Now that the 2017 Wyoming high school football schedule is (mostly) put together, we can start to see some clear patterns emerge. Some schools won. Some schools lost. Some schools just changed. And two games in particular are just plain baffling.

THE WINNERS

Thunder Basin might have the best schedule of any 4A team, and the ‘Bolts had nothing to do with it. With the WHSAA setting the full schedule for 4A teams, Thunder Basin benefited. First — Thunder Basin only has four road games. Second — one of those four road games is just down South Douglas Highway at in-town foe Gillette. Third — of the three out-of-town road trips Thunder Basin has, two come in the last three weeks, meaning the ‘Bolts only leave Campbell County once in the first six weeks of the season. Clearly, the WHSAA learned from experience; the last new 4A school, Cheyenne South in 2011, was forced to open its program by playing at defending 4A champ Natrona in Casper for its first game.

Four teams also finagled the schedule to score five home games against only three road games: Farson, Meeteetse, Southeast and Moorcroft. Southeast and Moorcroft scored their fifth home game via sub-varsity opponents; Farson and Meeteetse, meanwhile, have full varsity schedules but managed to score five home games. Also, Farson scheduled a couple of its home games for darkness hours. Is a new football facility — with lights — in the works for the 1A six-man runners-up? (Let me know if it is!)

THE LOSERS

Douglas and Riverton ended up being the odd teams out of the Week 1 nonconference bonanza. While everyone else scored an opponent, these 3A East Conference foes were left with only each other. The answer, for now, will be a jamboree in Riverton involving the Wolverines, Bearcats, Bear Lake (Idaho) and JV teams from Gillette and Natrona — a schedule that is subject to change. It’s not perfect, but given the circumstances, it might be the best either team can do.

Rocky Mountain scheduled Big Horn for its season opener but still has open weeks for Weeks 2 and 3. The kicker is everyone else has filled their schedules for those weeks, so the Grizzlies will likely have to go the sub-varsity route to fill those weeks.

Both NSI and St. Stephens got put in a poke by ending up with only three home games this season; each team has five games on the road.

Newcastle also got five road games in weeks 1-8 but augmented that with a home game against traditional Zero Week foe Custer, S.D., so the Dogies aren’t in the dire straits that NSI and St. Stephens are.

THE SHIFTERS

Glenrock went up, big time. The 2A Herders went out and scheduled last year’s 2A runner-up and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in last year’s semis, Greybull, for Week 1 before hosting 3A Lander in Week 2 and going to 3A Riverton in Week 3. Last year, Glenrock had Pinedale and Lyman in its nonconference slate — no slouches, but not the caliber of foe the Herders will see in 2017.

Conference rival Wheatland did Glenrock one better. The 2A Bulldogs scheduled three 3A teams — Torrington, Rawlins and Douglas — before its 2A East schedule starts.

Traditional 1A 11-man power Cokeville also upgraded its nonconference slate, picking up games against three 2A foes — Mountain View, Pinedale and Lyman — in Weeks 1-3.

Kemmerer, which enters 2017 on a state-record 36-game losing streak, had the chance to pick up a couple winnable games in its schedule. The 2A Rangers scheduled a pair of 1A 11-man teams that failed to qualify for last year’s playoffs — Saratoga in Week 1 and Lusk in Week 6 — in an attempt to get off the schneid.

Wyoming Indian scheduled three sub-varsity teams (JVs from Lander, Wind River and Riverton) for its nonconference games; however, if the Chiefs decide to play Lander in Lander, they won’t have a home game until Week 6.

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THE PLUSES

At a glance, travel does seem to be reduced, although maybe not as significantly as hoped due to the dominance of conference games on the schedule. Moorcroft, Lyman, Southeast, Wind River and Wyoming Indian had chances to fill their schedules with nearby sub-varsity opponents, while several teams have open weeks that may be filled with similar opponents prior to the start of the season. That’s fortunate — after all, that was one of the goals in giving nonconference scheduling abilities back to the schools.

Also, conference rearranging means we get to see a few rivalries come back — the Thunder Bowl between Big Horn and Tongue River is back for the first time since 2012, while is the rivalries between Burns and Pine Bluffs and the one between Upton-Sundance and Moorcroft are back after one-year hiatuses.

