For more than seven decades, Wyoming state football championship games were played on the field of the higher-seeded team.

The system worked — teams displayed all kinds of hometown pride, stadiums filled and trophies went to deserving teams.

Usually.

But every once in a while, the location of the game helped shape its outcome, and the team that won the title wasn’t the better team.

From 1990 — when Wyoming expanded to five classifications for football — until 2008, home teams went 65-30 in state championship games. That means those home teams had a .684 winning percentage, far above the usual 56-percent rate at which home teams win.

That changed in 2009, when the Wyoming High School Activities Association made the decision to move all state football title games to the University of Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

While the decision has had both supporters and detractors, there’s no denying that moving the title games to Laramie has given Wyoming high school teams, for lack of a better term, a more even playing field for state championship contests.

Since 2009, the team that would have been the home team has gone 18-12 (.600) in the Laramie title games.

While detractors of the title games’ move to Laramie have valid points about community pride, Laramie’s sketchy November weather and a mostly empty War Memorial Stadium, even they can’t overlook that the move to Laramie has produced state title games that turn out more representative champions than in previous years.

By employing a neutral site for championship games, Wyoming is more likely to have its best teams win state titles.

This is most evident at classifications below the big schools in Class 4A.

In Class 4A, where teams play a round-robin regular-season schedule to determine playoff seeding, higher-seeded teams are 6-0 in title games. In the state’s other four classifications, where the honor of “hosting” the title game is often determined by an annual rotation between the East and West conferences and is not necessarily awarded to the team with the better record, higher-seeded teams are actually 11-13 (.458) in Laramie — 3-3 in every classification except six-man, where higher-seeded teams are 2-4.

The neutral site has a clear ability to help eliminate any advantage given rather than earned. Maybe that’s why, in part, the Wyoming High School Activities Association voted last week to continue Laramie’s privilege of hosting state championship games through 2017.

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Another myth that’s been dispelled in the first six years of title games in Laramie: The team that is closer to Laramie has no advantage over the team that has to travel further to reach Laramie. Since 2009, the team that’s closer to Laramie has gone 15-15 in the title game. Apparently, distance doesn’t matter if both teams are traveling.

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Here’s the breakdown of each state football championship game in Laramie since 2009. The team listed first is the winning team. Game winners are indicated by location (closer or further from Laramie than opponent) and seeding (higher or lower than opponent).

2014
4A: CLOSER/HIGHER Natrona-Gillette
3A: FURTHER/HIGHER Cody-Douglas
2A: CLOSER/HIGHER Mountain View-Big Horn
1A11: FURTHER/LOWER Cokeville-Lusk
1A6: CLOSER/LOWER Guernsey-Dubois

2013
4A: CLOSER/HIGHER East-Natrona
3A: FURTHER/LOWER Powell-Douglas
2A: FURTHER/LOWER Big Horn-Mountain View
1A11: FURTHER/HIGHER Cokeville-Lusk
1A6: FURTHER/LOWER Meeteetse-Midwest

2012
4A: CLOSER/HIGHER Natrona-Gillette
3A: CLOSER/HIGHER Powell-Star Valley
2A: CLOSER/HIGHER Lyman-Lovell
1A11: CLOSER/LOWER Southeast-Lusk
1A6: FURTHER/LOWER Dubois-Snake River

2011
4A: FURTHER/HIGHER Sheridan-East
3A: FURTHER/LOWER Powell-Douglas
2A: FURTHER/HIGHER Lovell-Lyman
1A11: FURTHER/LOWER Cokeville-Southeast
1A6: CLOSER/LOWER Snake River-Dubois

2010
4A: CLOSER/HIGHER Natrona-Sheridan
3A: CLOSER/HIGHER Douglas-Buffalo
2A: CLOSER/LOWER Thermopolis-Big Horn
1A11: FURTHER/HIGHER Cokeville-Lusk
1A6: FURTHER/HIGHER Snake River-Hanna

2009
4A: FURTHER/HIGHER Sheridan-Central
3A: CLOSER/LOWER Douglas-Cody
2A: FURTHER/LOWER Thermopolis-Glenrock
1A11: CLOSER/HIGHER Southeast-Lingle
1A6: CLOSER/HIGHER Guernsey-Kaycee

Of the games listed here, which game won by a lower seed is the most likely to have been won by the higher seed if it had been played on the higher seed’s home field? Post your thoughts about that question, or about anything related to what’s shown here, with a comment. I’d love to chat about this fun stuff!

