LUSK – Coming off a pair of seasons that resulted in a 3-13 combined record, the 1991 Niobrara County High School football team had 14 returning lettermen. Most of them were on the field as underclassmen and endured those losses, yet had become a strong, deep, athletic and experienced squad. However, the Tigers were ineligible for the playoffs, as they chose to remain in 1A against closer opponents.
NCHS opened the season with a home game against Guernsey-Sunrise and roared to a 24-0 victory. The defense was dominant as they held the Vikings to a few scattered first downs, but no serious scoring threats. Tally Sharp scored first for the Tigers and Shawn Leimser kicked the point after for a 7-0 lead into halftime. Leimser extended the lead with a 26-yard field goal and Doug Lytle scored from three yards. Brian Pfister and Andy Robinson connected for a one-yard score as Leimser’s kicks made the score final.
Next up was another home game for the Tigers as Southeast came to Gibson Field. The defense forced three turnovers while Lytle and Pfister had first half touchdowns. Pfister hooked up with Jason Walsh for matching 36-yard scores in the second half in the 27-0 shutout.
The first road trip of the season was to Lingle and a typical defensive struggle for three quarters. Walsh caught a touchdown pass from Leimser and Lytle iced the game with fourth quarter scores in the 14-0 win.
Seton Catholic had closed their doors the previous spring and left the Tigers with a bye week before traveling to Burns. Lusk survived the Broncs challenge in a shaky outing, scoring the winning touchdown with just 39 seconds remaining. The home team had taken a 14-0 lead before Walsh’s 75-yard kickoff return, and Leimser’s kick got NCHS back in the game. Walsh’s interception in the endzone and huge return turned things around as Lusk came back with Pfister and Sharp TDs in the 19-14 win.
Back for Homecoming against Wright, the Tigers scored on their first three possessions. Pfister ran one in and connected with Robinson and Walsh on a pair of tosses. Lytle was 2 of 3 on point after kicks and Lusk was coasting 20-0 after one quarter. The Panthers answered before halftime on a broken play to make it 20-7. Pfister and Walsh got together again for a score and Lytle went 78 yards to the endzone in the third period. Pfister scored the Tigers final touchdown, and Justin Bremers’ two-point run gave Lusk the 41-13 victory.
The Tigers finished unbeaten in the SEWAC with a 20-14 win at Pine Bluffs. Walsh ran for 80 first quarter yards and Lytle got a pair of scores and PATs. The Hornets cut the lead to 14-7 as the period ended and stood through halftime. Walsh got to paydirt and PB responded again, with a full quarter left to play it was 20-14. Lusk had several opportunities to extend the lead, yet the defense finished strong in the 20-14 final.
NCHS wrapped up just the third perfect season in school history at Morrill, Neb., as they had little trouble putting up points. Barely two minutes had expired and both teams already found the endzone. Walsh was responsible for the first three Tiger scores- on a 59-yard run, and a pair of passes from Pfister. Pfister, Robinson and Sharp all scored on the ground and Lusk rolled to the 40-22 victory.
If the Tigers were included in the 1A playoffs, they had already defeated three teams in the bracket and may have faced Cokeville, Moorcroft or Upton. Had they been in the 2A bracket, a matchup with Thermopolis, Lovell or Buffalo could have happened. While Lusk was denied a chance in the playoffs, many observers around the state feel the Tigers would have won either classification’s championship. Their conclusion will never be answered, and what-ifs never die, but this team set up one of the greatest two-year stretches in school history. This squad’s inclusion is an easy choice.
Tiger players were not eligible for the all-state team but dominated the all SEWAC lists. Seniors Robinson and Pfister, juniors John Cavill, Sharp, Lytle, Leimser and sophomore Walsh were on the first team. Juniors Gary Anderson, Dan Mundlein and Dan Wade were named second team, while seniors Mike Bruch and Will McCart and junior Bremer were named honorable mention. Jerry Fullmer wrapped up his 17th season as head coach and was voted SEWAC Coach of the Year.
(Writer’s note: This article was written with the assistance of The Stat Rat, Wyoming-football.com and The Lusk Herald archives. Team photo courtesy of NCHS library.)