SHERIDAN — Don Julian sits in his office snapping his fingers. It’s a common gesture from the Sheridan High School head football coach.
He doesn’t snap in a negative way like a dog-owner might when his mutt runs off. Julian snaps to show time. There isn’t much of it during a Wyoming fall football season.
Julian has a teaching tool that he reverts back to year after year. He could really use the help of Dr. Emmett Brown and Marty McFly.
“If there was one thing I was missing as a coach, it’s a time machine,” Julian said. “I’ve always felt like, if you can take your kids and move them ahead 20 years and let them live there, without football for a week or two, and then brought them back, I think you’d see a little bit different kid.”
Time ticks away all season. Summer camp turns into two-a-days. Then, the lights flicker on Friday nights. Those weeks gets shorter as the days get longer. Now, here we are, just two weeks left in the regular season.
The Sheridan Broncs have locked up a playoff spot. That extends the time a hair for the defending champs. Still, they’re only guaranteed two more Mondays at this point. Even a run to a state championship equates to just four more weeks of football.
So time becomes the motivation. Sheridan must maximize its time as a football team.
Some players get injured — that cuts into the already short period of time. Gatorade Player of the Year Coy Steel, for example, had an injury his junior season giving time even more importance as a senior.
Preparation becomes critical week in and week out. The Broncs are given 120 minutes of field time a day and a lot to cover in that short window. Practices are broken down by the minute, and prep work outside of practice — film study, especially — is expected.
Again, time is of the essence.
“The only thing we have in common with our first opponent or our last opponent or any of our opponents, is we have the same amount of time,” Julian said. “What we don’t have in common is what we do with it.”
The longtime Sheridan coach admitted that the time seems to fly by a bit quicker when the team is winning. Everybody is having more fun and the urgency is heightened. And the Broncs have done a lot of winning over the past decade.
The Broncs have an 89-22 (.802) record with Julian and his staff running the show. That includes a 7-0 run during the current season. While those 10 seasons have brought 23 playoff games — more than two extra seasons worth — the extended run of success has built pressure and made time even more critical. Nobody wants to get to the championship and lose.
And Julian, who has won eight state championships as a high school football coach in Wyoming, is working a bit harder this year to soak it all in.
“It’s important that we all not only have an urgency with the time that we have left, but also that we stop and look at what’s being accomplished,” he said. “Because it’s special.”
The current staff has never opened a season 7-0. An undefeated season hasn’t been on the breath of Broncs fans since 1992 — a span that includes three 11-1 almost-undefeated seasons.
And with the way the playoff scenarios are taking shape, an undefeated regular season guarantees Sheridan the No. 1 seed. Then, an undefeated playoff run is the only way to win state title number 26.
The run continues this week in Laramie against the Plainsmen (3-4). Laramie ranks in the bottom third of 4A in both offense and defense but has shown its chops a few times this season, including a near-win against 6-1 Cheyenne East two weeks ago.
And as the season marches forward, the seconds dwindle. Each opponent stands between the Broncs and the clock as Sheridan tries to prolong its season.
“You can quickly lose a lot,” Julian said. “It’s trying to take it in a smell the roses.”
Sheridan kicks off its penultimate regular season in Laramie Friday at 6 p.m.