LARAMIE — As Sheridan aligned in the victory formation Saturday night, head coach Don Julian was just happy it was over. Two kneels from Aaron Woodward preserved a 28-14 victory for the Broncs in the Wyoming State High School Class 4A Football Championship.
It took every bit of strategy, timing and plain good fortune for Sheridan to finish atop the classification for a third straight season.
The Broncs were outgained and outplayed by Natrona County. The Mustangs, however, were outscored.
Aaron Sessions returned the opening kickoff 97 yards to open the scoring, but Sheridan’s offense could not solve the Natrona County defense.
Julian was forced to dip into his bag of tricks in the second quarter as running back Kyle Custis took a pitch off to the right and threw to a wide open Blake Vigil for a 25-yard score. It was just the first of two passing touchdowns thrown by Custis.
“I think we had some nine lives going tonight and we were about out of them by the end,” Julian said. “They did such a good job defending us that we really had to reach, and credit to our kids to make those plays work.”
Custis’s second touchdown pass capped a 7-yard drive after a Natrona County fumble deep in Mustang territory. Custis took the snap from the wildcat formation and flipped the ball to Parker Christensen from 5 yards.
The senior running back was limited to just 37 yards against the staunch Natrona County defense. But he made plays when his team needed him. He had not thrown a touchdown this season before Saturday.
“Kyle Custis, stepping up,” Sheridan quarterback Aaron Woodward said. “He turned into QB1 tonight.”
Natrona County limited Sheridan to just seven first downs, 43 plays and 169 total yards. The Mustangs, on the other hand, tallied 32 first downs, ran 99 plays, held the ball for nearly a half-hour of game time and accrued 444 total yards.
The Mustangs nearly tied it in the fourth quarter until Jesse Harshman, down 7, just missed his receiver and Sessions came away with his sixth interception of the postseason. The senior returned the pick inside the Mustangs’ 10. That was one of five Natrona County turnovers.
Sheridan scored from there on a 2-yard run from Woodward.
Natrona County head coach Steve Harshman still believed in his team’s ability to come back. The Mustangs rallied from 14 points down with 2 minutes remaining against the Broncs earlier this season to force overtime. That’s exactly what Natrona County faced: down 28-14 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left.
“Our plan was to score, onside kick, score, go for two and win it this time,” Harshman said. “But we got down there and just ran out of downs.”
They got to near midfield before Jesse Harshman was sacked and ended the drive on three straight incompletitons with 71 seconds left. The Mustang offense had already set a new 11-man record for points in a season (545), but didn’t have any more left in the stables.
Instead, Julian earned his fifth title with the winningest program in the state. The Broncs’ 26th state title came on their first undefeated seasons since 1992.
Despite the top defense in the state holding the Broncs to season-lows in countless categories, Sheridan led from start to finish and answered when needed.
“They were pretty physical and got after us with the run game,” Sessions said. “We just kept an even keel, kept working and did the right things.”