Natrona won its 18th state football championship last fall, and in 2019 the Mustangs will attempt to do something never before accomplished in program history — a repeat championship.
By far, no other program in the state has more titles without a repeat championship that Natrona.
The Mustangs have been close, though — sometimes frustratingly close — to that elusive repeat. Some of the more notable failed repeat attempts include these near-hits:
- In 1938, the Mustangs finished 10-1, with the only loss a 6-0 defeat to Sheridan in the state title game. Thirteen days before that, NC had beaten Sheridan 14-0.
- In 1952, the Mustangs finished 7-2, again losing to Sheridan — this time 45-20 — in what ended up being the de facto state title game. Oddly enough, the 1952 team actually finished with a better record than the Mustangs’ state championship team of 1951, which went 5-4 but still won the Class AA state title.
- In 2004, the Mustangs made it back to the 5A state title game only to lose to Green River 20-0 in Casper.
A couple of Natrona’s more recent repeat attempts have arguably ended with a pair of the the most difficult losses in school history. The 2011 Mustangs marched through the regular season undefeated and won their first playoff game. But in the 4A semifinals, the Mustangs’ perfect season, and repeat attempt, was thwarted in a 24-19 upset loss to Cheyenne East. And in 2013, it was East again that snuffed out NC’s title hopes — this time in the 4A title game, and this time by a more painful margin of 14-13.
Natrona’s most recent failed repeat attempt came in 2015, when Natrona finished 8-3 but lost to Sheridan in the 4A semifinals; that led to the first of Sheridan’s three consecutive championships before Natrona won it all in 2018.
The struggles in Natrona’s repeat attempts only happen, though, because of the Mustangs’ consistency. Almost all of the 17 squads that failed in their repeat attempts have been contenders for state championships: In the 17 seasons following Natrona championships, the Mustangs finished with winning records 15 times. Just never with a title.
The Mustangs’ inability to win back-to-back championships sticks out as odd for a school with so much success. No other Wyoming school with as many titles has never repeated, and it’s not even close. In fact, of 16 Wyoming schools with six or more state championships to their name, NC is the only one without a repeat to its credit. After Natrona’s 17, the team with the most titles with no repeats is Cody with five championships.
Here’s how NC’s seasons have gone in the years after championships:
1938: 10-1, lost 6-0 to Sheridan in state title game
1952: 7-3, lost 45-20 to Sheridan in de facto state title game
1997: 6-2, lost in quarterfinals
2000: 6-3, lost in semifinals
2004: 9-2, lost 20-0 to Green River in title game
2011: 10-1, lost in semifinals
2013: 8-4, lost 14-13 to East in title game
2015: 8-3, lost in semifinals