A trophy of a cowboy throwing a football.
A trophy of a cowboy throwing a football.
Slim MacGuffin

Everyone, meet Slim MacGuffin.

He might just be the next great piece of Wyoming high school football lore.

Right now, Slim belongs in the trophy case at Sheridan High School.

In addition to winning the Class 4A championship this year, the Sheridan Broncs also held onto an important honor they didn’t even know they were playing for — the Wyoming football MacGuffin.

Some of you may have heard of the MacGuffin, which has built a following on Twitter by tracking college football’s most interesting theoretical traveling trophy.

The concept is simple: All you have to do to get the trophy is beat the team that has it.

In this case, we start with the first Wyoming high school football game ever played, and the winner gets a trophy — Slim, in this case. They get to hold onto that trophy until they lose; the team that beats them gets the trophy. That team then holds onto it until they lose. And so on, and so on, and so on.

In the college ranks, there have been more than 1,500 MacGuffin games; the trophy has traded hands 317 times since the first intercollegiate game in 1869, and 93 teams have had the trophy, including the University of Wyoming for a bit, including the entire 1994 offseason.

If we had a Wyoming high school football MacGuffin, though, Sheridan would be the rightful owners of that trophy, at least for now.

Starting with the first game between two Wyoming high schools in 1908 — played on Nov. 3 of that year between crosstown rivals Laramie and University Prep — there have been 907 Wyoming football MacGuffin games, as of the end of the 2022 season. In all, 24 different teams will have held the trophy, and 38 programs will have played in MacGuffin games.

Since 1908, the trophy would have logged some significant miles in every corner of the state. Every Class 4A team except Cheyenne South would have had it at least once. And, oddly enough, it would have been up for grabs in every 4A/5A championship game since 1987.

Here’s a breakdown of the teams who would have had the trophy in their possession, with tallies of how many times they defended the trophy and how many times they beat teams with the MacGuffin to steal it for themselves:

SchoolGames defendedTimes won
Sheridan17628
Natrona11529
Laramie9520
Cheyenne Central8016
Worland724
Campbell County5013
Rock Springs469
Cheyenne East3515
Kelly Walsh196
Thermopolis154
Lander114
Cody103
Powell101
Lovell83
Thunder Basin72
Douglas61
Evanston53
Cowley51
Rawlins42
Torrington21
Green River12
Riverton02
Kemmerer01

For the Wyoming high school version, I limited the potential transfer of the trophy to in-state, varsity teams; we can’t have some out-of-state team taking Wyoming’s MacGuffin with them, and we can’t be giving it to a town team, JV team or college team, either. So it’s only up for grabs in varsity vs. varsity, in-state games.

And here’s a look at how those games have gone, and who’s played in those games:

TeamMacG WinsMacG LossesMacG GamesLast MacGameLast held
Sheridan1727224420222022
Natrona1458022520222019
Laramie1158119620222000
Cheyenne Central918117120222020
Rock Springs557513020222021
Campbell County636412720222016
Cheyenne East507112120222021
Worland76138919771959
Kelly Walsh25487320222005
Cody13304320041977
Thermopolis19214019741947
Rawlins6333919881974
Evanston8253320162007
Lander15163119881974
Riverton2293120081972
Green River3242720102007
Powell11162719771958
Lovell11142519591947
Buffalo018181984never
Torrington3151819661952
Thunder Basin971620222021
Douglas761319841952
Cowley671319351934
Cheyenne South011112022never
Greybull011111959never
Basin0771934never
Newcastle0661932never
Kemmerer14519401932
Star Valley0441998never
Midwest0441952never
Lusk0331969never
St. Mary's0221952never
Superior0221936never
University Prep0221909never
Jackson0111974never
Ten Sleep0111933never
Manderson0111928never
Sundance0111935never

One of the challenges of a traveling trophy like this is that it needs to travel. Due to Class 4A’s round-robin schedule, the MacGuffin has been, and will continue to be unless the schedule changes, the exclusive domain of Wyoming’s big schools. The last interclass game where the MacGuffin was up for grabs was in 1998, when Evanston held onto the trophy by nudging Star Valley 13-7.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of all 907 Wyoming football MacGuffin games.

Even though Slim’s presence in any school’s trophy case is still just theoretical, it’s still fun to look at where Slim may have gone on his travels around the state and which schools, even if only for a week, got to have him in their possession.

–patrick

Here’s a quick overview of some of the pages on wyoming-football.com that saw updates at the conclusion of the 2022 season:

Scoring records: For just the 18th time in state history, two 11-man teams combined to score triple digits, as Cheyenne Central (42) and Sheridan (63) finished just outside the top 10 with 105 combined points scored. It did mark the third highest combined point total in an 11-man playoff game, though, just four points shy of the record.

Burlington finished in the top 10 all-time in single-season scoring with 659 total points, good for ninth.

Cheyenne East and Cody both reached the top 10 in points scored in an 11-man season. East was No. 2 all-time with 553 total points, while Cody was eighth at 531. Oddly enough, neither one won a state title. Cody’s 48.27 points per game, meanwhile, finished fifth in state history for 11-man teams.

On the flipside, Guernsey-Sunrise’s 66.13 points allowed per game ranked 10th all-time in most points allowed in a season.

Streaks: Cody’s 26-game winning streak, which came to an end in the Class 3A title game, finished tied for eighth among Wyoming’s longest winning streaks. And Lyman’s 20-game winning streak, which ended early in the season, finished in a tie for the 22nd longest. Snake River, meanwhile, enters the 2023 season on a 21-game winning streak, good for 19th-longest in state history.

Cheyenne South’s 29-game losing streak, however, is tied for the sixth-longest losing streak in state history. Pinedale has now lost 22 games in a row, a streak that’s tied for 20th-longest.

