Ahead of Oil Bowl, Casper Photographer Captures Photos of Senior Mustangs and Their Mamas
For these young men, it's one of the last times they will take the field. It's certainly the last Oil Bowl they'll ever participate in. It's their last season playing football for Natrona County High School and they wanted to commemorate the occasion in the only way that made sense...by taking a picture with their moms.
Luckily, Casper photographer Kristi Fernau-Hack was on hand to to capture these precious moments of the Mustangs and their mamas.
"So the group photo with the senior football players and their moms started a few years ago (I believe in 2019)," Fernau-Hack told K2 Radio News. "I don't think it matters what school your kids may go to, but NCHS mamas are pretty special! I have had two boys myself go thru Coach Harshman's program. The love and respect for the game these boys walk away with is so powerful!"
But it's not just the game that these players have love and respect for. While the NCHS Mustang coaches teach these players how to play football well, they also teach them how to live well. Whether it's Coach Harshman, Coach Grogan, or any of the others, these coaches are teaching their players life lessons, in addition to football plays.
And that's why the team is as close as it is. The familial bond between the players, the coaches, and their families is a strand that cannot be broken. That's why NCHS wanted to allow the seniors to have a photo with their moms; because they know how absolutely vital the mamas are to the entire team.
"The mom's are right there every step of the way, watching our baby boys grow into dedicated and reliable young men," Fernau-Hack said. "The moms hold weekly dinners for the boys with an abundance of food made from nothing but love. I think I can speak for the rest of them when I say that the rest of the world stops, no matter how busy we are, to help feed those players. Many moms have hosted lineman dinners in their homes each week as well. It's a great opportunity for these boys to gather in homes of their friends and teammates for a home cooked meal and talk football, play games, and relax."
It's safe to say that these moms are just as important to the NCHS mustangs as the players and the coaches are, so those in charge wanted to do something that would honor how hard these moms work for their boys. They wanted to give the moms something that they could always look at, with tears in their eyes and pride in their hearts.
I've been asked to take the photos in the past, but was unavailable due to other work obligations with COVID (I'm a respiratory therapist at WMC)," Fernau-Hack said. "So when I had the availabilty this year when I was asked, I jumped at it! My youngest son graduated in 2020, so this is a way for me to sort of relive the amazing memories I have of being a football mama."
But Fernau-Hack didn't want to just grab a quick photo of the players and their moms sitting in the stands. She wanted to give both mother and son (and, in once case, father and son!) something specific; something that was personal and special to them.
"I wanted to do a little more than take a group photo," Fernau-Hack revealed. "So I offered to take individual photos of the boys with their mom (we also had one dad there too), and the moms loved the idea! And we didn't stop there! I told them to do something fun with it! So I took one 'nice' posed photo, and then had them all do something fun for the 2nd photo. Everyone was so grateful and we all had a blast!"
For some of these moms, this is an end of an era. They've spent countless evenings under those Friday night lights, watching their boys play. Maybe they started with midget football, followed by junior high, and then high school. It's been a journey for each and every one of them and, whether the players recognize it right now or not, their moms have been their biggest fans.
For one mom, in particular, these photos meant the world.
Jayce Berry was one of the high school students that was involved in a garage fire earlier this year - a fire that left him with severe burns all across his body, including his right hand and both of his legs. Berry was airlifted to the Children's Hospital in Denver and had to undergo months of treatment. It was a scary time, for him and his mom.
Which is why it meant so much for the two of them to be back in Casper, with Berry getting ready to play the last Oil Bowl if his high school career.
"Taking these photos with Jayce was such a special moment," Angela told K2 Radio News. "After all he has been through this past year, the fact that he is here and healthy and thriving is a blessing. We are so thankful to Kristi Hack for donating her time and talent to allow all of us senior moms to make memories that we will cherish for a lifetime!"
When these players take the field on Friday night for their last Oil Bowl, there will be a lot of mixed feelings. They'll be proud of what they've accomplished, of who they've become. They'll be sad that it's their last Oil Bowl. And, of course, they'll be excited at the prospect of defeating Kelly Walsh and cementing their team as the football team for Casper. But, more than anything, these players will feel loved; not only by the adoring crowd who came to cheer them on. Not only by the cheerleaders or their girlfriends. They will feel loved because for all of their lives, from the moment they were born, they had a number one fan. And their biggest fan is, was, and always will be their moms.
Photos of these Senior Mustangs and their mamas can be seen below: