Torrington will enter the 2019 season having had back-to-back losses in the Class 3A championship game the past two seasons.

So, naturally, the Trailblazers should be an early favorite for the 3A title, ready to avenge the past two seasons of near-titles.

Right?

Ah, if only it were that simple.

In all, 45 Wyoming high school football teams have lost two championship games in a row. Of those, only six won the title the next year — and two of those instances came in 2018.

So the long-term history is against Torrington, but the fact that this feat was pulled off twice last season is a pretty amazing statistic.

The teams that won championships after back-to-back title-game losses were Natrona and Farson in 2018, Cheyenne East in 2007, Star Valley in 1992, Evanston in 1985 and Hanna in 1952.

In fact, it’s more likely that a team won’t qualify for the playoffs at all than win a title after two consecutive championship losses. That’s happened 13 times, compared to the six title winners. And it’s almost twice as likely that teams who reach the title game again after two consecutive title-game losses will lose on their third try — that’s happened to 11 of the 17 teams who made it back to the championship game for a third chance.

The most heart-wrenching of these instances actually comes from Torrington itself. The Trailblazers had six consecutive runner-up finishes in Class A from 1953 to 1958. Losses in the 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 title games were all to Worland; Torrington lost to Powell in 1957’s title game and Cody in 1958.

Losing six consecutive title games is unprecedented in Wyoming. Only one other program in the state — Mountain View from 1999-2002 — has had even four consecutive runner-up finishes.

Here’s a breakdown of the programs who have lost two consecutive title games and how they did in the season immediately after their second title-game loss, with the teams that won titles in bold:

Torrington 2019: ??????
Natrona 2018: Champs
Farson 2018: Champs
Tongue River 2017: Did not qualify for playoffs
Gillette 2016: Semifinals
Douglas 2015: Quarterfinals
Lusk 2015: Did not qualify for playoffs
Lusk 2014: Runners-up again
Buffalo 2009: Semifinals
Big Horn 2009: Quarterfinals
Cheyenne East 2007: Champs
Gillette 2004: Quarterfinals
Gillette 2003: Runners-up again
Star Valley 2003: Semifinals
Mountain View 2003: Semifinals
Mountain View 2002: Runners-up again
Mountain View 2001: Runners-up again
Pinedale 2000: Quarterfinals
Star Valley 1999: Did not qualify for playoffs
Upton 1999: Did not qualify for playoffs
Sheridan 1998: Semifinals
Thermopolis 1998: Semifinals
Lusk 1998: Semifinals
Lusk 1997: Runners-up again
Lander 1996: Did not qualify for playoffs
Lander 1995: Runners-up again
Hulett 1995: Quarterfinals
Buffalo 1994: Quarterfinals
Hulett 1994: Runners-up again
Gillette 1993: Quarterfinals
Star Valley 1992: Champs
Lovell 1992: Quarterfinals
Upton 1989: Did not qualify for playoffs
Cody 1986: Did not qualify for title game
Evanston 1985: Champs
Midwest 1985: Did not qualify for playoffs
Rock Springs 1982: Did not qualify for title game
Riverton 1974: Did not qualify for title game
Worland 1970: Did not qualify for title game
Torrington 1959: Did not qualify for playoffs
Torrington 1958: Runners-up again
Kemmerer 1958: Did not qualify for playoffs
Torrington 1957: Runners-up again
Torrington 1956: Runners-up again
Torrington 1955: Runners-up again
Hanna 1952: Champs

–patrick

Matt Jensen, the football coach at Meeteetse the past six seasons, has resigned to become the principal at Riverside Middle/High School in Basin.

Jensen’s hiring at Riverside was reported earlier this month by the Basin Republican-Rustler. He was also the activities director at Meeteetse and taught social studies.

In Jensen’s six years at Meeteetse, the Longhorns never had a losing season. Combined, his teams went 48-16. He led the program to state championship games in 2013 and 2015, winning the title in 2013. The team advanced past the first round of the playoffs in five of Jensen’s six years.

Meeteetse went 7-3 last year and reached the semifinals of the Class 1A six-man playoffs before losing to Burlington.

In an email sent Saturday to wyoming-football.com, Jensen said he appreciated the opportunities coaching at Meeteetse gave him.

