The Thunder Basin football team is off to a storybook start to the season — an undefeated record, the unanimous No. 1 ranking in Wyoming Class 4A high school football and wins already over the the other top four teams in the state.
However, inside the locker room, the Bolts know there is more to come. While their 6-0 record is unblemished, they’ve been forced to pull off multiple improbable wins, including 16-point comebacks against Cheyenne East and Natrona County.
The goal this week as TBHS travels seven hours to take on Rock Springs is to put four full quarters together. Senior quarterback Mason Hamilton knows that starts with him and and the offensive unit.
The Bolts have three more games to try to recapture their offensive magic from last season, but Hamilton would just as soon get that breakout game out of the way this week against the Tigers.
“If we can come together, I’m speaking just offensively, if we can come in and put a full four-quarter game together against a defense like this, that’s going to give us a ton of confidence,” Hamilton said. “From there, we’ll just click. I think we just need to put one game together.”
Getting on track against Rock Springs is a challenge that means a lot to Hamilton because it would be against the one team that ranks ahead of the Bolts in overall defense. Though the Tigers have only faced one of the top four teams — a 23-7 loss to Sheridan — it is clear that coach Mark Lenhardt has put together a hard-nosed defense in his first year with the program.
The Tigers are only giving up 104.2 yards per game this season, 78 of those through the air, and opponents are only averaging 13 points per game. Last week against Campbell County, they held the state’s leading rusher, Vijay Pitter, to just 40 yards and the Camels to 76 total.
One of Rock Springs defensive strengths is its size along the defensive line, TBHS coach Trent Pikula said. That will be a matchup to watch, because Natrona’s talented front seven really caused problems for the Bolts last week and had Hamilton constantly scrambling away from pressure.
Regardless of what the defensive rankings say, Pikula wants his offense to put points on the board right away Friday night.
“That’s something we hung our hat on last year. We scored a ton of points on that first drive and it hasn’t been that easy for us this year,” Pikula said.
Defensively, Pikula thinks film prep can only do so much for the Bolts in this game. Rock Springs looks completely different this season after years of running a double-wing offense.
Instead, Thunder Basin will see a lot of overloaded formations and different plays run out of them. Pikula said that trying to show his team all of Rock Springs’ plays would just overload his players, so they have been working on recognizing formations and the likely plays out of those.
“(Rock Springs is) trying to figure out where you’re weak and they’re going to try and overload that side and run as many guys at you as they can,” Pikula said. “It’s a definitely a different offense than anybody else in the state runs.”