–patrick

Last month, we looked at Tongue River girls basketball coach Dianne Moser’s chasing of an interesting, and unknown, milestone — the state record for victories as a Wyoming high school basketball coach.

That title belongs to Okie Blanchard, who won 706 games in his coaching career, but then came out of retirement for one season to coach Hillsdale in 1969. No one knew Hillsdale’s record in 1969, though, leaving the state’s total victories chase a mystery.

However, thanks to some helpers in Laramie County, we have the answer.

And Moser still has work to do.

Jeremiah Johnke at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in Cheyenne, working with Barry Ward at Burns High School, found that Hillsdale’s boys won 12 games with Blanchard as head coach in 1969. That puts Blanchard’s state-best victory total at 718.

Moser enters this weekend with 710 career victories. The Eagles (13-5) have four regular-season games remaining — against Sundance on Friday, against Lovell on Saturday, at Wright on Feb. 20 and against Big Horn on Feb. 21. Tongue River has already beaten Sundance, Wright and Big Horn this season but has not yet played Lovell.

The Eagles would need at least two victories, and maybe three, at the East Regional tournament to qualify for state, where another three games are possible.

If Tongue River wins out, Moser, who told the Casper Star-Tribune this year is her last, will finish her career with 720 victories — two more than Blanchard.

And now we know, for better or for worse.

–patrick

This started as a joke last week on Twitter: A quiz that would help decide which Wyoming high school football coach you are.

But then I built it. You answer seven questions to find your spirit coach. Is it Gillette’s Vic Wilkerson? Natrona’s Steve Harshman? Cokeville’s Todd Dayton? Dubois’ David Trembly? Douglas’ Jay Rhoades? Big Horn’s Michael McGuire? Or Rawlins’ Corey Wheeler?

Find out and play the quiz!

–patrick

The rosters for the 2015 Shrine Bowl have been set by the coaches of the respective teams.

The rosters for the annual all-star football game, scheduled for June 13 in Casper, are as follows:

NORTH
Big Horn: Mason Lube, Christian Mayer, Kerry Powers.
Buffalo: Kasen Filbert.
Cody: Brayden Feusner, Cap McClure, Carter Myers, Noah Rivera.
Dubois: Rowan Hawk.
Gillette: Dillon Matuska, Talon Nelson, Brandon Shelstad.
Greybull: Calder Forcella.
Jackson: Joey Caffaro, Mark Ford.
Kelly Walsh: Josue Munoz, Marcus Nolan.
Lovell: Cade Bischoff.
Natrona: Peter Bergman, Stevann Brown, Parker Franzen, Josh Harshman, Logan Wilson.
Newcastle: Dillon Ehlers.
Powell: Carter Baxter, Kalei Smith, Riley Stringer.
Riverton: Brandon Fullerton, Bo Patterson, Casey Savage.
Sheridan: Colbey Bruney, Tory Music, Joe Shassetz.
Tongue River: Lane Dockery.
Upton-Sundance: Jett Materi.
Wright: Michael Yeradi.

SOUTH
Cheyenne Central: Cooper Mirich, Tayton Montgomery.
Cheyenne East: Tevis Bartlett, Bryan Bell, Chandler Haukap.
Cheyenne South: Jake Brown.
Cokeville: Jace Petersen, James Teichert.
Douglas: Tanner Gamble, Colter Haman, Justin Leman, Bay Parks.
Evanston: Hayden Bomer, William Kishpaugh, Hyrum Peterson.
Green River: Hayden Love.
Guernsey-Sunrise: Brady Esquibel.
Laramie: Danny Bradfield, Tristan Eickbush, Andrew Pearson.
Lusk: Martin Fitzwater, Zane Hladky, Derick VandeBossche.
Lyman: Clayton Peden.
Mountain View: Cade Covington, Caleb Flake, Austin Houskeeper, Isaac Kampman.
Rawlins: Isaac Jefferson, Jalen Krening.
Rock Springs: Koltin Legerski.
Star Valley: Cole Critchfield, Jessie Sanders.
Torrington: Trey Faessler, Juan Gomez, P.D. Miller.