“By far, the most rewarding part has been the young men that I was able to coach and those who I was able coach with,” Jensen wrote. “These young men and coaches worked their tails off everyday and believed whole hearted in our overall goal of becoming better men.”

Other schools looking for new head coaches include Big PineyPinedale and Wyoming Indian. Meanwhile, Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock SpringsEvanston, Torrington, Glenrock and Lovell. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Russell Stienmetz will be the new head football coach at Torrington, the Torrington Telegram reported Friday.

BREAKING: Torrington High School has a new football coach. 12-year Blazer assistant Russell Stienmetz officially takes over the helm of the Blazer football team. #wyovaristy #wyosports— Andrew Towne (@TTSports_Andrew) April 26, 2019

Stienmetz has been with the Torrington program for 12 years, the Telegram reported.

In an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune, Stienmetz said he called Torrington’s defensive signals for the past nine seasons.

Stienmetz also teaches math at Torrington High School.

He replaces Mark Lenhardt, who will leave Torrington at the end of the school year to take over as the head coach at Rock Springs.

Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly Walsh, Gillette, Rock Springs, Evanston, Glenrock and Lovell. Other schools looking for new head coaches include TBig PineyPinedale and Wyoming Indian. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

The Wyoming High School Activities Association’s board of directors approved the addition of nine-man football to the state for the 2020 season, changing the Class 1A 11-man division to a nine-man division.

The board voted unanimously to approve the change on second reading Tuesday, the Casper Star-Tribune’s Brady Oltmans reported on Twitter.

9-man football proposal carries unanimously. There will be 9-man football starting in 2020 in Wyoming.— Brady Oltmans ? (@BradyOltmans) April 23, 2019

The change comes in time for schedules to be set for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Wyoming hasn’t had organized nine-man football since 1994.

In January, WHSAA Associate Director Trevor Wilson said several programs would opt to Class 2A to keep their 11-man teams, and a handful of six-man programs have indicated a desire to up to nine-man. In all, Class 2A would have 17 teams while Class 1A nine-man and Class 1A six-man would have 13 teams apiece.

A November WHSAA survey indicated that programs’ preliminary classification choices — which may change prior to the 2020 season — included the following:

  • Class 2A: Big Horn*, Big Piney, Buffalo, Burns, Cokeville*, Glenrock, Greybull, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Mountain View, Newcastle, Pine Bluffs*, Pinedale, Thermopolis, Upton-Sundance*, Wheatland.
  • Class 1A nine-man: Lingle*, Lusk, Moorcroft^, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens*, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Southeast, Tongue River, Wind River, Wright, Wyoming Indian.
  • Class 1A six-man: Burlington, Dubois, Encampment, Farson, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Meeteetse, Midwest, NSI, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

*-indicates a program that expressed a desire to opt up from current classification; ^-indicates a program that expressed a desire to opt down from current classification. All opt-ups and opt-downs are subject to WHSAA board approval.

Final classification decisions and conferences won’t be set until after the WHSAA’s reclassification work is completed in the fall. Teams may move up or down classifications based on changes in enrollment between now and then.

The 2019 season will be unchanged by Tuesday’s vote.

–patrick

Andrew Rose will be the new head football coach at Gillette.

Rose’s hiring was made official at Tuesday’s meeting of the Campbell County School District No. 1 board.

Gillette has lost 18 consecutive games, making Rose’s job that much tougher. He said via email Wednesday with wyoming-football.com that his plans for rebuilding the Camels’ program start with high expectations, opportunities for success and an overall positive experience.

“The plan moving forward is simple but the task’s complex,” Rose wrote. “(We will) develop a new mindset based on a mixture of old traditions and new traditions. We need to re-establish what it means and what it looks like to be part of a team and have complete buy-in at all levels.”

Rose was an assistant coach for the Camels for the past eight years, working as the freshman team head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator. He has also been an assistant track and field coach at Gillette for several years and teaches physical education at CCHS.

A Gillette native, Rose played football and ran track for the Camels, graduating in 2007. He graduated from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., in 2011 and was on the track and field team.

Rose will replace Micah Christensen, who resigned in January after two seasons as the Camels’ head coach.

