Lights are being put up at the football field at Tongue River. So far, just one light standard has been put up, and no game times have been changed.

Photo courtesy Deb Reed.

Tongue River football field. Photo courtesy Deb Reed.

Tongue River football field. Photo courtesy Deb Reed.

This is the week we want.

This is the week we won’t see again this year.

This is the week we finally find some separation in Class 4A.

Class 4A’s hierarchy the past few years has been as simple as it’s been clear: Natrona, Gillette, Cheyenne East and Sheridan play at a level that’s different from everyone else. For Week 3, the schedule says it all: Natrona at Gillette; Sheridan at Cheyenne East. This is the only time this season when the “Big Four” teams are all playing each other in the same week.

These four programs have dominated Class 4A football for almost half a decade. They were 104-8 against the other six the past four years entering the season; they’re now 114-8, as the top four are 10-0 against those other six so far this season. Every season since 2010, the final four teams in the 4A playoffs have been the same.

So, yeah, this week is big — a critical separation point in the season.

For Gillette and Sheridan, this week presents their first chances to test themselves against another top-tier team.

For Natrona, this week is a chance to take a commanding lead in the classification standings, thanks in part to a 14-7 victory against Cheyenne East two weeks ago.

And for Cheyenne East, this week represents what may be the team’s last chance to secure a home playoff game, a goal that became much more difficult to obtain after that loss to Natrona.

Both games represent continuations of competitive, repetitive showdowns. Both the Gillette-Natrona and Sheridan-East games have been played seven times in the past four years.

Of the seven Natrona-Gillette games, five have been played in Casper. This week’s game is in Gillette, but that’s little consolation to the Camels — Natrona has won both games it has played in Gillette the past four years, and the Camels haven’t beaten the Mustangs at home since 2009.

Sheridan and Cheyenne East, too, have played each other seven times the past four years. Oddly enough, only one of those games has been played in Cheyenne; five were in Sheridan and one in Laramie for a state championship. This week’s game, though, is in Cheyenne. However, Sheridan, like Natrona, doesn’t fear a road trip trip: Sheridan won its only game the past four years that it played against East in Cheyenne. Beyond that, Cheyenne East hasn’t beaten Sheridan in Cheyenne since 2002.

For several years now, we’ve known the Big Four control Class 4A. But they only play against each other six times during the regular season.

We’re lucky enough in Week 3 to have two of those games happening on the same day.

This is, after all, what we’ve been waiting to see.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the other things I’m keeping a close eye on this week:

Buffalo had a strong showing in a loss last week, falling 19-9 to Powell. I’m curious to see how the Bison play against an improved Worland squad. …

Wheatland and Newcastle will meet each other in a big 2A East game. Big Horn is clearly the pacesetter in the conference this year, but the Bulldogs and Dogies will need to win this one to keep pace with the Rams and stay in contention for a home playoff game. …

Wind River’s 74-0 victory over Wyoming Indian last week set a school record for both biggest victory and most points in a game. It also was the Cougars’ first road victory since Sept. 9, 2010, breaking the state’s longest active road losing streak at 15. Can the Cougs keep it going against Riverside? …

The most interesting six-man game on the schedule could be the one between Farson and Dubois. The Pronghorns are much better equipped to play with the Rams than they’ve ever been. …

The Saturday slate is pretty thin, but it will be interesting to see if NSI can get its second victory in a row. The Wolves earned their first victory against a varsity team since 2009 last week and could win two in a row for the first time since 2007 if they can beat Hulett on the road. …

The best game of the week could be between Riverton and Powell. Yeah, I picked Powell, but don’t be surprised if Riverton sneaks this one out. …

There’s a lot of hype for the Rawlins-Jackson game. Ignore it. Jackson is rolling. …

For the record, in the “Big Four” 4A games this week, I went with the home teams. Switch the venues, and I’d switch my picks. Both games should be great. …

I devoted a lot of time this week to the top of 4A, but for the other six teams in the classification, these are critical games, too. Playoff seeding and qualification could be on the line in a couple of those games. …

On to the picks. The projected winners, like always, are in bold type. The teams in regular type, though, are no less deserving of your admiration:

Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne South at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Evanston
Natrona at Gillette
Rock Springs at Cheyenne Central
Sheridan at Cheyenne East
Class 3A
Cody at Lander
Green River at Torrington
Rawlins at Jackson
Riverton at Powell
Star Valley at Douglas
Worland at Buffalo
Class 2A
Big Horn at Glenrock
Big Piney at Greybull
Lyman at Kemmerer
Mountain View at Burns (at Cheyenne South HS)
Pinedale at Lovell
Wheatland at Newcastle
Class 1A 11-man
Moorcroft at Lusk
Rocky Mountain at Saratoga
Shoshoni at Cokeville
Southeast at Pine Bluffs
Tongue River at Upton-Sundance (at Sundance)
Wind River at Riverside
Wyoming Indian at Burlington
Class 1A six-man
Farson at Dubois
Kaycee at Rock River
Midwest at Guernsey-Sunrise
St. Stephens at Hanna
Ten Sleep at Meeteetse
Interstate
Mitchell, Neb., at Lingle
Saturday
Class 2A
Wright at Thermopolis
Class 1A six-man
NSI at Hulett
Interclass
Snake River at Natrona sophs

Last week: 27-6 (82 percent). This season: 58-22 (73 percent).

For a full season schedule, including kickoff times for this week’s games, click here.

What are YOU watching this week? What game on this week’s schedule draws your interest? Which picks do you think I got wrong? Post a comment and we can talk about it, because that’s half the fun.

–patrick

Wyoming’s Class A all-state team for 1967 has been added to the all-state listings.

Kevan Kennington provided the help for listing this missing team. Thanks a bunch to Kevan for his assistance!

The mid- to late 1960s are kind of a black hole for my all-state listings. If you can help me with some missing teams, let me know — post a comment here or email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Of all the new rivalries six-man football has given Wyoming, the rivalry between Guernsey-Sunrise and Kaycee may just be the lamest of them all.

And this is the fault of neither school. It’s just that when they get together, their games have been, well, pretty bad.

In four meetings, Guernsey-Sunrise and Kaycee have never had a close game. In two meetings in the initial six-man season in 2009, Guernsey-Sunrise beat Kaycee 67-0 and and then again 76-16 in the state title game. The Vikings again won big last season, beating the Buckaroos 52-14.

Kaycee’s lone victory in the series was also an easy one; the Buckaroos beat the Vikings 87-18 in 2010.

This year’s meeting might change that pattern.

Guernsey-Sunrise was this site’s Class 1A six-man preseason No. 1 team. Kaycee was No. 2.

In Week 1, both teams proved they deserved those preseason accolades. The Vikings destroyed traditionally tough Dubois 60-12, while Kaycee shut out Ten Sleep 45-0 — and a shutout is never a small accomplishment in six-man.

Now, in a weird twist of the 2014 schedule, they open East Conference play by facing each other. Kaycee, for the second year in the row, gets to host.

Chances are good that this game will be much better, and much closer, than the schools’ previous four meetings. Just one game into 2014, both squads have proven they know how to score, and how to stop someone else from scoring. They’ve both got the talent and the experience to make serious challenges for a state championship.

Top-ranked Guernsey has maybe the classification’s most explosive player in running back Brady Esquibel. Kaycee counters with a three-headed monster of a junior class led by returning all-stater Taylor Rouse.

Of course, both participating schools don’t mind keeping this series “lame” — as long as they’re on the winning side.

For everyone else’s sake, though, a little drama in the fourth quarter wouldn’t be a bad thing to see between two of six-man’s best teams.

What else I’m watching this week: Every week is a big week in 3A, and this week it’s nonconference games between Douglas and Cody and between Riverton and Star Valley that catch my eye. I’m also watching the Worland-Torrington game to see which one earns 3A’s “most improved” award two weeks into the season. I’ve picked against Worland two weeks in a row they’ve proved me wrong both times. Although Zero Week against Riverton was not exactly representative, Worland’s victory last week against Lander was an eye-opener for me. …

Conference play starts for most teams in 2A and 1A this week. The playoff chase starts now; the biggest games to me are the ones between Thermopolis and Wheatland (2A) and between Riverside and Burlington and between Lusk and Upton-Sundance (1A 11-man). …

I realized earlier this week that the 1A 11-man East Conference went 5-0 against the West Conference in interconference games last week. Anomaly? I don’t think so. …

Meeteetse and Snake River also play what might be a key 1A six-man West Conference game — I had the Longhorns ranked third and Rattlers fourth in my six-man rankings this week. …

