Just over a month ago it was Farson traveling to upstart Burlington for a regular-season conference game. Two conference losses earlier in the year from Burlington dampened hype for the game just slightly. Farson was the gold standard and the Huskies were upstarts.
Every second was needed to determine a winner on the rural football field.
“They’ve got some very athletic kids and they let the athletes go to work,” Farson head coach Marvin Applequist said. “Fortunately, we were able to get up on them early and then had to score on the last play of the game for the win.”
The Pronghorns escaped with a 47-41 win. The Huskies, meanwhile, could hardly limp off the field. Four of their starters were too injured to play the next week and they lost to Riverside (39-14) to close the regular season.
“Since the playoffs started our kids have had fire and they wanted to get one back on Meeteetse,” Burlington head coach Trent Aagard said. “And we’ve been close with Farson so we hope we can come out and do the same.”
The two programs meet once again, in a rematch of that classic late September battle, this time for the 2018 Wyoming State High School Football Class 1A/6-man Championship at War Memorial Stadium. The game will formally kick off the weekend festivities at noon on Friday.
Aagard knows that his team of fighters will have to harness the same energy they showed against the Pronghorns the first time around if they want any chance of sending Farson home without a championship for the third straight season. The Pronghorns led 35-6 in the second quarter of the earlier meeting before the Huskies rallied to tie. Then it became an endurance test in the fourth quarter.
“We talked about being resilient and coming back and giving them our best shot,” Aagard said. “Then on defense we were able to get after them a little bit and not get big plays. They’re Farson and they’re good. They’re going to get something but we were able to limit what they did.”
Burlington had to draw on that resiliency once again in the quarterfinals of the playoffs when they played at East No. 1 Hanna. The Miners had been one of the most potent offenses in six-man, mostly due to the junior duo of Conor and Shane McGraw. Hanna took an early lead into halftime before Shane McGraw was sidelined with injury.
That opened the door for Burlington’s athleticism to strike.
“They started hot and we lagged there in the first quarter to get accustomed to what they were doing,” Aagard said. “Once they were done with that we were able to bottle them up. I think it was just our resiliency to stick with the plan.”
A rematch of their previous meeting would warrant attention on its own. Move that game onto the turf of Jonah Field with a championship on the line and it becomes the focal point of Wyoming high school football for two hours. That spotlight could become a factor of its own.
The Huskies have never played at War Memorial Stadium. Aagard has tried to keep his players focused on the game and not the atmosphere. It’s a daunting task but an inevitable one.
“It’s going to be a different experience coming down to Laramie but we’ve been preaching that we need to stay hungry and stay focused on the business at hand,” he said. “We need to take care of business first. There will be some awe, you need to recognize that will happen and then hope it isn’t an overriding factor of the game.”
On the flip side, this has become business as usual for Farson. This is the third straight championship the Pronghorns have played in.
“That’s what always helps,” Applequist said. “You can put aside the other stuff, be business-like and perform. We’ve talked about that a lot.”
The Pronghorns have finished bridesmaids the past two years. And with a talented senior class ready to depart, next year’s team could look dramatically different.
So it’s now or never for a small program that has been forced to build from the ground up. One last chance for the Pronghorns’ first state championship.
“The success of our program is 100 percent because of our community support,” Applequist said. “We have parents starting kids playing football at fourth grade and even younger. It really has been the community support that’s helped turn this program around.”