CHEYENNE – The 286.3 passing yards per game Cheyenne East’s Graedyn Buell averages are nearly 60 yards per game better than the second-ranked passer in Class 4A.
However, that might not be the most impressive stat the Thunderbirds quarterback has posted through six games this fall. That distinction doesn’t even go to his 21 touchdowns – five more than anyone else in the state’s largest classification.
Buell’s most impressive stat has to be his 69% completion mark, which is nearly 9% better than the next-most-accurate passer in the state.
“I have become more accurate, but I worked really hard at it,” the junior said. “I’m not the fastest guy, so I have to make up for it somewhere. I tried to become more accurate, so I would play little games with my dad to see who could hit something the most times in a row and little things like that.
“It really helped.”
No. 4-ranked East (4-2) hosts No. 5 Cheyenne Central (4-2) at 6 p.m. today at Okie Blanchard Stadium.
The T-Birds have never been afraid to air it out during Chad Goff’s 14 seasons as head coach. They have often ranked at or near the top in passing offense during his tenure.
But what Buell is doing this season is special, Goff said.
“We’ve never had something like this before,” he said. “As a coach, you’re so much more comfortable calling a pass when a guy is completing as high of a percentage as he is. He is making the kids around him better.
“He is putting the ball where it needs to be, and kids aren’t having to work too hard for it. They’re just having to go out and do what they need to do.”
Buell – who completed 61% of his passes during eight games last season – prides himself on his accuracy.
“I want to make the right throws all the time, and I’m always trying to hit people in the chest or hands,” he said. “I never want to make a bad throw. That has helped with my accuracy.”
Much of East’s passing offense is based on timing. Buell is often throwing to where the receiver is supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. It’s not an easy offense to run, which is why the T-Birds work nightly to keep their timing tight.
“It’s on me to deliver the ball on time and on the receivers to break out of their routes on time,” Buell said. “When it happens like that, it’s pretty hard to stop. That’s why we like what we’re doing.”
East hasn’t tweaked its offense since Buell took over as the starter last season, Goff said. The biggest change is Buell’s comfort with the scheme.
“His confidence in his throwing ability and his connection with his returning receivers is making everything slower for him,” the coach said. “The game has slowed down so much in his eyes, and his grasp of our offense is awesome.
“He was new to us last year, and he got better in every game. He is a natural at it, he studies it, and he loves it. He knows our offense inside out. Watching him make it go has been fun.”
Buell was baptized by fire during his freshman season as the starting quarterback at Rock Springs High. The Tigers opened with two-time reigning state champion Sheridan. He was 8 for 19 for 47 yards in that 51-0 road loss.
Buell passed for 1,491 yards and nine touchdowns during his rookie campaign.
“That was a pretty scary game to start with,” Buell said with a laugh. “I did as well as I could and got better because of it. I learned a lot that year.
“I learned the pace of the varsity game and saw some great players. Sheridan was super good that season, and so was (Casper) Natrona. I knew if I survived those games, it would set me up well for the next couple years.”
Buell’s family moved to Cheyenne between his freshman and sophomore years. He took over as East’s starting quarterback immediately. Buell threw for 1,346 yards and 12 touchdowns, but suffered a season-ending broken right ankle during his return to Rock Springs.
The injury required surgery and sidelined him for nearly half the basketball season.
Buell has rushed for just 18 yards on 29 carries this fall. He gained 303 yards and scored four touchdowns on 75 carries as a sophomore. The reduction in rushing yards isn’t because of his injury or a change in East’s offensive philosophy, he said.
“I’m still tucking the ball and running when I need to,” he said. “I have always looked to throw first and only run when I needed to. This year, I am doing a much better job of that.”