Snake River’s scoring streak moved up to second-longest in state history at 137 games; however, the Rattlers have a ways to go to break the state record of 175. Sheridan, meanwhile, has scored in 95 straight games entering 2023, the eighth-longest scoring streak in state history.

Cokeville had its 35th consecutive winning season and its 37th consecutive non-losing season, both continuing state records. Sheridan’s 16th consecutive winning season, though, moved the Broncs up into a tie for second-longest such streak in state history behind Cokeville.

Laramie’s 22nd consecutive losing season moved the Plainsmen into a tie for the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons. Moorcroft is now tied for fourth on that list with 14 losing seasons in a row, with Worland and Wyoming Indian tied at sixth with 13 and Cheyenne South and Wright tied for ninth with 12.

Individual records: Several players notched games or seasons worthy of the individual records page. They included:

  • Receiving yards in a season: Star Valley’s Wyatt Crogg set a new individual single-season receiving record with 1,253 yards, beating the old record set by Jackson’s Nate Keipert last year by 43 yards. And Thunder Basin’s Kayden LaFramboise put up the No. 3 season all-time with 1,151 yards. In nine-man, Pine Bluffs’ Ryan Fornstrom also broke the single-season record with 1,084 yards. Three other players made the top eight with Shoshoni’s Trey Fike (509), Lingle’s Louden Bremer (482) and Moorcroft’s Chaz Dewey (478). Nine-man records are from 2020-22 only.
  • Passing yards in a season: Three players cracked the top 10, including Star Valley’s Taft McClure in second (3,294 yards), East’s Cam Hayes in sixth (2,867 yards) and Thunder Basin’s Alonso Aguilar in ninth (2,575 yards). In nine-man, Pine Bluffs’ Stu Lerwick broke the single-season record with 2,226 yards, breaking his own record from last year by 11 yards. Shoshoni’s Alex Mills was fifth with 1,403 yards, while Rocky Mountain’s Carsyn Weber was seventh at 1,190 yards. In six-man, Burlington’s Seth Wardell posted the No. 9 season all-time with 1,469 yards.
  • Rushing yards in a season: Dubois’ Wyatt Trembly set a single-season rushing record in six-man with his 2,502-yard effort of a season, beating the old mark by 194 yards. Sheridan’s Colson Coon finished fourth all-time in 11-man with 2,195 rushing yards. In nine-man, Shoshoni’s Pehton Trueumpler had the No. 2 all-time season with 2,080 yards, while Wind River’s Cooper Frederick was No. 3 all-time with 1,919 yards.
  • Rushing yards in a game: Sheridan’s Colson Coon and Wind River’s Cooper Frederick each set rushing records in their respective areas. Coon’s 29 carries for 517 yards against Cheyenne Central set the state’s all-time 11-man rushing mark, while Frederick’s 549 yards on 61 carries against Southeast set the state’s all-time nine-man rushing record.
  • Passing yards in a game: Five of the top 10 single-game passing performances in 11-man history came in 2022. Three came from Star Valley’s Taft McClure, who finished in third (480 yards), fourth (448 yards) and fifth (429 yards) for his performances against Powell, Cody and Riverton, respectively. East’s Cam Hayes had the No. 9 performance all-tie with 420 yards against Sheridan, while Thunder Basin’s Alonso Aguilar tied for 10th with a 419-yard game against East. Pine Bluffs’ Stu Lerwick finished with the No. 4 and No. 5 all-time passing games in nine-man with 314 and 312 yards against Lusk and Moorcroft, respectively.
  • Receiving yards in a game: East’s Garet Schlabs set a single-game record for receptions with 19 catches against Sheridan. Thunder Basin’s Kayden LaFramboise finished tied for fifth all-time in single-game receiving yards with 242 yards, on 16 catches, against East. In nine-man, Pine Bluffs’ Ryan Fornstrom was fourth all-time with 187 yards against Moorcroft, while Moorcroft’s Chaz Dewey was fifth with 163 yards against Saratoga.

Coaching: Four coaches cracked the 50-victory barrier for their careers and entered Wyoming’s top 100 list for total victories for coaches — Shoshoni’s Tony Truempler, Buffalo’s Rob Hammond, Sheridan’s Jeff Mowry and Snake River’s Jack Cobb. They are all among the top 18 active coaches in the state in career victories in Wyoming. Barring retirements, Natrona’s Steve Harshman (227 victories), Southeast’s Mark Bullington (165 victories) and Douglas’ Jay Rhoades (130 victories) will enter 2023 as Wyoming’s top three active coaches in career in-state victories.

State champions: Sheridan’s 29th state championship continued a Bronc state record.

Weekly rankings: Of the five state champions, only Class 1A six-man Snake River completed a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1-ranked team in the state. Meanwhile, both Class 2A Big Horn and Class 3A Star Valley won a title despite not being ranked first at any point during the season.

Finally, Wyoming’s newest football program, the Casper Christian Mountaineers, saw their team page go up at the end of the 2022 season — too late for the season but just in time to start chronicling their history.

–patrick

Riverton football coach Troy Anderson was fired from his position on Monday.

Anderson, the Wolverines’ head coach the past three seasons, said via telephone to wyoming-football.com on Wednesday that he was caught by surprise by the move.

Anderson said he was given no reason for the firing “other than a change of direction.”

“I wish I had a chance to finish the job,” Anderson said.

Riverton activities director Reggie Miller declined to give specifics for the reason for Anderson’s hiring when reached via email Wednesday. Miller said the position would be opened and candidates considered, “and (we’ll) make a decision when the time allows.”

