A depleted roster because of injuries is always an unwelcomed part of the physical game of football.
The Laramie High football team has not been immune to that unfortunate aspect with the whittling down of player availability — in recent years it’s normally toward the end of a grueling Class 4A schedule.
But the Plainsmen are already dealing with adversity of another level heading into just their third game of a nine-game regular season.
Laramie currently has 22 active players who are on the varsity roster since the start of the season, and 16 players who are inactive for a variety of reasons.
“That is a massive amount of attrition, and it’s one that I’ve never seen as a player or as a coach in all my decades around football,” first-year LHS coach Paul Ronga said. “Four of them are COVID quarantine, but the other 12 are almost season-ending injuries, (some) whether it’s a broken collarbone or a torn ACL. This really has caught us off guard.
“We’ve got good athletes in the program and in this school, but I think the issue with the injuries is much deeper and more involved, and I believe that’s a discussion for another day and another time.
“The paramount issue for us right now is those who are active and playing today — they are good kids and they deserve the best,” Ronga continued. “So what we’ve had to do is readjust everything we’ve done almost like it’s become Day One with players playing out of positions or playing new positions and reinvent them and what we are doing on offense, defense and special teams.
“The whole goal and the mission still stays the same to put the best product we can on the field and give the players the best opportunities they can have to excel while representing our community and school.”
In the first two games of the season, the Plainsmen had good starts to hang their hats on.
Against second-ranked Sheridan during the season opener at home, LHS was down just 7-0 at the end of the first quarter. Last week on the road, the Plainsmen carried a 3-0 lead into the second quarter at Campbell County.
“There something to be said about the resiliency of the program,” Ronga said. “We have a never quit attitude and now it’s been put to the test more than ever with a little under 50% of our roster not being able to play. We are up against the wall and understand that. We want to extenuate the positives, and I am all about optimism and moving forward.”
But both earlier opponents broke the games wide open in the second quarters. Sheridan scored 28 in the period en route to a 57-0 win; Campbell County nearly matched that with 27 unanswered for a 48-3 win.
The tough start to the season is reflective in the Plainsmen’s averages of 39 yards on the ground (10th in 4A) and 60 passing (ninth) for 99 total yards per game (10th). LHS ranked seventh on defense giving up 372 yards.
FOCUSING ON NATRONA COUNTY
The Plainsmen will host Natrona County at 6 tonight at Deti Stadium.
The Mustangs (1-1) are just outside the top five of the WyoPreps.com Coaches and Media poll, being the only team also receiving points. Natrona opened the season with a 22-0 win against Cheyenne Central, then battled defending state champion Cheyenne East for a 14-13 loss last Friday.
Natrona is fourth in rushing (190 yards per game), fifth in passing (156) for seventh in overall offense (346). Defensively, Natrona ranks third allowing 217 yards per contest.
“(Natrona is) another really sound football team in all phases with an excellent quarterback who can run the daylights out of the ball and has a great arm,” Ronga said. “Defensively, they have an interior that is really tough with massive defensive tackles and two stud MIKE linebackers. So going anywhere near them will not be beneficial for us.”