ROCK SPRINGS — A 14-point Rock Springs lead in the first quarter wasn’t enough cushion to upset the first-ranked Thunder Basin Bolts on Friday night. A near perfect first half played by the Tigers turned sour in the second half as the Bolts flipped the script in the third quarter. A scoreless fourth quarter by both teams ended the game 24-14 in favor of the visiting Bolts.
Rock Springs drops to 4-3 on the season as they continue to battle for the fifth seeding position in the playoffs. Cheyenne Central is the other team vying for the fifth seed.
While the game didn’t turn out how the Tigers had hoped, the first half gave a glimpse into the future for the program. Here are a few postgame thoughts from tonight’s close battle with Thunder Basin.
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Lack of Big Plays, Potential for Offense
Offensively the Tigers don’t have many big plays. Outside of wideout Justis Reese, big plays down the field have been hard to come by all season long. The same rang true Friday night against Thunder Basin. Besides the first two offensive possessions and deep ball to Reese in the second half, explosive plays down the field simply didn’t happen.
Rock Springs will only get better as head coach Mark Lenhardt and his staff have time to develop and transform average players into loaded weapons. There’s no doubt that will happen, and it will show us the full potential of Lenhardt’s flexible offense. Right now the Tigers are winning games and competing toe-to-toe with the likes of Thunder Basin. Considering they only scored twice in the first quarter, there’s a lot of room for improvement and that’s promising. Couple that idea with the defense right now and this team makes an argument to break up the “Big Four.” Despite the lack of big plays this season, there’s a lot of potential that will eventually show. It’s only a matter of time.
Reacting to Adversity
Rock Springs has shown us throughout the season moments of overcoming adversity and moments where adversity overcomes them. Tonight the latter occurred and it showed in the 22-point third quarter Thunder Basin had.
The mentality for this football team is still a subject matter that’s in the process of changing. If you’re used to reacting to adversity one way, you aren’t going to magically change that over night. If there was one takeaway that I hope the team came away with it was the difference in how they reacted to the adversity they faced tonight compared to other games such as Sheridan.
The mentality will also change and it will also be another factor that elevates them to the next level. Approaching the game one play at a time is critical when facing opponents like the Bolts.
Defense Will Carry This Team
For those who read my postgame thoughts every Friday night, I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record. However, the Rock Springs defense showed out against a Bolts team that averaged well over 40 points a game coming into Friday night’s matchup.
The Tigers held the Bolts to only two points. Outside of the blocked punt that resulted in a safety, the Tigers shut down the entirety of Thunder Basin’s offense. From two fumbles in the first half to stuffing the run game and breaking up passes, Rock Springs dominated Thunder Basin’s offense in the first half.
The defense will continue to be the foundation of the future.
Rock Springs will go on the road to close out the remaining two games left on their schedule. The Tigers will play against Cheyenne East next Friday at 6:00 p.m.