Thunderbirds Late Push Ends Laramie’s Season
Miscues in the fourth quarter cost the Laramie Plainsmen in a 37-21 loss at Cheyenne East last Friday night in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Class 4A playoffs.
Trapped at its own two-yard line, the Plainsmen gave-up a safety to the Thunderbirds for the second straight meeting. A poor snap was mishandled by quarterback Jason Upton. Laramie recovered the fumble, but in the end zone for a team safety by East. That made it 23-21 with 10:21 left.
The Thunderbirds took the ensuing kickoff and drove for a 1-yard touchdown run by Christian Anderton and extended for a 30-21 lead. That drive took over five minutes off the clock.
The Plainsmen turned it over on downs, but held Cheyenne East and forced a punt. On the next play, Upton was intercepted at the Thunderbirds 32-yard line. Cheyenne East iced it with a Riley Cooper 32-yard touchdown run. It was 37-21 with 1:54 left.
Laramie head coach Clint Reed knew mistakes proved costly.
“It was just a dogfight. A little of this, a little of that, little mistakes on them, little mistakes on us, and we weren’t able to overcome our mistakes late.”
As for the fourth quarter, Reed said, “We were basically playing on our side of the field, you know, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, trying to scramble to get out of there, and their last two scores were indicative of that because we were just pinned back there.”
The Plainsmen were held to 208 yards, most of which came in the first three quarters. Upton ran for 87 yards and a touchdown, while Baxter Tuggle added 83-yards and a TD.
Cheyenne East (8-2) finished with 358 yards on offense. Anderton ran for 108 yards and the score, while Cooper added 86 yards and two scores. Quarterback Chance Aumiller ran for 55 yards and a touchdown. He also threw for 111 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
Laramie took the game’s opening drive and marched 80-yards over 12 plays for a 7-0 lead. Upton ran it in from two-yards out on fourth-and-goal.
It stayed that way until late in the first half. Aumiller scored on a five-yard run with 2:22 left. Aumiller then found Tanner Muchmore from 34-yards out wide open down the right side of the field. Cheyenne East led 14-7 at halftime.
Reed referenced that play.
“They’re just a great bunch of guys. They fought really hard. We had some breakdowns at times. It’s 7-7 going into, what we hoped, to be halftime, had a coverage breakdown, (Chance) Aumiller may not have been (Graedyn) Buell as a thrower, but what he is, is a scrambler. A lot of times we were in man (coverage), we were locked up, scrambling all over. He couldn’t get his first read, so he started scrambling. It’s hard to hold on to guys that long, and then we started leaving our guys running after him, and when we did that, we got caught.”
The Thunderbirds went three-and-out on their first possession in the third quarter. A high snap on the punt went off of the punter’s hand and was loose in the end zone. Plainsmen linebacker Ethan Sell recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. That tied it at 14-14 with 10:06 left in the third quarter.
Cheyenne East responded with a TD drive. Cooper raced in from 13-yards away for a 21-14 lead. Laramie came right back. Tuggle punched it in from two-yards out and tied it at 21-21 with 3:21 left in the third.
The Plainsmen had their best playoff seed since 2005 but lost in the first round of the playoffs for the 10th straight time. They still haven’t advanced to the semifinals since 2000. Their final record was 4-6 in 2018
Reflecting on year two, Coach Reed said, “It was nice to finally have an off-season. Coaches working together in an off-season to prepare and adjust. I think we’re in a good place as far as schemes and X’s and O’s. Now it’s just tweaking things, building things to teach the kids what we want out of our system. Growing in the weight room, building those off-season programs, I want them out there wrestling, playing basketball, swimming, whatever winter sport, you know, indoor track, that’s how you get better as an athlete is by competing in different things, but we can never forget about the weight room. I want to stay engaged with them. It’s just like the seniors, I told them, I want to reach out to ‘em here in the next few days, have a meeting with them next Tuesday, and talk about what they’re going to compete in next, and support ‘em in every way, whatever their future holds for them. Those younger guys, it’s about stepping up now, being a leader. Juniors becoming seniors, freshman becoming sophomores, sophomores becoming juniors, what are you going to do to make it better for you next year and this program, and for what your expectations are?”
Laramie loses 16 seniors and will return only three starters on offense and two on defense for 2019.