Friday night’s battle in Gillette had the makings of being the best matchup yet of the young series. The Campbell County High School football team is off to its best start in five years while Thunder Basin has all the makings of a team good enough to be in the state championship game again.
The game lived up to all the hype for one quarter where both teams led at one point. After that, the Bolts stole all the momentum and never slowed down en route to a 61-15 victory over the Camels.
The Camel’s defense, ranked No. 1 in state, came up with the first big play of the game with a fumble recovery on the opening drive. CCHS made it count as it scored five plays later when junior Ian Carter scored on a 33-yard scamper to give the Camels a 7-0 lead.
Thunder Basin had no answer to that one. The top-rated Campbell County defense, led by some huge hits by Taylor Foss, denied TBHS anything early.
The Camels had a chance to go up by two scores. That was denied with a big tackle by Thunder Basin senior Caden Randall and CCHS punted.
That opened the door for the Bolts and they walked through it. They went 60 yards and found the end zone when quarterback Ryan Baker connected with Cade Ayers on an 8-yard touchdown catch to tie the game with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
The Campbell County offense sputtered and could not answer. The Bolts defense did not allow another first down in the quarter.
Thunder Basin started to find its offensive groove. Ayers was at it again and scored again on a pass from Baker which made it 13-7 going into the second.
Ayers put on a show. The senior scored five touchdowns in the game – three receiving, one rushing and one defensive.
The Camels started to move the ball in the second period. Aidan Dorr, Will Miller and Tompkins made big plays and chalked up first downs. However, CCHS was unable to get into the red zone again before intermission.
The Bolts, who were awesome up front and won the battle in the trenches, scored six straight possessions.
The biggest play of the night came with 7:05 left in the half when senior Isaiah Haliburton pulled down a rainbow toss from Baker and sprinted 88 yards for the touchdown and a 20-7 TBHS lead.
The much-improved Camels showed signs of making a little noise, but the Thunder Basin depth and strength was the difference as CCHS was forced to punt on its last three possessions of the half.
The Bolts used that chance to take control of the game. Ayers scored on a 12-yard run and again on a pass from Baker to make it a 33-7 halftime score.
Campbell County got the ball first after the break with a chance to reverse the course. That was denied when Ayers scored on an interception return to make it 40-7.
The Camels were unable to get over the hump as the offensive struggled without a passing game. Thunder Basin had something to do with that.
The Bolts wrapped up the game with two touchdowns by Haliburton and a touchdown by Nick Black.
For Campbell County, it drops to 2-3 for the year and still has a great chance to be in the playoffs thanks to its best start since 2016. For Thunder Basin, the team is now tied for first place after Sheridan lost to Cheyenne East Friday night.