Q&A with Natrona County Head Football Coach Steve Harshman entering the 2022 season
With the 2022 high school football season kicking off on Friday, Natrona County head football coach Steve Harshman stopped by the Wyoming News Now studios to talk about his Mustang team entering the season.
CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Natrona County will kick off its 2022 season on the road at Laramie. The Mustangs crushed the Plainsmen 45-0 last season in the Gem City. The black and orange are coming off a 7-4 season and made it to the 4A state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Sheridan. Natrona County has the longest current consecutive playoff streak in 4A with 30 consecutive postseason trips.
Natrona County head coach Steve Harshman is entering his 32nd season at the high school, and he stopped by the Wyoming News Now studios earlier this week to talk about the importance of summer football, improving each day as a team, the Week Zero matchup against Laramie and more.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
DG: Thank you for coming down to the studio today. How’s the summer been treating you?
SH: I appreciate you having me first of all. We’ve had a good summer. It’s been good, but it went fast. We got out of school on June 9th, and we did seven days of camps. Black Hills, Chadron, and then we ran our own little thing, and the weight training in the mornings three days a week, so it went fast. Summer school and all of that in between, but the kids are doing great, and we’ve had a nice summer and a good start to camp.
DG: I’ve heard a lot about these camps and how much fun the guys had this summer going to Black Hills and Chadron. As the head coach, what’s the importance of doing those as a team?
SH: I think we were one of the first to really start in the early 90′s. We took kids in ‘92, and I did that in Delta, Colorado where I was before. I actually took a group of kids to the University of Wyoming camp. We’ve gone to Wyoming in the past, but they’re not able to have that anymore. NCAA rules have kind of changed that, but the team camp thing has really been an important part of our preparation. For years, we’ve done Chadron. We’ve gone to Mesa State in Colorado and Black Hills State as well. I think it’s an important part of just getting ready and getting the repetition.
DG: That makes sense. You kind of mentioned your history there. You’re entering year number 32 at Natrona County High School. What do you still love about coaching football? What gets you so excited to get out there and be with the kids every day?
SH: I think the key thing about it is like all things it’s about people, right? You’re around some great kids [and] great coaches. Many of us have been together like [Tyrone] Fittje, [Roosevelt] Brown, [Scott] Schutte, [Rick] Zimmer. We’ve been together for 30 years plus. Now we’ve got sons of former players on our team, so it’s been a real blessing. And to see young people work and develop and grow, there’s nothing like it in high school football. There’s nothing like it, and we’ve got kids who have come back from college and everything else and the experience of high school football, which isn’t unique to Casper, it’s all around the country. Friday nights are something that kind of pulls our communities together I think in a lot of ways, and the look in kids’ faces when they’re as Teddy Roosevelt said ‘When they’re in the arena.’ It’s just an unbelievable thing of growth, and I’m really honored and happy to do it.
DG: You guys have, in my opinion, a very talented group coming back this year. What are you most excited about for this year’s team?
SH: First, I think just kind of our whole group is a nice group of kids. We’ve got a nice freshman class that’s joined us that’s working hard. Sophomores, we’ve got nearly 50 sophomores out, and our juniors and seniors are just in that growth that young people make. We’ve made a lot of growth since last year, and I just think we’ve got some experience. Cody Crawford is probably our most experienced, played the most football on our team, our offensive and defensive lines. Kayden Pharr has played a lot. Breckin McClintock, Mason Weickum, Wyatt Powell, Luke Spencer, [and] Colby Harlin are returning starters, but there’s more too. I think it’s a nice senior class. I think the guys that are working together, and it’s a work in progress. We’ll keep getting better every day and get better in the first game and get better and just keep improving as the year goes on.
DG: You talk about getting better each and every day. That’s something a lot of coaches talk about, but what is it that you see in those little details of the day-to-day that show somebody’s improving?
SH: You get what you focus on. Today (Tuesday), we had a couple of things that we wanted to focus on because we could easily think about what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow or next month, but what’s really important is what’s right now that we’re trying to accomplish. Just kind of keeping that focus back. It’s similar things, but the fundamentals are key to all of it and being really good at that. I remember as a first-year coach I was able to go to the Seattle Seahawks camp when they drafted [Brian] Bosworth. I’ll never forget it made an impression on me there was a 30-year-old offensive lineman doing stances and starts every day. He’d done thousands, tens of thousands of them, but that fundamental base can slip away. It’s so important, so we’re always working on that.
DG: In my previous question, you listed a bunch of talented guys. Who is somebody that people should come out and support from this Natrona County team?
SH: First, I think these kids are all good kids. Good people and they’re good students. I think Cody Crawford is one of those kids that has picked up on a legacy that older kids have left of leadership and hard work and accountability that he’s lifted other guys up and made other people better. The kids that were involved in the burn accident. A couple of players on our team that have fought back, and that’s a great story. We’re going to have a boy joining us that just graduated from boot camp last week. He’s probably the second or third that we’ve had over the years. The WHSAA gives him five days of practice for boot camp, so he’ll spend five days with us next week, Landon Pritchard. There are just a lot of amazing stories with kids and many of them of perseverance already that you and were like ‘Holy cow.’ that most people never experience. I think the thing for us is just to keep working and focusing on ourselves and just keep getting better and forming a really strong team.
DG: You guys open the season this Friday at Laramie. What are you looking forward to about this Week Zero matchup?
SH: Laramie and Natrona are probably one of the state’s historic matches. Laramie, Natrona and Casper High, and Cheyenne High, right? The Casper Mustangs, the Cheyenne Indians, and that goes way back, and so we’ve got a lot of history. They had 56 years of father-son coach, the most stable thing, and now they’ve had seven or eight coaches in the last 20 years. Their new coach is in his second year, and I’ll just this about him. He started late in the summer, but his kids played hard, and they played with a lot of energy I thought, and he’s been working all summer. Camps and doing all the stuff, so they’ve put in the time, and they’ve got the talent, and they’ve got the tradition there, and so we look for a very energetic team and the hard part on a first game is you’ve got to kind of be ready for everything. We look at last year’s film and all that stuff, but we’re going to have to adjust and be ready and continue as the game goes on. I know their coach has recruited, got more kids out, he’s got some key athletes that play other sports that have come out for football now and so they’re going to be much improved, much more organized. Like I said, last year they played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, so I’m sure they’ll build on that.
The thing in athletics is you’re always hearing footsteps, and you’re always being humble and working and doing the process, and we’re trying to worry about ourselves mainly.
DG: What’s your favorite part about the season when the games begin?
SH: It’s kind of what we talked about. These summer days are already just in two-a-days you can tell the summer days are getting shorter. The sun’s in a different spot. I noticed today that it was, and it just kind of hit me that it was in a different spot than it was three weeks ago. So as the days start getting shorter and we slip into fall and we start the school year, it’s just really a neat time of year, and so we’re going to enjoy it and we’re going to work hard at it and just continue to get better and support each other and build a strong team. That’s really all we can control. If there are two teams better than us, we can’t control that, but we want to be as absolutely good as we can be.
DG: I appreciate the time. The Mustangs open the season at Laramie on Friday. Thank you and good luck this season.
SH: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate you.
Natrona County will kick off at Laramie on Friday at 6 p.m.
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