The Wolverines have gone 1-8 the past two seasons as members of the Class 3A East Conference; they were 4-6 in Anderson’s first season, 2020. 

Anderson said he will continue to stay in Riverton and teach as a special education and social studies teacher at Riverton High School. He said he may continue to coach in Fremont County, but nothing was definitive. 

“I think there will be some football options available for me,” he said. 

Anderson said he had good support from the majority of the community, and that he learned and logged lots of lessons about working with people. 

“(I) love the dudes – players first, always,” he said. 

Green River is also searching for a head coach for next season. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Seven three-time selections highlighted the Wyoming Coaches Association’s 2022 all-state football teams, released Sunday.

The all-state listings were first published by WyoPreps.

Three-time selections included Cody’s Matt Nelson and Luke Talich, Lusk’s Dayne Lamp; Lyman’s McKoy Smith; Pine Bluffs’ Stu Lerwick and Diego Paniagua; and Rocky Mountain’s Nate Minemyer. All are seniors.

Another 43 players were selected all-state for a second time. Two-time first-team all-state selections included Big Horn’s Cooper Garber; Buffalo’s Blake Bell; Burlington’s Seth Wardell; Cheyenne Central’s Keagan Bartlett; Cheyenne East’s Trevor Eldridge and Garet Schlabs; Cody’s Grayson Beaudrie, Remy Broussard, Jace Grant and Jackson Schroeder; Cokeville’s Cael Thompson and Landon Walker; Douglas’ Karson Ewing; Dubois’ Wyatt Trembly and Ryan Wells; Encampment’s Quade Jordan; Glenrock’s Logan Jones; Greybull’s Jake Schlattmann; Lander’s Matisse Weaver; Lyman’s Braydon Bradshaw; Meeteetse’s Joseph Pina; Natrona’s Breckin McClintock; Pine Bluffs’ Ryan Fornstrom and Dalton Schaefer; Rock Springs’ Carter McBurnett; Rocky Mountain’s Carsyn Weber; Sheridan’s Colson Coon; Shoshoni’s Cannon Campbell, Korbin Dewitt, Trey Fike, Dom Jarvis, Jaxon Stanley and Pehton Truempler; Snake River’s David Hernandez, Seth Maxson, Hadley Myers and Kannadis Peroulis; Star Valley’s Derek Astle; Wind River’s Cooper Frederick, Tucker Jensen and Calder Johnson; and Worland’s Brock Douzenis and Kade Weber.

All players but Weaver and Douzenis were 2021 first-team selections; Weaver and Douzenis were chosen in 2020.

Of the two-time selections group, Trembly, Jordan, Pina and Frederick are juniors; the rest are seniors.

Full all-state listings for this year are available here. If any names are misspelled, please let me know; leave a comment on this post, and I’ll get it fixed.

Full listings of Wyoming’s all-state teams by decade back to 1920 are here.

–patrick

Here’s a quick overview of the 2022 fall high school sports seasons in Wyoming, aside from football, as updated to champlists.com:

Golf: The girls golf teams from Kelly Walsh (473) and Sheridan (484) posted the two best team scores ever seen at the state meet. They both beat the old record of 489 set by Sheridan last year. Natrona, which finished third at 501 strokes, finished tied for the seventh-best round ever by a team at state.

Individually, three players — Riverton’s Parker Paxton on the boys side and Lovell’s Erika Cook and Upton’s Brooklyn Materi on the girls side — won their third consecutive individual championships. Paxton is one of six boys to ever accomplish at least three state titles, while Cook and Materi are two of just six on the girls’ side. Paxton and Cook will return next season in attempts to become just the third boy and third girl to finish with four individual golf championships.

Kelly Walsh’s Josh Lane won the 4A boys title and Thermopolis’ Hadley Johnson won the 2A boys. Sheridan’s Samantha Spielman won her second 4A girls individual title (also winning in 2020).

Jackson and Riverton each won their second consecutive boys title, while Thermopolis’ boys won their fifth consecutive boys title. Kelly Walsh won the 4A girls, while Wheatland (3A) and Upton (2A) each won their second striaght.

Tennis: The Kelly Walsh girls won their second consecutive title and eighth overall to move into a tie for second place for most state tennis championships with Sheridan. Central leads with 16 overall. Gabriella Blumberg was the only repeat singles champion, winning No. 1 singles after winning No. 2 singles last year.

The Jackson boys win their fifth tennis title, with Cheyenne South’s Andrew Lock winning the No. 1 singles individual title.

Cross country: Saratoga’s Grant Bartlett won his fourth consecutive Class 2A championship, and in doing so became the first boy in Wyoming history to win four cross country individual titles. Mountain View’s Owen Burnett won his second consecutive 3A title and Star Valley sophomore Habtamu Wetzel won the 4A championship. Star Valley, Mountain View and Rocky Mountain/Burlington won team titles for the boys.

Three first-time champions were among the girls ranks with Cheyenne Central’s Sydney Morrell (4A), Lander’s Ameya Eddy (3A) and Moorcroft’s Mallory Jones (2A) winning individual titles. Central and Saratoga won their second consecutive team titles, while Cody won its fourth straight.

Volleyball: Wyoming had four new champions, as none of 2021’s title teams repeated. Riverside won its first championship in school history in its first year in 1A, while Burns won the 2A title and its third in school history after moving from 3A. Mountain View and Lyman played each other for the second consecutive year in the 3A title match, with Mountain View coming out on top this year to win its fifth team title. And in 4A, Kelly Walsh became just the third program in the state to crack-double digit championships with its 10th by winning the 4A title. (Cokeville has 25 titles and Pine Bluffs 12.)

