LARAMIE -- Nearly five years after playing their last high school football game, Logan Wilson and Josh Harshman are preparing for the end at their old stomping grounds.
When Wyoming makes the trip to Casper on Saturday for its first open scrimmage of the spring, it’ll make for a unique homecoming for the Cowboys’ two fifth-year seniors. Wilson and Harshman will play on their high school field again, something most players at the Football Bowl Subdivision level rarely get the chance to do.
It will mark the final time the Casper natives get to play on Natrona County High’s Cheney Alumni Field, where Wyoming will hold its 1 p.m. scrimmage. Wilson said he didn’t even know a trip back home was on the docket until the spring practice schedule was released last month.
“I saw that, so it was kind of cool,” said Wilson, who’s set to begin his third season atop the depth chart at middle linebacker.
Wilson and Harshman starred for Natrona County before signing with Wyoming in 2015. Both got a chance to return to Cheney Alumni in 2017 when Wyoming held a similar scrimmage that spring. The Cowboys, who traveled to Cheyenne for a practice last spring, started making these occasional spring trips a handful of years back as a way to become more visible throughout the state, head coach Craig Bohl said.
Having players on the roster from certain cities makes trips to those parts of the state a no-brainer. Redshirt freshmen Brett Brenton and Maeson Gallegos are also Natrona County alums.
“We’re just not positioned to do that in the fall, but I think it’s important,” Bohl said. “We’re the University of Wyoming, not the University of Laramie. We’ve kind of split back and forth between going from Cheyenne to Casper. We were up there a couple of years ago. We have a lot of players that are from portion of the state. Not only from Casper, but Sheridan and different places, so it’s an opportunity for them to get out as well.”
Returning to play on their high school field floods both of their minds with memories of those Friday nights suiting up for the Mustangs, particularly in the postseason. Most of their playoff games were played at Cheney Alumni as Wilson and Harshman helped lead Natrona County to three straight Class 4A championship game appearances from 2012-14. Wilson, then a wide receiver, safety and punter, and Harshman, a quarterback who doubled as a linebacker, were part of the Mustangs’ undefeated state championships teams in 2012 and 2014 and were both named to the Star-Tribune’s Super 25 team following their senior seasons.
“Playoff victories to getting to go the state championship our senior year playing on that home field,” Wilson said. “Playing my first game on varsity as a sophomore. There’s just a lot of memories there. It’s a pretty unique field, especially for Wyoming.
“I thought I played on it for the last time five years ago now, which is crazy to think I’ve been here for what will be my fifth year. It’ll be a good time to play on that, especially for the young guys getting to scrimmage and show the coaches what they’re all about.”
Wilson, who’s entering his final season with the Cowboys as one of the top defensive players in the Mountain West after finishing as the team’s leading tackler each of the last two seasons, will be in his usual spot in the middle of Wyoming’s defense. Harshman will be a limited participant if he gets any reps Saturday as the 6-foot-3, 230-pound tight end continues to work his way back from surgery to repair a torn MCL last season, but the trip back home comes with even more connections for Harshman.
His father, Steve, coached him at Natrona County and has been the Mustangs’ head coach for more than two decades. The younger Harshman said his dad might be looking forward to his homecoming more than he is.
“He’s setting some stuff up and trying to get some more people to come out in the community and stuff,” Harshman said. “He loves all this stuff.”
But both players are looking forward to one final go-round on the field where it all started.
“I grew up on that field,” Harshman said. “I’ve been around there since I was a little kid going up there with my dad all the time. It’ll be pretty sweet to go back there one more time.”