CHEYENNE – Trust has helped Kaleb Romero quietly put together an outstanding individual season.
The Cheyenne East junior cornerback has learned to trust himself, his teammates and his coaches. The byproduct of that trust was on display during the Thunderbirds’ 31-21 victory over Sheridan in the Class 4A semifinals.
Romero intercepted two passes, broke up another and posted three tackles (two solo) to help East advance to the state championship for the first time since 2013. Those efforts also earned Romero Prep Athlete of the Week honors from WyoSports’ Cheyenne staff.
This is Romero’s first season on varsity. Earlier in the year, he caught himself trying to do more than he was asked. Doing that put him out of position, and there were a few times he was burned by a pass.
“If we were playing man, I would go after guys who weren’t my man, and my man ended up making plays,” Romero said. “I had to trust myself and my teammates. I’m not the only guy out there who can make plays, and I had to remember that. I had to start being unselfish and trusting my teammates.”
Romero started making plays once he started trusting his teammates and focusing on only his duties.
“Trusting my teammates gave me confidence,” he said. “I always tell myself that confidence in key. If you have confidence in yourself, you’re going to play good.
“You can’t play scared. If you play scared, bad things are going to happen.”
Bad things can happen at corner where it’s a one-on-one battle on the outside. Corners often get coverage help downfield from safeties, but there is still a lot of open field to cover. Romero has gotten better at patrolling that space throughout this season, East coach Chad Goff said.
“He has had some interceptions, but he also has been a pretty good tackler on the edge,” Goff said. “He has focused on the little things and improved every day. His confidence has also gone up a ton.
“From where he was on the first day of practice to where he is at now, he has made tremendous strides. He understands that we believe in him, and he believes in himself. That’s allowed him to make plays.”
Romero has 43 tackles this season. That includes 24 solo stops. His five interceptions are second-most in 4A behind Natrona County’s Kaeden Wilcox.
The 5-foot-8, 162-pounder said he was able to read Sheridan quarterback Zach Koltiska’s eyes on both interceptions he snared Friday. However, Romero was quick to point out that others deserved credit for his success during the semifinal contest.
“I’ve become pretty good at reading the receiver and seeing what he does from his release,” Romero said. “I’m also trusting my technique and letting things happen.
“But our coaches put us in the right coverage for me to make a play. We played coverages that put me in good positions.”
Others recognized for their efforts include:
-n- Kira Brownell and Izzy DeLay, girls swimming, Cheyenne Central: Brownell, a junior, placed second in the 100-yard backstroke and third in the 50 freestyle to help the Lady Indians place second at the Class 4A state meet.
DeLay, a freshman, was second in the 100 breaststroke and third in the 200 individual medley.
-n- Trey Bower, Graedyn Buell and Jake Rayl, football, East: Bower, a senior, recorded 15 tackles (six solo) during the T-Birds’ 31-21 victory over Sheridan.
Buell, a senior, completed 23 of 30 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries.
Rayl, also a senior, caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. He also had a pass breakup and a solo tackle.
-n- Elysiana Fonseca and Boden Liljedahl, volleyball, East: Fonseca, a sophomore, had 25 kills across three matches to help the Lady T-Birds place fourth at the 4A state tournament.
Lijedahl, also a sophomore, had 59 digs.