In all, 11 players were named all-state players for the third time: Big Horn’s Saydee Zimmer, Cheyenne East’s Elysiana Fonseca and Boden Liljedahl, Kaycee’s Sierra Kilts, Kelly Walsh’s Abi Milby and Peyton Carruth, Laramie’s Maddy Stucky, Natrona’s Megan Hagar, Riverside’s Caroline Schlattmann and Vaidyn VanderPloeg and Thunder Basin’s Joelie Spelts. Zimmer and Stucky are juniors; the others are seniors.

Girls swimming: Laramie and Lander continued their dynasties, as Laramie won its sixth consecutive title and Lander won its sixth in seven years.

Cody’s Tara Joyce became the 31st girls swimmer in state history to win at least six individual championships with victories in the 200 and 500 freestyle events.

Remember to check out champlists.com for a ton of historical information on Wyoming high school sports.

–patrick

Three of Wyoming’s five state football championship games in 2022 were one-possession games, providing enough thrills for a weekend that all too often has been lacking them.

The Class 3A, 2A and 1A nine-man championship games were decided by seven, one and six points, respectively, and the 2A and 1A nine-man games were decided by scores in the final minute of their games.

Meanwhile, the 4A game was close until Sheridan pulled away late… and the 1A six-man game was great if you appreciate the dominance of an excellent team.

Here’s a brief recap of 2022’s final games.

Class 4A

The first half was even; the second half was all Sheridan. In winning their 29th state championship, the most of any program in Wyoming, the Broncs overcame a 14-10 deficit and went on a 24-3 run after the break, the impetus of a 34-23 victory. The run was capped by Colson Coon’s 30-yard pick-six, which extended Sheridan’s lead to three possessions (34-17) with less than six minutes remaining.

Coon finished with four touchdowns, four extra points and two field goals; he scored all 34 of Sheridan’s points.

Class 3A

Derek Astle’s 17-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter provided the winning margin in Star Valley’s 14-7 victory against Cody, a game that gave Star Valley its 13th state championship and its fifth since 2015.

Cody’s 26-game winning streak came to an end, and the Braves thwarted the Broncs’ three-peat attempt. The Broncs had three turnovers, including two on muffed punts. The Braves’ defense, meanwhile, held Cody to just seven points, significantly less than Cody’s average entering the championship game of 52.4 points per game.

The Broncs played without quarterback/defensive back Luke Talich, who broke his collarbone in last week’s semifinals.

Class 2A

Big Horn only led the Class 2A championship game for 11 seconds, but they were the right 11 seconds. The Rams got a 61-yard touchdown pass from Cooper Garber to Dawson Richards for their first score of the game with 11 seconds remaining — capping a 98-yard drive in less than two minutes, with no time-outs.

Then the Rams went for the victory, and how. With a reverse pass from Avon Barney to Garber, who started the play by taking the snap, then sneaking out to the short left corner of the end zone, the Rams scored and took an 8-7 lead. That score that ended up being the final margin.

Class 1A nine-man

Dalton Schaefer’s 13-yard touchdown with 53 seconds remaining was the difference as Pine Bluffs beat Shoshoni 33-27 to win the 1A nine-man title.

In a back-and-forth game, the late score broke a 27-all tie and sealed Pine Bluffs’ third championship in program history. The Hornets finished the season 11-0. Shoshoni, meanwhile, finished 9-2, with both losses to Pine Bluffs; the Wranglers lost in Week 1 in a game that finished with an almost identical final score (34-26) to the title game.

Schaefer also scored on the first offensive play of the game on a 61-yard touchdown run to give Pine Bluffs the early lead, but Shoshoni took a 20-13 lead heading into halftime.

Class 1A six-man

Saturday’s first game was competitive for about a quarter. After that, it was all Snake River. The Rattlers won their second consecutive championship and 21st game in a row after blowing out Burlington 55-8.

Burlington scored first and led 8-0, but Snake River ran off the game’s final 55 points, sneaking into a running clock late in the fourth quarter.

The Rattlers won their fifth state title in program history and their third in four years.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 2-3 (40 percent). This season: 270-44 (86 percent). 18-year overall mark: 4,355-1,043 (81 percent).

Full site updates for all the pages will begin Sunday and end… who knows? Whenever I get it done.

+++

That’s it. The 2022 season is done. Seniors — thank you. You’ll never forget it. Underclassmen — only 267 (4A) or 274 days until the first practice of 2023.

If you’ve got some thoughts on 2022, 2023, 1938 or really anything in between, leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

The lack of surprises in the first two rounds, and the lack of surprises as to who’s playing in War Memorial Stadium this weekend, has been one of the big takeaways of the 2022 season.

Look at the teams playing in this week’s title games. Every one except Burlington entered the playoffs ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in their respective classifications in the final WyoPreps Coaches and Media Football Poll of the season — and Burlington was ranked third. Of Wyoming’s nine regular-season conference champions, eight are playing this weekend.

Five of the 10 teams playing this week were also in the title games last year; four (Sheridan, Cody, Shoshoni and Snake River) are the defending state champs in their respective classifications.

Everyone here deserves to be here. Nothing flukey or weird or surprising brought any of these teams to the precipice of a championship. They all showed exactly what’s possible when talent and timing combine to get the best out of a team.

