The tough and aggressive Cheyenne Wells Tigers were undefeated going into the post-season and riding a #3 seed into the state playoffs. They defeated Prairie in the state quarterfinals and advanced to take on the #2 seed and undefeated Stratton/Liberty Knighted Eagles last Saturday in Stratton. However, they ran out of luck in this round as they lost two starters prior to the game. The Tigers would go down in defeat after playing in the final four, 36-15.
The Tigers, who had already overcome so much adversity, suffered through a tough week before the Stratton/Liberty game losing their top offensive player, junior Evan Worley, to a leg injury. They had already lost another key starter in junior backer Rogelio Rangel who was deemed CHSAA ineligible for the post season.
According to Tiger head coach Myles Smith, “Like all teams dealing with losing key players in six-man, it hurt us to lose both Evan and Rogelio in the playoffs run.”
Cheyenne Wells, who has only two seniors on the team including Preston Hernandez and Drew Scheimer, accomplished great things this season. Smith gives credit to the seniors’ leadership saying, “We are very proud of what they accomplished over the past four years.”
Cheyenne Wells came out strong at the start of the semifinals game against an aggressive and experienced Knighted Eagles group. The Black & Orange would surprise their opponent in a quick 65-yard touchdown pass play from Blake Gilmore to Ty Scheler. The Tigers would make a successful PAT for one more point having the early 7-0 lead.
But the Knighted Eagles answered soon after and would lead, 8-7, by the end of the 1st period.
The Tigers scored again in the second period taking back the lead, 15-8. But late in the quarter they threw an interception that Stratton was able to capitalize on right before the end of the first half. The teams went into the lockers with Stratton/Liberty leading in a barnburner, 15-14.
The third quarter saw Cheyenne Wells suffer two crucial turnovers that gave Stratton good field position allowing them to eventually score on both of those possessions. Those two mistakes gave the Knighted Eagles a two-score lead by the end of the third.
The SL group added one more touchdown in the 4th quarter when Alex Cruz ran the ball in from 40 yards out to finish the game successfully ahead 36-15.
Hernandez and Scheler led the way offensively for the Tigers. Hernandez carried the ball 16 times for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns. Scheler caught three passes for 76 yards and one TD.
Defensively, Hernandez picked off 2 Stratton/Liberty passes and led the team in tackles with 16. Scheler had 14 take downs, while Dillon Ball added 9 tackles.
Smith said, “We just were not able to make a few big plays in the second half when we needed them to get right back into the game! We knew at this point in the season we needed to win the turnover battle. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for us in this game and proved to be the difference. I do have to say though we are very proud of what this group was able to do this year. Whether it was losing Cade (Mitchek) at the beginning of the year, football being on and off, injuries and Rogelio not being allowed to play, and then a horrible wreck last week involving a couple of students these boys always stuck together as a family and found a way to overcome whatever they were faced with. Our entire team and the coaches are sending up prayers for the Gerstner and Worley families!”
Cover: Senior Preston Hernandez carried 16 times for 64 yards against Stratton-Liberty. Photo: Mayhan Photography