–patrick

A couple updates I uncovered while looking at the blurry pages available on e-yearbook.com:

Added Lovell’s 7-7 tie with Billings, Mont., Poly on Nov. 12, 1926.

Found Newcastle’s coach for 1925: Edward Hoel. This is my first update to the Coaches Project in a while… Let me know if there’s any info on the page you can help with!

All the updates have been made on all the relevant pages.

–patrick

A fortuitous stumbling across some online resources allowed me to make these updates to the site:

Added Newcastle’s 64-0 loss to Edgemont, S.D., on Sept. 25, 1920. (This is Newcastle’s first game in program history.)

Found the score for Cheyenne Central’s 59-6 loss to Fort Collins on Nov. 16, 1907.

Corrected the score for Cheyenne Central’s 47-0 loss to Fort Collins Prep on Nov. 4, 1911. (I had listed 41-1 but I knew it was wrong.)

These changes have been reflected on all the relevant pages.

–patrick

We have a lot of time between now and Nov. 13-14. And a lot can happen in 10 months — injuries, transfers, coaching changes, offseason training, growth spurts and more will all influence who wins the championship trophy in Laramie this November.

That doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead to see who might win the title next season, though.

With the state championship games still 10 months away, here are my pre-preseason top 5 teams for each classification:

Class 4A
1. Gillette: The Camels always reload well, as the program has great numbers and great tradition. But Gillette also returns talent, with Super 25er Zach Taylor and OL Lane Tucker to anchor each side of the ball.
2. Sheridan: Returning three all-conference players on offense in QB Blake Godwin, RB Evan Coon and OL Davis Alden will help the Broncs transition into 2015 easily.
3. Natrona: One of the best senior classes in state history will be gone. But that doesn’t mean the Mustangs have an empty cupboard. They never do.
4. Cheyenne East
: The T-Birds lose a lot, but also have a couple rocks to anchor the defense in lineman Quin Happold and linebacker Jack Danni. They’ll need to find some offensive playmakers, though.
5. Cheyenne South: The Bison should be better than they’ve ever been with three all-conference players back in Nik Seui, Marquez Jefferson and Isaac McHenry. Only Sheridan has more all-conference players back this year than South.
Dark horse: Cheyenne Central. The Indians improved a ton from Week 0 to Week 8 in 2014, but they’ll need to replace some key players.

Class 3A
1. Jackson: Super 25 RB Theo Dawson is the centerpiece, but three other returning all-conference players (Dillon Hartranft, Keegan Bommer and Ryan Johnston) give the Broncs enough depth to improve on last year’s early playoff exit.
2. Cody: Granted, the Broncs lost a ton of star players. But Cameron Myers and Blake Hinze and a host of other underclassmen played key parts on 2014’s title team. And they’re confident now.
3. Torrington: The Trailblazers, with Super 25 RB Skyler Miller, are poised for another breakout season — if they can replace an underrated senior class.
4. Douglas: Every single one of the Bearcats’ nine all-conference selections last year was a senior. However, if anyone can reload in a hurry, it’s Douglas.
5. Rawlins: The Outlaws’ improvement will continue in coach Corey Wheeler’s second year — the second year is always better — as he returns key players in QB Jace Allard and lineman J.D. Smith.
Dark horse: Riverton. Every single all-conference player graduated. Can the Wolverines replace them and stay in the top half of what’s now a competitive East Conference?

