SHERIDAN — Goal No. 1? Secure a top-two seed in 4A. Goal 1B? Utilize the home-field advantage to make a return trip to the state championship. Check and check.
The Sheridan Broncs football team will head to Laramie in a week thanks to a 28-7 victory over Kelly Walsh in the semifinals Friday at Homer Scott Field. Sheridan kept its undefeated season alive and will play for its third-straight state title.
“The last two have been different; this one’s going to be different, too,” senior lineman Blayne Baker said after Friday’s win. “It’s a brand new team, a whole new everything, so we’ve got to come in with a good mindset, work the process this week and just feel it out and see how it goes.”
Baker and his teammates were cool after the game. They’ve been here before. Excited, without a doubt, but understanding that work still had to be done. Sheridan can take a lot from its semifinal matchup. The Kelly Walsh Trojans came north with one of the state’s top defenses and made things difficult for the Broncs, especially early.
Even after Aaron Sessions returned the opening kickoff past the midfield stripe, Sheridan’s offense was stopped dead and turned the ball over on downs. After intercepting a Kelly Walsh pass, the Broncs ended up punting.
It took almost the entire first quarter for Sheridan to score, a 23-yard Parker Christensen rush — unfamiliar territory for Sheridan, indeed. And it took the Broncs another whole quarter to score again, but a lengthy drive ended the half, and Kyle Custis scored from three yards out on a critical fourth-down play.
Sheridan led 14-0 at the half.
When Kelly Walsh’s defense is mentioned as one of the best in the state, it would be unfair to leave out the guys across the field in the discussion. Sheridan’s defense came out with just as much physicality as the Trojans and made scoring even tougher for the visiting team.
Kelly Walsh marched into Sheridan territory numerous times. It even broke into the red zone early.
But the Broncs tightened up and made the plays.
They forced a field goal after the Trojans drove to the 19 in the first quarter. The snap was bad, and Sheridan got the stop with no points allowed. Early in the second quarter, the Trojans stood at the 14-yard line and handed the ball to burly back Brock Spiegelberg. Sheridan’s Wesley Ndago snatched the ball right from his grasp. No points allowed.
Aaron Sessions picked off two passes in the second half — giving him five in the last two games. Sheridan’s defense was tired of being left out of the discussion.
“You could talk a long time about this defense,” Sheridan head coach Don Julian said. “There’s no question it’s one of the better ones in Sheridan history.”
Spiegelberg rushed for 116 yards, and the Trojans finished with 121 on the ground. They also threw for 160, including a 43-yard play that halted the shutout.
But as impressive as Spiegelberg’s night was, Sheridan’s dynamic backfield duo stole the spotlight.
The same bruisers attacking Kelly Walsh up front on defense cleared plenty of paths for Custis and Christensen on offense. Custis finished with 139 yards, and Christensen went for 97. The Broncs rushed 58 times and finished with 282 yards.
“It’ll surprise you sometimes,” Baker said about blocking for two of the state’s top running backs. “You’ll be like, ‘Oh, he’s down,’ and then he’ll squirt forward for six more yards. It makes you look bad on film, but they run really hard. It’s awesome.”
Kelly Walsh is the only defense in 4A holding opposing running backs under 100 yards. In two wins over the Trojans, Sheridan averaged 317.5 yards on the ground.
“There was a lot of talk coming out of Casper about how physical they were and how physical they were defending in the red zone,” Julian said. “I think to a certain degree our kids, our defense sometimes gets a little overlooked.”
Kelly Walsh made things tough for Sheridan a number of times. But the only time the Broncs didn’t come out of the red zone with points was late in the fourth quarter.
Sheridan took three straight knees on the 3-yard line. Victory formation. The Broncs were heading back to Laramie, their home away from home.
The Broncs will take on Natrona in a rematch of last season’s state championship. The Mustangs beat Cheyenne East 44-0 Friday in the other 4A semifinal.
Clinging to a 14-0 lead, Sheridan had to kick to Kelly Walsh to open the second half. The Broncs had worked on a pooch onside kick all week based on film study of Kelly Walsh’s special teams, and assistant coach Darin Gilbertson brought it up at halftime.
Kicker Sam Smart executed the kick perfectly, and Garrett Coon recovered. The Broncs went down to score and take a 21-0 lead.
Kelly Walsh…….0 0 0 7 — 7
Sheridan………..7 7 14 0 — 28