We’ll see how that continues into Wyoming’s two-day football fest in Laramie. Here’s a glance at some of the key things to look for in this weekend’s championships, and some picks to consider:

Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Cheyenne East (2, 10-1) vs. Sheridan (1, 11-0)
Series record: Sheridan leads 31-15.
Last meeting: Sheridan beat Cheyenne East 42-39 on Sept. 30 in Sheridan.
Last playoff meeting: Cheyenne East beat Sheridan 31-21 on Nov. 6, 2020, in a Class 4A semifinal game in Cheyenne.
State championships: Cheyenne East five, most recently in 2020. … Sheridan 28, most recently in 2021.
Previous title game record: Cheyenne East, 5-3. … Sheridan, 18-7.
The path to the title game: Cheyenne East took care of Rock Springs 49-24 in the quarterfinals and held off a Natrona rally to win 55-36 in the semifinals. … Sheridan thumped Laramie 52-27 in the quarterfinals and outscored Cheyenne Central 63-42 in the semifinals.
The case for the Thunderbirds: Even though Sheridan is the undefeated team, a compelling argument exists that East has been the most dominant 4A team this year. In East’s 10 victories, none has been closer than 10 points. Their diverse offense moves the ball and scores points in bunches; if the T-Birds can hit their average and score 48 points in the title game, they’ll finish with 11-man’s all-time top-scoring offense in state history. Their only slip, that three-point loss in Sheridan, will be neutralized a bit by both revenge and the lack of home-field advantage that comes with playing at The War.
The case for the Broncs: Sheridan has been a charmed team all season; not too many teams that rank fourth in total offense and fifth in total defense go through a season undefeated. But Sheridan knows how to win. In one-possession games, the Broncs are 4-0, winning twice by three points, once by six and once by seven. Ultimately, that’s what separates Sheridan from other teams — they always play their best when their best is required. Oh, and they have a senior running back in Colson Coon who’s coming off a 519-yard rushing effort in the semifinals. Yes, you read that right.
The pick: It’s been a few years since we’ve had a 4A championship game come right down to the wire and the final possession. This could be the game that breaks that streak. Both teams are talented, experienced, savvy, motivated, well-coached, prepared… and you can’t ask for anything more than that. If it’s anything like the first game between these two, it’ll be worth the ticket price. Cheyenne East 44, Sheridan 41.

Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Star Valley (2W, 9-2) vs. Cody (1W, 10-0)
Series record: Star Valley leads 25-13.
Last meeting: Cody beat Star Valley 35-25 on Oct. 7 in Afton.
Last playoff meeting: Cody beat Star Valley 24-17 on Nov. 5, 2021, in a Class 3A semifinal game in Sheridan.
State championships: Star Valley 12, most recently in 2019. … Cody seven, most recently in 2021.
Previous title game record: Star Valley, 11-10 … Cody, 7-5.
The path to the title game: Star Valley eased past Lander 41-7 in the quarterfinals before taking out Douglas on the road 48-27 in the semifinals. … Cody blasted Worland 63-14 in the quarterfinals and crushed Buffalo 42-7 in the semifinals.
The case for the Braves: If any 3A can stand up to Cody, it’s Star Valley. The Braves gave the Broncs a tussle a month ago before losing by 10, a moral victory if you believe those kinds of things exist. The offensive area the Braves excel at — passing, where they lead 3A — hits a Cody weak spot, as the Broncs rank 10th out of the 12 3A teams in pass defense (likely because all Cody’s opponents pass more because they get behind so quick, but still…). Aside from losses to Cody and to Sugar-Salem, Idaho, which is the top seed in Idaho’s 3A playoffs, the Braves have been dominant in every other game this season. They’ll be ready.
The case for the Broncs: Regardless of what happens Friday, this Cody team will go down as one of the best 3A teams ever. The Broncs are loaded with individual talent, to be sure, but what separates Cody from other talented teams is how they use that talent within a system that gets contributions from everybody on the roster. It sends opponents on an endless game of whack-a-mole; stop one guy, another burns you. Not many teams have 18 guys who have scored a touchdown, but Cody does. And teams with the top-ranked offense and the top-ranked defense in a classification tend to do well.
The pick: It’s hard to talk about this title game without a bit of speculation. Cody’s extraordinary two-way player Luke Talich was injured in the semifinals against Buffalo, and his status is uncertain for the title game. While Talich’s presence, or absence, changes things, it’s the idea that Cody could continue to thrive even without him that tilts the balance of this game. … Cody 30, Star Valley 21.

Class 2A, noon Friday
Lovell (1W, 10-0) vs. Big Horn (1E, 9-1)
Series record: Big Horn leads 5-4.
Last meeting: Lovell beat Big Horn 14-7 on Sept. 2 in Big Horn.
Last playoff meeting: Big Horn beat Lovell 23-12 on Oct. 31, 2014, in a Class 2A quarterfinal game in Big Horn.
State championships: Lovell two, most recently in 2011. … Big Horn seven, most recently in 2019.
Previous title game record: Lovell, 2-6. … Big Horn, 7-10.
The path to the title game: Lovell moved past Newcastle 47-14 in the quarterfinals and outplayed Cokeville to win 28-7 in the semifinals. … Big Horn won a pair of thrillers, rallying to beat Mountain View 28-26 in the quarterfinals and holding tough defensively to beat Lyman 7-0 in the semifinals.
The case for the Bulldogs: The last remaining undefeated team in Class 2A handed Big Horn its only loss of the season, a 14-7 thriller that necessitated a late goal-line stand from Lovell to win. The consistency afforded by having 2A’s No. 2 offense and No. 3 defense has led the Bulldogs to steady improvement throughout the season. Since Ws the first three weeks against Big Horn, Cokeville and Lyman, the Bulldogs have barely been challenged from any opponent. Throw on the fact that the Bulldogs have had the Laramie experience, losing 8-6 in last year’s 2A title game to Lyman, and Lovell won’t be caught wide-eyed at The War.
The case for the Rams: What a rebound season the Rams have had. After a scruddy-looking 3-6 season last year, Big Horn was back with a vengeance in 2022. They’ve run off nine consecutive victories to make it to Laramie, including three close games in the past month — 14-0 over rival Tongue River for the East championship and the two aforementioned playoff games. With 2A’s top offense, the Rams should feel confident that they can put up the yards and points necessary to hang with anyone. Combine those two things — mental momentum and physical prowess — and it’s easy to see why the Rams are absolutely a threat to win it all.
The pick: How in the world can someone say this game will be closer than the last time these two met? They actually finished within 8 yards of each other in total offense in that first matchup (Big Horn 222 yards, Lovell 214). Yet somehow I think this one will be. Much like last year’s 2A title game, this year’s game may come down to hits their conversions. … Lovell 21, Big Horn 20.

