The Thunder Basin High School football team ended the regular season with a 28-20 home loss to No. 2-ranked Sheridan on Friday night at TBHS.
The loss gives the Bolts (6-3) the No. 5 seed in the Class 4A playoffs while Sheridan (8-1) clinched the No. 1 seed after beating No. 1-ranked Rock Springs (8-1) last month.
The loss also means the Bolts will have to travel for its quarterfinals matchup with No. 4 seed Natrona County (5-3) next week. The Mustangs beat Thunder Basin 28-13 last week.
"Anything can happen in the playoffs," TBHS coach Trent Pikula said. "When you play a team twice in a season, anything can happen, and often times it does.
"We just have to go back and watch the Natrona film and prepare to stop the run and offensively we have to protect our quarterback."
Friday's game was a clash of two top 5 teams in the WyoPrep.com coaches and media football rankings. The Bolts dropped to No. 5 after last week's loss to Natrona County while the Broncs were ranked No. 2.
Sheridan took an early 7-0 after scoring on its third play from scrimmage. Carter McComb took a 76-yard run into the end zone with 10:09 left in the first quarter.
The Bolts' offense responded with a solid drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by senior Cade Ayers to cut the lead to 7-3 with 6:57 left in the first quarter.
After a Sheridan punt, Thunder Basin took its first lead of the game on a 24-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Baker to wide receiver Kayden LaFramboise to make it 10-7 with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
The Bolts' defense forced four Sheridan punts in a row between the first and second quarters. The Bolts extended its lead to 17-7 with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Baker to LaFramboise for the pair's second consecutive scoring connection of the half.
But for the second time in the game, Sheridan's rushing attack broke out a big run and scored on an 80-yard touchdown run by Colson Coon to make it 17-14 with 5:54 left in the second quarter. After a Baker interception in the red zone, the Broncs reclaimed the lead on a triple-reverse passing touchdown to give them a 21-17 lead going into halftime.
The offensive barrage slowed down immensely in the second half as the Broncs started playing the possession game with the lead. After a Thunder Basin punt to open the half, the Broncs scored on an 18-yard run to make it 28-17 with 8:07 left in the third quarter.
The Bolts lost a fumbled but Ayers intercepted a Sheridan pass the very next play to give TBHS the ball right back. Thunder Basin couldn't capitalize on the mistake and were forced to punt at the end of the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Broncs missed a 33-yard field goal attempt that would have given them a 14-point lead. But the next two offensive drives for Thunder Basin ended in a punt and a turnover on downs as the Bolts battled the draining clock.
Ayers was able to connect on a 47-yard field goal with 7 seconds left in the game to make it 28-20 but Sheridan recovered the ensuing onside kick to close out the game.
Despite the loss, Pikula and the Thunder Basin football remain in good spirits looking ahead to next week's quarterfinal matchup with Natrona County.
"There isn't a team in this state we can't beat," Pikula said. "We had three losses and I feel like against Rock Springs and Sheridan we played well enough to win and Natrona was just one of those games.
"Our goal is to win a state championship and that hasn't changed since day one and that's going to continue to be the goal all week long."
The Bolts had 476 yards of total offense against the Broncs on 79 plays. Baker was 25 of 49 for 317 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.