LARAMIE – Sheridan lined up to punt facing fourth-and-5 from its own 39.
The Broncs started the drive hoping to run the clock out on Thunder Basin in the Wyoming Class 4A state championship game, but it looked like they were going to have to settle for pinning the Bolts deep in their own territory.
Instead, Sheridan took advantage of having the state’s leading rusher as its punter.
Garrett Coon took the snap and rushed for 19 yards. That play allowed the Broncs to run the clock out in a 35-26 victory at War Memorial Stadium.
“The opportunity presented itself, and our kids went out and executed it,” second-year Sheridan coach Jeff Mowry said. “If you want to win a state championship, sometimes you have to make some calls like that. We trusted our kids to go out and get it done.”
The game looked like it was going to be anything but close early after the first half.
Thunder Basin (11-1) moved the ball well – especially through the air – but fell victim to an opportunistic Sheridan defense that forced three turnovers.
The Broncs (11-1) scored touchdowns off two of those extra possessions and led 21-7 at the intermission.
To make matters worse, Bolts wide receiver Tanner Richards fumbled on the first play of the second half. Sheridan took advantage of the miscue, and Coon scored from 3 yards out to give them a 28-7 lead.
“We prepared all week by watching them on film every day. Then, after practice, we spent extra time talking about their tendencies,” said junior Zach Koltiska, who had an interception and forced a fumble. “Our coaches put in a great game plan, and that helped us get all those turnovers and really slow them down.”
Thunder Basin – which had rallied to beat Sheridan 37-30 during the regular season – didn’t go away quietly.
Bolts senior quarterback Mason Hamilton connected with senior receiver Warren Carr on a slant route that Carr took to across the field and down the sideline for a 52-yard touchdown.
Thunder Basin caught a break on the very next play when Sheridan senior quarterback Jacob Boint’s pitch was behind Coon, hit Coon on the right hand and fell to the turf. Dyse Sheperd jumped on the football giving the Bolts the ball at Sheridan’s 11.
Hamilton connected with Richards for a score on the very next play to trim Sheridan’s lead to 28-20 with 6 minutes, 19 seconds remaining in the third.
The Broncs were forced to punt on their next two drives. Thunder Basin took advantage of the solid field position, and Hamilton found Blaine Allen over the middle for a 32-yard score with 31 seconds to play in the third. The two-point conversion came up short, allowing Sheridan to cling to a 28-26 advantage.
Boint helped give the Broncs some breathing room on their first drive of the fourth quarter, carrying the ball five times for 33 yards. He bulled in from a yard out on the final carry to give Sheridan a 35-26 lead.
Boint finished with 109 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.
“We just hit (a good run) with me once and stuck with what was working,” said Boint, who also passed for 106 yards. “They have to key on (Coon) because he is pretty good, so if we swing him out and get some defensive flow over, that opens things up for me.
“The O-line did a great job of opening up holes. We ran the ball well the whole night against a very stout defensive front.”
Coon finished with 130 yards and two scores on 30 carries.
“We put our defense in some really terrible spots, especially against a potent offense,” Mowry said. “In the fourth quarter, we were able to calm down a bit and had a big, big drive that helped clinch it. The big dogs up front sealed it for us.”
Hamilton finished with 301 passing yards and four touchdowns for Thunder Basin. Richards had 172 receiving yards and two scores.
The state title is Sheridan’s fourth in the past five seasons, and sixth since 2009. The Broncs also were runners-up twice during that stretch.
SHERIDAN 35, THUNDER BASIN 26
Sheridan…… 14 7 7 7 – 35
Thunder Basin…… 0 7 19 0 – 26
S: G. Coon 7 run (Greer kick), 5:18.
S: Boint 1 run (Greer kick), 1:00.
TB: Richards 49 pass from Hamilton (Gauthier kick), 2:04.
S: Boint 5 run (Greer kick), 0:40.
S: G. Coon 3 run (Greer kick), 7:44.
TB: Carr 52 pass from Hamilton (Gauthier kick), 6:38.
TB: Richards 7 pass from Hamilton (Gauthier kick failed), 6:19.
TB: Allen 32 pass from Hamilton (Driskell run failed), 0:31.
S: Boint 1 run (Greer kick), 7:51.
First Downs 18 10
Total Yards 363 323
Rushes-Yards 58-257 14-22
Passing Yards 106 301
Comp-Att-Int 7-13-0 16-29-2
Punt returns-Yards 2-23 0-0
Kickoff returns-Yards 5-80 1-12
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 6-40 7-68
Time of Poss. 33:18 14:04
Sheridan: G. Coon 30-130, Boint 19-101, Aksamit 6-26, McComb 1-2, Team 2-(minus-2). Thunder Basin: Pikula 9-24, Driskill 1-0, Hamilton 4-(minus-2).
Sheridan: Boint 7-12-0 106, G. Coon 0-1-0 0. Thunder Basin: Hamilton 16-29-2 301.
Sheridan: G. Coon 4-60, Ry. Sessions 1-30, Aksamit 1-13, T. Jacobs 1-3. Thunder Basin: Richards 8-172, Carr 5-94, Pikula 2-3, Allen 1-32.
Player (solo tackles-assisted tackles-total): McArthur 3-2-5, G. Coon 2-2-4, Meinecke 2-1-3, Ry. Sessions 1-3-4, Koltiska 2-0-2, T. Jacobs 2-0-2, I. Taylor 1-1-2, Mangus 1-1-2, Larson 1-1-2, Johnson 0-3-3, M. Taylor 1-0-1, Boint 1-0-1, Martin 1-0-1. Sacks: Taylor 1-9. Tackles for loss: I. Taylor 1-9, Mangus ½-1, Larson ½-2, M. Taylor 1-1. Forced fumbles: Koltiska 1, T. Jacobs 1. Fumble recoveries: Ry. Sessions 1-0, Osborne 1-13. Interceptions: Koltiska 1-0, Dubberly 1-19. Pass breakups: G. Coon 2, T. Jacobs 1.
Player (solo tackles-assisted tackles-total): Driskill 11-9-20, Carr 7-1-8, Hu. Lunberg 6-2-8, Catlin 6-1-7, Allen 4-3-7, Randall 3-2-5, Sheperd 3-2-5, Richards 3-2-5, McInerney 1-3-4, Durgin 1-2-3, Carroll 1-1-2, Brisko 1-1-2, Randall 1-0-1, Ehrhard 1-0-1, Pikula 1-0-1, Crowley 0-1-1. Sacks: Driskill 1-3. Tackles for loss: Driskill 1½-7, Hu. Lunberg 1-2, Sheperd 3-11, McInerney ½-3. Fumble recoveries: Sheperd 1-0. Pass breakups: Catlin 1.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.