4A Football Semifinal Preview: East

Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 5:13 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The T-Birds football team has been on a complete tear this season, taking an 8-1 record and the number two seed into the postseason. After a tightly contested first half in their playoff opener against Rock Springs, they hit the jets the rest of the way to cruise to another appearance in the 4A semifinal.

For the second year in a row, it will be the Natrona Mustangs standing in East’s way for a spot in the 4A championship game. If the quarterfinal against the Tigers was any indication, the T-Birds will certainly get Natrona’s best shot.

”It’s kind of that’s just how it is when you go to East. Everyone wants to beat you. You’re kind of the measuring stick here, and so everyone wants to beat you. So you’ve got to bring it because everyone else is gonna bring it,” senior Renton Jensen said.

The Mustangs will be hungry to avenge both their playoff exit in 2022 and their lopsided defeat in Week 2 by a score of 45-7. Natrona has shown considerable growth since, and have been a force on the defensive side of the ball in particular. Across the regular season, they ranked first in 4A in pass yards allowed per game (119), second in both total yards per game (240) and sacks (17), and third in touchdowns allowed (17). Plus, they stymied Central in their playoff opener-- allowing just three points to the Indians. On the offensive side, Natrona presents a bit of a different look than most teams. They frequently run the wildcat, regularly play multiple quarterbacks, and bring plenty of physicality.

”Yeah they got a lot of big guys on their o-line this year. So it gets kind of hard when you get double teamed, you gotta get through two big 200 pound guys. So you just gotta keep working and keep using your hands,” senior Colby Olson said.

For the T-Birds, it’s been pure dominance outside of their week 5 slip up against Sheridan. They’ve recorded a 45.8 point average margin of victory across their nine wins so far, and have shown explosiveness on both sides of the football. Offensively, East’s 495 yards per game is 110 more than anyone else in 4A, their 65 touchdowns leads the next highest team by 14, and their 56 points per game paces the field by a 5.3 point margin. On defense, they are first in yards allowed (239/game), first in touchdowns allowed (14), and first in turnovers forced (24) across the regular season.

As much as Natrona has improved since the teams’ meeting earlier this year, East head coach Chad Goff believes his team has significantly as well.

”I think the kids understand that you have to get better every day, and they work hard. These kids get after each other every day in practice, and I think they have gotten better since that meeting. Just like Natrona has gotten better. So it’s a team that we’ve battled a lot over the years you know, and they’re a good football program. So it should be a fun game,” Goff said.

The game is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday at Okie Blanchard Stadium.