Class 1A nine-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Shoshoni (1W, 9-1) vs. Pine Bluffs (1E, 10-0)
Series record: Pine Bluffs leads 5-3.
Last meeting: Pine Bluffs beat Shoshoni 34-26 on Sept. 1 in Shoshoni.
Last playoff meeting: Shoshoni beat Pine Bluffs 48-6 on Oct. 30, 2020, in a Class 1A nine-man quarterfinal game in Shoshoni.
State championships: Shoshoni three, most recently in 2021. … Pine Bluffs two, most recently in 2017.
Previous title game record
: Shoshoni, 3-0. … Pine Bluffs, 2-3.
The path to the title game
: Shoshoni whitewashed Lusk 53-12 in the quarterfinals and had little trouble with county rival Wind River 40-6 in the semifinals. … Pine Bluffs stopped Big Piney 45-16 in the quarterfinals and outscored Rocky Mountain 35-32 in the semifinals.
The case for the Wranglers: The defending 1A nine-man champions have been here before, obviously. The difference between last year and this year is that this year, they actually have to meet the Hornets in the playoffs. But Shoshoni should draw strength and confidence from experience and last year’s success in Laramie. Although nine-man’s No. 2 offense and No. 4 defense by yardage, the Wranglers are better than the stats show. A senior-laden team responded to the challenge of a loaded West Conference schedule, and the only setback — 34-26 to Pine Bluffs in Week 1 — will provide all of the motivation necessary.
The case for the Hornets: The big question entering the playoffs was if Pine Bluffs’ regular season had toughened up the Hornets enough for a deep playoff push. After last week, we can now say it was. After cruising through the regular season barely bothered, the past two weeks — particularly last week’s 35-32 nail-biting victory against Rocky Mountain — have shown Pine Bluffs hasn’t gotten soft against a soft schedule. Oh, and the numbers stack up well: Pine Bluffs outgained its opponents this year by more than 300 yards per game. Let that number sink in.
The pick: The title game we didn’t get last year is on the docket this year, and fortunately both teams appear to be at their best. The Week 1 game provided a good indication of how this one will go. Neither team will shy away from the challenge presented by the other. A big play, either in the first quarter to gain a mental edge or in the fourth quarter to break open a stalemate, might be what decides this one. … Pine Bluffs 32, Shoshoni 28.

Class 1A six-man, 10 a.m. Saturday
Snake River (1S, 10-0) vs. Burlington (1N, 9-1)
Series record: Snake River leads 5-1.
Last meeting: Snake River beat Burlington 68-16 on Sept. 17, 2021, in Burlington.
Last playoff meeting: First meeting.
State championships: Snake River four, most recently in 2021. … Burlington two, most recently in 1994.
Previous title game record: Snake River, 4-1. … Burlington, 2-2.
The path to the title game: Snake River made it look easy, wiping out Hulett 65-6 in the quarterfinals and doing the same to Encampment 71-8 in the semifinals. … Burlington beat up on Farson 56-6 in the quarterfinals and jumped all over Dubois 77-28 in the semifinals.
The case for the Rattlers: After steamrolling their way to an undefeated championship last season, and then returning a bunch of key players from that team, sometimes it’s seemed like all Snake River had to do this year was roll out the football, put on their jerseys and go. It hasn’t been that easy, certainly, but in rolling up 10 victories Snake River has only had one game decided by less than 33 points. Seven victories have come by 45 or more. The Rattlers particularly stand out on defense, where they have given up just 93 points and lead six-man in fewest yards allowed, giving up just 3.9 yards per play (an unheard-of low number in six-man).
The case for the Huskies: After finishing 1-6 last season, Burlington figured to be a much-improved team in 2022. With most of their players coming back, how could they not? Well, the Huskies have been that and more this year, rampaging through the North Conference and avenging their only loss of the season (to Dubois) emphatically last week. They lead six-man in passing and 14 different players have receiving touchdowns this year. And their defense bends but doesn’t break; they give up yards but not points, a good thing when the name of the game is to score more points than the opposition.
The pick: Burlington’s turnaround season has been amazing to watch. The Huskies are absolutely deserving of all the accolades they have received, and will. In any other year, a championship would be Burlington’s destiny. This year, though? Burlington has the misfortune of running up against one of the best six-man teams we’ve seen. Snake River is a talented, experienced group that knows exactly what it needs to do in games like this. … Snake River 54, Burlington 36.

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Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 8-2 (80 percent). This season: 268-41 (87 percent).

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We’ve reached the last week of the 2022 season. Give us a hot take: What do you know now that you didn’t in August? Drop some insight on us. Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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–patrick

Note: This is the seventh and final in a series of stories about some of Wyoming’s biggest high school sports underdogs.

Kemmerer’s boys basketball came into the 1977 Class A West Regional tournament after an 8-10 regular season that was beset with injury and inconsistency.

Somehow, the Rangers won three straight at regionals and carried that momentum to win three straight at state, a six-game run that no one expected, least of all the Rangers.

The Rangers played well against good teams but struggled against not-so-good teams, said John Scott, who was a senior on the team and now is the head football coach at Lander.

