For the last couple of years the Laramie Plainsmen have been trying to take that next step on the gridiron. The 2016 season has the potential to be the one.

There’s optimism with seven starters back on both sides of the ball. Laramie also has the only full-time starting QB returning behind center among the ten 4A teams in senior Taylor Dodd. He finished second in 4A in all-purpose yards at 266.2 per game and was Second-Team All-State.

Besides Dodd, senior receiver and defensive back Conor Beeston, senior running back and linebacker Carless Looney and senior lineman Zane Garner are considered ones to watch heading into 2016. All three earned post-season accolades after the 2015 season.

Defense is where the Plainsmen must improve if they have sights set on moving up the standings. Last year LHS was last out the 10 teams in the big school division. They gave-up over 420 yards and nearly 38 points per game.

Fourth-year Laramie head coach Chuck Syverson understands they’ve got to make strides on that side of the ball to contend. He does feel confident in his squad’s ability to play at a high level, but knows Friday’s opener will be a challenge right away.

Sheridan is the defending 4A state champs. The Broncs earned the No. 2 ranking in the preseason Coaches and Media Poll. Sheridan did loose quite a lot of their skill position players, but will return the likes of Jacob Hallam, All-State on the offensive and defensive lines, plus two other lineman and receiver/defensive back Coy Steele. He burned the Plainsmen for a couple of scores last year.

These two teams ranked first (Sheridan) and fourth (Laramie) in offense last year, but the Broncs were superior on defense checking in at sixth.

Laramie will try to snap an 11-game skid against the Broncs. The last Plainsmen victory came in 2005 at Sheridan.

Kick-off is at 6 p.m. from Homer Scott Field Friday night.

KOWB will broadcast the game. David Settle and Ryan Puckett will be call the action. Coverage on KOWB will start at 4:30 p.m.