A near full moon’s beam aided two grandstand lights in illuminating Cheney Alumni Field. Together the new group of Natrona County seniors walked out of the locker room and took a seat in empty stands. The First Interstate Bank sign, visible from the football stadium, showed 12:01 a.m.
Head coach Steve Harshman told the new crop of seniors why they were there, a story that started with former standout Cole Montgomery and the state champion 2010 Mustangs. This was the 10th year of Midnight Madness, Natrona County’s annual meeting at midnight on the first allowable day for football practice that season, which happened to be Monday morning.
The tradition’s been around long enough for its own legend. Some that took to the field heard about it from their brothers who experienced their own midnight practice in their own senior seasons.
“You watch your brothers go through it and you chase that, you want that,” senior Jonathan True admitted. “To be finally up there is really awesome. We’re truly blessed.”
One thing that made this year’s midnight practice a little bit different was the exceptions left from the season prior. While each team comes into the season with a clean slate and this senior class of Mustangs doesn’t consider themselves a continuation of last year’s team, the realities of a state championship are hard to ignore. And, as one of the state’s most prestigious programs, the bar is typically set high.
After all, it wouldn’t really be a Natrona County football team without expectations.
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“We obviously still have high standards and we do want to go get another state championship,” senior Cooper Quig explained. “So we’ve got to bring in young guys along with us this year and we’ve got to lift them up and make them feel like a hundred bucks.”
Added True: “Build a new team, build a new brotherhood and have some fun.”
A quick 7-on-7 drill, two teams divided, driving from the 40 toward the end zone, concluded the brief walk-through before business really started to pick up. Less than three weeks remained until they stepped back out onto Cheney Alumni Field for the season opener against Cheyenne South.
And there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.
“It’s exciting, building a new family, new brotherhood, getting the feel of culture,” Quig said. “As seniors we get to kind of build that culture.”