Natrona County came into Friday night’s game against Thunder Basin with momentum and a chance to improve its playoff seeding. But the Mustangs’ offense never got untracked and the defense was unable to slow down the Bolts as Thunder Basin rolled to a 40-0 shutout victory at Cheney Alumni Field.
The Mustangs (4-4) had won two games in a row and four of their past five as they made a push to host a playoff game in two weeks. Friday’s loss, however, means the best they can do is the No. 5 seed, which would put them on the road to open the postseason.
Thunder Basin (7-1), on the other hand, remained in contention for the No. 1 seed in Class 4A heading into next week’s showdown at Sheridan to close the regular season.
The Bolts took control early Friday. Senior running back Jaxon Pikula capped the game’s opening drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Senior Andre Felton gave Thunder Basin the ball right back when he intercepted a Tyler Hill pass. Seven plays later Felton finished the drive with a 24-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Baker for a 14-0 lead with 1 minute, 5 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Natrona County drove inside Thunder Basin territory on each of its first-half possessions, but the Bolts defense was able to keep the Mustangs well outside the red zone.
Thunder Basin extended the lead to 21-0 just before the half on a 1-yard run from Hunter Lunberg. The big play on the drive came early when Felton took a pitch from Baker, rolled to the right, and found a wide-open Ty Myers for a 52-yard gain to the NC 18.
Hayden Lunberg scored on a 1-yard run on the Bolts’ first possession of the second half to make it 27-0.
Late in the third quarter, the Mustangs, aided by a personal foul penalty, had 1st-and-goal at the Bolts’ 6. A couple runs by Braxton Bundy netted 2 yards, but then Natrona County was hit with a personal foul penalty that pushed the ball back to the 19. The Mustangs fumbled on the next play and three plays later Pikula broke free for a 70-yard scoring run.
Hayden Lunberg added a 15-yard TD run inside of 2 minutes for the final score.
Pikula carried the ball 24 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns, giving him a 4A-best 16 on the season. Thunder Basin finished with 434 yards of total offense while Natrona County managed just 103 yards on the ground and Hill was 4-of-14 for 35 yards and two interceptions.
The Mustangs head to Gillette next week to take on the 1-8 Camels while Thunder Basin plays at Sheridan (5-3).
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