I love hopping on Google Maps and planning a trip — whether it’s to British Columbia, Australia, Kazakhstan or somewhere in between — that I will likely never take in my life.
So, once again, it’s time to plan the trip I’ll never take.
This annual version of “what if” always leads me back to Wyoming and the roundabout trip I would take if I had forgotten my job, maxed out my credit card and alienated my wife. This is that trip: the dream Wyoming high school football road trip for 2022:
Week 0 (Aug. 26-27) Casper nine-man jamboree, noon Friday Rock Springs at Kelly Walsh, 6 p.m. Friday Shoshoni nine-man jamboree, 10 a.m. Saturday Right now, five teams are scheduled to be at the Casper jamboree, including defending 1A nine-man champ Shoshoni, so a stop there will help suss out where the season might be headed. Then, to make it easy, let’s stay in Casper to watch last year’s runner-up Tigers face Kelly Walsh. The Saturday slate is jamboree-heavy, so why not another bunch of nine-man scrimmages in Shoshoni?
Week 1 (Sept. 1-3) Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni, 4 p.m. Thursday Kaycee at Hanna, noon Friday Campbell County at Laramie, 6 p.m. Friday Ten Sleep at Encampment, 2 p.m. Saturday There’s no way I’d miss the 1A nine-man title game we missed last year, with Pine Bluffs-Shoshoni at the top of the docket for the week. A little adventuring around the Snowies will give me three games all intriguing in their own right, although none stands out on the can’t-miss list in the preseason (although seeing Ten Sleep in its first game back after missing 2021 is a cool opportunity).
Week 2 (Sept. 8-10) St. Stephens at Wind River, 5:30 p.m. Thursday Snake River at Dubois, 3 p.m. Friday Evanston at Riverton, 6 p.m. Friday Ten Sleep at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday This is a big week in Fremont County, so why not hit up as many games in County 10 as I can? The marquee matchup is Snake River-Dubois, pitting two six-man teams that figure to be near the top of the classification this year. And Midwest is the closest Saturday game, so let’s go for it.
Week 3 (Sept. 15-17) Big Piney at Greybull, 6 p.m. Thursday Lovell at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday Sheridan at Rock Springs, 6 p.m. Friday Lusk at Saratoga, 2 p.m. Saturday It’s an early wake-up call to get from Greybull to Lyman, but it’s worth it to see rematches, plural, of two of the 2021 state title games on the same day. The 2A game is reprised in the Bridger Valley between Lovell and Lyman, while the 4A game sees a do-over in trona country between Sheridan and Rock Springs. Everything else is gravy.
Week 4 (Sept. 22-24) Burlington at Meeteetse, 7 p.m. Thursday Cody at Jackson, 5 p.m. Friday Farson at Dubois, 2 p.m. Saturday After two consecutive 3A title game showdowns, there’s no way I’d miss another Cody-Jackson showdown, especially since this one is the 3A West opener for both teams. I could have snuck in another game with some creative planning, but a one-game Friday is worth it if this is the game.
Week 5 (Sept. 29-Oct. 1) Upton-Sundance at Newcastle, 6 p.m. Thursday Torrington at Tongue River, 2 p.m. Friday Campbell County at Thunder Basin, 7 p.m. Friday Hulett vs. Snake River, at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday I finally get to the northeast corner of the state in Week 5, where I can catch a pair of 2A East games as well as the Coal Bowl. Seems like the right way to spend the week.
Week 6 (Oct. 6-8) Wright at Guernsey, 7 p.m. Thursday Tongue River at Burns, 2 p.m. Friday Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne East, 6 p.m. Friday Snake River at Encampment, 2 p.m. Saturday The Capital Bowl between Central and East is always worth your attention, and the games around it make for a fun week. A thin Saturday slate is highlighted by the six-man title game rematch, though, and Carbon County is now becoming a frequent stop… not that I’m complaining.
Week 7 (Oct. 13-15) Shoshoni at Wind River, 7 p.m. Thursday Cokeville at Thermopolis, 2 p.m. Friday Worland at Lander, 6 p.m. Friday Burlington at Ten Sleep, 2 p.m. Saturday I’m really curious to see how the Fremont County rivals Shoshoni and Wind River stack up against each other this year, so the Thursday game is the one that drove the other choices for the week. That said, everything else is intriguing in its own way — especially as we get closer to the playoffs.
Week 8 (Oct. 20-22) Riverside at Big Piney, 4 p.m. Thursday Lyman at Cokeville, 1 p.m. Friday Star Valley at Jackson, 6 p.m. Friday Kaycee at Farson, 3 p.m. Saturday Numbers won out here. There were lots of great games scheduled for Week 8 across the state, but the most intriguing pair of games that was geographically feasible was the Cokeville-Jackson duo, both of which could have some big postseason ramifications hanging on the line.
In this scenario, I end up seeing 46 of Wyoming’s 64 teams, including 15 teams twice — Rock Springs, Campbell County, Jackson, Lyman, Tongue River, Cokeville, Shoshoni, Wind River, Big Piney, Kaycee, Encampment, Dubois, Meeteetse, Burlington and Farson. I’d also see Ten Sleep and Snake River three times apiece. I’d see eight of the 10 4A teams, seven of 12 3A teams, nine of 15 2A teams, 11 of 16 1A nine-man teams and all 11 1A six-man teams.
I’d also make it to 28 locations, including Jackson, Shoshoni, Wind River, Dubois, Encampment and Midwest twice.
And I’d be broke, so I’d probably start a GoFundMe after Week 8 so I could see the playoffs.
If you want to plan your trip, or at least just see when and where your favorite teams are playing, check out the full 2022 season schedule. Bookmark it — it’s where I will post results all season long and any updates to the schedule.