Jackson has a really good chance to start 6-0. The Broncs are already 2-0 and play Lander, Rawlins, Worland and Green River the next four weeks. Of those, aforementioned Worland could pose the biggest challenge. …

Can Cheyenne South pull off the Cheyenne sweep? The Bison knocked off Cheyenne Central last week, but Cheyenne East figures to put up a stiffer test this week, especially since the game is scheduled to be the first at the new Okie Blanchard Stadium, East’s home stadium. The T-Birds will want to kick off the era of the new stadium in style. …

Rock River, which won its first varsity game last week, could start its first varsity season 2-0 if it beats NSI on Saturday in Sheridan. NSI is the only program in the state that doesn’t have a game under its belt yet; the Wolves didn’t play during Zero Week and had a bye last week. …

My picks, with projected winners in bold (and projected spoilers in regular type):

Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne Central at Gillette
Cheyenne East at Cheyenne South (at East)
Evanston at Sheridan
Kelly Walsh at Rock Springs
Laramie at Natrona
Class 3A
Douglas at Cody
Lander at Jackson
Powell at Buffalo
Rawlins at Green River
Riverton at Star Valley
Worland at Torrington
Class 2A
Glenrock at Wright
Greybull at Mountain View
Kemmerer at Pinedale
Lovell at Big Piney
Lyman at Big Horn
Newcastle at Burns (at Cheyenne South HS)
Thermopolis at Wheatland
Class 1A 11-man
Moorcroft at Tongue River
Pine Bluffs at Lingle
Riverside at Burlington
Rocky Mountain at Shoshoni
Saratoga at Cokeville
Wind River at Wyoming Indian
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at St. Stephens
Ten Sleep at Midwest
Interclass
Farson at Green River JV
Interstate
Southeast at Bayard, Neb.
Saturday
Class 1A 11-man
Lusk at Upton-Sundance (at Sundance)
Class 1A six-man
Guernsey-Sunrise at Kaycee
Hulett vs. Hanna (at Midwest)
Meeteetse at Snake River
Rock River at NSI

Last week: 22-11 (67 percent). This season: 31-16 (66 percent).

For a full season schedule, including kickoff times for this week’s games, click here.

In case you missed it, I had an awful first week of picks. 67 percent right is, well, not good. Really, though, I love it when teams prove my picks wrong. A season is so much more interesting when it’s unpredictable. So, to all you non-bolded teams: Spoil away!

There’s Week 2. What do you think? What will be the best game this week? Who’s poised to pull an upset? Share your thoughts with a comment and let’s, like, talk about it. Because that’s why this blog is here….

–patrick

We don’t get to see this often.

The preseason No. 1 and the preseason No. 2 don’t usually play each other in Week 1 of the regular season.

Yet that is exactly what has happened in Class 3A this year, where preseason No. 1 Powell travels south and east to play preseason No. 2 Douglas.

This is only the teams’ fourth regular-season meeting. They met in the 1983 and 1984 season openers, as well as the 2001 opener in the first year of WHSAA scheduling. Those three games were all kind of boring, and certainly gave no indication of the rivalry to come.

Since the slow start, we’ve had the meetings that, for the most part, have defined the Class 4A/3A landscape for almost a decade: the 2006 title game, the 2008 semifinals, the 2011 title game and the 2013 title game.

The past three meetings, in particular, have given shape and character not only to a rivalry, but to an entire classification of football in Wyoming. And they’ve all been decided at the goal line.

In 2008, the Bearcats earned a trip to the state title game (eventually their first of three straight championships) after Cody Bohlander scored on a two-point conversion in the second overtime. In 2011, Olie Olson intercepted Douglas’ two-point conversion attempt in the final minute to preserve a 15-14 victory. In 2013, the Panthers stuffed Douglas’ QB sneak attempt in overtime, then converted their own as Hayden Cragoe snuck over to help Powell win 19-13 in OT.

This week’s game will add another layer to a growing rivalry. The only remaining question is if Friday’s game will follow the template of the teams’ past playoff games or the teams’ past regular-season meetings.

Based on preseason expectations, I’d guess the former. So you’d better get your popcorn ready.

