Cheyenne South High School football hasn’t had much going right for the program these past few years. Riding a 34-game losing streak that dates back to Oct. 11, 2019, the Bison can boast at least one positive: Keelan Anderson.
The senior kicker is the latest WyoPreps Athlete of the Week as not only did he account for all of South’s points in a 49-9 loss to Natrona on Sept. 22, but he set a new state record long field goal, converting on a 61-yard try. Anderson also hit from 42 and 41 yards for his other field goals that game.
Anderson has been the one bright spot, the one consistent second-year coach Eli Moody can count on. Moody’s star kicker has booted at least one field goal all fives game this season despite the Bison losing by scores of 56-10, 69-3, 32-10, 65-9 and 49-9.
Anderson has outscored the rest of the team combined 27-14 by kicking nine field goals to just two team touchdowns.
Anderson also is the team’s punter — and he’s had to do a lot of that this season as well.
To put the Anderson’s monumental kick in perspective, it broke the previous state record by 4 yards — a record that stood for nearly 41 years when David Browning of Natrona County kicked a 57-yarder on Oct. 22, 1982.
And 61-yard field goals are something to treasure, even for professionals. Only a handful of NFL kickers have kicked one longer. The record is 66 yards by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker set in 2021.
Wyoming high school kickers benefit from thinner air because of elevation, allowing the ball to travel farther. There is also the wind factor. It’s always blowing, but not always a headwind. Every so often it’s a boost for a placekicker.
Faced with a fourth down and 16 yards to go from Natrona’s 44-yard line, already down 49-6 with 2:51 to play, Moody weighed his options.
Go for it even though the odds were slim. And to what end? South was not going to score 43 points in less than three minutes.
Option 2 was admit defeat, again, and call on Anderson to pooch a punt and try to pin the Mustangs inside their own 5 or 10.
Option 3 was the craziest of all. Send the field goal unit out to attempt an impossible 61-yarder.
“Anderson has a great leg and I'm always confident about him kicking from deep,” coach Moody told Cowboy State Daily. “Before every field goal attempt, I always ask him how he feels about it. If he tells me he can get it I put him out there to showcase his skills, more than anything.”
Has Anderson ever told coach he doesn’t think he has it in him to make a kick?
“No,” the kicker admitted. “Every field goal, he’ll look at me and ask, ‘You want this?’ There’s never a time when I don’t answer yes.”
“You want this,” Moody asked Anderson that Friday night.
“Yes sir,” Anderson said.
The Kick Is Up ... And It’s Good!
Out trotted the field goal unit, including long-snapper Carson Garey and holder Damien Pino. With Pino kneeling to place the ball at the Bison 49-yard line, it would be a 61-yarder. Unheard of.
The ball was on the right hash. Anderson prefers the left, but it didn’t matter. He was amped. He cleared his mind. Controlled his breathing. And then waited for the inevitable timeout from opponent Natrona County — a tactic called “icing the kicker.”
Sure enough, the timeout came.
But wait, it was coach Moody calling for the timeout. Was he having second thoughts?
“They iced me. My own team iced me,” Anderson said.
It turns out the Bison had only 10 men on the field. Moody had to burn a timeout to get the appropriate 11th man out there.
No problem. Icing Anderson doesn’t work, so says the cool kicker himself.
“It doesn’t work on me. It just gives me more time to get the jitters out,” Anderson said.
Anderson used the bonus time to gauge the wind again — a Wyoming constant. He estimated a 5 mph slight breeze at his back coming over his right shoulder. It would blow the ball a bit to the left after it left his foot.
“I aimed straight at the right upright and it went right down the middle,” Anderson said. “Shows you how much the ball moves.”
Anderson called the scene “surreal” after the ball sailed through the goalposts.
A Long-Range Sniper
Anderson transferred to South from Cheyenne Central, where he was second on the depth chart behind standout Brock Pederson. At South, Anderson would get to kick and punt, but do it for a team that was going nowhere fast in the standings. That was the tradeoff.
After the record-setting kick, Anderson has the four-longest field goals in the state this year. Earlier this season, the South kicker made field goals from 53 yards against Thunder Basin on Aug. 25, from 57 yards against Kelly Walsh on Sept. 8., and from 47 yards out against Campbell County on Sept. 15.
Anderson said he has a 65-yarder in him. He’s done it in practice, but game situations have more at stake.
“There are a lot of aspects that make it different in a game,” Anderson admitted. “Pressure, plus the fact that people are going after you [to block the kick] in practice, but you know your own guys are not going to hit you. In a game they are more actively trying to get to me.”
Expect more bombs from Anderson.
He says he prefers setting up for the long tries. Chips shots are what “freaks him out.” The senior kicker wants to keep kicking at the collegiate level.