Other Class 4A schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly Walsh and Rock Springs. Statewide, Evanston, Glenrock and Lovell have also named new head coaches. Other schools looking for new head coaches include Torrington,Big PineyPinedale and Wyoming Indian. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Some new info has been added to the site, although some of it raises more questions than it answers:

Added four games to Shoshoni’s 1952 season, all with some missing information and added to the missing games list: Shoshoni’s 12-7 victory against the Thermopolis JV between Sept. 16 and Sept. 20 (location unknown); Shoshoni’s 53-0 victory against Morton between Sept. 30 and Oct. 4 (location unknown); Shoshoni’s 13-13 tie with the Lander JV between Oct. 8 and Oct. 18 (location unknown); and Shoshoni’s 39-0 victory against Morton between Oct. 30 and Nov. 8 in Shoshoni.

Added two games to Star Valley’s 1935 season: a 14-6 loss to Montpelier, Idaho, at Montpelier and an 18-6 victory against Paris, Idaho, at Paris. (Added to the missing games list because dates couldn’t be ascertained beyond the beginning of the season.)

Added two missing games to Cowley’s 1954 season: a game at home against Belfry, Mont., on Sept. 17 and a game at Burlington on Oct. 15. (Added to the missing games list.)

Noted that the Nov. 10, 1950, scheduled game between Star Valley and Jackson was not played.

Noted that the Sept. 8, 1995, game between Ten Sleep and Midwest went into overtime.

Added Deaver-Frannie’s coach for 1953 and 1954; it was Al Ketcham. Also fixed the spelling of Ketcham’s name for the 1952 and 1955 seasons.

Added the first name and fixed the spelling of the last name for Midwest’s coach in 1943; it was Herbert Hilgenfeld. 

Also, thanks to “Stat Rat” Jim Craig, I added the first names for the 1944 all-state team. Thanks, sir!

–patrick

Jim Burton, an assistant coach for the Evanston football program, has been promoted to the program’s head coaching spot, the Uinta County Herald has reported on social media.

Burton will replace Pat Fackrell, who stepped down in March after nine seasons as the Red Devils’ head coach.

Burton has been an assistant coach with the Red Devils for the past three seasons and was a middle-school coach in Evanston the previous four years, he said via email Tuesday with wyoming-football.com. Prior to that, Burton spent three years coaching at Stansbury High in Utah and three more years coaching at Tooele High, also in Utah.

Burton teaches seventh grade science at Davis Middle School in Evanston.

Evanston activities director Bubba O’Neill said via email that Burton was hired Monday.

Evanston went 6-4 last season and reached the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.

Evanston is the fifth Wyoming school to name a new head football coach for 2019, joining Kelly WalshRock SpringsGlenrock and Lovell. Other schools looking for new head coaches include GilletteTorringtonEvanstonBig Piney, Pinedale and Wyoming Indian. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Updated at 3:47 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, with comments from Burton and O’Neill.

Pinedale is searching for a new head coach, as Mitch Espeland resigned after three seasons as the Wranglers’ leader.

Espeland said via email to wyoming-football.com on Friday that he and his wife had accepted jobs in Cody and that he had resigned his football coaching position at the end of March.

Espeland said he is “certainly gonna miss Pinedale but this was a move that was best for the both of us.”

Pinedale activities director Jake Rich said he hoped to fill the position by the end of April. He also wished Espeland well in his transition away from Sublette County.

“He was a great asset to PHS and is going to be greatly missed,” Rich wrote.

Espeland went a combined 10-15 in his three seasons with the Wranglers. They reached the Class 2A playoffs in 2016, Espeland’s first year, to break a string of seven consecutive seasons without a playoff berth, but did not reach the postseason again in either of the next two seasons.

The position is currently open for applications.

Gillette, TorringtonEvanstonBig Piney and Wyoming Indian are also searching for new head coaches for 2019, while Kelly Walsh, Rock SpringsGlenrock and Lovell have already named new head coaches for next season. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Updated 9:32 p.m. April 12 with comments from Espeland.

Rock Springs will hire Mark Lenhardt as its new head football coach, pending final approval from the Sweetwater County School District No. 1, the school announced on social media Wednesday.

