ball well. We did much better than we’ve ever done before, and then we also played some really sound defense, too.”

Laramie ran for a season-high 241 yards. Malone rushed for 97 yards and three TDs. Quail Perkins added 72 yards rushing and one touchdown, while Jackson Devine contributed 70 yards on the ground. Malone added 153 yards passing, with one TD and one interception.

The Plainsmen allowed only 286 yards of offense to Cheyenne South. It was the first time this season that LHS has given up fewer than 300 yards of total offense to an opponent. Laramie finished with five sacks in the game, four of which were by Perkins.

After the teams turned the ball over on downs on their opening possession, the Bison were inside the Laramie 15-yard line, when Devine intercepted a pass in the end-zone. Laramie responded with a 13-play touchdown drive that was capped off by Malone’s seven-yard TD run.

On the next South possession, free safety Mason Branch intercepted a pass and returned it 71-yards for a touchdown. That made it 14-0, LHS, with 10:16 left in the first half.

Ronga added, “That was a huge play for us, and we speak about turnovers (all the time), and, as you know, conversely, those are the plays that have happened against us, and they’ve turned our games around, where we’ve actually been in the games. We’ve been close, been there up to the halftime, and then, usually, a turnover or two will come around for us.”

Both teams scored on their next drive. The Bison got an eight-yard TD run by Will Aragon. The Plainsmen answered with a 25-yard TD run from Perkins. It was 21-7, Laramie, at halftime.

Malone connected with Branch on a 10-yard TD pass that capped a 15-play drive at the start of the second half. South scored on their next two possessions. Aragon had a five-yard run, and Matthew Rivera added a 15-yard TD run. That trimmed Laramie’s lead to 28-19 with 11:30 remaining.

The Plainsmen scored on their next two drives. Malone ran it in from 20-yards out and 16-yards out, which sealed the victory, 42-19.

The last game of the regular season will determine who the No. 8 seed in the playoffs for Class 4A will be. Laramie plays at Cheyenne Central.

Ronga also said, “They present multiple problems for us, but it’s about Laramie stepping up. I think that we have shown the community and the league, that there are some things that we can do. We do have some weapons… it’s time for Laramie just to step up and take that next step, and to see what we can do against Central, and it’s going to be extremely difficult.”

That game will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 22 in Cheyenne.

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