Class 3A football over the past 30 years is full of legacies.
Star Valley’s four titles in five years from 1992-96, Riverton’s three-peat from 1997-99; Worland’s trio of titles from 2001-03; Buffalo’s 22-0 run from 2004-05; Douglas’ three-peat from 2008-10; Powell’s follow-up three-peat from 2011-13; Star Valley’s four titles in five years (again) from 2015-19… Yeah, 3A has been full of sustained success.
Cody’s place in that pantheon is secure, with titles in 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2021.
Another championship in 2022 is no guarantee, but the Broncs, by every conceivable measure — including perhaps the two most important, returning players and 3A coaches’ preseason picks — are the favorites to win it all again this season.
In a classification where dynasties have come and gone, the big question seems to be not if Cody will win again, but how long the Broncs will stay as 3A’s dominant team.
Four questions to answer
Can anyone stop Cody from three-peating? Only Cody. One of the most amazing statistics of the 2022 offseason pertains to 3A all-state selections. Cody has six of them returning. The rest of 3A has four, combined. The Broncs have the talent not only to be three-time champs but potentially one of the best 3A teams in history.
So no one else even has a chance? Hey, it could happen. And if it’s going to happen, it’s likely to come from Douglas or Buffalo. Those two teams in the 3A East are drawing the most attention as threats to the Broncs’ run, in part because of the talent they return on both sides of the ball. Neither team enters the season as complete as Cody, but they could both end the season that way.
What’s up with the West? After Cody, lots of uncertainty. Jackson and Powell each lost seven all-staters and return zero, and Jackson has a new coach. Green River may be 3A’s most improved team but was 0-8 last year, Evanston has some momentum but graduated a bunch, and Star Valley has a group of players that have been successful at every level except for varsity. As a whole, the conference is down; as a group, it’s as competitive as ever. After Cody.
And out East — still Douglas? Douglas is still the favorite. But Buffalo has been gaining some momentum and returns several key players. Lander has also hosted playoff games in each of the past three years and can’t be overlooked as a threat. However, only one East team (now-2A Torrington in 2018) has reached the title game in the past seven years, so it makes sense the early eyes are out West.
Preseason class MVP
Luke Talich, Cody. The Broncs’ quarterback/safety is drawing considerable attention from colleges, and for good reason. He can hurt defenses with both his arm and his legs, and as a safety he’s one of Cody’s top defensive players, as well. He is the centerpiece of Cody’s three-peat attempt, and for the Broncs, that’s a good thing.
Preseason class breakout player
Chase Stewart, Star Valley. The Braves’ No. 2 receiver last year had a good season — 15 catches, 291 yards, three touchdowns — but they portended a bigger 2022 to come. The fact that the Braves also return their quarterback bodes well for a player who has the potential to be the go-to player in an aerial plan that accentuates big-play opportunities.
Other players to watch
Karson Ewing, Douglas. Last year’s East Conference defensive player of the year will, somehow, have to carry more of the load this fall for a less experienced Bearcats defense that only gets back three of its top 10 tacklers. If anyone is up to it, though, it’s Ewing, who didn’t have huge numbers (39 tackles, 5 TFLs) but caused huge havoc to opposing offenses.
Matt Nelson, Cody. If you didn’t know Nelson before last year’s championship game, you sure knew him after — he’s the one who had two of Cody’s three consecutive pick-sixes in the second half. But this should not have been surprising; the two-time all-stater has made it a habit to have big games in big moments.
Blake Bell, Buffalo. The Bison relied a lot on Bell last year, and he delivered — 37 catches, 829 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 22.4 yards per catch was the best among 3A’s top receivers, but coach Rob Hammond said Bell will be more involved with other aspects of the passing game (think screens and hitches) to take advantage of Bell’s athleticism, to make the Bison more versatile and to keep defenses honest.
Kade Weber, Worland. Weber’s eye-popping number under center is 70.1%, his completion percentage. That kind of absurd percentage is normally reserved for six-man, but Weber put up those numbers when completing 143 of 204 passes for the Warriors last season. With an experienced set of receivers returning with him, those totals could, amazingly, be even better this year.
Four key games
Cody at Jackson, Sept. 23. Although it’s the rematch of the past two Class 3A title games, the two Broncs are trending in different directions — Cody up, Jackson twirling toward freedom. If Jackson can finally get a W in this series, it’ll completely turn 3A expectations upside down.
Star Valley at Powell, Sept. 30.The West is always competitive, but the 2022 season brings a ton of uncertainty to a usually steady conference. How it all shakes out, though, will be determined in great measure by what happens between the Braves and Panthers.
Douglas at Buffalo, Sept. 30.The two early frontrunners in the East have a long and storied history, but Douglas has won 14 of the past 17 in this series and the past two in a row. The Bison’s conference title hopes will hang on this home game.
Worland at Lander, Oct. 14.Both of these teams have been on the 3A margins the past few years — good enough to be taken seriously, not quite ready for a breakout victory that turns them into a true title contender. Whoever wins here could be a big first-round spoiler if fate finally smiles on them.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Douglas; Buffalo; Lander; Worland; Riverton; Rawlins.
West Conference: Cody; Star Valley; Powell; Green River; Evanston; Jackson.
Preseason top five: 1. Cody; 2. Douglas; 3. Buffalo; 4. Star Valley; 5. Lander.
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Cody 36, Douglas 20. November football is always different from August football, and 3A teams have a way of pulling some postseason surprises. Still, the title is Cody’s until someone else does something to show us otherwise that they deserve it.
Where do you rank Cody’s current dynasty among the 3A pantheon — and how would another title this year change that? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.