THE MINUSES

Two games on the 2017 schedule make absolutely no sense to me. Anyone out there want to try to explain these matchups to me logically? Because I can’t figure them out:

Rawlins at Wind River. In Week 3, the 3A Outlaws will make the trip to Pavillion to play the 1A 11-man Cougars. In some fantasy worlds, a 3A vs. 1A 11-man game would be cool to see, especially if the 1A 11-man team was wildly successful and the 3A school was among the smaller ones. (For example, wouldn’t it be fun to see Upton-Sundance or Big Horn take on Buffalo?) Instead, the Outlaws — who were 4-5 last year and a coin flip away from the playoffs — are playing a Wind River team that went 1-7 and beat only winless Wyoming Indian in the state’s smallest 11-man division. I don’t see how this game will be good for either team.

Torrington at Star Valley. I thought this Week 2 meeting between 3A rivals was the exact kind of nonconference game schools were trying to avoid. Instead, the Trailblazers will go 490 miles, one way, to Afton for this contest. FYI: Torrington is closer to Iowa and to Texas than it is to Afton.

What are your thoughts on the 2017 schedule? Leave a comment and let me know who you think did the best — and the worst — with their 2017 options.

–patrick

Jackson coach James Howell has resigned after seven seasons as the Broncs’ head coach.

The resignation was first reported by Clark Forster of the Jackson Hole News & Guide on Twitter.

Howell went 29-36 in seven years as Jackson’s head coach. The Broncs’ best year under Howell came in 2016, when they went 9-2 and reached the 3A semifinals. The Broncs went 1-8 last season.

He is the second coach in the state to step down this offseason, joining Snake River’s Michael Bates.

–patrick

As schools are now scheduling their own nonconference games, the 2017 Wyoming high school football schedule is likely to be much more malleable than previous seasons.

Even so, most schools have their 2017 schedules set. The schedules by week, as provided by the schools, are available here. (When schools listed different days or start times, the time provided by the home team was used. Evanston and Natrona did not submit schedules to wyoming-football.com despite repeated requests.)

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Here are the early picks for games of the week for each of the nine regular-season weeks:

Week 0: Rock Springs at Sheridan. Class 4A gets the jump start on everyone else, as usual, and this rematch of a 4A semifinal game from 2016 will probably be the most telling game of the week. Other key game: Cheyenne Central at Thunder Basin (first game for the ‘Bolts).

Week 1: Gillette at Natrona. Gillette’s only losses last year were to Natrona. Normally late in the season, this rivalry game between the Camels and Mustangs will be staged early in 2017. Other key games: Glenrock at Greybull; Snake River at Lingle; Cokeville at Mountain View; Wheatland at Torrington; Guernsey-Sunrise at Farson.

Week 2: Burlington at Farson. Beating Burlington early last season helped set the course for Farson’s undefeated regular season in 2016. Another early meeting could set the stage similarly in 2017 — for either team. Other key games: Natrona at Sheridan; Torrington at Star Valley; Lingle at Guernsey-Sunrise; Burns at Pine Bluffs; Newcastle at Upton-Sundance.

Week 3: Pine Bluffs at Big Horn. The 2016 2A champs host the 2016 1A 11-man champs. And it’s a conference game. Of all the games on the schedule for 2017, this one might be the most intriguing. Other key games: Cheyenne East at Cheyenne South; Star Valley at Evanston; Lovell at Mountain View; Shoshoni at Tongue River; Glenrock at Riverton; Snake River at Meeteetse.

Week 4: Riverton at Douglas. Riverton finished a deceiving 3-6 last season; the Wolverines have the firepower to keep up with anyone. 3A East rival Douglas knows that better than anyone. Other key games: Thunder Basin at Gillette; Cody at Green River; Greybull at Pinedale; Newcastle at Glenrock; Cokeville at Rocky Mountain; Tongue River at Pine Bluffs.

Week 5: Evanston at Green River. Since 1932, these two teams have missed each other on the schedule only a handful of times: From 1977-80 and from 2011-16. It’s nice to see this traditional rivalry back on the schedule. Other key games: Cheyenne East at Laramie; Gillette at Rock Springs; Lander at Riverton; Wheatland at Glenrock; Upton-Sundance at Southeast; Meeteetse at Burlington; Guernsey-Sunrise at Kaycee.

