LUSK – Niobrara County High School was coming off a successful 1984 campaign and optimistic for another one with several letterwinners returning. The Tigers were strong and deep along the offensive and defensive lines, yet had some questions in the backfield to answer.
Senior quarterback Tom Price was battling injuries and the rest of the backfield had graduated. The remaining seniors were boosted by a stellar junior class that went undefeated throughout middle school and junior varsity.
Some of those questions were answered in the season opener at Upton as junior quarterback Doug Percival made his varsity debut and senior tailback Scott Langis returned to Lusk. The pair gave NCHS an early lead and the Tigers led 13-0 at halftime.
The Bobcats had difficulty holding onto the ball, yet NCHS didn’t take advantage often enough. Percival to Langis worked again for a 19-0 lead, but it could have easily been much more. Upton scored late in the game as Lusk won 19-6.
To open SEWAC play, NCHS traveled to Guernsey-Sunrise, and with the aid of seven turnovers Lusk won 25-6. Price and Percival split QB duties both effectively and Langis went over 100 yards rushing.
Pine Bluffs visited Gibson Field the following week and was historic in two bitter manners. The narrow 8-6 loss ended an 18 game home winning streak and was the Hornets first victory in five games over the Tigers. This skinny freshman manager was stunned in seeing the big, bad varsity bawling like toddlers as the streaks ended.
NCHS enjoyed a Homecoming week of activities, but shortly before Friday’s kickoff against Seton Catholic snow began to fall on Gibson Field. Conditions deteriorated throughout the contest, yet there was plenty of action for two talented squads. The Gaels scored first and led 6-0 at the half, but NCHS dominated the second half statistically. The teams traded scores early in the final quarter before the Tigers embarked on a season-saving drive. As the clocked ticked closer to zeros, Langis plunged into the East endzone for the touchdown and following conversion. The 16-12 victory set off a jubilant celebration in the messy conditions.
A bye week preceded the Tigers trip to Burns, where Lusk won for the first time in three tries. NCHS led 13-0 at halftime and overcame four third quarter turnovers in the 37-6 rout.
A week later the Tigers traveled to Yoder and came away with an 18-6 win. Unusual scores highlighted the win as Langis ran the opening kick 83 yards for a touchdown, before the Cyclones responded with their own touchdown. Eric Ellis reclaimed the Lusk lead with a field goal and it was 9-8 at halftime. The Tigers final score came after Jay Owren blocked a punt into the endzone where Layne Weber covered the ball. Ellis booted the PAT and Lusk held on for the 16-8 win.
The regular season finale was against Lingle-Ft. Laramie and the Tigers showed no mercy in the 33-8 win. All five touchdowns came through the air and Lusk finished in a three way tie for the SEWAC championship with PB and Seton.
The three team playoff at Torrington was one of the first in state history as the Tigers avenged their loss to the Hornets in the first half. The 19-0 shutout preceded a 30 minute break before the fresh Gaels faced NCHS. A tired, slow and emotionally drained Tiger squad gave up two first quarter scores and could not recover as Seton advanced in the 14-0 final.
Cory Bonsell, Kevin Dobson and Owren were named to the All State team, while Dan Bleak, Derren Kilmer, Langis, Ellis and Percival named All-SEWAC. The loss ended head coach Jerry Fullmer’s tenth season at 7-2 and set up one of the greatest teams in school history.
(Writer’s note: This article was written with the assistance of The Stat Rat, Wyoming-football.com and The Lusk Herald archives.)