LUSK – The Niobrara County High School football team was coming off a very successful 1994 season that ended one point short of a championship game appearance. With 15 returning letter winners at several key positions, optimism was high for a deeper playoff run in 1995.
The Tigers opened at Upton and won in convincing fashion with a 31-0 win on a hot day in which Lusk ran out of water on the sidelines. The lead was 12-0 at halftime, but in the second half NCHS wore down the Bobcats in putting up over 400 yards of total offense.
Lusk’s home opener against Southeast was even more of a display of offensive dominance. After Cory Wasson left the game early with an injury, Mark Mundlein, Brent Fullmer and Brian Zowada picked up the slack. Three long drives helped NCHS to the 19-6 halftime lead, before blowing it open in the third quarter. The JV scored twice in the final minutes as Lusk won handily 52-14.
NCHS and Burns were both undefeated entering the crucial SEWAC road trip, yet the game wouldn’t be close. Zowada took the opening kickoff 95 yards to set the tone in a matchup of the second-ranked Tigers and fourth-ranked Broncs. After a 21-0 halftime lead, Lusk won 33-8.
A road trip to Lingle-Fort Laramie was next, and despite a lethargic start to the game, NCHS clobbered the Doggers 41-6. L-FL scored first on a gimmick play but after that the Tiger defense stiffened, while the offense put up 41 straight points.
Wright visited Gibson Field in a game played under a steady rain. The Tigers were dominant on offense, yet miscues found them in a 7-6 halftime deficit. Whatever Head Coach Jerry Fullmer said in the locker room worked, and the Tigers responded in the second half. Despite a pair of turnovers late in the game, NCHS held on in the sloppy conditions to beat the Panthers 12-7.
Pine Bluffs was Lusk’s fourth road game in six weeks with a share of the SEWAC title on the line. The home defense did a nice job containing the Tiger backfield, in a scoreless three quarters. But it was the NCHS defense that sealed the 12-0 win. Wasson and Zowada each had pick six touchdowns in the final minutes.
Guernsey-Sunrise visited for Homecoming and made the Tigers work for their 37-14 win. NCHS led 15-0 at halftime before the Vikings closed the third trailing 22-14. Late scores by Wasson and Mundlein put the game away for the SEWAC champions.
Wind River came to Niobrara County for the quarterfinals and were in the game until three late Tiger touchdowns blew open the score. Among them was a Zowada 67-yard interception return as Lusk won 30-7.
The win set up a trip to Moorcroft and Zowada’s opening kickoff return for a touchdown upped the intensity for both unbeaten teams. The Wolves had done what no one else could do- run over the Tigers and force turnovers for a 14-12 halftime lead. The home team had marched inside the Tigers 20-yard line before time ran out.
Exchange student Arthur Villa-Boas kicked a 31-yard field goal to give Lusk the 15-14 lead with one period left. Zowada’s interception set up Mundlein’s touchdown and send the Tigers to the 21-14 win and trip to the state championship game.
Rocky Mountain came from the northwest corner and upended the Tigers with two late touchdowns. NCHS put up 259 yards in the first half and led 20-12 but went cold in the second half. The Grizzlies scored twice in the final 3:43 and managed to win by the 32-20 score. NCHS finished 9-1, and while denied a championship- are certainly among the best in school history.
All State honors went to Wasson, Mundlein, Zowada and Cory Fosher, while Fullmer, Bill Fitzwater and Travis Shoults joined them on the All SEWAC squad. Fosher, JD Harvey, Shoults, Jake Gibson, Roger Bonsell, Fullmer, Wasson, Fitzwater, Zowada and player of the year Mundlein were honored on the All-region team.
(Writer’s note: This article was written with the assistance of The Stat Rat, Wyoming-football.com and The Lusk Herald archives.)