“We rode the tides,” Scott said. “When things were up, we looked great, but when they were down we looked terrible.”

The team was also adjusting to new coach Glenn Murray, who came to Kemmerer straight after college after growing up in Potsdam, New York. Previously, the Rangers had been coached by Vince Guinta and Todd Dayton, two hall-of-fame coaches in their own right who were in many ways opposites in their approaches — Guinta in-your-face, Dayton composed.

Murray fused the talent and the coaching styles to get the most from his players in Kemmerer. However, that fusion didn’t come until the postseason.

Entering the regional tournament, the Rangers knew they could play well, but Scott said “it wasn’t like we said, ‘Hey, this is our last chance,’ any of those ‘Hoosier’-type stories.”

Instead, the Rangers didn’t over-think, and Murray didn’t over-coach. Kemmerer won three straight, beating a two-loss Lovell team in the semifinals and then handing defending Class A champion Star Valley its first loss to a Wyoming team that season in the championship.

“And then we’re the regional champs, regional champs at 11-10,” Scott said. “I think it was the first time all year we were over .500.”

Even after winning the West Regional, Kemmerer was still an underdog.

Glenrock entered the tournament at 19-1 and was, along with defending champion Star Valley, the pre-tournament favorite.

Kemmerer drew Buffalo in the first round, playing a game that started at 10 p.m. in the university’s Fieldhouse in Laramie. The Rangers started slow and trailed by eight midway through the third quarter. Then Kemmerer kicked into gear, using a full-court press to rally and win 65-60.

The Rangers played Lovell, again at 10 p.m., in the semis, a rematch of the regional semifinal. Lovell was a tough draw, as the Bulldogs were the only team to beat Glenrock during the regular season and were keen on some revenge after losing to the Rangers the previous week. And it showed, as — much like what happened the night before against Buffalo — Lovell built a 10-point lead during the late stages of the third quarter.

Again, Kemmerer rallied, pressing the Bulldogs into defensive oblivion and winning 72-65.

Clearly, the Rangers were peaking at the right time. But the biggest challenge was yet to come; Glenrock, as expected, awaited in the championship.

Scott said he recalled stepping onto the court at the UW Fieldhouse for that title game with a decided lack of certainty.

“They’re warming up and they’re really sleek-looking,” he said. ” … They all wore a boutonniere on their warmup and they just looked really confident.”

But that uncertainty quickly turned into motivation. After seeing the Herders on the other side of half-court, “I think we just kind of felt we had nothing to lose,” Scott said.

The championship game, another 10 p.m. Fieldhouse start, was the opposite of the first two games, with Kemmerer jumping out early and Glenrock rallying in the third quarter. The Herders crept within three, but Kemmerer continued its trend of playing its best when it mattered most. Thanks to clutch foul shooting and a stalwart defensive effort, the Rangers held off the Herders, 70-59.

Just like that, the team that had stumbled to an 8-10 regular-season record was the Class A champion. The Kemmerer team was one of only a small handful of Wyoming basketball teams to have a losing record in the regular season only to win a state championship.

So what changed?

The first was health.

Mark Dolar was the leading scorer for the Rangers in each of their tournament games, scoring 22 in the title game. He had 21 in the semifinals and 22 in the opening round. Injuries, including to Dolar, dogged the team in the regular season, but by regionals everyone was healthy.

Aside from the health of the team, Scott also said the team’s mentality changed once winning became the priority. When the Rangers won, they did so as a team; when the Rangers lost, they looked at their individual play.

“Those (individual) things kind of always took precedence when we were losing… and (the mentality) was, ‘Well, at least I scored this many,'” he said.

To date, it’s Kemmerer’s only state basketball championship, boys or girls.

Scott, now the head football coach at Lander after a few stops around the state and some time as the head coach at Black Hills State, said the players from that championship team remain close 45 years later.

“As a coach, I think that’s why those championships really do mean so much,” Scott said. “It’s not the on-field stuff. It’s afterward. … We still own that (championship). It’s ours. That’s the aftermath of what you tell a kid and why you (commit)… Whether it’s (a 3A championship) or the Super Bowl.”

–patrick

So, here’s the scenario: 44 of Wyoming’s 64 high school football teams have completed their seasons.

Of the 20 remaining, maybe you’re looking for an underdog, a team that maybe hasn’t made it this far in a while, a Cinderella story full of unexpected twists and turns.

This season? Keep looking.

Of the 20 remaining teams, 15 were semifinalists last year; the entire 1A nine-man bracket is a repeat of last year’s matchups, even down to the locations. Every team that’s still alive has reached the semifinals at least once in the past four years; Burlington, at three years removed, is the only team that hasn’t made the semis at least once the past three years.

Meanwhile, Sheridan is in the semifinals for the 15th consecutive season, Cody and Cheyenne East for their sixth consecutive seasons.

And all of last year’s state champs — Sheridan, Cody, Lyman, Shoshoni, Snake River — are still alive. Four of them are playing at home this week.

So this week’s action is punctuated by teams that have been here before, that know the pressure of being this close and have histories of success.

That will make the games close, thrilling, interesting. And it will keep the glass slipper in the closet for another year.

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Of the remaining teams, Wind River is the closest thing we might have to a Cinderella story — the Cougars haven’t made a state championship game, or won a championship, in 24 years.

Cheyenne Central hasn’t been to a title game in 12 seasons and hasn’t won one in 16.

Douglas and Dubois, meanwhile, are sitting on seven-year streaks of not making it to the title game.

It’s Burlington, though, that has the longest title drought. The Huskies made a title game four years ago but haven’t won a title in 27 years.

However, all of them have had success in the playoffs in recent years and aren’t strangers to the semifinals.

