SHOSHONI – It’s pretty hard to make it to back-to-back state championships in any sport, but with a team sport like football on a smaller field like 1A Nine-Man football it’s even harder. Shoshoni’s football team was able to do just that last year though, falling to Pine Bluffs just one year removed from winning it all and bringing back the championship trophy. 

Now, the team has new leadership on the field and has to work towards their third-straight state championship game with a fresh-faced crew of Wranglers. Even though many people believe this to be the Wranglers’ ‘rebuilding year’ there is no thought process like that once you step into the Shoshoni locker room. 

“We are young, we know that,” Head Coach Tony Truempler said about his team. “Everyone we talk to [is] calling this a rebuilding year but we’ve talked to the guys and said that we’ve got to prove to people we’re not in a rebuilding year … we’ve started something here in the last five years where we’ve been in the playoffs, played deep into the playoffs, played in two straight state title games. We like to think we don’t have rebuilding years anymore, that we can just roll.”

After the team fell to Pine Bluffs by just seven points in that state title game last November the coaching staff and the seniors on the team knew that it would sting, but they wanted to fuel the fire under the team instead of drag them down. 

“We talked about it last year after the loss and the seniors did too, they talked about buying in, dedication and I think it really hit home with these guys and it showed during the summer activities turnout,” Coach Truempler continued. “We had over 20 kids every day right up to our dead period … probably the biggest number of kids I’ve ever had for summertime activities.”

Coach Truempler isn’t the only one using the loss as gasoline under the Wranglers’ behinds, Offensive Coordinator and Shoshoni Athletic Director Max Mills said the loss “absolutely” fuels the team. 

“The experience of being at UW, at War Memorial Stadium, it’s just fantastic [and] it was something those kids will remember for the rest of their lives,” Coach Mills said before practice. “This group wants to get back and they know there’s a number of really good teams in the state and it’s going to be a battle to get there but they’re ready and up for the challenge.”

Both the offensive and defensive units for Shoshoni may have just two seniors on their team, Ethan Tarango and Wyatt Eadus, but that does not mean they aren’t prepared after everything they’ve done together with last year’s large group of seniors. 

“The great news for our juniors and sophomores is that they played against that [senior] class that just left for the last two years,” Coach Mills said. “Everyday in practice they had to line up and go against them and they learned a lot from that. They have that understanding of what it takes, how much work you have to put in, how hard it is to get there [and] how much luck you have to have to get to a championship game … They’re ready and raring to call it their turn.”

The 2023 Shoshoni Wranglers football team (p/c Shawn O’Brate)

As far as making it to the finish line all the way down in Laramie, the coaches know that it takes more than just talent and skill. Coach Truempler believes a third-straight appearance at War Memorial Stadium is “definitely doable” but they first must “keep their eyes on the prize” every week, meaning take every game like it’s the state championship game. 

One player that everyone will look to for some form of leadership, even though he’s only a junior, is wide receiver / cornerback Quinton Clark, who is the only returning starter from last year’s state title run. 

“He could have a big year,” Coach Truempler said. “His experience from last year in practice has been really good, really beneficial for us,” Coach Mills added. 

No matter which way you look at the 2021 1A Nine-Man State Champion Wranglers, their team will look vastly different on offense and defense this season but that’s not stopping any one of them from believing they’re even better than the previous two teams to represent Shoshoni in Laramie. 

BY: Shawn O’Brate