Some recent site updates, thanks to new information I found through yearbooks and old press clippings:
Torrington beat Lyman, Neb., 34-6 on Nov. 8, 1934, in Torrington.
Noted that the game between Oct. 13 and 16, 1943, between Buffalo and Campbell County was played in Gillette; it’s still on the missing games list because I have yet to pin down a date.
Noted that the Oct. 15, 1966, game between Jackson and the Rock Springs JV was canceled due to snow.
Noted that the Oct. 9, 1956, game between Reliance and Pinedale and the Oct. 11, 1940, game between Ranchester and Big Horn were not played.
Noted that Ranchester’s coach in 1948 was Bert Johnston, not Silas Lyman.
Updated Campbell County’s coaches for 1943. The Camels actually used three coaches that season — Chet Bowen for the first game, Ray Ritter for the next three games, and Ben Dobbs for the final four games. It was war times.
Corrected the spelling for Campbell County’s coach from 1950-52; it was Albert Consbruck.
I’m also working on a separate all-state project, and in that work I’ve corrected a handful of misspellings or players listed with the wrong team in all-state listings. I’ve also added about a half-dozen first names for players who were missing those names on lists. I’m still missing 50 first names on all-state teams from 1920 to 1936.
All of the updates have been made on all the relevant pages.
Wyoming’s newest high school football program will be in Casper.
Casper Christian School, which opened last year, will offer athletics for the first time this year, starting with six-man football and basketball.
CCS became a member of the Wyoming High School Activities Association and will play a sub-varsity six-man schedule this year. The Mountaineers will play Midwest in Week 0 to start the season for both programs. CCS football coach Ryan Harrison said via email the rest of the program’s schedule is in flux, as no other games are set and “we have become many teams’ backup options if another game on their schedule falls through.”
WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said via email Thursday that Casper Christian School will spend this year and next year playing a sub-varsity schedule, “and then will need to show that they have the numbers to sustain varsity level numbers.”
Harrison said about 10 students will make up the football team to start the season, but more could show up as the season starts. He said about 60 students will be enrolled to start the year across the seven grades (6-12) that the school offers. That is up from the 40 students enrolled last year, the school’s first. Home-school students will also be eligible to play sports.
He said he envisions the program growing as the school grows.
“Our expectation is that we will not be a six-man program forever,” Harrison said. “Casper is large enough that we have a lot of room to grow and I foresee us growing to the nine-man and eventually the 11-man levels at some point. Who knows how long that will take and what type of success we will have at the six-man level before that point, but I’m excited to see how everything turns out this year.”
Right now, Harrison said the only other sport on the horizon is boys basketball, but it too will play at the sub-varsity level to start. However, middle-school football and basketball, as well as volleyball, are also in the planning stages.
“At the size we’re at right now, it’s just about the interest our students have and if we can field a team or not,” he said.
CCS shares its building with the Restoration Church on the east side of Casper. It offers classes for sixth through 12th graders.
Don’t call it a transfusion, but Class 2A is going to be ready for some new blood this season.
It should be a year of change, as only seven all-state players will be back this year — and three of those are in Lyman. For perspective, the East Conference only has two such players combined among its eight teams.
Despite all the changes, Lyman still looks to be the favorite after winning titles in both 2020 and 2021. The Eagles return several backs and receivers and, despite some big holes to fill on the line, will have the kind of talent to keep expectations high in the Bridger Valley.
Lyman’s challenge this year is to ascend from flare-up to dynasty. No team in Wyoming’s grouping of the third-largest schools (variously called 2A and 3A, depending on the era) has won three consecutive titles since Thermopolis did so from 1990-92.
The Eagles aren’t immune to the challenges other 2A programs face. They, too, will need to rely on new varsity contributors. It’s just that Lyman’s reliance is quite a bit lower than other programs statewide — and they’re riding the momentum of back-to-back titles.
Four questions to answer
Is anyone beating Lyman this year? Maybe not. A second consecutive undefeated season and third consecutive 2A title will be challenging, of course. But in a year where most other teams are trying to find their footing with new personnel, the Eagles return a ton of contributors who have helped the program win 19 consecutive games. The Eagles are beatable, yes, but it will take a supreme effort from a team on its “A” game — the last two years have proven that.
Who’s got the best chance to do that? Pick ’em. Lovell and Cokeville have gotten a lot of love in the preseason as the West’s best chances to take down the Eagles, Lovell in particular after an 8-6 loss in the championship and enough returners to be a legit contender. Out east, Torrington, Wheatland, Big Horn and others are drawing attention, in part because there are so many new players in key positions that no one is quite sure what to make of it all just yet.
Is anyone else coming out of the East? A tentative no. As noted, only two all-state players return in the entire East Conference — Big Horn QB Cooper Garber and Glenrock RB Logan Jones. The evacuation of talent via graduation leaves the whole East as a toss-up. Torrington’s preseason love comes in part from its reputation as two-time defending conference champs, but the Blazers’ newbies have a lot to prove. Tongue River, Upton-Sundance and Newcastle are in similar positions, while Burns and Glenrock are shifting to new head coaches. Everything’s jumbled, which should make for some really competitive and exciting football, just maybe no one who can threaten Lyman.
Who’s going to surprise in 2022? Kemmerer. The Rangers have only had one postseason appearance in the past nine years but have the look of a team on the rise. They return eight starters from an improved team last year and could be more challenging than their history might indicate.
Preseason class MVP
Ashton Houskeeper, Lyman. The reigning Class 2A offensive player of the year is back for his senior season after leading the Eagles to their second consecutive title last year. He led 2A in total rushing yards, finishing with 1,451 on 222 carries, and scored a classification-high 25 rushing touchdowns. He also threw for 700 more yards — and coach Dale Anderson said he’s getting better with his accuracy — and added 27 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
Preseason class breakout player
Bryce Hager, Torrington. Hager’s offensive numbers can’t help but jump this year as a junior, as the Trailblazers’ leading returning rusher and receiver (164 rushing yards, 131 receiving yards) is potentially moving to quarterback to lead an offense that’s typically balanced and effective. No matter where Hager ends up on offense, he’ll prove equally valuable on defense, where he has already had his breakout season; he was third on the team as a sophomore last year with 74 tackles.
Other players to watch
McKoy Smith, Lyman. Smith was a frustrating matchup for opposing teams on both offense and defense. On defense, he had 61 tackles and led Lyman with 35 solo tackles; he also had a team-high four interceptions. Offensively, he scored 12 total touchdowns and was Lyman’s top receiver with 17 catches for 378 yards (22.2 yards per catch) and five scores.
Logan Jones, Glenrock. Jones was Glenrock’s most consistent offensive weapon in an otherwise frustrating season. Even though the Herders didn’t win a single East Conference game, Jones still led Class 2A with 146.9 rushing yards per game, finishing 2021 with 1,175 yards on 236 attempts. Watch for his touchdown count, only five a year ago, to go up as a senior.
Cael Thompson and Landon Walker, Cokeville. The Panthers’ two returning all-state players actually tied for the team lead in tackles last year, notching 60 apiece. Offensively, Thompson will lead Cokeville’s offensive line while Walker takes the snaps and directs the offense; he had 854 passing yards last year, a total that might go up as the Panthers break in some new running backs.
Cooper Garber, Big Horn. The only other returning 2A all-state player who isn’t from Lyman, Garber is getting ready to start for the third year as the Rams’ quarterback. He’s been solid at that spot, throwing for 1,518 yards and 13 touchdowns last year and 1,276 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore. But the Rams need more than “solid” to make the leap to title contender.
Four key games
Lovell at Lyman, Sept. 16.The Bulldogs and Eagles won’t spend a lot of time reminiscing about their 2021 games — Lyman won both of them, including the state championship — because they make acquaintances, and both new memories and new motivations, in Week 3. It won’t take long for either to set a new pace for the West.
Torrington at Big Horn, Sept. 23. The schedule did no favors to the Trailblazers, who have to make back-to-back trips to Sheridan County in weeks 4 and 5. This is the first of those trips, and the improving Rams will present the first of two consecutive tough road challenges for the Goshen County crew.
Wheatland at Upton-Sundance, Oct. 7.The Patriots had the Bulldogs’ number for several years, but in 2021 Wheatland finally picked up its first victory in the series. With both teams figuring to be in the running for East Conference accolades, this will end up being a must-win for both teams to keep those dreams alive.
Lyman at Cokeville, Oct. 21.If both teams can stay healthy, avoid upsets and capitalize on their talents, the regular-season finale could be the game that decides home-field advantage in the playoffs. But a lot of football will need to be played between then and now, and 2A’s uncertainty this year might show itself both in Week 8 and before.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Torrington; Wheatland; Big Horn; Upton-Sundance; Tongue River; Newcastle; Burns; Glenrock.
West Conference: Lyman; Lovell; Cokeville; Kemmerer; Mountain View; Thermopolis; Pinedale.
For these two classic feline rivalries, at least in terms of Wyoming football, the cats are 1-1.
That’s because in games involving cat mascots, the cats lead the series against the dogs but are behind in the series against the birds.
To clarify: 16 Wyoming high schools with football in their history have, or have had, cats as their mascots. This includes Panthers (Arvada-Clearmont, Cokeville, Manville, Powell, Saratoga, Wright); Tigers (Encampment, Lander, Lusk, Rock Springs); Bobcats (Basin, Thermopolis, Upton); Bearcats (Douglas); Cougars (Wind River) and Wildcats (Albin).
When those teams go up against the teams with dog mascots, the cats usually escape with the victory. The dog teams — Wolves (Green River, Moorcroft, NSI), Bulldogs (Lovell, Sundance, Wheatland), Huskies (Burlington) and Coyotes (Carpenter) — trail in their series with the cats 525-369-27.
When the hunted becomes the hunter, though, the cats aren’t quite as fortunate. Against the bird teams — Eagles (Byron, Glendo, Heart Mountain, Lyman, St. Stephens, Tongue River), Thunderbirds (Cheyenne East) and Hawks (Hawk Springs) — the cats trail 172-181-5.
And you have now completed reading what might be the most ridiculous post I’ve ever put on this blog.
We don’t have to wait long for the drama to emerge in Class 1A nine-man.
In fact, we don’t even have to wait past the season opener.
The 2022 season starts with a rare sight — the top two teams in the preseason playing in the season opener.
Shoshoni, my preseason No. 1, and Pine Bluffs, my preseason No. 2, will play in Week 1 in Fremont County. This game will settle some debates about weekly rankings for the entire season.
But the thing is, by the time everything is said and done, it will mean bupkis. And that’s because Shoshoni and Pine Bluffs aren’t the only teams capable of winning the championship in a year as top-heavy as an F-150 with a refrigerator strapped to the top of the cab.
Class 1A nine-man’s offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, lineman of the year and specialist of the year were all underclassmen. Of the 36 all-state selections, 24 return. And 20 of those are on the four clear title contenders — Shoshoni, Pine Bluffs, Rocky Mountain and Wind River.
Four questions to answer
Is this going to be the best year of nine-man yet? Absolutely. When the four teams from the previous year’s semifinals combine to return 20 all-state players, you know some things are about to go down. That’s what we have with Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Pine Bluffs and Wind River — four teams who, in any other year, might be alone as the odds-on favorites. In 2022, they all have to contend with one another.
