Frustrated and belittled over the past month, Kelly Walsh stood on its home field once again. Through disappointing results and unfortunate injuries, the once-surging program suddenly faced the very serious reality of missing the playoffs.
With a rowdy homecoming crowd and a powerful defense returning to Harry Geldien Stadium for Friday night’s game, the Trojans welcomed one-loss Thunder Basin. The Trojans were embarrassed just a week ago on the same field by rival Natrona County. So with major consequences on the line, the Trojans played for pride. In the effort, they won back confidence they once had by sending the game into the fourth quarter tied. In reality, they fell short once again.
Despite the Trojans’ best shot — pushing a team tied atop the 4A standings to its limit — they still walked off their home field with a fifth consecutive loss, 33-17.
“It’s been tough,” Kelly Walsh senior Davion McAdam said. “You’ve just got to stay strong through it all, believe in your coaches, your players. Everybody’s got to be ready to step up at any moment and we feel like we’re all prepared for that, and we just have to keep fighting because the season’s never over.”
Both defenses showed prowess immediately. It took a third drive with premium field position for Thunder Basin to open the scoring.
A high Kelly Walsh punt that took a Bolt-friendly bounce rolled to the Trojan 20 before the home team downed it. Mason Hamilton struggled against the defense in the short field, leading and throwing behind receivers too much. The Trojan defense held and the Bolts settled for a 34-yard field goal from sophomore Garner Gauthier.
Kelly Walsh immediately responded on the legs of its senior leader and newly crowned homecoming king. Brock Spiegelberg gained yards by the dozen as the Trojans marched forward in three plays with confidence. Then, on the first play of the second quarter, Spiegelberg took the pitch and followed blocking along the outside. Fifty-seven yards later he crossed the goal line untouched to give the Trojans a 7-3 lead.
It was the first time Kelly Walsh led a football game this year since the 41-15 win over Cheyenne South in Week 2. Since the final whistle of that game, the Trojans had played 204 minutes, 11 seconds.
“That gives us the confidence and little swagger we’ve been talking about all year, how we think we’re one of the best teams out here,” McAdam said. “We still feel that way and we can play with anybody when we’re playing our best football. So it felt good to have a little confidence for once.”
That lead remained over multiple drives until Thunder Basin’s explosive offense finally broke through. A run by Tyson Edwards up the middle broke wide open and the junior put the Bolts back ahead with a 10-7 lead on a 47-yard gallop.
Kelly Walsh answered immediately on the next drive as sophomore Esaias Spillaine found senior Tyler Whitley over the middle for a first down. Whitley bounced to the outside and used his speed to extend the play for a 43-yard gain. The drive stalled in the red zone and Viktor Valeskog came on to covert a 29-yard field goal, tying the game at 10-all.
Spillaine, the Trojans’ third-string quarterback, finished 10-of-22 for 169 yards. He earned a rare start on Friday because of Matt Hays’ injury suffered against Sheridan three weeks ago and second-string quarterback Sage Coventry battling flu-like symptoms during the week.
“He definitely performed way above what he was asked to do tonight,” Whitley said of Spillaine. “It was difficult to see three different quarterbacks, throwing motions, what they do, their tendencies, in just one week.”
The Trojans had an opportunity to take another lead before halftime but a fumbled pitch fell to ground and Bolts defensive tackle Terren Swartz jumped on it at the Thunder Basin 39 with 11 seconds left.
Then came the second-half back-and-forth. First it was Hamilton connecting with Edwards for a score on a 4-yard swing pass, set up by a personal foul facemask on the Trojans. Kelly Walsh’s answer came unconventionally three drives later when Spiegelberg’s explosive sprints put the Trojans inside the 5. Spiegelberg fumbled on a run from the 4 but junior Emory Yoosook was able to recover and dive over the goal line.
Spiegelberg, who eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season on his first carry of the game, ran for 201 yards on 31 carries.
“We did a lot better and we got some run game going,” Kelly Walsh head coach Jon Vance said. “It was a really good improvement from where we had been in the last couple of weeks.”
A Kelly Walsh muffed punt return in the opening minute of the fourth quarter set the Bolts up at the opposing 7. And while the Trojan defense stuffed the run, the Bolts eventually scored on an 8-yard fade route from Hamilton to Blaine Allen.
And that’s when the wheels fell off.
A high snap to 5-foot-9 Spillaine landed in the end zone and the sophomore dove on it to concede a safety. The ensuing free kick went out of bounds to put the Bolts at the KW 45. Edwards scored from there on the next play with a run up the middle to put the game away.
THUNDER BASIN 33, KELLY WALSH 17
Friday, at Casper
TB 3 7 7 16 33
KW 0 10 7 0 17
TB: Garner Gauthier 34 FG, 1:19.
KW: Brock Spiegelberg 58 run (Viktor Valeskog kick), 11:49.
TB: Tyson Edwards 47 run (Gauthier kick), 4:18.
KW: Valeskog 29 FG, 1:16.
TB: Edwards 4 pass from Mason Hamilton (Gauthier kick), 8:52.
KW: Emory Yoosook 4 run (Valeskog kick), 0:44.
TB: Blaine Allen 8 pass from Hamilton (Gauthier kick), 11:12.
TB: Team safety, 1:29
TB: Edwards 45 run (Gauthier kick), 1:20.