BIG HORN — It hadn’t been 30 minutes, but Michael McGuire and Andrew Marcure got to work on football strategies. The year was 2012, before either had coached a game at Big Horn or won 56 games and two state championships together.
Marcure, recently hired as a teacher and assistant coach, had just arrived in town and needed a place to crash the first night. McGuire, the newly-minted head coach, offered his house.
“He had the whiteboard out, and we’re already drawing up plays and stuff he wants to run,” Marcure said. “Right off the bat, we were already going.”
The coaching staff hasn’t looked back, continually searching for ways to help lead the Rams to success. Having talented players is the first step, but the continuity between the coaching staff goes a long way, as well.
McGuire, Marcure and Kirk McLaughlin all started coaching at BHHS at the same time. Colter Brantz came aboard from Tongue River High School a year later, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. The Rams, now 46-6 under the helm of all four coaches, will make their fourth state appearance in the coaches’ five years together.
Most successful coaching staffs have a lengthy shared history. Not so for the Big Horn group. Brantz and McGuire were acquaintances, but that was it.
“I didn’t know Kirk or Andrew at all before I came here,” McGuire said. “We’ve all fit together really well, and everybody on our staff just does a great job with their role.”
McGuire oversees all aspects and composes the offensive plan each week. McLaughlin, the defensive coordinator, takes charge of scouting opposing offenses and calling in the defensive plays. Marcure handles offensive and defensive linemen, and Brantz takes care of special teams, running backs and defensive backs.
The coaches break down film individually each Saturday before meeting Sunday to go over the upcoming week’s strategies. Sunday meetings used to take place in Marcure’s classroom, but now Brantz hosts them in his home.
“My wife and I kind of redid our basement with the specific purpose of having film study there,” Brantz said.
The coaches show up around 8 a.m., have breakfast and then work out the game plan. This week, they finished around 2 p.m.
McLaughlin, a health and physical education teacher at the high school, coached for eight years in Colorado before coming to Big Horn.
“When I left Colorado, I was about done coaching football,” McLaughlin said. “The experiences were getting worse and worse every year, but I got up here and got to know these guys, and they’re awesome to be around.”
Indeed, an unmistakable camaraderie exists among the staff.
“The other three guys are the funnest people to hang out with,” Marcure said. “They’re an absolute blast. We’re always sarcastic jerks to each other … I don’t see it with every other coaching staff. I have a couple really good friends in the state who envy me and us as a staff.”
It’s not all fun and games, but the team’s success means more fun than usual.
The group’s chemistry helps pass the time during long road trips to and from games. They cannot fake that chemistry, either. McLaughlin, Marcure and Brantz coach track and field together, as well, so they work with each other year-round.
Despite all of the time together, Brantz said conflict does not arise often because the coaches trust one another’s judgment.
“There’s going to be some clash on the sidelines when things are a little bit heated,” he said, adding that it doesn’t continue off the field.
They keep the mood light most of the time, and it helps that the team wins nearly 90 percent of its games. The coaches all noted how fortunate they feel to work with each other and with a talented, fun, hardworking collection of players.
Big Horn has its hands full Saturday against Pine Bluffs but does not appear to be stressed. The program has had so much success in the past six years that preparing for a championship game comes almost as routine.
“It feels like just another week,” Marcure said. “But every now and then I stop and think about it for a second and go, ‘Man, I’m pretty lucky.’”