What about the other 12 teams? Competitive, but also-rans. Lingle will be significantly improved, Big Piney will be a challenging addition to the West, and Saratoga, Greybull, Lusk and Riverside will all be capable of giving the top teams a tussle. But nine-man will be stratified entering the year, with clear divisions between the top teams and the outsiders.
So who’s gonna take it all? *shrug emoji*. Shoshoni got a lot of love in the preseason as the defending champions, but Rocky Mountain returns a ton of players (both from injury and just in general) and Pine Bluffs has top-tier individual talent that’s harnessed well in a team concept. And Wind River is capable of beating them all. So, like I said…
Is nine-man really this top-heavy, and are the top teams really this even? Yep. Every single game among those top four will be must-see football, and if one of the other 12 programs can pull an upset or two to make it a five- or six-team race, watch out.
Preseason class MVP
Stu Lerwick, Pine Bluffs. No one in the classification is anywhere close to matching Lerwick’s aerial production. Last year, he completed 134 of 211 passes (63.5% completion) for 2,215 yards and 23 touchdowns against only three interceptions — this after throwing for 1,857 yards as a sophomore. The Hornets are loaded with star players around him, so watch for similar success this season.
Preseason class breakout player
Wyatt Campbell, Southeast. How many linemen can turn in a top-three finish in the 100-meter dash? Campbell can — and he’s moving from the line to the backfield because of it. The Cyclones’ new fullback will be part of a Southeast attack that’s refocusing its efforts on speed, with Campbell right in the middle of it all on both offense and on defense as a middle linebacker.
Other players to watch
Pehton Truempler and Alex Mills, Shoshoni. Mills is the returning Class 1A nine-man defensive player of the year, intercepting 11 passes, best in nine-man, and scoring two defensive touchdowns. And on offense, he leads the Wranglers’ offense under center, throwing for 1,181 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. But Truempler tied for the team lead with 100 tackles and, oh by the way, ran for 1,521 yards and 21 touchdowns on his way to Casper Star-Tribune Super 25 first team status. That’s a heck of a duo to try to stop — and they’ve got support.
Nate Minemyer, Rocky Mountain. Named by the coaches as the classification’s top lineman last season, Minemyer made a name for himself on both sides of the ball. He was particularly problematic on defense, where he ran up 74 total tackles but made a bunch of big plays — eight tackles for loss, four sacks, three fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks.
Jaycee Herbert, Wind River. Class 1A nine-man’s top specialist last year, Herbert was equally impactful on offense and defense, too. He led the Cougars with 92 tackles and had a team-high 14 tackles for loss. He also led the team in scoring (13 touchdowns) and in all-purpose offense, with 870 rushing yards, a team-high 117 receiving yards and an average of 21.3 yards per kick return.
Ryan Fornstrom, Pine Bluffs. Somehow, people tend to forget that Fornstrom was a first-team Casper Star-Tribune Super 25 selection last year, along with his teammate Lerwick, and that it’s unheard of not only for a nine-man team to have two Super 25 players, but have them both back. Fornstrom led the Hornets in defensive points and led all of nine-man in catches (38) and receiving yards (647).
Four key games
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni, Sept. 1. Shoshoni’s only loss in last year’s title run was to the Hornets. While the championship rematch the Hornets sought never materialized, this Week 1 showdown will give a good early indication of who’s the favorite in 2022.
Lingle at Lusk, Sept. 9.Lingle just might be the most improved team in 1A nine-man this year, and the Doggers’ hopes for a breakout season may just rest on their East Conference opener. The Tigers present a big challenge in that scenario, but isn’t that the point for a team trying to prove it belongs?
Rocky Mountain at Shoshoni, Sept. 23. This game has significant intrigue not only for the West Conference race but for the entire season, as the Wranglers and Grizzlies reprise their rivalry as well as last year’s state championship game.
Rocky Mountain at Wind River, Oct. 20.Don’t forget about the Cougars — they’re locked and loaded for another deep playoff run. This regular-season finale against the Grizzlies might just be a surprise in waiting.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Pine Bluffs; Lingle; Saratoga; Lusk; Wright; Southeast; Guernsey; Moorcroft.
West Conference: Shoshoni; Rocky Mountain; Wind River; Greybull; Big Piney; Riverside; St. Stephens; Wyoming Indian.
Preseason top five: 1. Shoshoni; 2. Pine Bluffs; 3. Rocky Mountain; 4. Wind River; 5. Lingle.
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Shoshoni 32, Pine Bluffs 28. Honestly, though, no one can say for sure how this will shake out. Any of the top four are completely capable teams, and whoever wins it all in nine-man this year will have absolutely earned their praise.
Who’s your pick for a winner in what is by all accounts the most competitive year of nine-man football since its return in 2020? Which of the top four will it be, or is there a spoiler no one’s thinking of? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.
A former assistant coach for Wright’s linemen will take over for one of Wyoming’s most experienced head coaches this season.
Adam Shankle, who was Wright’s offensive line coach for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, has been selected as the Panthers’ new head coach. He will replace Larry Yeradi, who stepped down after 27 years as the Panthers’ head coach.
Shankle teaches social studies at Gillette’s Sage Valley Junior High. He was selected Thursday, he said in a phone call with wyoming-football.com on Friday.
Shankle moved to Campbell County in 2019 after spending six years as a middle-school line coach in his home state of Ohio. He was a line coach with Sage Valley’s seventh graders last year, he said.
“I’m happy to be back on the sideline in Wright and happy to be back with these boys,” he said. “(I) can’t wait to see what that equates to this season.”
