What a year it has been for Sheridan County football. Sure, we can look at all the success in the area, but that’s not really anything new. But two coaches in arguably the most successful county in the state hanging up the headsets? That’s a bit of a shocker.
Michael McGuire, head football coach at Big Horn High School, announced Tuesday he’d be leaving Big Horn to take a job at Dickinson State University in North Dakota. A few months ago, Sheridan High School head coach Don Julian announced his resignation after 11 years with the Broncs.
There are obvious reasons both of these announcements delivered a heavy blow.
As I mentioned, we don’t have to look far into the history books to chart the success of these two coaches and their programs. The numbers are quite staggering:
• 17 combined seasons in the county
• 158-30 (.840) record
• 10 state championship appearances
• Seven state titles
• Zero losing seasons (and only one, Julian’s first, that was even close)
And both coaches are leaving at the top or pretty darn close to it.
Julian, who decided to leave to help take care of his parents back home in Kemmerer, walks into the setting Sheridan sun with three consecutive 4A state championships in his back pocket. The 2017 season brought the Broncs their first undefeated season in 25 years.
McGuire heads to North Dakota having led the Rams to back-to-back state championship appearances, which included a state title — his second at Big Horn — in 2016. The Rams lost the 2017 championship but lost just one senior and enter the 2018 season a heavy favorite to hang another banner.
Those numbers don’t make the blow of the coaches’ departures any easier to absorb. The county is losing two head men who clearly have a knack for coaching football and know how to create championship cultures.
But those numbers also make the departures easier to understand, in a way.
Selfishly, we’d love to see these guys stick around forever and obliterate the rest of the state until the walls in the two respective gymnasiums run out of available banner space. But these coaches have the right to do what feels right in their hearts, too.
For McGuire, that’s chasing a dream he’s had since he first hung a whistle from his neck. Six seasons, four state championship trips and two titles — we’re greedy if we want more than that. And those credentials lend themselves to the next step, which for McGuire is coaching at the collegiate level. It’ll be pretty cool to see him calling plays at Dickinson State (and possibly for former SHS QB Drew Boedecker), and we’re all rooting for him to climb even higher on that ladder.
For Julian, after 27 years of coaching at various levels, he wanted to backtrack a bit on something he felt he missed out on during his autumns (and every other season, honestly) on the sidelines. And again, not to say we wouldn’t have welcomed more championships — and we probably would have gotten them — but how many more do we really need? The guy brought the county five titles. We’re honestly not that worthy and probably took it all for granted.
Most importantly, though, as these coaches step away from the Wyoming limelight, we might not even have to miss those state titles and double-digit win seasons. These stats — and the absurd consistency in which we’ve experienced them — signify major shifts in cultures.
The Broncs have already hired one of Julian’s assistants, and Big Horn will likely do the same. Those are two very big reasons each coach felt they could leave; their programs are in good hands. I wouldn’t expect much to change.
Still, it will be bizarre to enter a season with neither Julian nor McGuire on the sideline.
It’s times like these when we should reflect on how lucky we — football fans in Sheridan County (and probably all of Wyoming) — have been. Hopefully you didn’t take it all for granted.
But even if you did, I’m not sure much is going to change moving forward, and we have McGuire and Julian to thank for that, too.