SHERIDAN — Helmets were still made of leather in 1923.
In 1953, they didn’t have facemasks. Football was a little closer in 1993 to the way it is now, but with baggier jerseys.
This Friday, Sheridan High School invites back its championship squads for 90th, 60th and 20th anniversaries to be recognized at halftime of the Broncs final regular season game at Homer Scott Field.
While the chances of anyone from the 1923 team attending the ceremony are slim (players from that team would be more than 100 years old), Broncs coach Don Julian, the man behind the anniversary idea, hoped that at least some family members might catch word and attend.
Head coach Wilber “Webb” Wright is the most recognizable name from the 1923 team. He is best-known today for his starting of the Sheridan Recreation District Webb Wright baseball program.
SHS government teacher Tyson Emborg dug up plenty of good SHS history.
One current local connection to the 1923 team is SRD Director Richard Wright, who is Webb’s great-nephew. Richard Wright’s great-grandfather, Bernard Wright, was the team’s assistant coach.
A small town means connections to history aren’t limited and with the former players now in their mid-to-late 30s, the 1993 team will likely draw the most returnees Friday night.
Bob Simpson still lives in Sheridan and is rounding up the fellas for the gathering. Simpson was the offensive coordinator as ’93 capped a year of four straight titles for the Broncs. He recalls the argument that goes on to this day as to which team was best out of the 1990-93 title squads.
“So many of those kids have been successful in their adult lives,” Simpson said Wednesday. “You’ve got people giving back to community all over town.”
Time changes all things
Simpson later served as Broncs head coach from 2002-2003, and mentioned how “fortunate” they were during that period to have such a coaching brotherhood with Bill Ryan, Bert Dow and Terry Burgess staying together for so many years, even after the dynasty into the 2000s.
Luckily, with the help of Emborg, old-time football lore is easily found in yearbooks and old SHS student newspapers.
And it’s intriguing stuff, for the sports fan or history buff.
Everett McGlothlin, current SHS Booster Club President and a member of the 1953 Broncs team, pointed out that they didn’t have as many coaches back then. The team was coached by Carl Rollins and Jim Martin.
He also noted that there was not nearly the offseason program or even weight lifting, and called the game then “pretty fundamental” as they ran the same four to seven plays every week.
“The training facilities at the high school were nowhere near what they are now,” McGlothlin said. “And the safety equipment now, the concussion checks that the kids take, that’s been upgraded 1,000 percent in terms of the preventative kind of stuff.”
Simpson agreed, to an extent.
He said things are more detailed now than they were 20 years ago. Kids use a full year of development with offseason workouts and team camps, becoming perhaps more technically advanced in their skill sets, he said.
Audible systems were very basic in the ‘50s and the pass game was dictated directly by the veer option offense that the Broncs so memorably used to fast-dismantle defenses in the early ‘90s.
The 1953 title game win came on Thanksgiving Day, as it went back then, over Casper Natrona and marked the first time anyone had won at Casper since 1931, according to the Ock. The season was Sheridan’s first unbeaten year since 1932.
The 1923 team was unbeaten as well, shutting out six of its eight opponents. After blowing away their opening week foe Newcastle 97-0, they closed the year by passing Crawford, Neb., 13-9 and then Gillette 21-13 before winning 13-0 over Lewiston, Mont. The game was also played on Thanksgiving. The Newcastle blowout stands to this day as the largest margin of victory in Bronc history, according to wyoming-football.com.
“Sheridan almost suffered a calamity by not profiting by the lesson from the Buffalo game (a 31-0 win),” the 1924 Blue and Gold yearbook reads after the Gillette score, “but defeat was turned into victory in the last quarter of the game.”
The memories and names of the 1993 team are greater in quantity. Their story told by the former coach Simpson mirrors struggles not so different from those facing the current Broncs team late in the season.
The ’93 Broncs lost to Gillette 22-15 in the Energy Bowl, Simpson explained, calling it extremely upsetting for all involved because they didn’t play well. They focused on strengthening the result in order to not let it happen again, Simpson said, defeating Evanston 42-7 in the title game and finishing 9-1.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to work with a great group of kids who worked real hard and didn’t let obstacles get in the way of their final goal,” Simpson said.
“We had some injuries going into the playoffs, and in high school, the next man up doesn’t usually work when you’re competing at the 5A level against schools like Natrona and Gillette,” Simpson said. “But in Sheridan that year it worked because other guys rallied around each other and stepped up.”
Simpson said he admires what Julian has done in terms of organization and defined offseason plans. In the ‘90s the teams crammed much of their material into two-a-days and three-a-days.
“Our QB and receivers would go down to Kendrick Park and throw the ball around, but it wasn’t organized,” Simpson said of offseason workouts.
Even with all the advances in preparation and extended offseasons, Simpson still believes football is football.
“Do I think we could still do what we did, of course I do,” he said, answering his own question. “I’ll take those teams we had against any of these teams running this stuff today. It boils down to who’s got the best athletes.
“Those kids could do anything,” said. “They were just really good kids who played really hard.”
Sheridan High School has 23 state championships: 1921, 1922, 1923, 1930, 1931, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1946, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1958, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 2009 and 2011
This report was compiled with the help of Sheridan High School and Sheridan Press archives, wyoming-football.com along with Tyson Emborg.