Sep. 17—CHEYENNE — An 84-yard kickoff return and a pair of turnovers energized No. 1-ranked Cheyenne East's defense.
The Thunderbirds used a quick-strike offense to capitalize on those extra possessions and run away from Laramie in a 63-7 victory Friday night at Okie Blanchard Stadium.
The Plainsmen used a wide receiver pass from Max Alexander to Mason Branch for a 50-yard touchdown that cut East's lead to 14-7 with 3 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
T-Birds senior Garet Schlabs returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards to the Laramie 7-yard line. Senior wide receiver Dom Kaszas took a fly sweep into the end zone on the next play for a 21-7 lead.
Colby Olson forced a fumble by Laramie quarterback Ben Malone that was recovered by Seth Scott at Laramie's 37. East needed just four plays to cover the 63 yards. Schlabs capped the drive with an 8-yard reception from junior quarterback Cam Hayes for a 28-7 advantage.
The T-Birds (4-0) never looked back after that, scoring on three of their next four possessions to take a 49-7 lead into halftime.
"We were there at times, but just didn't do a good job of making some plays early," East coach Chad Goff said. "Coach (Steve) Hesford made some good adjustments in our secondary, and the kids got rolling and got confident."
Added Scott: "Our defense started off a little shaky, but we turned it around. We got that big kickoff return from (Schlabs), I recovered a fumble and Nathan (Mirich) had an interception. That helped us get rolling."
Laramie (0-4) got eight first downs on its first four drives, the last coming on a 2-yard run by junior Samuel Keith early in the second quarter. Scott's fumble recovery came two plays later.
"I was forced to rescript the offense to maximize the players we have and give them better opportunities," second-year Laramie coach Paul Ronga said. "We were trying to matriculate and get something different to manifest in the first few weeks, but I realized I needed to reinvent what we were doing.
"It started out good. Laramie could only hold the fort so long against a power like that. How (East) plays and how it executes just overwhelmed us."
The Plainsmen didn't get another first down until the second half. East, on the other hand, had little trouble moving the ball.
The T-Birds pushed the tempo and needed just 14 plays to score their next four touchdowns.
"We wanted to go as fast as we could and try to tire the defense out," Hayes said. "Last week, we kind of slowed down, so we worked on getting faster on offense. We do drills every day in practice to get it down the field as fast as we can.
"It was good to see that work in a game."
Schlabs finished with 186 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Kaszas had four catches for 99 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Hayes completed 19 of 25 passes for 341 yards and five scores.
Malone was 14 of 29 for 162 yards before leaving the game with a leg injury. Branch hauled in seven passes for 116 yards for the Plainsmen, who host Cheyenne Central on Friday.
EAST 63, LARAMIE 7
Laramie...... 7 0 0 0 — 7
Cheyenne East...... 21 28 7 7 — 63
CE: Kaszas 39 pass from Hayes (Br. Bohlmann kick), 11:25
CE: Mirich 5 pass from Hayes (Br. Bohlmann kick), 6:49.
L: Branch 50 pass from Alexander (Ennist kick), 3:34.
CE: Kaszas 7 run (Br. Bohlmann kick), 3:13.
CE: Schlabs 8 pass from Hayes (Br. Bohlmann kick), 8:15.
CE: Jensen 11 run (Br. Bohlmann kick), 7:08.
CE: Kaszas 12 pass from Hayes (Br. Bohlmann kick), 6:54.
CE: Kaszas 33 pass from Hayes (Br. Bohlmann kick), 4:08.
CE: Schlabs 31 pass from Hayes (Br. Bohlmann kick), 9:43.
CE: Pearson 7 run (Miller kick), 7:40.
Laramie: Frude 5-(minus-3), Roberts 1-1, Malone 12-(minus-2), Crum 1-2, Jaskolski 1-21, Peterson 3-5, Keith 4-14. Cheyenne East: Kaszas 1-7, Pacheco 1-15, Pearson 3-53, Schlabs 1-9, Jensen 13-86, Hayes 4-42.
Laramie: Malone 14-29-1 162, Frude 3-8-0 18, Alexander 1-1-0 50. Cheyenne East: Hayes 19-25-0 341.
Laramie: Trabing 1-4, Calderon 6-97, Branch 7-116, Alexander 3-12, Herrera 1-1. Cheyenne East: Kaszas 4-99, Mirich 2-15, Schlabs 10-186, Jensen 1-28, Ja. Culver 2-13.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.