CHEYENNE – Trey Bower entered this season with lofty goals.
The Cheyenne East senior wanted to improve upon the statistics that helped him earn all-state honors during his junior campaign. He wanted to catch the eye of college coaches. Bower wanted to help the Thunderbirds win a Class 4A state championship.
There was just one problem.
“I got off to a slow start,” Bower said. “I was thinking too much, and putting too much pressure on myself.”
Bower, a linebacker, had 11 tackles through East’s first two games, which led coach Chad Goff to pull him aside after practice.
“I told him, ‘We’re not looking for all-state Trey, we just want regular Trey,’” Goff said. “He really took that to heart, started taking pressure off himself and started trusting the guys around him more instead of trying to do everything himself.
“Once he started to do his job, that made a tremendous difference.”
The response was immediate. Bower posted 12 tackles during East’s Sept. 11 victory over Campbell County, and hasn’t looked back.
Bower posted six tackles and an interception during the T-Birds’ 49-7 victory over Laramie in the opening round of the 4A playoffs. Those efforts earned him Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
Entering Friday’s game, Bower ranked sixth in 4A in defensive points per game (13.6), and his 83 tackles were fourth-most in the state. The 103 tackles he had as a junior were third-most in 4A, while his 15.7 defensive points per game ranked fifth.
“I was too worried about this being my last year of high school football, whether I was going to be able to play in college and whether I had let my team down the first game,” Bower said. “I had to just have fun and not worry about what comes afterward. No matter what happens this season, it’s the last few games I have with my friends and brothers out here.
“I’ll never get these times back, so I have to have fun while I’m playing.”
While Bower putting too much pressure on himself greatly contributed to his early season struggles, so did a few new wrinkles to East’s defensive scheme.
“I didn’t completely understand the defense at first, and I thought, ‘Why are we changing what we’re doing when we had such a good defense last year?’” Bower said. “I had to remember that (defensive coordinator Steve) Hesford wouldn’t be making these changes if he didn’t think it would work better than what we were doing.
“The more we studied it, the better we learned it, the more it clicked. We put our time and effort into making this defense the best it could be. Now, this defense is 10 times better than our defense last year.”
The 6-foot, 195-pound Bower has plenty of help around him on East’s defense. Senior defensive tackle Julian Vigil ranks third in defensive average (15.4 ppg), while senior linebacker Jaret Taylor was 16th in the state (11.1). Taylor has spent time in the state’s top 10 this season.
Cornerback Kaleb Romero and linebackers Adrian Hernandez and Keagan Bartlett all rank in the top 30.
Bower’s numbers might not be as gaudy as they were last fall, but his value to the T-Birds’ defense remains incalculable.
“He leads our front seven by example,” Goff said. “He plays really hard, he plays aggressive and he plays downhill.”
Others recognized for their efforts include:
-n- Ellie Brewer, girls swimming, Cheyenne South: The junior won the 50- and 500-yard freestyles at South’s last-chance qualifying meet Friday. She stopped the clock in the 50 in 26.74 seconds and swam the 500 in 5 minutes, 48.03 seconds.
-n- Graedyn Buell, Gavin Goff, Adrian Hernandez, Jackson Hesford and Jaret Taylor, football, East: Buell completed 19 of 25 passes for 272 yards and six touchdowns during the Thunderbirds’ 49-7 victory over Laramie. He also rushed for 120 yards and another touchdown.
Goff caught seven passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns.
Hernandez posted six tackles (five solo) and forced a fumble.
Hesford – playing in his first game since Oct. 9 – intercepted two passes. He also had four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Taylor had three tackles (two solo), a fumble recovery and an interception.
-n- Alison Crock, Boden Liljedahl, Ashley Marshall and Kiera Walsh, volleyball, East: Crock dished out 80 assists and posted 21 digs as the Lady T-Birds went 1-3 in regional tournament play.
Liljedahl finished with 59 digs.
Marshall dished out 76 assists to go with 33 digs and 22 kills.
Walsh added 33 kills and six blocks in those matches.
-n- Kylie Gallegos and Rylee Ward, volleyball, Burns: Gallegos finished with 13 digs and nine kills in the Lady Broncs’ season-ending 3-0 loss to Rawlins.
Ward dished out 26 assists to go with nine digs.
-n- Andrew Johnson, football, Cheyenne Central: The senior caught nine passes for 112 yards during the Indians’ 28-14 loss to Kelly Walsh.