Week 6: 4A rivalry week. This week, we get the Capital Bowl with Cheyenne Central playing at Cheyenne East; we get the Oil Bowl with Kelly Walsh at Natrona; and we get the Energy Bowl with Sheridan at Gillette. These won’t just be rivalry games — they’ll likely all be key to playoff seeding, as well. Other key games: Jackson at Star Valley; Torrington at Douglas; Greybull at Lovell; Lyman at Mountain View; Pinedale at Big Piney; Big Horn at Upton-Sundance; Shoshoni at Rocky Mountain; Farson at Meeteetse; Kaycee at Lingle.

Week 7: Powell at Star Valley. This is one of three championship rematches this season (Natrona-Sheridan in Week 2 and Pine Bluffs-Tongue River in Week 4 the others). And this one might be the best game of that trio. Other key games: Pinedale at Lovell; Upton-Sundance at Tongue River; Kaycee at Midwest; Snake River at Burlington.

Week 8: Mountain View at Greybull. Both of these teams came up short of their championship dreams last season — Mountain View in a shocking quarterfinal upset, Greybull on the turf at War Memorial. This game could be key in 2017 to decide the 2A West champion. Other key games: Cheyenne East at Sheridan; Cheyenne South at Cheyenne Central; Rock Springs at Natrona; Powell at Cody; Riverton at Torrington; Star Valley at Green River; Cokeville at Shoshoni; Tongue River at Big Horn; Upton-Sundance at Pine Bluffs; Burlington at Riverside; Farson at Snake River.

See the full 2017 schedule here.

Coming later this week: The winners and losers with the new schedule. Which program benefited the most from scheduling its own nonconference games — and which schools got burned?

What are your thoughts on next year’s schedule? Leave a comment here and let’s use our words to express ourselves…

–patrick

Michael Bates, the only head coach Snake River football has known since its rebirth in 2009, is stepping down as the program’s leader.

Bates went 58-18 in his eight years as the Rattlers’ head coach. He led the team to back-to-back state titles and undefeated seasons in 2010 and 2011. In his eight years, his teams finished with a losing record only once — in 2009, his first year. At one point, his teams won 22 consecutive games.

Snake River also advanced to the title game in 2012. The Rattlers have made the playoffs in each of their eight seasons under Bates.

Bates, who also teaches history at Snake River, said he wants to continue coaching: “I would like to be as productive at another school if given the chance,” he said via email to wyoming-football.com this week.

He said his wife is finishing her degree in nursing this year while he is wrapping up his master’s degree.

“We want to move to a location where we can both utilize our skills,” he wrote.

Bates is the first coach in the state to step down this offseason.

–patrick

The Wyoming Coaches Association’s 2016 all-state football teams were released Monday.

Four Three players — Gillette’s Lane Tucker, Big Horn’s Nolan McCafferty and Meeteetse’s Dalton Abarr — were named to their respective all-state teams for the third time.

The full all-state listings are available on the 2010s all-state page.

–patrick

(Updated 11:45 a.m. Nov. 22 to reflect the correct number of three-time all-state picks.)

The Casper Star-Tribune released its 26th annual Super 25 team this week, representing the staff’s choice for the 25 best football players in Wyoming regardless of classification, position or year in school. This year’s selections:

T.J. Abraham, 5-8, 155, sr, Powell
Drew Boedecker, 6-3, 175, sr, Sheridan
Austin Clemetson, 5-9, 180, jr, Gillette
Dane Covington, 6-1, 155, sr, Mountain View
Cooper Fargen, 6-1, 200, sr, Glenrock
Dawson Forcella, 6-1, 200, sr, Greybull
Matt Fowler, 6-0, 205, sr, Rock Springs
Brady Fullerton, 6-0, 147, sr, Riverton
Logan Harris, 6-3, 285, sr, Torrington
Eric Jamerman, 6-2, 170, sr, Douglas
Oaklan Jenkins, 5-11, 175, sr, Rock Springs
Brennan Kutterer, 6-2, 200, sr, Tongue River
Ty Larson, 6-1, 170, sr, Douglas
Ruger Lewis, 5-9, 165, sr, Pine Bluffs
Nolan McCafferty, 5-11, 200, sr, Big Horn
Collin McGinley, 6-0, 230, sr, Star Valley
Madden Pikula, 5-10, 185, sr, Gillette
Tom Robitaille, 6-1, 201, sr, Natrona
Garrett Schwindt, 5-7, 157, sr, Glenrock
McCabe Smith, 5-10, 220, sr, Star Valley
Coy Steel, 5-9, 175, sr, Sheridan
John Sullivan, 5-11, 195, sr, Upton-Sundance
Lane Tucker, 6-4, 255, sr, Gillette
Blake Waite, 5-8, 210, sr, Green River
Colton Williams, 5-11, 175, sr, Big Horn

Williams was named the state’s offensive player of the year; Tucker was named the defensive player of the year; and Will Gray of Pine Bluffs was named the coach of the year.