Class 2A
1. Wheatland: The Bulldogs return all four of their all-state selections (Justis Borton, Josh Calvert, Daniel Chesser and Nathan Willis), by far the most in 2A. A trip to last year’s semifinals should give Wheatland the experience, and the hunger, to reach Laramie.
2. Mountain View: The defending champs lose a lot to graduation but also retain three all-staters in Dalton Hereford, Dusty Iorg and Kale Iorg. The defense will be stout; the offense remains the question mark.
3. Big Horn: You can’t count out the Rams. Big Horn will rely a lot on their three all-conference returners, seniors Brice Beisher and Collin Powers and junior Nolan McCafferty, to make up for the loss of a deep, and speedy, senior class.
4. Thermopolis: The Bobcats have one of the classification’s most talented running backs in Tyler Cornwell, and he’s surrounded by experienced players who can get the job done.
5. Glenrock: The Herders return all five of their all-conference players and could be a legit contender, but they’ll have to survive a stacked East Conference.
Dark horse: Greybull. Yes, all-everything player Calder Forcella graduated. But the Buffs return a trio of all-conference role players (Lane Nielsen, Dawson McEwan and Elias Ewen) who can keep the program steady.

Class 1A 11-man
1. Cokeville: The Panthers are No. 1 by default, because that’s what consistency earns you. The Panthers’ deep senior class is gone, but Jackson Linford, Ellis Toomer and Trent King were all-conference selections last year (Linford and Toomer were all-state, too), and they will lead the transition year.
2. Lingle: Last year’s East Conference runners-up are stacked for a run at the title game this year, as seniors Dillon Forkner, Colten Wunder and Brice Hill and junior Dallen Fleenor will give the Doggers both depth and experience.
3. Shoshoni: After an 0-3 start, the Wranglers went on a tear last year, and they’ll be tough to stop this year as they return both of their all-state selections (seniors Patrick Forster and Conner Wilkinson) and juniors J.J. Pingetzer and Jason Thoren.
4. Lusk: I feel really scared ranking the Tigers this low, but seven of Lusk’s eight all-conference players are gone. That leaves returning all-stater Logan Lamar to lead a thinner, possibly rebuilding, team.
5. Upton-Sundance: The Patriots have to replace RB Jett Materi, but a pair of senior all-conference returners, Rourke McPeters and Cole Ingrahm, give U-S a good place from which to build.
Dark horses: Rocky Mountain and Tongue River. Both lost some key seniors, but both return a bevy of role players from competitive teams.

Class 1A six-man
1. Meeteetse: In terms of straight-up talent, the Longhorns return more than any other team in six-man. Carter Johnson and Dalton Abarr were both all-state picks and Scott Sessions and Shawn Shepperson also have proven abilities.
2. Kaycee: All-stater Taylor Rouse has been as consistent as a player can be. If his senior classmates surround him and give him some help, the Buckaroos could be in Laramie.
3. Guernsey-Sunrise: An athletic senior class departs, but all-state selections Forest Foos and Seth Frederick played important parts in last year’s title run and will lead the Vikings next season.
4. Farson: The Pronghorns’ only all-state selection, Lynndon Lehmann, graduated, but the team returns every other all-conference player. Seniors Kelton Broadhead, Neale Jones and Isaac Orozco give Farson consistency and athleticism.
5. Dubois: Last year’s state runners-up graduated the bulk of their key players, but the Rams could surprise out west thanks to returning all-stater Zac Rose.
Dark horse: Snake River. Who knows how the Rattlers will handle losing a talented senior class? Returning all-conference selection Braden Duncan gives Snake River a good start.

Who do you think will haul home the first-place trophy from Laramie next November? Post a comment and let’s talk about this, way way way way before it’s logical to do so.

–patrick

A few quick updates:

Found the score and corrected the date for Huntley’s 33-7 victory against Glenrock on Oct. 18, 1963.

Updated the 5A 2005 all-state list to include Jason Johnson, who was an all-state punter for Cheyenne East. Thanks Jason for catching that omission!

Updated the 1972 standings page to add the B Southwest standings, which I inadvertently left off.

All the updates have been made on all the relevant pages.

–patrick

After several years of playing the Shrine Bowl under the artificial lights, the annual all-star football game will once again be played under natural light in 2015.

The 2015 Shrine Bowl will start at 2 p.m. this year, executive director John Cundall said via email.

Cundall said the change is a better option for participants and fans alike.

The game will be June 13 at Cheney Alumni Field in Casper.

–patrick

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