Yeradi said he resigned his football coaching position in part to spend more time with is family and to have the chance to watch his son Dax play football for Chadron State.
Yeradi said he will remain at Wright as co-activities director and head wrestling coach. He will also assist with the football program and with track, as well.
One of Wyoming’s longest-tenured head coaches, Yeradi took over the Wright program in 1995. In his 27 years as head coach, he helped Wright to the playoffs 17 times, including an appearance in the Class 2A championship game in 2005.
Wright was 4-5 last season and was a Class 1A nine-man playoff qualifier.
Yeradi has accounted for more than 70% of the victories in Wright’s program history. He finished with a career record at Wright of 93-139.
The new look in Class 1A six-man in 2022 has little to do with the teams in the classification and a lot to do with how they’re arranged.
For the first time since 2012, six-man teams will be organized into North and South conferences. The change, prompted in part by Guernsey’s departure to nine-man and Ten Sleep’s return, will reduce travel.
It won’t reduce the talent disparity, as the three top teams entering the season (Snake River, Dubois and Encampment) will all move together from the West to the South.
And in one final quirk to the season, conference schedules are front-loaded, with many conference games being played in Weeks 2-4 and the conference season itself ending in Week 7.
In a way, the schedule forces teams to always be on top of their game. But in six-man, where undefeated champs (like Snake River last year) are the norm, not the exception, that’s not unusual.
Four questions to answer
Is anyone catching Snake River? Probably not. Last year’s undefeated state champions return almost everyone, including four all-state players. No one in 1A six-man can come close to that. The Rattlers won’t have it easy — their conference schedule will make sure of that — but to start, everyone’s chasing Snake.
So who can give the Rattlers fits? Encampment and Dubois. The Tigers and the Rams, conveniently new South Conference rivals to Snake River, are the only two teams who return more than one all-stater (each return two). Although Snake handled each of them fairly easily last year, they’ll be competitive and potentially have the athleticism and experience to pull an upset. And Encampment draws the lucky straw on the schedule, getting to play both Snake River and Dubois at home.
What about the North Conference? Not just yet. Burlington should rebound well after a one-win season last year and is the early favorite, and Meeteetse, Midwest and Hulett all look fairly even entering the season. Kaycee could be a spoiler, and Ten Sleep is back. Of the group, Burlington is the one most likely to cause some trouble in the postseason, thanks to all-state QB Seth Wardell and a plethora of athletic players who can catch and run.
What do the coaches think about the new North-South conference setup? Meh. The coaches like that it would reduce travel for most teams, and they liked having a chance to see some new opponents in conference play. Beyond that? A lot of ambivalence in a classification where travel is long and opponents common regardless of any conference separation.
Preseason class MVP
Wyatt Trembly, Dubois. Not too many sophomores lead Class 1A six-man in rushing, but that’s exactly what Trembly did last season with 1,634 rushing yards in 10 games, notching a classification-high 30 total touchdowns. And he was also the No. 2 tackler in six-man with 143 tackles while also notching 18 tackles for loss, four sacks and 17 pass deflections. In a sport that rewards all-around players, Trembly fits that description better than anyone else in the classification.
Preseason class breakout player
Hunter Reilly, Hulett. The Red Devils’ hopes for repeating 2021’s success in 2022 rest on a trio of seniors, and Reilly will be the player Hulett turns to a lot. He is Hulett’s top returning receiver, as his 11 catches went for 313 yards (do the math, that’s more than 28 yards per catch), and he’s also the Red Devils’ top returning tackler on a defense that will need his leadership.
Other players to watch
Kannadis Peroulis, Snake River. Peroulis proved to be the Rattlers’ go-to player on the ground last year, rushing 125 times for 1,571 yards and 21 touchdowns. His 12.6 yards per carry was one of the best marks in six-man. He’s also a solid defensive contributor, notching 72 tackles, two sacks and an interception last year.
Seth Wardell, Burlington. Wardell’s return under center is a big reason why Burlington is expected to have a big turnaround this season. He topped 1A six-man with 233.3 passing yards per game last year and completed almost 62% of his passes last year in the classification’s most productive passing offense.
Quade Jordan, Encampment. As a sophomore, Jordan finished third in rushing in 1A six-man last year, carrying for 1,537 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was third in scoring with 169 points and was second with 27 touchdowns. He also carried his weight on defense, tallying 68 tackles, four sacks and four fumble recoveries.
Joseph Pina, Meeteetse. The Longhorn’s 5-foot-6 junior dynamo was a beast on defense last year, running up 135 total tackles. His coach said Pina can play basically any position on defense — and that’s a good thing, considering he’s the Longhorns’ only all-conference player to return this fall. Pina will also have an expanded role on offense in Meeteetse’s backfield.
Four key games
Snake River at Dubois, Sept. 9. Both teams have championship dreams this season, so it seems a bit weird that this game will be in Week 2 instead of, oh, Week 8. But here we are, and the Rattlers and Rams will have to be on point early in the year to stay atop the West.
Burlington at Hulett, Sept. 10.The direction of the new North Conference will take shape early, as this one is the conference opener for both teams. They staged a classic last season, and this year might bring another.
Snake River at Encampment, Oct. 8.This rematch of last year’s championship game comes right in the middle of the conference season, and if both teams can carry the 2021 momentum into 2022, this one will be a huge one.
Midwest at Meeteetse, Oct. 14.The North Conference schedule ends with three Week 7 games, and none may be bigger than this one between two teams with big desires to prove themselves capable of hanging with anyone.
Predicted order of finish
North Conference: Burlington; Meeteetse; Hulett; Midwest; Kaycee; Ten Sleep.
South Conference: Snake River; Encampment; Dubois; Farson; Hanna.