–patrick

Seven players entered Wyoming’s unofficial top 10 single-season records for rushing, passing, receiving or defensive points for their performances in the 2016 season.

Wyoming has a new (unofficial) leader in defensive points for a season. Shoshoni’s J.J. Pingetzer finished the season with 312 defensive points. He is the first recorded player to finish with more than 300 defensive points in a season.

Two 3A passers entered the passing yards top 10, with Riverton’s Brady Fullerton claiming the No. 3 spot with 2,442 passing yards and Douglas’ Ty Larson finishing in the No. 4 spot with 2,395 yards. Sheridan’s Drew Boedecker was just outside the top 10 with 2,128 yards, nine yards short of No. 10.

Two rushers also entered the top 10, with Big Horn’s Colton Williams moving into the No. 7 spot with 1,923 rushing yards and Glenrock’s Garrett Schwindt moving into ninth with 1,872 yards. Gillette’s Austin Clemetson was just outside the top 10 with his 1,847 yards this year — only three yards short of the 10th-place spot.

Two receivers also got into their top 10, with Sheridan’s Coy Steel finishing eighth with 1,033 yards and Douglas’ Eric Jamerman moving into 10th with his 1,004 yards.

See the full top 10s for each category here.

–patrick

The 2016 season has come to a close, and the latest chapter of Wyoming football history — minus all-state, all-America and Super 25 selections as well as individual season records — has been added to the site.

With that, a few notes worth mentioning about the 2016 season:

Scoring records

This year, scoring records didn’t stand a chance. That was clearest in the final game of the season: The 4A title game between Sheridan (56) and Natrona (28) ended with 84 points, the most ever in an 11-man title game in Wyoming.

Seven programs set records for most points in a season: Farson (699); Kaycee (670); Greybull (501); Burlington (471); Upton-Sundance (451); Pine Bluffs (332); and Cheyenne South (194). Meanwhile, seven programs also set records for the most points averaged per game: Farson (63.55); Kaycee (60.91); Lingle (55.13); Burlington (52.33); Greybull (45.55); Upton-Sundance (41.00); and Riverton (37.11).

As prolific as the offenses were, seeing so many teams set “negative” records for points allowed wasn’t a surprise. In fact, Hulett’s 589 points allowed this season was the most allowed by any team in state history. Other programs setting team “records” for the most points allowed in a season were Rock River (558); Normative Services (547); Ten Sleep (513); Riverside (406); Thermopolis (377); and Natrona (295). And six programs set records for most average points allowed: Rock River (69.75); Normative Services (68.38); Wyoming Indian (67.86); Hulett (65.44); Riverside (50.75); and Thermopolis (47.13).

Four of the seven highest points-allowed averages came in 2016, with Rock River (third at 69.75), Normative Services (fourth at 68.38), Wyoming Indian (fifth at 67.86) and Hulett (seventh at 65.44) making the “top” spots. Wyoming Indian’s 67.86 points allowed per game is the highest total of any 11-man season in state history.

However, two programs set defensive records. Kaycee set program records for fewest points allowed (168) and fewest average points allowed (15.27), while Cheyenne South set a program record for fewest points allowed per game (31.90).

Offensively, both Wyoming Indian and Rock River set program lows in points in a season and average points — Rock River with 119 points and 14.88 per game, Wyoming Indian with 6 points and 0.86 per game.

The 115 points scored combined between Torrington and Riverton in the Trailblazers’ 66-49 victory on Sept. 23 was the most combined points in an 11-man game in Wyoming since 1930 and the fifth-most ever.

Three of the seven highest-scoring playoff games in state history were in 2016; the 103 points scored between Star Valley (61) and Douglas (42) in the 3A semifinals ranks third all-time in 11-man games.

The rest of the scoring records are here.

Coaching

Kaycee coach Lee Kremers has two state titles in his first two years as head coach. That’s a rare feat: He joins Worland’s Lew Kelly (who won state titles his first four years as head coach from 1924-27), Southeast’s Mark Bullington (who won state titles his first three years as Southeast’s head coach from 1999-2001) and Thermopolis’ Chuck Syverson (who won titles his first two years in Thermopolis in 2009-10) as the only coaches in state history to pull off that accomplishment.

