Heavily protected by his offensive line, Cheyenne East quarterback Graedyn Buell stood alone in the backfield and methodically picked apart the Kelly Walsh secondary on Friday night. At first he nibbled with moderate gains before heaving a pinpoint ball to senior Chance Aumiller, who had blown past his defender for the first of Buell’s three touchdown passes on the night.
East overwhelmed Kelly Walsh in a 55-0 win at Harry Geldien Stadium with Buell playing in three of the four quarters. His stellar night now means he has thrown for 692 yards on 30 of 44 passing, six touchdowns with one interception through two games — neither of which involved him on the field in the fourth quarter.
And if there were any doubts about East’s championship potential this season, they’ve been put to bed early.
“We’re putting things together now and when we’re complete we’re a tough team,” Buell said after Friday’s win. “Our defense is playing at a high rate, our offense is playing at a high rate.”
Buell recollected looking at Aumiller before their 83-yard touchdown connection to make it 14-0 early. They recognized the man coverage in a pre-snap read and knew they could take advantage by going deep.
“Me and all of our wide receivers have great chemistry,” Buell explained, “but Chance is just a smart kid.”
Buell connected with six different receivers on Friday night, three times hitting Aumiller for a combined 145 yards. Aumiller already led the state with 205 receiving yards and three touchdowns coming in. The senior receiver also filled in at quarterback for a touchdown pass on Friday because Buell’s helmet came off while being tackled on the preceding play. WHSAA and NFHS rules dictate that if a player’s helmet comes off they must sit out at least one play due to possible concussion protocol. That wasn’t unfamiliar for Aumiller, who finished last season behind center when Buell’s season ended with a broken ankle.
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Those obstacles from last year have carried over to this season, according to the Thunderbirds. They haven’t been dealt with adversity yet this season, having outscored opponents 96-7 through two games, so they’re taking last year’s lumps into this season. Coupled with a valuable scout team that gives them fits in practice, the T-Birds know they can hurdle obstacles when they’re dealt.
“The coaches make a great environment for us to make sure we can do that,” Buell said. “We were a great team against adversity last year and there’s no reason this year will be any different.”
The T-Birds knew they’d be facing an emotional team on Friday, playing a home opener with a new head coach. East also knew the Trojans would come in determined after losing last year’s regular-season meeting by a possession in the Capital City. So Saturday’s textbook execution came as a satisfying result.
“Coming into this game they were going to play hard,” Buell said. “Our coaches did a great job of planning, our line was fantastic and our defense held strong. It was just an all-around team effort.”
East’s attention now goes onto its toughest test to date: Thunder Basin. The T-Birds host the potent Bolts in Week 3, in what could be a preview of a November rematch. Thunder Basin has outscored opponents 112-13 through its first two games so East’s defense, which hopped on five fumbles on Friday, will have its work cut out.
East linebacker Trey Bower plans to excitedly lead his defensive teammates onto the field for that one. A win would not only give East an upper hand in the standings, but come as a colossal confidence boost to a team that sees this season as a continuation of last year’s shortcomings.
“Big week next week and we’re excited for that,” Buell said. “We’ll see where we’re at there.”