When I played high school football for Midwest, we had a clear coin flip strategy: If you can, go east to start.
The strategy was based on our field’s orientation: straight east-west. Heading toward the west end zone meant staring directly into what was usually a setting sun. If we could avoid going west in the first quarter, we did it. Usually, the sun was usually down by the end of the first quarter, and if we planned it right, we wouldn’t have to go into the sun at all.
When we went out for the coin flip, we knew… if we win, defer. Kick with the sun at our back. If we lose, and the opponent wants the ball, kick with the sun at our back. If we lose, and the opponent defers… well, dang it. We’ve got to go into the sun. Better run the ball.
I loved playing on Midwest’s field. It’s at the bottom of a weathered hill that has a steep vertical drop. The area is a natural, protected park, used by the community for more than 90 years and in place as the football field since the new school was built in the early 1960s. But the setting dictates an east-west orientation, as the hill bounds the north end and an oil field service road, as well as Salt Creek, hem in the area on the south side. This only becomes a problem in those early season games that kick off at 7 p.m., but the problem was big enough to dictate our coin flip strategy.
Other fields I played on didn’t have this problem, either because they didn’t have lights and the sun didn’t come into play as much or because they were oriented north-south. However, as I’ve learned, Midwest is not the only school in Wyoming with an east-west orientation.
In fact, eight schools — Lovell, Midwest, Moorcroft, Saratoga, Snake River, Southeast, Ten Sleep and Tongue River — are oriented within 10 degrees of true east-west. Of those, only Lovell, Midwest, Saratoga and Southeast have lights, although Moorcroft and Tongue River are scheduled to add lights by next season.
Meanwhile, the bulk of Wyoming’s high school football fields (38 of the 65 fields in use) are oriented within 10 degrees of true north-south. The remaining 19 fields are oriented somewhere in between, with five fields (Douglas, Farson, Hulett, Kelly Walsh and Wyoming Indian) oriented close to 45 degrees in one direction or another.
The field orientations of each program’s home field are listed below:
Straight N/S (within +/- 10 degrees): Big Horn, Big Piney, Burlington, Burns, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Cody, Cokeville, Greybull, Guernsey-Sunrise, Jackson, Kaycee, Kemmerer, Lander, Laramie, Lingle, Lyman, Meeteetse, Mountain View, Natrona, Newcastle, NSI, Pine Bluffs, Pinedale, Powell, Rawlins, Riverside, Riverton, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens, Sheridan, Shoshoni, Star Valley, Thermopolis, Torrington, Wheatland, Wind River, Worland
Tilted 10-35 degrees NE/SW: Evanston, Wright
45 degrees NE/SW (within +/- 10 degrees): Hulett, Kelly Walsh
Tilted 55-80 degrees NE/SW: Hanna, Rock Springs, Sundance
Straight E/W (within +/- 10 degrees): Lovell, Midwest, Moorcroft, Saratoga, Snake River, Southeast, Ten Sleep, Tongue River
Tilted 55-80 degrees NW/SE: Cheyenne Central, Dubois, Glenrock, Lusk, Rock River
45 degrees NW/SE (within +/- 10 degrees): Douglas, Farson, Wyoming Indian
Tilted 10-35 degrees NW/SE: Buffalo, Gillette, Green River, Upton
If you want to check out the locations of every school’s field, look at the stadiums page on the site.