Also in that discussion is Star Valley’s McKay Young, who won a state title in his first year as the head coach at Star Valley.

Sheridan’s Don Julian has jumped into Wyoming’s top 10 for victories as a head coach. Julian now ranks seventh with 153 victories in Wyoming. Meanwhile, Natrona’s Steve Harshman ranks fourth with 180 and, of course, Cokeville’s Todd Dayton is atop the list with 304.

Team records

Sheridan extended its state record by winning its 25th state championship. The Broncs were one of three teams to repeat as state champions, as Star Valley and Kaycee also won their second consecutive titles. This comes after zero teams repeated as state champions in 2015.

Pine Bluffs won its first state championship in program history with its 10-7 victory against Tongue River in the 1A 11-man title game. Farson, meanwhile, appeared in its first title game in its 41-30 loss to Kaycee in the six-man championship.

As noted previously on this blog, Kemmerer has now lost 36 games in a row, a state record. Additionally, Kemmerer has lost 17 straight home games; two home losses in the Rangers’ first two home games of 2017 would give Kemmerer that unfortunate record.

Cokeville posted its 29th consecutive winning season and its 31st consecutive non-losing season, extending its state records in both categories.

See all streaks records here.

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If you see any mistakes I’ve made in this update or anything I’ve overlooked, please let me know.

For the record, my 2016 picks finished up like this:

Last week: 3-2 (60 percent). This season: 247-58 (81 percent). 12-year total (has it really been that long?): 2,830-726 (80 percent).

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This week, we’ll get the all-state and Super 25 teams, and final stats — and then any individual season record-breakers — will also be released. We’ll also get the 2017 conference schedules this week; the WHSAA will release those during the statewide scheduling this week in Casper.

The 2017 season promises to be one of change. Thunder Basin High will open in Gillette; defending 2A champion Big Horn moves to 1A 11-man, while Evanston moves to 3A and Lingle becomes playoff-eligible in 1A six-man; schools will regain control of their nonconference scheduling.

I’ll be here for it.

If you like having these records on demand, in a way that was never possible before the site came along… if you like having rich details available for every program in the state, no matter its size or prestige… if you liked seeing the details in this post… and if you like the idea of this site continuing into the 2017 season and beyond…. then sponsor a page.

Thanks for reading all year long. I wouldn’t, and couldn’t, do this without reader support. A special thank you to my page sponsors; you’ve renewed my commitment to the players, coaches and fans in Wyoming, and I appreciate that.

In the meantime: Follow wyoming-football.com on Facebook and Twitter, and don’t forget about wyoming-basketball.com (which you can also follow on Twitter).

–patrick

The Wyoming state football championships — or, as I’m now calling it, War MemoriBowl VIII (but that’s a name I came up with while sleep deprived, and it’s awful) — start Friday in Laramie. I see four amazing games and one decent game in the works for the weekend. Now, which is which? Well, here’s the breakdowns for each five games, in chronological order, as well as my choice for who I think will win:

Class 1A six-man, noon Friday
Kaycee Buckaroos (1E, 10-0) vs. Farson Pronghorns (1W, 10-0)
Series record: Kaycee leads 3-0.
Last meeting: Kaycee beat Farson 65-6 on Sept. 7, 2012, in Farson.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Kaycee one, in 2015. … Farson zero.
Previous title game record: Kaycee, 1-1. … Farson, 0-0.
The path to Laramie: Kaycee beat up on Burlington 60-18 in the quarterfinals and Meeteetse 56-21 in the semifinals. … Farson ousted Hanna 85-26 in the first round and Guernsey-Sunrise 61-25 in the semis.
The case for the Buckaroos: They’re undefeated. They’ve got the longest winning streak in the state, regardless of classification, at 19 games. They’ve won every game this season by at least 35 points. They’ve got a diverse offense with a game-breaking running back in Danny Ramirez (more than 15 yards per rush, 26 TDs) and an efficient passing game — entering the semis, sophomore QB Hunter Rouse had completed 83 percent — EIGHTY THREE PERCENT! — of his passes and had a 29-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The bottom line is Kaycee knows how to win, knows how to win in Laramie, and knows how to win with the talent it has.
The case for the PronghornsAs noted last week, Farson’s growth has been a slow burn, not a sudden explosion. The growth is predicated mostly on sophomores, as Lain Mitchelson has notched 1,552 rushing yards, tops in six-man; Clancy Gines has 10 rushing TDs, leads the team in receiving yards and is third on the team in tackles; and Cortland Barker is tied for the team lead with seven sacks. And seniors Thomas Rezzonico (leading tackler) and Ed Barlow have provided leadership and stability. The Pronghorns have the right mix of talent and potential to be champions for the first time in program history.
The pick
: No matter who wins, we may be seeing the birth of a couple dynasties. Both squads are young (Kaycee has just two seniors, Farson four), and the young players are talented; they’re both loaded for success both Friday and beyond. Honestly, neither team has an advantage on paper. When that’s the case, go with the team that’s been here before and won’t be overwhelmed by the setting. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to look ahead to the rematch in Laramie in November 2017. But first… Kaycee 52, Farson 44.

Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Star Valley Braves (2W, 10-1) vs. Powell Panthers (1W, 8-3)
Series record: Star Valley leads 25-13.
Last meeting: Powell beat Star Valley 22-14 on Sept. 30 in Powell.
Last playoff meeting: Powell beat Star Valley 13-10 in the 3A title game on Nov. 9, 2012, in Laramie.
State championships: Star Valley nine, most recent in 2015. … Powell eight, most recent in 2013.
Previous title game record: Star Valley, 8-10. … Powell, 6-2.
The path to Laramie: Star Valley outscored Riverton 35-27 in the first round and Douglas 61-42 in a semifinal shootout. … Powell held down Lander 58-6 in the quarterfinals and Green River 27-10 in the semifinals.
The case for the Braves: Star Valley has done this before. The defending 3A champions have been remarkably consistent this fall, and they’ve proven they can win games by grinding it out or by shooting it out. That versatility and that consistency is sparked by 3A’s top rushing offense — by far — with Kellen Hansen, Colin McGinley and Josh Dawson all capable game-breakers, and 3A’s top rushing defense, with McGinley, Dawson, Conner Smith, McCabe Smith and a host of others in there screwing things up for opponents. Last year’s MO was different, but first-year head coach McKay Young has shown the Braves can adapt to the talent they have. That sets up well for a repeat run.
The case for the Panthers: No team in the state may have improved more between Week 1 and Week 8 than Powell. The Panthers had a bad loss to Douglas (41-6), followed up by a now-head-scratching loss to Buffalo (7-6), in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively; only a 23-18 victory against Riverton kept Powell from losing four in a row. But the season turned around after beating — guess who? — Star Valley in Week 5. Since then, Powell hasn’t lost, winning six consecutive games, currently the longest winning streak in the state in 11-man. Oh, and the Panthers have the talent to make the individual play when it’s needed. T.J. Abraham is a beast on both sides of the ball; Mason Olsen plays off him and is a versatile threat under center; Brooks Asher, Nathan Magill and Max Gallagher consistently frustrate opposing offenses up front.
The pick
: When you look at title games like this, you throw out the first half of the season. You realize that Powell defeating Star Valley was no fluke. You try to find where another team has an advantage, on either side of the ball. You stare until you feel cross-eyed. Then you realize it’s a toss-up. Star Valley 28, Powell 27, in overtime.

Class 2A, 10 a.m. Saturday
Big Horn Rams (2E, 9-1) vs. Greybull Buffaloes (2W, 9-1)
Series record: Big Horn leads 14-5.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Greybull beat Big Horn 27-25 in a 2A quarterfinal game on Oct. 30, 2015, in Greybull.
State championships: Big Horn four, most recent in 2013. … Greybull one, in 1960.
Previous title game record: Big Horn, 4-9. … Greybull, 1-1.
The path to Laramie: Big Horn squeaked past Pinedale 20-14 in overtime in the quarterfinals and beat Newcastle 27-7 in the semis. … Greybull blasted Wheatland 61-22 in the first round and shut out Glenrock 26-0 in the semis.
The case for the Rams: The Rams have the experience to play in the pressure of a title game — this is their third visit to Laramie the past four years. Big Horn isn’t here by fluke: Its offense is the best in 2A, averaging 400 yards per game, and its defense gives up just 214. Colton Williams can beat teams by rushing (1,660 yards, 25 TDs), catching (416 yards, 4 TDs) or on special teams (leads 2A with 24.3 yards per punt return). Nolan McCafferty fronts a defense that has a plus-14 turnover ratio, best in 2A. Talented, experienced, motivated? That’s a tough combo to stop, and that’s the combo Big Horn is bringing to Laramie.
The case for the Buffaloes: Greybull is one successful two-point conversion away from entering this week undefeated. All season, the offense has been salty (47.9 points per game, best in 2A), but it’s the defense that’s carried the load. The Buffs have 2A’s top run defense, giving up just 71.3 yards per game, and stopped cold undefeated Glenrock’s heavy-duty rushing game last week in the semis. Six players average at least 10 defensive points per game. The offense is predicated on Dawson Forcella and his ability to run (1,483 rushing yards) and score (23 TDs), but he’s got help from an efficient-enough passing game that can do the job when needed. And the senior class is massive and focused.
The pick
: The big question entering this week is if Greybull spent all its playoff mojo in Glenrock last week. The victory against the previously undefeated Herders proved Greybull belongs here, but often we see teams who gear up and play beautifully a semifinal game like that have difficulty going to the well one more time the next week. That’s why I think the Buffs won’t dominate the Rams like they did the Herders. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Greybull is deep, senior-laden and motivated to get the school’s first football title in 56 years. Greybull 30, Big Horn 24.

