When you only win one game the previous season and have barely a dozen and a half players out, head coach Ryan Nelson understands this could be another tough season. “We kind of had a drop off after that big class with Derick, Martin, Zane and those guys. The past two years we’ve had to put a lot of guys out there without a lot of experience.” It should be a bit different this season as Nelson and his staff have seven seniors-of which six have started on a regular basis since then.
Three of them lead an offensive line in what should be a team strength with Cole Mellott (2016 All State)(OL/DE), Jake Heil (OL/DT) and Garrett Wurdeman (OL/LB) back. “Cole’s the vocal leader while the other two are quieter and just go about their work,” added Nelson. “But they are all very good at helping the younger guys.” Kyle Anderson returns at quarterback and linebacker while Traylin Bruegger (WR/CB) and Ryan Gilkey (RB/S) provide plenty of speed. “We’re going to change the way we call plays a bit, and try to utilize these guys speed,” said Nelson. Stephen Daniels is also back for his fourth season and should provide depth on both lines.
Teagan Tschacher (RB/CB), Alec Penfield (SE/DE) and Jacob Miller ((OL/DL) are the only juniors- and only Tschacher has varsity experience. Penfield missed last season and Miller comes to Lusk from Glenrock.
Damien Molzahn (FB/LB) and James Stone (TB/LB) played in every game last season and will be expected to assume bigger roles. Wyatt Stauffer (QB/DB) and Dmitri Richards (OL/DL) round out the sophomore class and will also be counted on.
As with the classes of ’19 and ’20, the freshman group is small in numbers but will contribute right away to fill out the lineups and special teams. Jasper Caldera (OL/DL/LB), Drake Pena (RB/CB) and Ryan Bruegger (TE/DE) will start in some capacity and Aric Eaton should see time as well.
“There’s a lot of talent that graduated in this East Conference and we’ve got two winnable games right away, said Nelson. “But with our low numbers we’ve got to stay healthy and hopefully get a few bounces go our way- we’ve got some talent, that with a few breaks could surprise a few teams…and who knows what we could do?” he smiled.
Along the sidelines again is Chris Skeen (fifth at NCHS) and Dan Hanson (third season) and Monte Adams is a new student teacher with Skeen in the history/government classes. Adams is originally from Broken Arrow, OK and ran track at Chadron State, NE. He’s been in Harrison, NE the past five years coaching track and volleyball for two years. Juniors Alli McIlroy and Dani Kant return as team managers.
The 1A 11 man East Conference is loaded once again and only got stronger with the addition of 2016 2A state champions Big Horn. Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs and Southeast will field strong teams again. Out west Cokeville is loaded with another talented group and while Rocky Mountain is not far behind, the rest will be easy playoff fodder.
“We’ve got the ability to get back to smashmouth Tiger Football,” said Mellott. “All 11 guys have to go hard every play and not give up, we just need to get in the playoffs and see what happens.”
NCHS went to Yoder for a Jamboree last Saturday and faced Wheatland, Southeast and the Thunder Basin sophs (the new school in Gillette) in a round robin series of plays. Lusk ran the ball well but struggled with pass coverage against the bigger schools. The Tigers open the season as Burns returns to the schedule for a meaningful game for the first time since 2012. Lusk visits Bronc Field Friday with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
NCHS went to Yoder to scrimmage last Saturday. They open the regular season this Friday night as Burns returns to the schedule for the first time since 2012. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Burns.