Lenhardt’s move from Torrington — where he has spent the past eight years as head coach — to Rock Springs was first reported by Andrew Towne of the Torrington Telegram.

Rock Springs High School later confirmed Lenhardt’s anticipated hiring on Facebook.

Lenhardt had led Torrington since 2011, compiling an overall record of 46-31. The Trailblazers had winning seasons in each of the past five seasons and finished as Class 3A runners-up in each of the past two seasons.

The challenge of leading a Class 4A team was appealing, Lenhardt said in the Rock Springs High School Facebook post. Lenhardt played in high school at Cheyenne Central. He previously coached at the University of Mary in North Dakota as a graduate assistant from 2008-10 and at Carroll College in Montana from 2004-07, the school said.

“I am excited at the chance to lead and develop young people into great adults on the field and in the classroom,” Lenhardt also said via the Facebook post.

Rock Springs finished 3-7 last season; the Tigers have had just one winning season (2016) since 2003. Lenhardt will replace David Hastings, who in January resigned after five seasons.

Lenhardt is the second new 4A coach to be hired, joining Aaron Makelky, the new coach at Kelly Walsh. Another Class 4A program, Gillette, is also searching for a new head coach.

Glenrock and Lovell have also named new head coaches for 2019. Torrington, Evanston, Big Piney and Wyoming Indian are searching for new head coaches. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Natrona won its 18th state football championship last fall, and in 2019 the Mustangs will attempt to do something never before accomplished in program history — a repeat championship.

By far, no other program in the state has more titles without a repeat championship that Natrona.

The Mustangs have been close, though — sometimes frustratingly close — to that elusive repeat. Some of the more notable failed repeat attempts include these near-hits:

  • In 1938, the Mustangs finished 10-1, with the only loss a 6-0 defeat to Sheridan in the state title game. Thirteen days before that, NC had beaten Sheridan 14-0.
  • In 1952, the Mustangs finished 7-2, again losing to Sheridan — this time 45-20 — in what ended up being the de facto state title game. Oddly enough, the 1952 team actually finished with a better record than the Mustangs’ state championship team of 1951, which went 5-4 but still won the Class AA state title.
  • In 2004, the Mustangs made it back to the 5A state title game only to lose to Green River 20-0 in Casper.

A couple of Natrona’s more recent repeat attempts have arguably ended with a pair of the the most difficult losses in school history. The 2011 Mustangs marched through the regular season undefeated and won their first playoff game. But in the 4A semifinals, the Mustangs’ perfect season, and repeat attempt, was thwarted in a 24-19 upset loss to Cheyenne East. And in 2013, it was East again that snuffed out NC’s title hopes — this time in the 4A title game, and this time by a more painful margin of 14-13.

Natrona’s most recent failed repeat attempt came in 2015, when Natrona finished 8-3 but lost to Sheridan in the 4A semifinals; that led to the first of Sheridan’s three consecutive championships before Natrona won it all in 2018.

The struggles in Natrona’s repeat attempts only happen, though, because of the Mustangs’ consistency. Almost all of the 17 squads that failed in their repeat attempts have been contenders for state championships: In the 17 seasons following Natrona championships, the Mustangs finished with winning records 15 times. Just never with a title.

The Mustangs’ inability to win back-to-back championships sticks out as odd for a school with so much success. No other Wyoming school with as many titles has never repeated, and it’s not even close. In fact, of 16 Wyoming schools with six or more state championships to their name, NC is the only one without a repeat to its credit. After Natrona’s 17, the team with the most titles with no repeats is Cody with five championships.

Here’s how NC’s seasons have gone in the years after championships:
1929: 5-3-1
1934: 6-2
1938: 10-1, lost 6-0 to Sheridan in state title game
1940: 5-3
1943: 6-3
1949: 5-4
1952: 7-3, lost 45-20 to Sheridan in de facto state title game
1958: 2-6-1
1964: 7-2
1976: 7-2
1986: 2-7
1997: 6-2, lost in quarterfinals
2000: 6-3, lost in semifinals
2004: 9-2, lost 20-0 to Green River in title game
2011: 10-1, lost in semifinals
2013: 8-4, lost 14-13 to East in title game
2015: 8-3, lost in semifinals
2019: ?

–patrick

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