CHEYENNE – Mike Apodaca briefly paused mid-sentence while talking about Cheyenne Central senior Carter Lobatos.
The third-year Indians coach was trying to find a way to describe Lobatos’ heady play without using a description he thinks has been overused to the point of cliché. Having no alternative phrases at the ready, Apodaca marched forth.
“(Lobatos) could be on our coaching staff right now,” Apodaca said, “and I’m not just saying that. He has that kind of knowledge of the game. It’s all come through his study and preparation.
“His talent and work ethic are there in spades, but he is also one of the smartest football players I’ve ever coached.”
Apodaca pointed to No. 2-ranked Central’s walk through before its game Friday at top-ranked Sheridan as an example of Lobatos’ football IQ. The Indians had stopped in Buffalo – which is 30 minutes from Sheridan – to loosen up from the bus ride and revisit some items in the game plan.
“There were a couple times he corrected our defensive coaches and reminded them of things they said earlier in the week,” Apodaca said. “He was right. I’m telling you, that kid could walk off the field and be part of our coaching staff right now.”
Lobatos put his knowledge into action, rushing for 133 yards on 24 carries against the Broncs. He took a swing pass from senior quarterback Andy Cummins 8 yards for a touchdown. Lobatos also tallied 17 tackles (seven solo) and an interception to help the Indians to a 20-17 victory, their first at Sheridan since 2006.
Those efforts also earned Lobatos Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
Lobatos entered the game ranked No. 1 in Class 4A in rushing yards per game (154). He was third in the state last season, going for 112 yards per game to help Central advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2009.
Lobatos credits an offensive line that returns four of five starters with helping him shine.
“I know those guys so well, and trust them so much, that I’m able to analyze the defensive box, predetermine who is going to do what and what running lane is going to be open,” Lobatos said. “Being able to picture that before the snap is a lot more helpful than having to do it on the fly during the play.”
Lobatos estimates that roughly 70% of his runs have gone the way he pictured them in his head. He considers that a sign that the Indians’ offensive line is playing about as well as it can.
Lobatos knows Apodaca doesn’t throw praise around lightly. He views knowing the game plan inside and out as one of his responsibilities.
“(Apodaca) and I have to be on the same page with what needs to be done and how we do that,” Lobatos said. “We understand each other, and I just have to relay what he wants to everybody else. We don’t have to worry about relaying something Coach A doesn’t want because we’re on the same page.”
Lobatos has earned first team all-state honors as a linebacker the past two seasons. He got an all-state nod as a running back last fall. Lobatos considers himself a better linebacker than running back.
“I’m not super-fast, but I can make up for it by understanding what’s going to happen,” he said. “The best part about defense is diving into the film.
“Being able to really figure out what the other team is going to bring to the table is one of my favorite things. I can play without thinking because I already know what to expect.”
Despite all of the accolades, Lobatos hasn’t changed since the day Apodaca met him in 2018.
“I think he is really a lineman at heart,” the coach said. “He is always eating lunch with those guys, and making sure they know when they made a hell of a block.
“He is just the consummate teammate. He does all the things behind the scenes you like to see. The game isn’t about him. It’s about Cheyenne Central and his teammates.”
Others recognized for their efforts include:
-- Kira Brownell, girls swimming, Central: Brownell, a junior, won five events on the week, including two wins against Sheridan and Campbell County on Friday, and two wins against Thunder Basin and Rock Springs on Saturday.
-- Graedyn Buell, football, Cheyenne East: The senior quarterback completed 13 of 18 passes for 267 yards and five touchdowns to help the Thunderbirds to a 42-7 win at Campbell County.
-- Brayden Kivisto, boys cross-country, Central: Kivisto won the Prairie Wind Invitational in 16 minutes, 55.14 seconds.
-- Ashley Marshall, volleyball, East: The senior had 22 assists, 14 digs, 13 kills and four blocks to help the Lady T-Birds take a 3-2 win at Rawlins.