CHEYENNE – At the very least, Chance Aumiller was trying to slow Cheyenne Central’s Carter Lobatos enough that one of his Cheyenne East teammates could make the tackle.
Aumiller did much better.
The senior pinched Lobatos along the sideline and forced him to plant his foot and try to cut back into the field. Lobatos left the football unprotected as he made his cut, and Aumiller punched it out and recovered the fumble.
The No. 4-ranked Thunderbirds (5-2) got a 20-yard field goal from senior Ox Schroeder on the ensuing drive, which allowed them to hold on for a 24-21 victory Friday night at Okie Blanchard Stadium.
“I saw (Lobatos) going down the sideline and I didn’t want to run to him in a dead sprint because he could have cut back and gotten right past me,” Aumiller said. “I played it kind of slow hoping to slow him down until some of our guys could get down field and make a tackle.
“I was trying to put us in a position to stop him, and ended up doing something even better.”
East capitalized on a couple breaks during the 70th meeting between the schools.
Its first touchdown came after junior defensive back Jackson Hesford recovered a fumble by Central junior receiver Andrew Johnson. Senior running back Christian Anderton put the T-Birds up 7-0 when he caught a pass from junior quarterback Graedyn Buell in the flat and slipped a tackle by sophomore Eli Castillo to get into the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown.
The fifth-ranked Indians (4-3) responded immediately.
Junior Brock Storebo spun out of a Hesford tackle to turn a short gain into a 46-yard touchdown that knotted the score 7-7.
The teams had no problem moving the ball during the first half, but struggled once they got deep into plus territory.
“We were just tight most of the game and, eventually, we both loosened up throughout the night,” said Hesford, who also snared an interception.
Central bucked the trend, and pulled ahead 14-7 when junior Brady Storebo hauled in the first of his two touchdown catches with 7 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
East’s typically potent passing game sputtered the first half.
Buell was 7 of 15 for 69 yards during the game’s first 24 minutes. There was a string of seven consecutive incompletions that stretched into the second half.
The T-Birds returned to form on their second drive of the third quarter.
Senior receiver Cole Micheli had a 7-yard reception on a pass that was nearly intercepted by Central sophomore Nathanial Talich to convert on third-and-4 from the East 12.
Hesford capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown reception that pulled East even at 14-14 with 3:34 remaining in the third.
Buell was 11 for 15 for 206 yards in the second half. He finished the night 19 for 31 for 275 yards and three scores.
“We sped up our tempo a bit,” East coach Chad Goff said. “We are always trying to check into the right play, and that allowed (Central) to check into the right defense in the first half.
“We sped things up after our first drove of the second half to the point where we were just lining up and playing. That helped us get moving, especially in the passing game.”
The T-Birds caught their second big break on Central’s next drive.
A Johnson punt that would have pinned East at its own 2-yard line was called back because the Indians used an illegal formation.
The T-Birds got the ball on their own 19 on the second punt, and marched down the field in 12 plays. They took a 21-14 lead with 9:40 remaining when Buell connected with Aumiller for a 26-yard touchdown despite solid coverage from Talich.
“East has been in two really close games, so they have experience in situations our kids don’t,” second-year Central coach Mike Apodaca said. “They learned from those things and were able to finish. I thought turnovers and special teams were going to big in this game.
“We committed three turnovers and missed some things on special teams that would have given us a chance.”
Aumiller’s strip and fumble recovery came on Central’s ensuing drive.
“We had lapses of focus that hurt us,” Apodaca said. “I’m proud of our kids’ effort, we just have to learn from these mistakes and get better for our next game.
The Indians’ final touchdown came when senior quarterback Dawson Macleary connected with Brady Storebo for 10-yard score with 3 seconds remaining.
Macleary finished the game 17 for 28 passing for 280 yards and three touchdowns against one interception.
Junior linebacker Adrian Hernandez paced East with eight tackles. Central got 15 tackles from Lobatos and 12 from Tanner Bullock. Johnson added 10 tackles and two pass breakups.
East hosts Rock Springs (4-3) at 6 p.m. Friday, while Central hosts third-ranked Casper Natrona County (5-2) at 7 p.m.
EAST 24, CENTRAL 21
Cheyenne Central…… 0 7 7 7 – 21
Cheyenne East…… 7 0 7 10 – 24
CE: Anderton 15 pass from Buell (Schroeder kick), 1:12.
CC: Bro. Storebo 46 pass from Macleary (Tippets kick), 11:50.
CC: Bra. Storebo 6 pass from Macleary (Tippets kick), 7:31.
CE: Hesford 2 pass from Buell (Schroeder kick), 3:34.
CE: Aumiller 26 pass from Buell (Schroeder kick), 9:36.
CE: Schroeder 20 field goal, 4:59.
CC: Bra. Storebo 10 pass from Macleary (Tippets kick), 0:03.
Cheyenne Central: Johnson 2-(minus-3), Macleary 7-(minus-18), Lobatos 13-36, Lundberg 3-24. Cheyenne East: Anderton 29-89, Haugen 4-27, Buel 4-4, Schroeder 1-4, Team 1-(minus-2).
Cheyenne Central: Macleary 17-28-1 280. Cheyenne East: Buell 19-31-0 275.
Cheyenne Central: Johnson 7-89, Lobatos 2-58, Bro. Storebo 3-70, Bra. Storebo 5-63. Cheyenne East: Anderton 3-24, Hesford 5-59, Aumiller 4-55, Micheli 3-75, Schroeder 3-55, Haugen 1-7.