Class 1A 11-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Pine Bluffs Hornets (3E, 8-2) vs. Tongue River Eagles (2E, 8-2)
Series record: Tongue River leads 3-0.
Last meeting: Tongue River beat Pine Bluffs 28-14 on Oct. 14 in Dayton.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Pine Bluffs zero. … Tongue River five, most recent in 1974.
Previous title game record: Pine Bluffs, 0-3. … Tongue River, 1-5.
The path to Laramie: Pine Bluffs beat Rocky Mountain 23-14 in the first round and Upton-Sundance 19-13 in the semis in back-to-back road games. … Tongue River topped Cokeville 27-12 in the opening round and Shoshoni 37-6 in the second round.
The case for the Hornets: By statistical measure, Pine Bluffs is the superior team in this matchup. The Hornets gain more yards than the Eagles (350.4 ypg to 317.4) and give up fewer (188.3 to 198.1). The talent is there: No Class 1A 11-man running back in the state has more rushing yards than Ruger Lewis’ 1,703, and he reached that total without playing in every game. Of the team’s two losses so far this season, the Hornets have already avenged one; they can avenge the other on Saturday. And Pine Bluffs, as noted above, has the added inspiration of playing to earn the school’s first state football championship.
The case for the Eagles: The Eagles have been here before, coming up short in last year’s 1A 11-man title game, so they won’t be awed by the War or thrown off by the unexpected twists the experience of a title game will bring. They’ll be prepared. It doesn’t really show on the stat sheets, but Tongue River has been one of the state’s most consistent teams, and that also means consistently improving. Brennan Kutterer has been a triple threat as a runner (1,452 yards, 21 TDs), passer (524 yards) and tackler (team-high 206 defensive points). However, he bears a disproportionate load for his team, and he’ll need more help than usual to hold off the Hornets. If TR’s role players make plays when they have the opportunity, then watch out.
The pick
: When these teams played less than a month ago, it was a tight one; the game was tied 14-14 entering the fourth quarter. To boot, Pine Bluffs played without Lewis in that game. With him ready to play in the title game, there’s absolutely no reason to think the Hornets can’t beat the Eagles. If the Eagles can adjust to Lewis’ presence quickly, then they’ll be able to control the pace and play to their style. If not, the Hornets are in prime position to hoist their first state football title trophy. This one may come down to a late fourth-quarter drive and either a big score or a big stop. May be the best game of the weekend — and that’s saying something. Tongue River 28, Pine Bluffs 21.

Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Natrona Mustangs (5, 6-5) vs. Sheridan Broncs (2, 10-1)
Series record: Natrona leads 56-44-6.
Last meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 37-13 on Oct. 14 in Casper.
Last playoff meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 35-10 in a 4A semifinal game on Nov. 6, 2015, in Sheridan.
State championships: Natrona 17, most recent in 2014. … Sheridan 24, most recent in 2015.
Previous title game record: Natrona, 10-5. … Sheridan, 14-6.
The path to Laramie: Natrona beat Kelly Walsh 37-21 in the first round and upset Gillette 30-28 in the semifinals. … Sheridan handled Cheyenne East 34-17 in the quarterfinals and Rock Springs 35-6 in the second round.
The case for the Mustangs: No team in 4A started slower than Natrona, which posted shutout losses to Cheyenne Central and Cheyenne East the first two weeks of the season. Since then, Natrona hasn’t been a crew of world-beaters, but the Mustangs won the right games — the playoff games. All of a sudden, the team that started the season as the team couldn’t score is finishing the season as the team that can’t be stopped. Brett Brenton and Jesse Harshman make a nice 1-2 combo on offense; Thomas Robitaille leads a wrecking crew on defense; Riley Shepperson might have the best kicking leg in the state. Most importantly, the gears are meshing at exactly the right time.
The case for the Broncs: We knew all season long Sheridan would be a prime contender to repeat. And aside from a 24-21 loss to Gillette in the Energy Bowl, Sheridan has made good on that assumption. They have 4A’s top defense and top passing offense. They protect the ball: QB Drew Boedecker has a 25-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and the team averages less than one turnover per game. Coy Steel is one of the best deep threats in Wyoming, and the defense plays well as a unit. A flexible, diverse and deep offense; an opportunistic, fundamentally sound defense. Sounds like the recipe for a state champ.
The pick
: Class 4A has had remarkable parity the last 20-some years: Only one program, Rock Springs in 2001 and 2002, has repeated as the big-school champion since 1994. And Natrona has won the 4A title every even-numbered year this decade (2010, 2012 and 2014). So the historical precedents against the Broncs are definitely there. But history doesn’t dictate destiny. Natrona proved that last week; now Sheridan can prove that this week. In a little bit of a shootout… Sheridan 42, Natrona 30.

If I picked against your favorite squad this week, no worries. My picks clearly don’t mean much, at least not after last week:

Last week: 6-4 (60 percent). This season: 244-56 (81 percent).

So… who do YOU have winning the five title games this weekend? Leave a comment and let’s chat about all the fun that might go down in the Gem City this weekend.

–patrick

When the Class 1A six-man and 3A championship games are played Friday in Laramie, the teams will revive a state tradition dating back to just after World War I — a tradition started by that very war.

Friday is Nov. 11. Through 1954, Nov. 11 was known across the country as Armistice Day, the day the Great War ended on the Western Front in Europe in 1918.

In Wyoming, the day quickly became synonymous with high school football. Armistice Day football games were a Wyoming tradition from the state’s first full season in 1921. Coincidentally, Nov. 11 in 1921 came on a football Friday, and eight games were played on that date — including the first meetings between Natrona and Sheridan and between Cody and Powell.

The tradition of Nov. 11 games continued every year forward from 1921, no matter what day of the week Nov. 11 was, with one exception: In years where Nov. 11 was a Sunday, teams scheduled games for Nov. 10 or Nov. 12.

Armistice Day became the default date for rivalry games across the state. Rock Springs and Green River, Worland and Thermopolis, Laramie and Cheyenne Central, Cody and Powell, Riverton and Lander, Greybull and Basin and others consistently scheduled their annual showdowns for Nov. 11.

The tradition grew year by year, with between 10 and 17 games played per year statewide on or around Armistice Day, up to as many as 20 on Armistice Day in 1941.

However, after World War II, the tradition faded fast. Only 10 Armistice Day games were played in 1947, and by 1948, that number was down to five. In the seven seasons between 1951 and 1957, only 10 total non-playoff Armistice Day games were played.

In part, the fall was precipitated by the addition of playoffs for Class A and Class B schools, which mandated that teams end their seasons earlier so playoffs could be played into the second and third weeks of November.

The last true Nov. 11 regular-season games came in 1963, when Torrington beat Rawlins, and 1964, when Torrington lost to Gering, Neb.

Like the football tradition tied to it, Armistice Day itself didn’t survive long past World War II; it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Between 1964 and 2005, only one game — the 1978 Class AA championship game — was played on Nov. 11. Since 2005, though, eight championship games (Class 5A in 2005, all classes in 2006 and 2A and 3A in 2011) have been staged on Nov. 11. Two more are scheduled for Friday: the 3A title game between Star Valley and Powell and the 1A six-man title game between Kaycee and Farson.

Oh, by the way? In case you forgot? Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, is Veterans Day. And those title games will be played in a venue called, appropriately, War Memorial Stadium.

I’m thankful to see the old tradition revived, even if it’s only coincidence.

Playing on that day allows us to keep our little game in a greater perspective. We can be thankful we’re fighting for a trophy and not our lives.

Even though the Armistice Day tradition has all but ended, we’d do well to keep that perspective going, no matter what day the games are played.

–patrick

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