Cheyenne Central has hit an all-time stride. With Friday’s 38-21 win over Kelly Walsh, Central improved to 4-2. The last time the Tribe did that was back in 2009 when they eventually made the state championship game.
Offense has been Central’s key to success so far. During their current four-game winning streak, the Tribe have outscored opponents 166-86. Quarterback Dawson Macleary has developed into one of the state’s most prolific passers, running back Carter Lobatos has provided a steady pace and receiver Andrew Johnson has been a high-caliber target.
While Macleary was held under his average and settled for 166 passing yards against Kelly Walsh, he threw two touchdowns to increase his season total to 17. Johnson found the end zone twice, once in the air and once on the ground, even though he fell below his average with just three catches and 50 yards. The Storebo twins, Brady and Brock, combined for seven catches and 89 yards. While the passing game struggled at times, Lobatos found his stride, running for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
The whipping wind didn’t do Central’s passing game any favors at Kelly Walsh, but it did help contribute to Lobatos’ 22 carries. The Tribe’s offensive success in the air, however, has come at least in part because teams have to respect the junior running back.
“You got to get the running game established,” Macleary said. “If you get the running game established then you bring the safeties in and the backers in, you can get to the outside. You take the shots when they’re there. I’m pretty confident in our ability to score once we get going.”
Lobatos supplied bruising runs and crucial first downs when the Tribe needed to extend drives. He averaged over 5 yards per carry on Friday and he credited those efficient clips to the guys in front of him.
“All the props need to go to my offensive line,” Lobatos said. “They executed everything that we went over in practice and really owned their jobs. They owned what they were supposed to do in the run and pass game.”
Part of Central’s recent successes have stemmed from confidence. They opened the season with games against Thunder Basin and Sheridan, two teams with a combined one loss (the Bolts’ victory over the Broncs). Since then Central has torn through Rock Springs, Laramie, Gillette and now Kelly Walsh. Regardless of the opponent, Central has found a rhythm in its offense which has helped the Tribe reach their potential.
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“We’re just more confident and that’s helping us play faster because we know what to do,” Lobatos said. “In our first game we didn’t really know what we were doing yet. We were still hesitant. So now we’ve changed that and it’s helping us play faster.”
That confidence has seeped into Central’s defense, which forced three turnovers and multiple fourth downs against Kelly Walsh. When the Trojans started moving the ball and chewing clock, Central put a stop to it with two second-half turnovers — a vital fumble recovery and a late interception.
Kelly Walsh converted two fourth downs on its only scoring drive of the second half. Outside of that, the Tribe was opportunistic in getting the ball back to the offense to put the game away.
“Our offense is predicated on our defense,” Macleary said. “Our turnovers on defense are huge and we need to capitalize on them instead of just giving the ball back. That’s a big part of our win.”
Central takes all that confidence into yet another tough two-game stretch. They go a couple blocks over to play Cheyenne East next before hosting Natrona County and ending the season against Cheyenne South.
With two of the state’s best teams on their immediate checklist, Central took little time celebrating the win over Kelly Walsh.
“It’s done now and it’s a great win,” Macleary said, “but we’re onto East now.”
So they head into a week of preparations with a purpose. Central enters its second stretch against the Big 4 believing it can win.