Other things I’m keeping an eye on this week:

Big Horn and Lovell have met in a couple epic semifinal games the past couple years. I really like the fact that they’re playing each other in Week 1. This is the first time the two schools have played each other in the regular season. … Shoshoni and Big Piney are also playing each other for the first time in the regular season, while the Upton/Sundance-Wind River and Moorcroft-Wyoming Indian games represent the first games ever between those programs. … The return of the Burns-Pine Bluffs rivalry is also nice to see. They’re facing off for the first time since 2008. … The best game of the week might be between Mountain View and Cokeville. The Buffalos beat the Panthers 27-21 last year, and both teams might be even better this year. … Think back to, oh, 2008. Back then, the sentence “St. Stephens will open its season by hosting Rock River” was the realm of high school football fanfic. Now it’s reality. It may not be the best game of the week, but it’s Rock River’s first varsity game and the opener to St. Stephens’ second season since its return to football last year. To the folks in those communities, this game means a bunch.

On to this week’s picks. As always, projected winners are in bold:

Thursday
Interclass
Gillette JV at Newcastle
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne Central
Gillette at Evanston
Natrona at Cheyenne East
Rock Springs at Laramie
Sheridan at Kelly Walsh
Class 3A
Buffalo at Cody
Green River at Riverton
Lander at Worland
Powell at Douglas
Class 2A
Big Horn at Lovell
Thermopolis at Pinedale
Class 1A 11-man
Burlington at Lusk
Lingle at Saratoga
Tongue River at Rocky Mountain
Upton-Sundance at Wind River
Wyoming Indian at Moorcroft
Class 1A six-man
Hanna at Snake River
Rock River at St. Stephens
Interclass
Burns at Pine Bluffs
Cokeville at Mountain View
Greybull at Riverside
Kemmerer at Rawlins
Shoshoni at Big Piney
Torrington at Glenrock
Wright at Southeast
Interstate
Jackson at North Fremont, Idaho
Preston, Idaho, at Star Valley
Saturday
Class 2A
Wheatland at Lyman
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Guernsey-Sunrise
Kaycee at Ten Sleep
Meeteetse at Hulett
Midwest at Farson
Open: NSI.

Last week: 9-5 (64 percent). This season: 9-5 (64 percent).

I had trouble picking several games this week — Lander-Worland, Powell-Douglas, Rock River-St. Stephens, Burns-Pine Bluffs, Wheatland-Lyman and Midwest-Farson were the ones that basically turned into coin flips for me. How about you? What games do you see as the big ones in Week 1? Which team is poised to make the biggest statement this week? Or pull the biggest surprise? Leave a comment and let’s chat.

–patrick

Some short notes about updates to stadiums across Wyoming:

* Thermopolis’ school board is in the process of renaming its football stadium LeRoy Hayes Field. Hayes’ son Heath said via email that the field dedication will be at halftime of the Bobcats’ Sept. 20 game against Wright. LeRoy Hayes, who died in 2013, was a longtime coach in the Thermopolis school system.

* Moorcroft was set to install the lights that formerly shined at Okie Blanchard Stadium in Cheyenne, but delays in the take-down of the stadium in Cheyenne pushed back Moorcroft’s light installation until next year, Wolves coach Dusty Petz said via email. All of Moorcroft’s home game times have been pushed to daylight hours.

* Southeast’s installation of artificial turf was also delayed. Coach Mark Bullington said via email that the Cyclones will have their artificial surface installed next year and it will be ready in time for the 2015 season.

* As previously noted, four schools (Kemmerer, Glenrock, Cheyenne East and Big Piney) added turf over the summer, while Kemmerer and Big Horn added lights.

–patrick

Annual playoff brackets for each classification have been added to Wyoming-football.com.

For example, check out last year’s playoff brackets. Or the brackets from 1983. Or 1933.

Brackets include scores for every game. Home teams are placed on top of brackets; however, neutral-site locations of quarterfinal and semifinal games are not noted on the brackets. Bracket pages for every year in which a playoff that consisted of more than just a championship game have been posted.

Links to every season’s playoff brackets are posted on the results by year page.

If you spot any errors or problems, let me know by posting a comment here or emailing me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

For schools a half-hour apart, Cokeville and Bear Lake, Idaho, do not have much football history between them.

With good reason.

At 314 students, Bear Lake is the largest Class 2A school in Idaho; the Bears moved to 2A this year after spending decades as a Class 3A school. Even as a small 3A school, though, Bear Lake was always a tough team to beat. I worked one football season in Idaho and had to make picks of the high school games, and I learned one phrase quickly: “Always take the Lake, unless they’re playing Snake.” (Snake River, a consistent 3A power, was always Bear Lake’s nemesis in Idaho’s 3A District V.)

