SHERIDAN — The Sheridan High School football team’s regular-season home slate comes to a close Friday at 6 p.m. The Broncs play host to Laramie in a game that will go a long way in determining playoff seeding.
Sheridan — which currently stands in fourth place within the 4A standings at 5-2 — holds a one-game lead over the Plainsmen, and for that reason alone the Broncs have seen a heightened sense of urgency in practice this week.
“We are really focused, and it will be an intense week,” Sheridan’s Toby Jacobs said. “It will be real competitive with it being a playoff-implication thing.”
The Broncs and Plainsmen are keeping one another company in the standings, and they don’t stray too far from each other in the stat book either. Sheridan and Laramie both have balance on offense — the Broncs lean more heavily on the pass where the Plainsmen turn to the run game as the staple of their offense. Both squads can also get it done on the defensive side of things, ranking fourth and sixth in total defense, respectively.
“They do mirror us, and they have in the last few years,” Sheridan head coach Jeff Mowry said. “They are very similar in size, they have about the same numbers of kids out for football, and they have a couple guys that can really run — a running back and a quarterback. … So we’ve got to be solid tacklers, and our defensive line has got to stay flat down the line. If we get up field on these guys at all on defense, they are going to get vertical and hurt us. We’ve really got to pin them in.”
Sheridan will look for its fourth win in a row.
The Broncs, after starting the season at 2-2 with losses to Natrona County and Thunder Basin — which have a combined record of 12-2 — recorded three consecutive convincing victories over Kelly Walsh, Cheyenne South and Campbell County. Sheridan outscored those three opponents 133-17, but that’s not too surprising as those three foes have a combined record of 3-18.
Mowry’s challenge now is getting his team prepared for the elevated level of play it’ll see Friday.
“Any time you’re working with teenagers and focus, there’s a little bit of an issue,” Mowry said. “But the kids last night, after Monday’s practice, understood the importance of this team and this very well could be a matchup we see again in two weeks in the 4-5 game in the first week of playoffs. … They see the importance of it, and I think they’re ready to go.”
The Broncs haven’t lost to the Plainsmen in more than a decade — two coaching regimes ago — and the average margin of victory in that stretch is 32 points. Laramie has never gotten within two scores of Sheridan and the most its scored in any one game is 19 points while its been shut out on three occasions.
Sheridan’s recent dominance may make it easy to overlook Laramie and focus on the regular-season finale at 6-1 Cheyenne East, which will also have playoff implications.
However, with senior night punctuating Friday, 16 upperclassmen will have their team attentive to every detail in an effort to celebrate their Sheridan football careers with a victory on a special night.