SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Broncs will play in a 4A semifinal for the sixth straight time.
Sheridan overcame a penalty-ridden first half to shutout the Laramie Plainsmen 33-0 Friday night, setting up a rematch with Cheyenne East for a state title berth.
The Broncs led just 7-0 at the break, having two touchdowns called back and drives stalled due to five penalties for 61 yards.
The slow start not only came against a team they had defeated 27-7 in the first week of the season, but while Sheridan’s offense was running up and down the field.
“It was a frustrating first half and for the most part the penalties were kids really trying hard to make plays,” head coach Don Julian said. “Probably trying a little too hard, a couple clips and some mistakes that are a little uncharacteristic. I think we were pressing a little, as they were driving the field a little bit on us and we started getting penalties.”
He said they talked at halftime about getting off blocks on defense, and as an effort issue, that was frustrating since Laramie was able to sustain drives because of it. Laramie quarterback Drew Burman didn’t make mistakes and kept drives going with his legs.
In fact, Laramie didn’t turn the ball over all game.
They drove twice before Sheridan stopped them inside their own 20 on fourth down late in the second quarter, capping an uneventful first half.
“The kids knew, they knew that they were making mistakes,” Julian said. “We just had to refocus at halftime and get back to what we do. That’s Bronc football. I thought the kids really came out well.”
In his usual shifty fashion, senior Nick Gill did so quickly. His 92-yard kick-off return could have ended differently as he bobbled it near the 10-yard line, but once the agile senior got a hold of the ball, he found a seam up the middle and extended Sheridan’s lead to 13-0. It was the second special teams second-half play for Gill in as many weeks after a 63-yard punt return against Cheyenne South.
“It was a great way to start the half,” Julian said. “I think all of us were starting to get a little bit tense, we were giving life to a team that we shouldn’t have been giving life to. They went into halftime a little bit excited, it was close ball game. I thought that was a great way to start the second half. Then we held them on D and stuck one in and the game just turns.”
After that, the Broncs used downhill running from Colbey Bruney and Daniel Sessions to put the game out of reach. Each scored on the ground twice Friday night. Sessions first-quarter option run got the Broncs started, and Bruney got two in the second half.
Julian praised his kids for cleaning up penalties in the second half and executing.
“Sometimes when you get into the playoffs you’ll see crews that you haven’t seen all season,” he added. “Everybody’s a little bit different, with different emphasis, and we’ve got to be able to adjust in the course of a game.”
Sheridan ran for 337 yards Friday night, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. Kameron Eckard completed seven of his 12 pass attempts for 86 yards. Laramie totaled just 164 yards as the Broncs posted their second shutout this season.
Natrona and Gillette play in the other semifinal, and the Broncs play East at 6 p.m. Sheridan defeated the T-Birds 42-21 in week four, supplanting the then-No. 1 team in the state.
“I really think East did not come here ready to play,” Julian said of the first matchup. “They had just come off that big win versus Natrona, they were ranked number one they had everything rolling. We had just been OK in those first couple weeks and I think they kind of overlooked us. They’re a good football team. We’ve got to prepare very well, they’ve only lost one other game this year (to Gillette) the same team that beat us and it was close for three quarters.”
The Broncs are home again, in what’s been a tough trip for Cheyenne East playing at Homer Scott Stadium, but one that the Broncs offense is usually on display putting up more than 40 points.
Friday is a big sports night for Sheridan County, as the Wyoming Cowgirls play at Sheridan College with an 8 p.m. start time after the Sheridan game.
The Broncs will have “Never Flinch Friday” planned and will sell brown and gold Never Flinch T-shirts all week in support of their defensive backs coach Weston Johnson who is fighting aggressive melanoma. The shirts will also be sold at the UW game.
“We would really love it if we could get a crowd here,” Julian said.
The Broncs have been one of the most exciting teams to watch this season on their way to yet another semifinal berth and home field advantage, and Friday’s win over Laramie came in front of a sparse crowd.
“They can wear all their Brown and Gold for ‘Never Flinch Friday’ and then they can leave right from here and go to the girls game,” Julian said. “It will be a great doubleheader evening for us.
“These kids work very very hard and we put a great product on the field. We would like to see our community come to a game again.”
Team Totals SHS-Laramie
First downs 16-12
Passing yards 86-85
Total plays 50-57
Total offense 423-164
Dan Sessions 14-194, Colbey Bruney 5-45, Kameron Eckard 3-4, Riley Sessions 2-12, Evan Coon 6-23, John Henderson 2-11, Nathaniel Hill 1-9, Blake Godwin 1-10,
Passing Kameron Eckard 7-12-0-0-86 yards
Joe Shassetz 2-38, Nick Gill 2-22, Dan Sessions 1-5, Trae Kaufmann 1-16, Colbey Bruney 1-5
Passing Drew Burman 15-22-0-0 76 yards
Laramie rushing Burman 21-44, Joe Adams 7-25,
Laramie Receiving Gavin Worden 5-24