LARAMIE — A Gatorade shower, an incomplete pass and the 25th state championship in Sheridan High School football history.
“I’m so thankful it’s nice weather,” Sheridan head coach Don Julian said with a laugh as Gatorade dripped from his brow.
The 2016 Sheridan Broncs started the season with one thing on their minds: winning back-to-back state titles. With a 56-28 thumping of the Natrona County Mustangs Saturday at War Memorial Stadium, the Broncs became the first repeat champions in the state’s highest class since Rock Springs in 2001-02.
As Julian posed for pictures with his family on Jonah Field, his smile was as big as it was a year ago. It was as big as it was the previous seven times he’s won a state championship.
“I think these kids did everything right,” Julian said. “So I’m really happy that they were rewarded in the end.”
The Broncs dominated all season, building off of last year’s championship run while still carving their own path. Week in and week out, Sheridan put together complete games to make a return trip to Laramie. The all-around play culminated in Saturday’s victory.
The Broncs piled on 491 yards of offense, about as evenly split as possible — 276 yards rushing and 277 yards passing. Three players scored touchdowns, five rushed the ball and five caught passes.
The defense kept the Natrona offense at bay and forced a pair of turnovers.
As it’s been all year, it was a total team effort, something the Broncs prided themselves on.
“We’re not worried about stats or whatever; we’re just worried about putting points on the board and getting Ws at the end of the day,” Broncs quarterback Drew Boedecker said. “Everybody was able to step up tonight.”
Relentless, rough stock, no re-rides; there are a number of words and phrases the Broncs throw around to describe themselves and their style of play. There’s also a process they follow. That process involves never getting too high and never getting too low.
Sheridan struck first Saturday, stringing together a few big plays that were capped off by a 20-yard Parker Christensen rushing touchdown. After Natrona tied the game at 7, the Broncs went on to score two more plays to close the first half.
The final score of the half was crucial, and it was set up by a big defensive stop. More specifically, it was set up by three Max Myers stops.
Myers sandwiched a tackle for a loss between two sacks on three straight plays, forcing a Natrona punt that led to an eventual Kyle Custis 20-yard rushing touchdown with less than a minute to go in the half.
“I think it really helps that we have really good coaches,” Myers said of the defense’s dominance. “They have really good plans for us, and we just follow the process and end up getting it done.”
But even after Sheridan scored on its first possession of the second half, the team had to hold off a Natrona push.
The Mustangs connected on two big pass plays of 47 yards and 25 yards to cut Sheridan’s lead to just 28-21 after three quarters.
That’s when Sheridan’s swung its collective hammer and drove the nail into the coffin.
The Broncs scored three more touchdowns in a six-minute span. After Natrona scored on a too-little-too-late rushing touchdown with 2:45 to play, Custis broke off a 37-yard rushing touchdown that started the party on the Sheridan sideline.
“They really tried to pursue a high level of play,” Julian said. “Week in and week out, they just kept coming and following the process. Now, here they are, 11-1 and state champions.”
Boedecker finished the game 13 of 14 passing with 215 yards and a touchdown, and he added two more scores on the ground. Custis had 159 yards rushing and four scores, and Christensen had 65 receiving yards and two touchdowns — one on the ground.
Another word that comes to mind after the Broncs’ championship is dynasty. Not only was it Sheridan’s 25th in school history — a state record — but it’s the fourth since Julian and his staff took over.
But a reserved Julian uses a different term to describe his squad’s run of success.
“I kind of like ‘legacy,’” the coach said. “I like that the Bronc system has a legacy that continues. I like that our seniors take care of our underclassmen and leave them in great shape. That to me is really special, and that drives success year after year.”
What’s that legacy mean for the Sheridan Broncs? For the class of 2017, it means closing out their careers with back-to-back state titles. For the underclassmen, it means the hunger for more.
“Back-to-back?” Myers said. “I’m ready for another one.”