Cokeville, meanwhile, enrolls 74 students, and is the smallest 11-man football school in Wyoming.

That size disparity was, in part, why the Bears rarely played the Panthers, even though the two schools are only 32 miles apart. In fact, Bear Lake (and its predecessor in name, Montpelier High) have only played each other three times.

And guess who has the advantage? The little guys.

Cokeville is 2-1 all-time against Bear Lake/Montpelier. Montpelier beat Cokeville 13-0 in 1934, but Cokeville beat Montpelier 12-6 in 1969 and Bear Lake 22-0 in 1982.

Take note, though: Cokeville tends to play Bear Lake/Montpelier only when the Panthers have loaded teams.

For example, the Panthers’ 1969 squad (with quarterback Todd Dayton) is considered one of the school’s best. Cokeville went 8-0 that season, winning five of those games by at least 50 points on their way to a mythical Class B championship. The Panthers’ two closest games were against Byron in the season opener (20-18) and against Montpelier in the season finale (12-6). While the first seven victories helped Cokeville prove its strength, the eight victory against the big guys up the road was the one that cemented the squad as legendary in the Cokeville coffee klatsches.

And in 1982, the Panthers finished one point away from the playoffs. That year, Cokeville lost 8-7 to eventual Class B champ Lyman in the regular-season finale. The two actually tied for the conference championship, but Lyman’s head-to-head victory earned it the Southwest’s lone Class B playoff spot. The next year, Cokeville moved to the newly created Class 1A and ran off a string of eight championships in nine years.

Now, in 2014, Cokeville and Bear Lake play again, thanks in part to Zero Week’s freedom for Wyoming small schools and Bear Lake’s schedule changes due to its move to 2A.

Cokeville has won three Class 1A 11-man championships the past four years and has one of the largest senior classes in recent memory. Like 1969 and 1982, these Panthers could be one of the best teams in school history.

After all, Bear Lake only shows up on the schedule when Cokeville is better than usual.

Here are the Zero Week picks, with projected winners in bold:

Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Natrona
Cheyenne East at Rock Springs
Evanston at Cheyenne South
Kelly Walsh at Gillette
Laramie at Sheridan
Class 3A
Riverton at Worland
Class 1A six-man
Midwest at Meeteetse
Interstate
Jackson at Teton, Idaho
Lyman at Altamont, Utah
Newcastle at Custer, S.D.
Powell at Miles City, Mont.
Saturday
Interstate
Bridgeport, Neb., at Southeast
Cody at Laurel, Mont.
Cokeville at Bear Lake, Idaho

The rest of the Zero Week schedule includes these scrimmages and jamborees:

Friday
Big Piney at Pinedale
Big Horn vs. Lander, at Casper (Kelly Walsh)

Greybull, Shoshoni at Thermopolis
Kemmerer, Riverside, Tongue River at Riverton
Wheatland at Torrington
Saturday
Burns at Lusk
Dubois, Farson, Hanna at Lander
Glenrock at Rawlins
Green River vs. Douglas, at Laramie
Guernsey, Ten Sleep at Kaycee
Lingle vs. Wind River, at Kelly Walsh (this scrimmage was canceled)
Lovell at Buffalo
Rock River at Snake River

Saratoga at Pine Bluffs
Upton-Sundance at Wright

For a full schedule, including kickoff times, click here.

+++++++++

As usual, Zero Week picks for all classifications except 4A come with a disclaimer about what’s a “game” and counted in the standings and what’s not. Remember, I count different than the WHSAA does. For the record, here are the criteria I use to judge whether or not to call an event a “game,” and therefore list it in the standings (and, eventually, as part of the team record on this site):

1. Was the game played with four 12-minute quarters with normal timing rules?

2. Were officials used? And were normal rules of play instituted for the game?

3. Was score kept?

In short, if you don’t want it to count, don’t keep score….

+++++++++

The best part about Zero Week is that we finally get to stop talking and start playing. It feels nice, doesn’t it? Any games drawing your interest? Any picks you think I got wrong? Any scrimmages or jamborees that could be telling despite not counting? Post a comment and let’s talk about it.

–patrick

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