Snake River 54, Encampment 39. The South’s top three are more or less unanimous across coaches statewide; the order is the question, though. If it’s anyone other than the Rattlers, Tigers or Rams in the title game, be surprised; if it’s anyone but the Rattlers hoisting the trophy, be surprised, too.
Who’s your pick for six-man’s championship? Which teams might pull some surprises? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.
A preliminary heat of the Class 1A girls 100-meter dash at the 1989 state track and field meet may have been the greatest race ever run in Wyoming track and field history.
If you believe the results.
In one heat, an existing class record for the 100 was broken* by four different runners.
First, some context: Michelle Thompson of Encampment had set the record for the 1A girls 100 in the 1987 state track preliminaries with a 13.00. In more than nine years of Class 1A 100-meter dash races at state before that, no 1A runner had ever been below 13.
Encampment senior Brandy James set a new record* by winning her heat in 12.25 seconds, beating the existing record by three-quarters of a second. And Albin senior Chris Brown was only one-one hundredth off that pace with a 12.26.
Also in the heat were Big Horn freshman Dawn Holder, who ran a 12.50, more than a half second faster than the record, and Hanna junior Kim Bonner, who ran a 12.72, whose fourth-place finish in the heat in and of itself would have chopped off more than a quarter-second off the existing record.
In one heat, four runners not only beat* that record of 13.00, they shattered it.
In the other 1A heat, Big Horn’s Anna Hubbard won — with a 13.51, apparently more a second and a quarter slower than the other heat. Albin’s Becca Brown was second at 13.77, Encampment’s Tami Levandowski was third at 14.01 and Hanna’s Sarah Briggs was fourth at 14.55.
In the finals, though, times from these record-setting* runners increased* precipitously. Chris Brown won, with a time of 13.26 — apparently, exactly one second slower than her preliminary time*. James, the record*-setter, finished second at 13.28. Hubbard, the winner of the “slow” heat, finished third at 13.45. Becca Brown was fourth at 13.65, Holder fifth at 13.78 and Bonner sixth at 13.82.
By now, you’ve figured out that this heat was special. Here are the differences between the times* ran in the preliminaries and the times ran in the finals for the top six finishers.
Final heat (place)
Chris Brown, Albin
Brandy James, Encampment
Anna Hubbard, Big Horn
Becca Brown, Albin
Dawn Holder, Big Horn
Kim Bonner, Hanna
“Fast heat” participants are in bold.
Based on the results above, we can surmise that in this “fast” heat, one of three things happened:
Four runners, all in the same preliminary heat, ran the races of their lives and all broke the existing class record by more than a quarter-second each, only to run times that were all at least one full second slower during the championship heat, AND ran times that were more than a second better than anyone else in the second heat, AND ran times they could not even come close to duplicating in the final (or at any other time in their high school careers), OR…
The timing was off for the first heat, and who knows what the times were? OR…
The times were mis-reported as 12-point-whatever instead of 13-point-whatever.
My guess is No. 3. My guess is the record-setting run that James has had credit for the past 33 years was actually a 13.25, a quarter-second off what was the existing record but exactly in line with what she ended up running in the final. My guess is the wrong person has been credited with a state record this whole time.
The Wyoming High School Activities Association, for 33 years, has implicitly said No. 1 is what happened.
Here’s where it gets crazy — this wasn’t the only time the timing failed on a girls 100-meter dash trial IN THIS MEET.
Something equally suspicious happened in Class 3A girls. And that one was caught.
In that classification, four runners in the second preliminary heat of the 100 all turned in 3A record*-breaking times, led by Torrington’s Robyn Young at 11.83 seconds. Following her were Thermopolis’ Betsy Snook (11.97), Wheatland’s Gina Sorenson (12.18) and Jackson’s Jennifer Goetz (12.30).
The existing Class 3A record at the time was the 12.45 run by Wheatland’s Ronda Munger in 1983. Just like in 1A, four girls, all in the same heat, had just destroyed* it.
And Young’s timed 11.83, as well as Snook’s timed 11.97, beat* the existing all-class state record of 11.99, set by Central’s Betty Jackson in 1982.
The winner of the other 3A girls 100 heat, the “slow” heat, was Jackson’s Heidi Eggers, who ran a 12.84.
So, yeah, these times seemed unusual. Sure, Young was the defending Class 3A girls 100-meter dash champion. Her winning time in 1988, though? 13.13.
Young, despite setting the new record*, did not defend her title. The next day, Eggers won the final in 12.99. Young, the record*-setter the day before, ran a 13.11 to finish third; Snook was fourth at 13.48; Goetz was sixth at 13.56.
Just like in 1A, everyone in the “fast” heat in 3A was more than a second slower in the finals than their preliminary time*.
For the second time in a matter of moments, a girls 100-meter dash preliminary resulted in times that were way off.
But only one got attention.
One fraudulent record disappeared from the records. The other remained.
News coverage in the Casper Star-Tribune hinted at the controversy on the day. Here’s part of the story from the CST’s Sally Ann Shurmur (then Michalov) on May 20, discussing the 3A race specifically:
“Although a heathy wind was blowing and gusting throughout the day, Wyoming High School Activities Association Commissioner Mike Colbrese said all times and distances would stand as set, regardless of possible wind aid, because there are no facilities for measuring that at the stadium.
“Colbrese added that several coaches had objected to that decision.”
In retrospect, the coaches had a point. Just the wrong one.
It wasn’t the wind that was pushing runners to amazing times. If that were the case, times across all classifications would have reflected this, for both boys and girls. This didn’t happen. Instead, something threw off the timing system for those two heats.
Further proof of the sketchiness of the times put up in those two preliminary races were the performances of the runners the week before state.
