CHEYENNE – Gavin Goff gets a simple reminder from Cheyenne East’s football coaches before he takes the field every Friday night.
“Just be Gavin,” they tell him.
It’s a reminder for the senior to play to his strengths, instead of trying to do too much. It’s a reminder to let all of the pressure that comes with following the most prolific passer in school history roll off him. It’s a reminder to tune out the scrutiny that comes with being the head coach’s son.
The reminder has worked through the Thunderbirds’ first six games of this season.
Goff has gotten better each week as East has tried to rebound from a come-from-ahead loss to start the season. That development was on full display during the T-Birds’ 56-7 victory at Cheyenne South.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder completed all 12 passes he threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled 20 yards for another score in the win to earn Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
“I knew it would be a challenge stepping in there and playing quarterback,” Goff said. “At times, it gets frustrating. When I get down on myself, I remind myself the coaches wouldn’t have put me there if they didn’t think I could handle it.
“Every coach tells me to just be Gavin. That reminds me I don’t need to be everything for this team. I’m surrounded by great athletes everywhere, and I trust everyone.”
Goff has completed 94 of 133 passes for 1,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. His completion percentage (71%) is tops in Class 4A. His 193 yards per game rank second, while his 13 touchdowns are third-best.
Six of the eight interceptions he has thrown this season came in East’s first three games. He has thrown just two picks in the three games since.
“He does a great job of listening to (offensive coordinator Kirk) Nelson and understanding the game plan,” East coach Chad Goff said. “They watch a lot of film together and work well together.”
The elder Goff has tried to be hands off with his quarterbacks across his 16 seasons as the T-Birds’ head coach. Nelson has the responsibility of coaching East’s signal-callers. Chad Goff had to police himself on quarterback-coach interactions earlier this season.
“I was too much of a dad in practice one day, and I had to remind myself that I never talk to the quarterback,” Chad Goff said. “I have to let him be a high school football player and deal with his position coach.”
Quarterbacks are always under the microscope. Their play is rarely so good people don’t start whispering about what the backup might do, given the opportunity.
Coaches’ children are similarly under the microscope. No matter how well they play, they rarely elude criticism that their spot was earned through anything other than nepotism.
Being the quarterback and the coach’s son only increases the intensity of that microscope. It’s a fact the Goffs were cognizant of when Gavin won the job over the summer.
“There’s scrutiny that comes with being the quarterback, the guy who follows Graedyn Buell and the coach’s kid,” Chad Goff said in August. “Gavin has dealt with the scrutiny of being a coach’s kid his whole life.
“You won’t find a kid that works as hard or studies more. He has earned the opportunity and has done a good job of adjusting (back) to the quarterback position.”
Gavin Goff grew up playing quarterback at every level of football, but was a first team all-state wide receiver as a junior. He caught 40 passes from Buell – who was named Wyoming’s football player of the year by Gatorade – for 668 yards and nine touchdowns. His 55.7 yards per game were fifth-most in the state, and his nine receiving touchdowns were second-most behind teammate Jake Rayl’s 12.
Having such a tight bond with Nelson has helped him knock off the rust from a year of catching passes instead of slinging them.
“I spend a lot of time watching film with our offensive coordinator, coach Nelson,” Gavin Goff said. “He knows what he’s doing. The more I listen to him, the better I get and the more the game slows down.
“Our receivers have been working a lot on route spacing, and they’re getting good at one-on-ones and making my job easy.”
Others recognized for their efforts include:
n Keagan Bartlett and Eli Castillo, football, Cheyenne Central: Bartlett, a junior quarterback, rushed for 208 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries during the Indians’ 24-21 loss to visiting Campbell County. He also passed for 61 yards and a score.
Castillo, a senior linebacker, posted 10 tackles (six solo), an interception and a blocked kick.
n Emma Brownell and Izzy DeLay, girls swimming, Central: Brownell, a senior, won three events across two meets last week.
DeLay, a sophomore, won three events and was second in another.
n Cheyenne East girls cross-country: The Lady Thunderbirds won the Wheatland Invitational by placing four runners in the top 10. Junior Mikaila Trujillo led the way with a fourth-place time of 20 minutes, 31 seconds.
n Emma Gonzalez, girls cross-country, Pine Bluffs-Burns: The senior won the Wheatland Invitational in 19 minutes, 19 seconds, which tied Burns’ school record for a 5-kilometer race.
n Drew Jackson and Garet Schlabs, football, Cheyenne East: Jackson, a sophomore, caught four passes for 85 yards and a touchdown during the Thunderbirds’ 56-7 victory at Cheyenne South. He also returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.
Schlabs, a junior, caught five passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
n Stu Lerwick and Dalton Schaefer, football, Pine Bluffs: Lerwick, a junior, completed 12 of 20 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns during the No. 2-ranked Hornets’ 34-25 victory over top-ranked Shoshoni.
Schaefer, also a junior, rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
n Lydia Looby, volleyball, Cheyenne Central: The senior posted 42 digs across three matches last week.
n Diomena Mercer, Emma Norris and Rylee Jo Ward, volleyball, Burns: Mercer, a senior, posted 56 digs to help the Lady Broncs go 2-4 at the Twin Cities Invitational.
Norris, a junior, had 51 kills and 27 digs.
Ward, a senior, had 92 assists and 45 digs.
n Sydni Sawyer, girls swimming, Cheyenne East: The sophomore won three events and placed second in another across two meets.