What do you like better, Christmas or football season? OK, I admit it, now that the spooky season is over, I’m pretty eager to hang some Christmas lights and watch “Home Alone” on repeat.
But football season is special, and it’s only getting better as we ramp up the pace to the end of fall. And if you live in Sheridan, Wyoming, football sits right at the top of the seasonal hierarchy.
We’re just two games away from the Wyoming high school football season coming to a close. As Sheridan head coach Don Julian puts it, we’re only one Monday away.
That’s a sad realization.
That urgency can certainly be felt within the Sheridan and Big Horn locker rooms. Seniors don’t have much time left on their football clocks.
But I encourage fans to sense that door swinging shut behind them, as well. I walked onto Homer Scott Field just as the national anthem ended last week, Sheridan’s playoff opener against Cheyenne Central. I was baffled and disappointed at the number of people in the bleachers — or lack thereof.
I set expectations pretty high, and I know Julian does, too. This was playoff football; these are the Sheridan Broncs. Why wouldn’t people go watch?
But looking back at my interview with the head coach from a week ago, I sense he knew the crowd would be smaller. He hoped the stands would be packed, yet, his realism peeked through.
The Sheridan Broncs win football games…a lot. I’m not sure how many times I’ve typed that over the last several weeks — or since I moved to Sheridan, honestly — but it’s tough to overstate.
As of the time this column prints, the Broncs haven’t lost a football game this season. Actually, the team hasn’t lost since Sept. 30, 2016, 17 games ago. Before that, the Broncs won 11 in a row. They have a 40-5 record since I started covering them. That record is 100-23 since Julian and his staff took over a decade ago.
One hundred wins in 11 seasons. Nine wins a season more consistently than anybody else. Truly absurd statistics.
That expectation and comfort with winning has led to more winning. Success has become a virus, spreading as old Broncs leave and new Broncs fill their cleats. It’s frankly all they know.
That comfort with winning has seeped into the veins of fans, too. Unfortunately, it’s come with less glamourous repercussions.
Fans surely looked at last Friday’s playoff matchup as a dud. After all, the Broncs had won nine straight quarterfinal games, all at home. And with a 2-8 Cheyenne Central team coming to town, winning the 10th straight was never in doubt.
So fans stayed home. “We’ll wait until the championship,” they convinced themselves. “The weather looks a little iffy.”
Well, that’s not fair. These Sheridan teams, this year’s undefeated squad — the first in 25 years — deserve support and copious amounts of it. Shouldn’t fans flock in even bigger packs to watch the best team in the state and arguably the best to come through Sheridan in decades?
Alabama tailgates haven’t slowed down, and the Crimson Tide appear to be national championship contenders until we’re all replaced by replicants. Even then, NEXUS 8 Nick Saban will take home 15 dystopian titles, and fans will watch.
Warriors tickets cost a mortgage payment; Patriots fans spill out of Gillette stadium; the Penguins victory parade had 36 times Sheridan’s population in attendance.
All those teams are winners, have been winners and will be winners for the foreseeable future. But the attendance keeps building. The fans never leave.
I hope the same happens in Sheridan. Even with two — knock on wood — games to go, I hope this column brings a better understanding of what is happening and has happened at Homer Scott Field. I can’t speak on the Big Horn fans, because I haven’t covered any of their games this season, but I hope those fans understand, as well. The Rams don’t lose much, either.
Some of the best football in the state is being played in our own backyards. It’s being played the right way under coaches who could easily leave and coach at bigger, mightier schools.
But they don’t. They choose Sheridan. It’s time Sheridan chooses them.
See you Friday.