LARAMIE — Week one wouldn’t be week one without mistakes.
But in the end, it wasn’t the miscues but instead the promise of a growing football team that showed through in the Broncs opening week win Friday night on the road.
Sheridan overcame three red zone turnovers — two inside the five — managing a solid first-week 27-7 win in Laramie.
With a new quarterback, and plenty of other fresh, inexperienced guys flying around the field, head coach Don Julian’s message to his team following the win was clear: “We get better from here.”
“If we don’t turn the ball over in the first half I don’t know that we get stopped really,” he said.
A penalty stalled one drive and forced a punt for Sheridan Friday night, and other than the turnovers, Sheridan went through its offense with relative ease against a much-improved Laramie team from a year ago.
“It’s a lot of things that we can control ourselves, and we’ll get better with that stuff,” Julian added. “These kids are going to get better.”
Despite the turnovers and penalties that come with the first night of football under the lights, the Broncs offense moved the ball comfortably against Laramie from the start. They took the opening kickoff and methodically broke down the Plainsmen defense with hard runs by senior Daniel Sessions and junior Colbey Bruney.
A nice combo to have if you’re a first-time starter at quarterback.
The two experienced backs relieved the pressure from senior quarterback Kameron Eckard in his new job under center.
On its first drive, Sheridan got to the Laramie 3-yard line before Eckard fumbled on a roll-out pass. All that was missing was a touchdown, and it seemed a safe bet they’d get there again.
That’s when senior wideout/defensive back Joe Shassetz’s big night got started. After spending his junior year fighting injury including a broken leg, Shassetz made the most of his first play from scrimmage on defense when he blew up a bubble screen from his cornerback position for a five-yard loss with a crunching hit.
The highlight-reel hit helped. It was an early 6 p.m. start, on the road, one where the raucous atmosphere of an early fall prep football opening night was noticeably tardy.
Following Shassetz’s sideline-pleasing hit, the Broncs got the ball back and Eckard finished where he had left off, eventually finding none other than Shassetz on a flag pattern in the corner of the end zone for the 7-0 lead.
“I think it was a confidence builder for Kameron tonight,” Julian said. “It’s his first real time as a varsity player and I think at halftime he was 10-15 with a couple touchdown passes.”
Displaying mid-season clock management, Sheridan would got the ball with less than two minutes in the half. A 35-yard punt return by senior Nick Gill set them up inside Laramie’s half. After a few quick throws, Eckard hit Shassetz again, this time on a perfectly thrown fly-rout that dropped into the wideout’s hands just inside the back of the goal.
“He handled things well for his first start,” Julian said of Eckard, pleased with what he coined a “solid” short passing game Friday. “He threw the one pick a little bit behind but the kid made a good play on it. Other than that he did a pretty nice job tonight.”
Sheridan fumbled twice deep in enemy territory and Eckard’s pick came in the red zone as well. A Laramie defender made a nice play to step in front of a crossing pattern.
Sessions pranced in from 14 yards out midway through the second quarter and after Shassetz’s second score, the Broncs had pulled away 21-0 at half.
Sessions pounded another across the goal line from less than a yard out in the fourth quarter to cap the Broncs scoring.
Sheridan finished with 283 total yards on the ground behind mostly Sessions and Bruney, and Eckard had 155 through the air in his debut.
Defensively, Sheridan is operating with a new core of linebackers, and Julian praised them for their play Friday night. Even through some growing pains, they nearly managed the shutout.
The Broncs ran 72 offensive plays to Laramie’s 59. The Plainsmen didn’t turn the ball over, but Sheridan held them to 56 passing yards, had two sacks for a loss of seven yards and kept their opponent below 200 total yards.
Juilan did admit that with inexperience comes a lack of depth. The Plainsmen’s score came with less than a minute on the clock as the Broncs played its sophomores on defense.
“Our depth is not good, and that’s what we’re trying to develop,” Julian said. “It showed up as we started subbing in, but they’ll being playing JV so they’re going to grow fast.”
“We’re going to get in better shape, we do have a lot of these guys playing both ways, but I thought we played pretty tough defense today,” he added.
While the 20-point margin of victory could have been larger, the team’s goal was accomplished as Julian stressed that they now have a jumping off point from which to improve.
“It felt great,” Shassetz said of the first game overall. “We just need to work on not taking plays off, we need to play the whole game.”
Sheridan hosts what most expect to be a much improved Kelly Walsh team with a strong senior class Friday at 7 p.m. at Homer Scott Field