Bartlett, defense, power Central past Thunder Basin

Oct. 29—CHEYENNE — Cheyenne Central hosted Thunder Basin in the quarterfinals of the WHSAA 4A playoffs on Friday, in a rematch of their meeting in week four, where the Indians won.

Central gave the Bolts a major case of déjà vu, pitching a second-half shutout en route to a 41-10 win.

"It feels great," Central coach Mike Apodaca said. "That is a good team we played, and we just did some great things on both sides of the ball."

Central's dominant win started with the leaders on the team, who had phenomenal games on both sides of the ball.

Central opened the scoring on its first drive of the game, taking just five plays to find the end zone. Senior Richard Prescott picked up 57 yards on a shovel pass from Keagan Bartlett to set the Indians up inside the 10 yard line of Thunder Basin. Two plays later, Bartlett found senior Jackson Whitworth in the end zone to give the Bolts a 7-0 lead.

After Central went up 10-0, Thunder Basin's Kaden LaFramboise picked up two big plays on the drive to get the Bolts inside the Central 20. Alonso Aguilar capped off the drive with an 18-yard pass to Darius Felton to cut the lead to just three.

The Indians went three-and-out on their next drive, but their defense came up huge on Thunder Basin's next drive and forced a punt. Central's offense drove down the field, but stalled out at the Bolts 24 yard line.

Apodaca elected to go for it on fourth down, and Bartlett made the Bolts pay with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Reisdorfer to give the Indians a 17-7 lead.

Brock Pedersen added a late field goal to give Central a 20-7 lead, but the Indians left more than two minutes on the clock for Thunder Basin. The Bolts took advantage of the time, kicking a field goal, and the two teams went into halftime with Central leading 20-10.

The turning point came on the second drive of the third quarter. After Central went three-and-out on its first drive of the half, Thunder Basin marched down the field with ease and threatened to cut the lead back to three.

However, Central's defense forced a turnover on downs to give the ball back to its offense. While it was forced to punt again, Thunder Basin failed to generate much of anything on offense following its opening drive of the half.

"It is what the mark of our defense has been all year — a little bend, don't break," Apodaca said. "Ultimately, when you are averaging (allowing) 12 points a game, sometimes when they get down there, you are locking in."

At the end of third quarter, the Indians offense got the spark they desperately needed. On the Indians' third drive of the half, Bartlett ripped a 59-yard touchdown run to give Central a 24-10 lead.

Bartlett and Mason Counter scored two more rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. After Chase Talich recovered a pooch kick with two minutes and 13 seconds remaining in the game, Central ran the clock out to pick up its first playoff win since 2019.

"We were just persistent," Bartlett said. "We came out and went three-and-out twice, but really kept grinding away and building that lead up."

"We just stayed on blocks that extra half-second. That opened up holes, and that is what allows you to break off those big runs."

Over the last four quarters, the Central defense, which ranks second in the classification, has held the No. 1 offense to just 10 points. It has been able to neutralize the high-octane offense the Bolts are known for and contain their best players.

In Friday's game, the Central defensive front consistently got pressure on Aguilar, picking up three sacks in the game, and made him uncomfortable all night long.

The secondary also did its job. They held Colton Vetter, one of the top receivers in the state, to no catches in the game.

Senior corner TaVion Taylor-Byrd shadowed Kayden LaFramboise, the leading receiver in the conference, and held him to just six catches for 63 yards. He also broke up a pass to LaFramboise in the end zone at the end of the first quarter that would have put Thunder Basin up 14-10

"He is a great athlete," Apodaca said. "He is as good as anyone in the state. That is a great receiver (on Thunder Basin), and I am really proud of (TaVion)."

With the win Friday, the Indians move on to the semifinals, where they will face off against reigning state champion Sheridan. Central nearly upset the Broncs in the opening game of the season, and the team is eager to get a shot at redemption.

"(There is) kind of a bad taste in our mouth after a failed hook-and-ladder," Bartlett said. "It will just take us doing our job. So, we will see what happens."

{span style="font-size: 12px;"}CENTRAL 41, THUNDER BASIN 10{/span}

Thunder Basin...... 0 10 0 0 — 10

Cheyenne Central...... 10 10 7 14 — 41


First Quarter

CC: Whitworth 9 pass from Bartlett (Pedersen kick) 5:25

CC: Pederson 27 kick, 0:51

Second Quarter

TB: Felton 18 pass from Aguilar (Black kick) 11:01

CC: Reisdorfer 24 pass from Bartlett (Pedersen kick) 5:14

CC: Pedersen 37 field goal, 2:11

TB: Black 35 field goal, 0:29

Third Quarter

CC: Bartlett 59 rush (Pedersen kick) 1:28

Fourth Quarter

CC: Bartlett 29 rush (Pedersen kick) 7:52

CC: Counter 8 rush (Pedersen kick) 2:13



Cheyenne Central: Bartlett 16-195, Counter 6-26, Prescott 5-20, Porwoll 1-20 Thunder Basin: LaFramboise 6-63, Felton 2-26, Volts 2-40, Black 1-4, Hatzenbuhler 1-30


Cheyenne Central: Bartlett 10-13-0 166. Thunder Basin: Aguilar 10-26-0 163.


Cheyenne Central: Whitworth 3-11, Prescott 4-81, DeHoff 1-2, Reisdorfer 1-24, Talich 1-48. Thunder Basin: Black 17-58, Aguilar 5-(minus-12), LaFramboise 8-58.

Matt Atencio covers Cheyenne prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @MattAtencio5.