In addition to James and Young, all the other runners in those two preliminary heats in 1A and 3A — Chris Brown, Holder, Bonner, Snook, Sorenson, Goetz — weren’t close to the times they ran* in their preliminary race in their respective regionals, either. For example, James’ winning time at the Class 1A Southwest regional meet the week prior to state was 13.50 seconds. In the same race, Bonner finished third at 14.09. Moreover, from available records and results, none of those sprinters had ever came close to touching those times before, and they never came close to touching them again.
In fact, in the week before the 1989 regional track meets, Cheyenne East’s Shanelle Porter was listed by the Casper Star-Tribune as the leader in the state for girls in the 100-meter dash. Her top time was listed as 12.42. Then at regionals, she ran a meet record 11.99; only Tongue River’s Lacey Cooper (12.45), Kelly Walsh’s Ann-Marie Gosar (12.46), and Young (12.8) were at or below 12.8 in regional finals. The fastest 1A time at a regional was Hubbard’s 13.28 at the Northeast Regional.
So, either four runners obliterating* a 1A record of 13.00 was either a timing mistake, or it was the greatest race in state meet history.
For one heat at state, the mistake was rectified.
The 3A and overall record that Young had broken* did not last. Her record* time was eventually stricken from the WHSAA’s records; when, exactly, is unsure, but it happened sometime between the end of the 1989 meet and the 1990 state meet, where Jackson’s 11.99 was again listed as the overall record. The current Class 3A record time is held by Rawlins’ Kereston Thomas, who ran a 12.12 in 2011. Munger’s 12.45, retroactively reinstated as the 3A record, stood until 2008.
As it turns out, four people really didn’t break the Class 3A record in one preliminary heat, all by healthy margins.
Here’s the thing: Despite what the existing records say, it didn’t happen in Class 1A, either.
James’ time, and the times of the others in her preliminary heat, didn’t get the same scrutiny as Young, for two big reasons. First, Young’s time was for an overall state meet record and James’ record was only for the 1A classification record. The prestige of the overall record drew more scrutiny to it. Second, James’ time came in a preliminary race — it didn’t affect who actually won the individual state championship or any team scores.
Regardless, James’ record still stands.
And we are mistakenly left to believe that this preliminary heat from 1989 is the greatest race in state track and field history — a race where three (and almost four) sprinters put up times that only one Class 1A sprinter, before or since, was ever able to come close to matching.
Here are the 10 fastest* Class 1A girls 100-meter dash times ever run at the Wyoming state track and field meet:
Type of heat
In all 1A heats, the 13-second barrier in the 100 meters has been broken 43 times by 23 runners, and the 12.50 mark has been reached or broken* six times by four runners, as noted above.
Ochsner’s slowest time across two 1A meets was 12.64. She went on to become a Division I sprinter and hurdler, running at both Wyoming and Weber State.
Holiday transferred to Broomfield High School in Colorado for her junior and senior seasons. She’s currently on the track and field team at the University of Oregon, one of the top track programs in the country.
Patch and Riley both ran track at Chadron State.
By all indications, James, Brown and Holder never participated in track and field in college.
The rightful record-holder of the Class 1A 100-meter dash state meet record is Lingle’s Maggie Ochsner.
Ochsner’s winning time of 12.32 seconds in 2007 is the best the state has ever seen at the Class 1A level. A four-time champion in the 100, Ochsner’s 12.32 as a junior broke the record she had set the year before of 12.46, run in the preliminaries; that race broke what should have been the existing record, the 12.70 that Lingle’s Hilary Larson ran in 1996.
Kaycee’s Heather Perry should have gotten credit in 1994 for a state record with her 12.82. That beat the mark set the year before by Pine Bluffs’ Becca Christensen, who had a 12.90 in the preliminaries in 1993 and should have been recognized as the first 1A runner to break 13-flat.
And Thompson’s 13.00 from 1987 should have stood until then.
One kink is that the current iteration of record-keepers has never had anyone question this record and would have a tough time overturning a record that’s been on the books for 33 years. In the 18 years that Ron Laird has been the commissioner of the Wyoming High School Activities Association, he said no one has asked him about the validity of this record (until now).
“We have never had anyone question it, and would have no way of knowing, at this time, if it is not accurate,” Laird said via email this summer.
The 3A and 1A mis-times overshadowed someone who was actually running some record-setting times in 1989: East’s Porter.
A junior at the time, she won the 100, 200 and 400 for Cheyenne East at the 1989 meet, setting state meet records in the 200 (24.86) and 400 (55.86). (By the way, the state championship meet mark Porter set as a senior in 1990 (54.78) still stands as the all-class state meet record.) Her 100-winning time of 12.18 seconds actually was legit.
I wonder: If the “Best of the Best” award were around in 1989 — it didn’t start until 1994 — what would have happened? Would the debate over that award (Young’s sketchy 11.83 or Porter’s legit 12.18) have shined more light on James’ 1A time*?
When reached via Facebook and later contacted via email, James, now Brandy Spinda, did not respond to questions about her performance at the 1989 state track meet.
Regardless, one of the beauties of time, whether it’s 12.25 seconds or 33 years, is perspective. As time passes, we learn, and we gain wisdom from that new perspective.
That perspective is only meaningful, though, if acted upon.
Although the evidence will forever be no more than circumstantial, it’s also hard to overlook because it all points to one critical conclusion — that James’ time, like Young’s, was clearly inaccurate.
Yet, for 33 years on and counting, it still stands as the benchmark for all Class 1A sprinters to try to hit.
Young’s stricken 11.83 is a footnote in the state’s track and field history. James’ 12.25* should be, too.
This post was updated at 5:04 p.m. July 28 to fix an incorrect first name.