CHEYENNE — Longtime foe Cheyenne East hosted the Rock Springs Tigers on Friday night in Cheyenne. In a déjà vu-like fashion from last week against Thunder Basin, the Tigers dominated the first half but failed to put together a second half against the Thunderbirds. A strong fourth quarter by East secured a 23-14 win over the Tigers.
The Tigers are now 1-9 against East in their last ten matchups. Rock Springs also drops to 4-4 on the year with a playoff positioning battle against Cheyenne Central.
Friday night’s game was the toughest loss to swallow considering the dominance showed in the first half by Rock Springs. The Tigers proved to be their own worst enemy in their nine-point loss to East. Here are a few takeaways from Friday’s game.
Rock Springs High School
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Penalties and Turnovers Cost Rock Springs the Game
Penalties and turnovers were the obvious difference in this game and padded a Cheyenne East comeback.
The last chance for Rock Springs to get the ball back came with about a minute and a half left on the clock. A pending fourth down conversion was waived after an offsides penalty by the Tigers that sealed the victory for East and ended the game.
Two costly turnovers also left points off the board for Rock Springs. A fumble on the one-yard line prevented the Tigers from going up 14-0 in the first half. East took over on offense and went 99 yards down the field, capping it off with a touchdown. Turnovers on the one-yard line can’t happen against successful teams like East who rarely make mistakes.
Another big penalty came in the first half on a deep ball to Justis Reese. A holding call erased the biggest play of the night and killed any offensive momentum to score going into halftime. With a team that already struggles to find big plays offensively, the penalty was a huge blow to the offense.
At the end of the day, penalties and turnovers cost the Tigers the game against East and gave the Thunderbirds prime opportunities to put points on the board.
Special Teams Gave Up Field Position
Special teams also put the defense in some unfavorable spots. A blocked punt set the Thunderbirds offense up in scoring position. This is the second week in a row the Tigers have had a blocked punt.
A handful of other kicks were either poorly executed or not covered well which again led to great field position for one of the best offensive teams in 4A football.
I won’t dwell on special teams play too much, but the Tigers have had a few issues on special teams which has not helped any part of their game plan. Field position is a notable aspect of football, and will especially carry more meaning when the playoffs come around.
Tigers Defense Competed Against Top Ranked Offense
I don’t think I can go without mentioning the Rock Springs defense again this week. Despite a few big plays the Tigers gave up, the defense did an excellent job in the first half of keeping East’s offense off the field. The Thunderbirds only possessed the ball for a little over four minutes in the first half. That was a statement by the Tigers.
With the perspective of the offensive struggles in the second half and the special teams play, Rock Springs should be elated to only have allowed a little over 200 yards passing to the first-ranked offense going into the game.
East failed on fourth down a few times and Rock Springs won a lot of third down conversions against the Thunderbirds offense Friday night. While the scoreboard may not give the defense credit, I will.
Rock Springs will go on the road to close out the regular season against the Natrona Mustangs. The game is set to kick off at 6:00 p.m.