CHEYENNE – Jackson Hesford and Andrew Johnson have spent the past two summers patrolling the outfield for Cheyenne American Legion Post 6.
Hesford, a left fielder, and Johnson, a center fielder, have helped the Sixers win a Wyoming Class AA state championship and become the first Wyoming team to earn a berth in the Connie Mack World Series.
Each considers the other a good friend.
“We’re throwing partners, which is a pretty big deal on baseball teams,” Johnson said.
Tonight, the pair will press pause on their friendship as Johnson’s No. 1-ranked Cheyenne Central football team prepares to host Hesford’s third-ranked Cheyenne East squad. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Riske Field.
Central enters the game 6-0, while East is 5-1. Not only does the meeting pit two of the premier teams in Class 4A against each other, it will match up two of Wyoming’s top all-around players in Hesford and Johnson.
Hesford leads the state in receiving average at 104.3 yards per game. Jackson is second on the list at 95. Hesford has scored five touchdowns, while Johnson has reached the end zone four times this fall.
They also are two of the state’s best defensive players. Johnson averages 12.3 defensive points per game from his cornerback spot, which is 12th-best in 4A. He has 24 total tackles and three interceptions. Hesford, a free safety, averages 10.2 defensive points per game, which is tied for 18th. He has 36 total tackles and three pass breakups.
Odds are Johnson will line up directly across from Hesford when East has the ball tonight, and that Hesford will be tasked with providing safety help on Johnson’s side of the field during Central’s possessions.
“We lined up across from each other a few times last season, and that was fun,” Hesford said. “It’s always great to have one of your buddies from across town be such a good player. I really respect the way he plays a lot.
“I’m really looking forward to going up against him and Central, because it should be a great game.”
Hesford and Johnson don’t talk much during the season, but are part of a running group text among Post 6 players. They know the other is having a strong season, even though neither will admit to checking the 4A stats.
“He is going to give me a run for my money,” Johnson said. “You can’t help but respect him and what he’s done this year.”
Statistically, Central and East are about as close as can be.
The Thunderbirds rank first in 4A in total offense at 465 yards per game, and are second in scoring offense at 38.5 points per game. Central is third in both total offense (421 ypg) and scoring offense (35.3 ppg). The Indians leads the state in scoring defense (16.2 ppg) and are second in total defense (282 ypg), while East is second in scoring defense (17.2 ppg) and third in total defense (311 ypg).
The 71st meeting between Cheyenne’s oldest schools promises a number of quality matchups across the board, but Hesford vs. Johnson is the most noteworthy.
“Both of those guys are great athletes and great kids,” said Central coach Mike Apodaca, who is in his third season coaching his alma mater. “They’re great representatives of Wyoming, and Cheyenne, in particular.
“You can’t help but sit back and appreciate what they bring to the game and the community.”