Just like everyone else this year.

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On to this week’s picks, which are significantly tougher choices than the quarterfinals because not a single game on the schedule this week looks like a sure thing. Every team that’s still alive has earned its spot; no Cinderellas means no fake contenders. Projected winners in bold, but this is honestly one of the most solid rounds of semifinal football across every classification we’ve seen in a long time.

Class 4A
(4) Cheyenne Central at (1) Sheridan: Central has put together a solid season, right at or maybe slightly above expectations for 2022. But it will take a game of a season to knock off the undefeated Broncs at home, who make a living off winning playoff games at Homer Scott Field.
(3) Natrona at (2) Cheyenne East: I love this matchup for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the contrasting styles the teams have. I like East’s ability to strike for a score from basically any place on the field, and at any time, and I think a couple lightning strikes from the Thunderbirds are the difference in this one.
Class 3A
(2W) Star Valley at (1E) Douglas: Ultimately, both teams won their quarterfinal games. But the Braves were quite a bit more on their game in the first round than the Bearcats. That said, Douglas was everything it needed to be when it had to be, and if that momentum carries over into this week, this one could be an exciting one late.
(2E) Buffalo at (1W) Cody: Buffalo was one of just a handful of teams to give Cody a game that actually lasted four quarters this season. So the Broncs should be ready for a bigger challenge than what they’ve seen in a while. Cody’s still got the edge, but it’s hardly a walkover.
Class 2A
(2W) Lyman at (1E) Big Horn: The Rams got pushed to the edge last week by Mountain View; the Eagles had the same happen to them by Burns. I honestly believe this game is a toss-up, as last week’s results totally offset each other and gave me no indication which way this one will lean. This could be the best game of the week.
(3W) Cokeville at (1W) Lovell: Cokeville’s quarterfinal victory against Tongue River was impressive, and the Panthers’ 372-mile one-way trip to Lovell is actually quite a bit shorter than the bus ride they had in the first round. Still, Lovell is undefeated for a reason, and the Bulldogs will be the favorites to make it back to Laramie.
Class 1A nine-man
(2W) Rocky Mountain at (1E) Pine Bluffs: Well, well, well. Don’t think for a second that the Hornets will overlook the Grizzlies, who in 2021 were Pine’s title spoilers (in the semifinals, in Pine Bluffs). To be honest, no 1A-9 team has looked as unbeatable the past two weeks as Rocky, so Pine has to be focused to get this one.
(3W) Wind River at (1W) Shoshoni: A nice intra-county rivalry is on display for the second consecutive year in the semifinals, and for the second consecutive year the Wranglers host. Both teams looked good in the quarterfinals, and expect this one to be closer than last year’s playoff meeting. If Shoshoni’s focused…
Class 1A six-man
(2S) Dubois at (1N) Burlington: The Week 8 game between these two teams — Burlington’s first loss of the season by 60-52 — was either a perfect preview of what we’re about to see this week, or it’s an anomaly because both teams were holding back, knowing they’d likely see each other in the semis. My guess is a bit of both, which means neither has an advantage.
(3S) Encampment at (1S) Snake River: The Rattlers haven’t lost since 2020, and this rematch of last year’s state championship doesn’t look like the type of game to end that streak, especially the way Snake dominated the first matchup.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Semifinals” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.

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Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 19-1 (95 percent). This season: 260-39 (87 percent).

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Do you read this? A simple yes or no will suffice. Let me know you’re sentient. Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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–patrick

See part 1 of this series here.

Last week, five teams — Sheridan, Cody, Lovell, Pine Bluffs and Snake River — entered the playoffs as the No. 1 ranked team in their classification.

By default, that means they’re the favorites to win the state championships.

And while the chances of the top-ranked team entering the playoffs actually winning the championship is barely above half, the chances that the eventual champion will come from one of the teams ranked either first or second is extremely high.

Since 1984, the start of the “one poll” era, teams ranked No. 1 entering the playoffs have won the state championship 52% of the time.

If it’s not No. 1 winning it all, it’s usually No. 2. Together, teams ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 entering the playoffs win a title 83% of the time. (Do the math, and the No. 2 ranked team wins the state title 31% of the time.)

The No. 3 team wins the title 10% of the time; teams ranked fourth, almost 4% of the time.

The remaining 3% of championships is evenly divided between teams ranked fifth and teams not ranked at all. A team entering the playoffs ranked fifth or unranked and winning a state championship hasn’t happened since 2011.

The six teams to win championships ranked either fifth (three titles) or not at all (three titles) entering the playoffs?

First, the three teams ranked No. 5 all entered the playoffs on a low but were at some time during their championship season ranked in the top two:

  • Powell, Class 3A 2011 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)
  • Cheyenne Central, Class 5A 2005 (Highest rank during the season: No. 2)
  • Glenrock, Class 3A 2003 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)

Meanwhile, of the three teams that won titles after entering the playoffs unranked, two were previously No. 1 during the season:

  • Big Piney, Class 3A 2006 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)
  • Powell, Class 3A 1987 (Highest rank during the season: No. 5)
  • Jackson, Class 3A 1986 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)

The seven teams to win titles that went into the playoffs as the No. 4 ranked team are dominated by 3A teams, including Cody in 2017, Worland in 2001, Star Valley in 1995 and Riverton in 1994. Other No. 4-ranked champs are Cheyenne East (4A, 2013), Glenrock (3A, 2002) and Cokeville (1A, 1986).

Either the No. 1 or No. 2 team entering the playoffs has won every title in each of the past four seasons. It’s the longest such streak since playoffs restarted in 1975.

And it just so happens that the five No. 1 teams all won last week.

See each week’s poll by clicking on each year’s set of rankings here.

–patrick

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