Tiger football: 1986 Retrospective

LUSK – This group of seniors never lost a game in middle school or at the junior varsity level, and the way the 1985 season ended, demanded for it not to happen in 1986.

Niobrara County High School was among the favorites, as Jerry Fullmer entered his 12th year as head coach and Joe Tully comfortable riding shotgun.

Gibson Field received a major facelift leading up to the ’86 season including new bleaches, lights, press box and scoreboard, and a remodeled locker room. Lusk began the season against Upton, one of the best teams from the northeast corner, and the teams played a scoreless first period. Quarterback Doug Percival opened the second quarter with a 68-yard touchdown run and Eric Ellis booted the PAT. Dean Stanley crossed the goal line five minutes later and Ellis made it 14-0 at halftime. Percival connected with Todd Leimser to wrap up the scoring, and Ellis finished off the 21-0 win.

Seton Catholic visited Lusk, and the Tigers triple threat offense paced the game once again. The defense was becoming a force. Neither team generated much in the first period that ended scoreless, but Percival scored in the second. His conversion run gave Lusk a slim 8-0 halftime lead. Stanley pounded through for most of Lusk’s third quarter drive that crushed the Gaels’ spirit. His touchdown run and Ellis’ kick gave NCHS the 15-0 lead. The Tigers final tally came as Percival hooked up with Mark Kupke for a touchdown and Ellis’ kick made it 22-0.

Lusk went to Burns and scored on five of their first six possessions, as the Tigers held an 18-0 halftime lead. Stanley and Layne Weber had second half touchdowns, with the Tigers defense posting their third straight shutout in the 30-0 win.

Budding nemesis Southeast was the first to score on Lusk, but it was Percival that opened the game with an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. After the teams traded turnovers, Stanley found the endzone, but the conversion was denied. The Tigers lead was cut to four with a Cyclone touchdown and successful two pointer, but Stanley wasn’t done yet. He ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run, and Ellis put NCHS ahead 19-8 at halftime. Neither offense was able to penetrate the goal line in the second half, as Lusk took firm control of the SEWAC race in the 19-8 final.

The Tigers overwhelmed Pine Bluffs with 33 points in the first 23 plays and holding the Hornets to negative yards. Lusk had a 41-0 lead at the break and the JV offense also scored at will in the 61-0 blowout. Nine different players scored, including a conversion run by exchange student Hiroshi Kato.

Guernsey was no match in the Tigers Homecoming game as the Tigers clinched a playoff berth in wet, muddy conditions. Lusk put up a pair of first period scores, as Ellis scored three times and was 5-for-5 on point after touchdowns. NCHS rolled to the 41-0 victory.

A hard-fought 20-0 win at Lingle clinched the SEWAC crown as a strong wind and freezing rain persisted throughout the game. Stanley scored twice in the first half and Lusk led 14-0 at the midpoint. While the offense only scored once in the second half, the defense held the Doggers to -13 total yards.

Weber, Percival and Stanley each had first period touchdowns against Saratoga, and the Tigers led 21-0 at halftime. Percival ran one in from 11 yards and the varsity offense was done before halftime with a 28-0 margin. Early in the final stanza, NCHS gave up only their second score of the season as the Panthers scored on a 49-yard pass. Kato scored the final touchdown in the 34-6 win.

The first ever trip to Wright was for the regional championship and closer than the final score of 46-12 may indicate. The Panthers matched Lusk’s first touchdown and trailed 7-6 before Ellis booted a 24-yard field goal. Weber increased the lead with a touchdown and Leimser’s two-point catch made it 18-6. Again, the home team answered with 40 seconds left in the first half to cut the lead to six, but the Tigers had a back breaking 67-yard touchdown pass from Percival to Ellis and Leimser’s catch gave Lusk a bit more breathing room at 26-12. Stanley scored twice in the second half and Jason Alexander concluded the 46-12 win with a TD late in the game.

Big Piney upset number one Greybull in the West and hosted the 2A state championship game with a 6-3 record but were no match for the Tigers in the 38-0 demolition. The senior trio of Percival, Weber and Ellis scored 36 of those points and the defense held the Punchers to just 94 yards in putting up their seventh shutout.

NCHS was honored with eight all state players: seniors Dean Jordan, Derren Kilmer, Jay Owren, Cory Bonsell, Percival, Weber, Ellis and junior Stanley. Percival was named 2A player of the year and Fullmer coach of the year. Also, seniors Brett Dockery and Billy Peters and sophomores Chris Davies and Leimser were named all-conference. This was the first team in school history to win ten games and set a new school record by allowing just 26 points. Stats don’t lie and this team was one of the most dominant and balanced in school history. It will be hard to keep them out of the top five all time.

(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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