SHERIDAN — If history is any indication, the Broncs will be playing in Laramie next week.
Sheridan plays Cheyenne East in a 4A state semifinal Friday night at home, and the Thunderbirds have been a familiar and perhaps even friendly foe during the Broncs current reign around the top of 4A football, or since 2007 under head coach Don Julian.
Sheridan’s most recent title was hoisted after stepping over East in the 2011 championship game, 42-14.
A trip to Laramie would be the Broncs fourth in five years time. Sheridan, in fact, has played in the Laramie-hosted Wyoming state football championship game in three out of the four years it’s been held there. It’s a result serving fitting commentary in favor of the community that was perhaps the loudest supporter of a homefield championship game as opposed to one on the frozen tundra where the Cowboys play.
Laramie won a three-year bid over Sheridan’s two-year bid to host the five class state title games back in 2011.
No matter how cold and bitter the reward for a win Friday might be, that’s hardly what either team is focused on this week.
Both teams are 8-2, and while the Broncs were clearly the better team on that day, Sept. 20 in Sheridan when they defeated East 42-21, this East team is not one to be looked past, as is the case with any team facing elimination.
East was off an overtime win against Natrona that week, and Sheridan’s victory served as the tie-breaker and granted Sheridan this home playoff game Friday.
The T-Bird struggles in Sheridan were known even as they entered Homer Scott Field in September; they haven’t defeated Sheridan since 2002, and the last time they won here was 2001.
“We have had success against East, but I don’t think we can go into any game and say that it’s going to be automatic,” Julian said. “I think sometimes things can go against you in a hurry and momentum went with us big that night.
“I think you prepare the same for everybody. The stakes are high, and this is an opportunity to get to the state championship game.”
Julian noted that in 2011 East won a rematch with Natrona to reach the title game after falling to the Mustangs in the regular season.
“I’ve always felt like, in some ways it’s better to be the team that has lost when you face a team for the second time in the playoffs,” Julian said. “That way you don’t have to guard against that overconfidence. If you’re the underdog you go in knowing you have to play great. We’ve approached the week as if we are the underdog.”
Limiting penalties they had last week will be key as mistakes take away from scoring chances that will be in high demand against a team like East.
The four remaining teams are up around the top-ranked offensive and defensive categories statistically, and Julian said for that reason too, it’s important to value execution.
“That put us in third and long and second and long.”