The ranchers who call Farson home migrated down Interstate 80 early last Friday morning so they could cheer on their boys one more time. Community support has become a vital piece of the the Pronghorns’ football revival and it showed no signs of dwindling as the team prepared for a third straight state championship appearance after coming up empty in the first two.
Students brought banners usually hung from the home-field bleachers and strapped them to the railing at War Memorial Stadium. The home to the Wyoming Cowboys can seat Farson’s entire population more than 100 times over. And yet, it still gave the Pronghorns a home-field advantage.
The Pronghorns reciprocated the support by beating Burlington 75-38 in the 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 1A/6-man Football Championship. That gave Farson its first football championship in school — or town — history.
Announced attendance for that game was 1,253, which is nearly double the combined populations of Farson (313) and Burlington (337).
“I don’t know if there’s anybody left in Farson or not,” Farson head coach Marvin Applequist said after the win. “We got a good crowd down here so it was fun to have all these people supporting us.”
Applequist had no way of knowing that the small business district back home functioned during the game. The famous Farson Mercantile, along with the Valley Mart and Mitch’s Cafe, remained open while the majority of its population made the 120-mile pilgrimage East to Laramie.
Farson junior Reed Misner, who played football for the Pronghorns his freshman year and stood on the sidelines in their first championship game appearance, worked the Mercantile on Friday afternoon. At halftime of the championship game, as Farson led 59-26, three visitors walked around the quiet marketplace. It was a calm day for Misner and everyone else back home.
“Just a normal day in Farson,” he said. “Most of our fans went down to Laramie for the game.”
For those left behind they had two radio options, in addition to a pay-per-view online streaming service. They celebrated from afar as senior Clancy Gines continually broke tackles on his way to a 236-yard, four-touchdown day on just seven carries.
Applequist described Gines as “a tremendous leader.” He also said that the senior served as a constant inspiration to the team. When he heard his knee pop from hyperextension while jumping over Burlington quarterback Dontae Garza in the second quarter the team rallied.
Gines needed to be helped off the field by trainers. He returned out of halftime hunched over crutches.
“We weren’t going to let Clancy get hurt and not play for him,” senior Lain Mitchelson said. “It was kind of a boost after he went down because we knew that all we needed to do was step up.”
The Pronghorns didn’t need to do much, but they still outscored Burlington 14-12 in the second half to preserve the victory.
“It sucked watching,” Gines said of the second half, “but it was fun standing there, cheering them on.”
After years of waiting, especially the work put in over the past 12 months, the Pronghorns came out on fire and cruised to the win. Their first 10 drives all ended in touchdowns. In total, they scored 11 times on 14 possessions.
Farson tallied 257 yards rushing against Kaycee the year before — and 206 the year before that. That’s a stark contrast from Friday, when Farson ran for 487 yards against Burlington.
“I was just trying to run forward and my blockers did an amazing job,” Gines said. “The hole was huge and I just ran forward.”
It was the culmination of hard work, heartache, determination and urgency. They’d only get one last chance and the team knew that as soon as last year’s loss to Kaycee in the championship became final.
“They worked hard all year,” Applequist said, “worked hard all season and were able to get back here and had a good chance and they did what they needed to do to get the win.”
The prospect of winning the town’s first football championship remained throughout the offseason. They’d all put in too much work to not aspire to be the state’s best.
“It was kind of like an unspoken goal,” Gines said. “We knew we were good, we just had to stay focused, execute every game and it worked out.”
Gines ditched the crutches in the fourth quarter and put on his pads one last time. He hobbled out onto the field to witness Mitchelson take the final kneel that ended the game. Gines would have, but he couldn’t bend his knee at all.
Then came the team pictures and the adulation. Farson fans celebrated their Pronghorns on Jonah Field, family and friends saying their congratulations in a seemingly endless line of hugs. After two years of sorrow on that same field, they’d finally broken through. By doing so the players cemented their names in Farson lore for years to come.
“We did it,” Mitchelson said, still glossy-eyed.