Broncs close regular season at home against confident South team

SHERIDAN — Sheridan is ready to put last Friday behind them.

A 38-20 loss at home to Natrona was one suffered by way of crucial mistakes any postseason bound squad wants to avoid.

The Broncs (6-2) host Cheyenne South (1-7) Friday at 7 p.m., with the 4A playoff picture still mostly up in the air. Senior night activities begin at 6 p.m.

“It’s been a positive week, we’ve had to battle through that tough loss,” Julian said. “We’ve focused on the improvements that we need to make and also on the positiveness of the good things that we did. We battled, we fought and we’ve tried to be positive about that.

“Now here are some things that we have to get better at.”

Negative aspects could be easily dwelled upon, watching tape from last week’s loss to the Mustangs. The effort was marred with turnovers at all the wrong times.

Julian says they must move on in order to keep themselves on track to their ultimate goal, which is still in reach.

A win Friday combined with an East loss at home against Gillette would propel the Broncs to the No. 2 seed for the playoffs next Friday, guaranteeing them a home game, while not having to meet Gillette until a prospective state title matchup.

Any other year, a regular season, ending playoff-positioning home game against the South Bison would seem the most ideal situation, especially for a team like Sheridan battling for confidence and health late in the year.

But after South won their first ever football game in the history of the school Friday, 16-14, over Laramie, Julian said the difference in their program now is that confidence they may not have had before.

“They have a swagger where they might not have in the past, they’re finishing drives, they are attack teams, where as in the past they were on their heels and uncertain,” he said. “Watching them on film you don’t see that anymore. They come to play, and they are a much improved program this year.”

No matter who they line up against, Sheridan must hold onto the ball. They’ve thrown an interception in all but one game this season (against Evanston), and given away a fumble in every game besides the win over East.

Natrona held a 4A-best +8 turnover ratio entering the contest in Sheridan and upped that stat to now +11 after the win.

Sheridan’s -5 in that category is uncharacteristic, but also the worst in 4A. While the stat doesn’t tell the whole story, the worst of the bug has bitten them in their biggest games — in losses to Gillette and Natrona when the Broncs turned the ball over four and three times respectively, halting comeback attempts.

Part of avoiding the high-stress situation, Julian says, can be found in getting off to a fast start. Sheridan scored first in both of their losses, but failed to follow-up that score with another touchdown, both times being held out of the end zone after the first quarter. Sorting that out will be important for more than one reason Friday night.

“They’re probably going to have a great week after getting a victory, and they’re probably excited to come play so it will be critical for us to take away that enthusiasm try to get off to a good start — get points, get that first stop — so that we don’t give them positives to keep building,” Julian explained.

The sky isn’t falling, and the Broncs offense is as potent as any minus the miscues. Sheridan drove the field on the ground in the third quarter last week, punching in a short score to narrow the Mustangs lead to 28-20 before things slipped away. The Broncs average 5.4 yards per carry on the ground, they lead 4A in passing yards and are a team to be reckoned with all the way to Nov. 15 in Laramie when they begin firing on all cylinders.

“We’ve focused a lot on special teams, taking care of the ball making good decisions; those are the areas we felt like we needed to make improvements on, and then making sure our kids are prepared for what they’re going to see,” Julian said.

“This is not what it’s been over the last few years, playing South,” he said. “We’re not focused on playoffs or seeding, just winning this football game.”

Fridays 4A slate: 7 p.m. games: Gillette (8-0) at East (7-1), Rock Springs (1-7) at Natrona (5-3), Kelly Walsh (5-3) at Laramie (2-6), South (1-7) at Sheridan (6-2). 6 p.m. game: Central (3-5) at Evanston (2-6).

About

Brad Estes

Sheridan Press sports editor

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