CHEYENNE — It’s hard to imagine a football team walking off the field after a 61-20 season-ending loss to Rock Springs with a positive attitude.
Cheyenne South did just that and for good reason.
Friday’s final game might have looked lopsided on the scoreboard but it was in-fact South’s most complete offensive game of the season. And the architect of that effort — quarterback Zach Wilkinson.
“I’ve always noticed that in athletics we get better towards the end of the year because we spend more time together and we just get better at the end of the year,” Wilkinson said. “Success comes at the end of the year, more of it anyway.”
On the night, Wilkinson carried the ball eight times for 30 yards and finished 9 of 16 for 90 yards and two touchdowns. For some quarterbacks, that might be a mundane game. For Wilkinson, it wasn’t about the numbers but the way he executed the game.
During the final two Bison scoring drives, Wilkinson eluded pressure from Rock Springs and picked up big yardage with his legs to keep drives alive. What’s more he managed to connect with four different receivers on the night, a far cry from where he started this season.
His two touchdown passes — a lofted pass over several Tiger defenders to Kyhler Cummings just before the half and a strike to Isaiah Sims at the goal line in the fourth – were things of beauty. And, of course, it was South’s first game with mutliple touchdowns and Wilkinson’s first game with two touchdowns.
“That was the best game of my life, no doubt. I’ll always remember this and I just say thank you for the team because none of those touchdown passes would have happened if Isaiah didn’t catch a pass, if Khyler didn’t catch a pass, if I didn’t have great blocking – it wouldn’t have happened,” Wilkinson said.
Sims and South coach Tracy Pugh have seen Wilkinson’s growth first-hand. When the season started, Wilkinson went almost three weeks with his only completions to Andy Moyte.
Now he’s able to vary his targets keeping play a bit more balanced. Sims, a 6-foot-3 tight end, calls the relationship between himself and Wilkinson a good one adding they’re friends off and on the field. Both players are sophomores meaning they have a few more years to work together. That has helped chemistry and trust develop over time and allowed South’s offense to finally gain momentum.
“It was very important to help because it’s kind hard to throw to nobody really. When you have such a big guy like as a target, it’s probably a little bit easier to throw to,” Sims said. “We have that connection, that tight end-quarterback connection.”
Following Friday’s performance, Pugh was happy for his sophomore quarterback. The numbers and touchdowns were nice, but getting the chance to show just how much he’d learned during the season was the key part.
Of course, Pugh was quick to point out that Wilkinson is only 15. He can drive the offense up and down the field, he just can’t legally drive a car yet.
“He has started to see the whole field instead of seeing what one route was written in the playbook. He’s made that progression over the last couple weeks,” Pugh said. “He ran out of bounds to stop the clock for us before the half. Little things like that. He picks up the game pretty well and I would say the last game of the year he’s grown as much as any kid we’ve had.”
Now the Bison are focused on doing more than just scoring points. They want a win, the program’s first as a varsity squad. They’ll have to wait about 10 months for that next opportunity.
Friday’s finale — that’s the memory they’ll carry with them through the offseason.
“It certainly gives hope. Lots of hope. Just now we have to get bigger, faster and stronger,” Wilkinson said.