NCHS Tiger football retrospective wrap up


LUSK – The 2021 list of all time Niobrara County High School football teams has been revealed, and now is the time to rank them. While comparing decades and eras can create salty arguments, I’m going to put the profiled teams into a hypothetical bracket. With eight seasons revisited this fall, it creates a tidy yet powerful bracket. These are some of the best teams in school history, and separating them is mostly speculated guessing.

Quarterfinals:

No. 1 1986 (10-0) vs No. 8 1951 (6-2-1): It’s hard to imagine the ’51 squad being the lowest seeded team here. It’s easy to believe they were a better team than most of the ’86 victims. The young, overachieving ’51 squad likely would have scored on the ’86 team, and kept it close for a while. But their big play ability would be the difference for 1986.

No. 4 1981 (9-1) vs No. 5 1996 (9-1): State champs versus should have been state champs. The ’81 team was strong defensively, one of the best in the kicking game and explosive on offense. The ’96 Tigers had a diverse offense and a defense that only allowed double digits twice. I’ll tip the favor to 1996, but in a very slim margin.

No. 3 1961 (7-1) vs No. 6 2011 (8-2): This game would be much closer than many expected, but the touchdown twins were better than the ’11 version. The ’61 Tigers were deep and balanced, and had defeated the likes of Douglas, Wheatland and Gillette. The 2011 squad rolled over a handful of hapless opponents but found ways to win the close ones. Both seasons ushered in some of Lusk’s greatest runs.

No. 2 1991 (7-0) vs No. 7 2001 (7-3): The upstart ’01 squad made a run to the title game but would have a hard time keeping up with the ’91 Tigers. While denied a spot in the playoffs, the ’91 guys ran the table in dominating fashion. They were both talented and opportunistic, yet I just don’t think the 2001 team would be able to handle 1991’s size. 

Semifinals:

No. 1 1986 vs No. 5 1996: In a battle of two similarly styled teams, I’ll throw in my obligatory baseball reference. This would be an epic seven game series. It’s hard to deny what the ’86 team did and how the ’96 squad overcame key injuries. The 1986 version posted seven shutouts and was the first undefeated state champ in school history. Had Brian Zowada been healthy all season, it might have been different for the 1996 Tigers, and so this one goes to the ’86 squad.

#3 1961 vs #2 1991: This is one of the most difficult matchups to predict. Two of the greatest teams in school history, yet neither got to show it in the playoffs. The ’91 team overpowered their opponents, and had they been eligible for the playoffs, were considered the best in 1A and 2A by many. The ’61 team’s high scoring offense would be the difference as they put up 40-plus points three times and tallied 39 at Gillette.

Championship:

No. 1 1986 vs No. 3 1961: As crafty, strong and skilled as the touchdown twins were, it’s possible they would have struggled against the ’86 defense. Two extra games for ’86 provided a 73 point scoring edge, and yet the older squad’s toughness would challenge them. Eleven different players scored a touchdown for the ’86 team and the defense, amongst the best. The second perfect season in school history gives 1986 a very slim edge.

While this is the last of this seasons’ series, and as Tiger football moves closer to its 100th anniversary, the retrospectives will continue. Next year will feature the 1952, 1962, 1967, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2012 seasons.

(Writer’s note: This article was written with the assistance of The Stat Rat, Wyoming-football.com and The Lusk Herald archives).

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