At the beginning of the season in Class 1A six-man, the talk will be about Kaycee — and rightly so.

The Buckaroos have won three consecutive Class 1A six-man championships and 30 games in a row, tied for second-longest in state history and just five shy of the overall mark of 34 set by Laramie from 1959-63.

However, whether Kaycee even has the opportunity to break that streak, much less win a fourth consecutive six-man championship, is very much in question.

Graduation decimated the Buckaroos’ lineup, and several other teams (Farson, Burlington, Snake River, Meeteetse, Hanna) think this year might be their year. For once, the competition will be strong in six-man.

Four questions to answer

Will Kaycee win a fourth consecutive six-man championship? Probably not. The Buckaroos lost half its team to graduation — yes, half — and will rely on a ton of younger players to stay competitive. That turnover opens the door for Farson, the six-man runners-up the past two years, to come into the season as favorites for the title.

If Farson’s the favorite, who else is in the title chase? Snake River and Burlington. The three teams split the West Conference title last season, and all three return enough firepower to be state title contenders. Farson’s individual talent — always a bigger deal at six-man than 11-man — gives the Pronghorns the upper hand on paper in the preseason, but both the Rattlers and Huskies could be problematic for Farson this season.

Is anyone from the East a contender? Not really. As noted, Kaycee lost a lot of talent, but pretty much every other team in the East did to. Hanna is the lone exception, but most of the Miners’ key players this year are juniors — setting the team up well for a 2019 push but likely making a run at a championship this year more difficult than usual.

Who’s got the best chance to be a surprise contender? Meeteetse. The Longhorns will have six seniors — a ton for six-man — and could compete for the West Conference crown if everything lines up well. We’ll know Meeteetse’s fate early: The Longhorns play Snake River, Burlington and Farson consecutively in Weeks 3-5.

Four (OK, five) players to watch

Lain Mitchelson, Farson. Mitchelson is arguably the best athlete in Class 1A. Also an accomplished basketball player and track athlete, Mitchelson ran for 944 yards, threw for 412 and received for 276, combining for 24 touchdowns. He also led the Pronghorns with almost 20 defensive points per game.

Clancy Gines, Farson. Gines helps give the Pronghorns the physicality they need to be both respected and a little bit feared by opponents. His 954 rushing yards was tops for Farson last year, and he was second (behind Mitchelson) in defensive points per game.

Hunter Rouse, Kaycee. Somehow, these Kaycee quarterbacks just keep getting the job done. Rouse threw for 18 touchdowns last year and had only two interceptions. His ability to control the pace of the game — and protect the ball — will be huge keys as the Buckaroos’ only returning all-state player tries to push his team toward a fourth consecutive six-man championship.

Conor McGraw and Shane McGraw, Hanna. The twin juniors come from good stock; they’re the sons of NFL player Mike McGraw and grandchildren of NFL player “Fum” McGraw. They’re starting to make their own names, too. Conor was all over the field last year and led Hanna in receiving and defensive points, while Shane led the Miners in rushing yards and also split time throwing the ball, too.

Four key games

Snake River at Burlington, Sept. 7. The Rattlers and Huskies are both trying to challenge Farson’s supremacy in the West Conference. However, the team that can’t get this victory in Week 2 to open conference play will be chasing not only Farson but also the team that wins this game — and that’s going to be a tough spot this season.

Meeteetse at Farson, Sept. 28. This is the third game in Meeteetse’s brutal three-game stretch of Snake River, Burlington and Farson. Meanwhile, this will probably be Farson’s first big test of the season. Maybe the Longhorns sneak this one out in Farson thanks to the seasoning they’ll have had by the time this game rolls around.

Farson at Burlington, Oct. 12. This Week 7 showdown might be Farson’s toughest challenge on the season. Overcoming a long trip to Burlington, as well as a formidable Huskies team, will be key for the Pronghorns to prove their mettle in a title chase.

Kaycee at Hanna, Oct. 13. Kaycee’s trek to a fourth consecutive title will be difficult regardless. This trip to Carbon County might be a trap if the quickly maturing Miners continue to improve. Will this game usher in a changing of the guard at the top of the East Conference?

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Kaycee; Hanna; Hulett; Guernsey-Sunrise; Midwest; Lingle; NSI; Rock River.

West Conference: Farson; Burlington; Meeteetse; Snake River; Riverside; St. Stephens; Dubois. (Ten Sleep will not field a program this fall.)

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Farson 48, Burlington 42. After two runner-up finishes, it’s about time for Farson to hoist the first-place trophy. They have the talent and the experience to do just that.

What do you think? Is a four-peat in the cards for Kaycee, or is it time for another program to hoist the trophy and end the Buckaroos’ reign? Leave a comment to talk some six-man.

Next Thursday: Class 1A 11-man preview.

–patrick

Due to declining participation numbers, Ten Sleep will not field a high school football team this fall.

Ten Sleep activities director Sarah Novak said Wednesday to wyoming-football.com that the Pioneers wouldn’t have enough players to field a team to play in the Class 1A six-man West Conference. Only four solid commitments came in over the summer and only about five students had expressed any interest in playing this fall.

Novak said school administrators made the decision Tuesday night.

“In talking with our administration, we have kind of struggled… with participation numbers over the last two or three years,” she said. “We’ve had to forfeit games or quit at halftime and we’re just not having a positive experience right now.

” … We can’t continue to play with six kids, and this year I’m not even sure we’d have six.”

Ten Sleep has gone a combined 4-26 the past four seasons, winning one game each year since 2014. The program has had three different head coaches in that span.

Ten Sleep’s middle school program will run as usual this year. Novak said she had double-digit participation numbers for that program, which incorporates grades 5-8.

Novak, who also coaches girls basketball, has seen similar problems with low participation in that sport, as well.

“You hate to give up a program because sometimes it’s hard to get it back,” she said.

Novak said the Pioneers who want to continue to play football can do so by joining the program at Worland.

“We’re sad about not having our program, but we’re pleased to have an alternative for those young men,” Novak said.

–patrick

 

Want to know who’s going to win the Wyoming state football champions this year? Here’s how to do so, in decreasing order of necessity, based on how that team finished last year:

1. They had at least two victories last year: Only one team since 1990 has won a title with fewer than two victories the previous year — and even that comes with an asterisk. Lingle won the nine-man state championship in 1990 after going 1-7 in 1989, but that 1989 season was played at the 11-man level. In short, it’s exceedingly rare for a team to win zero games or one game in one season and turn around to win a state championship the next year.

2. They were in the playoffs last year: Pine Bluffs proved to be the exception to this rule in 2016, winning the 1A 11-man state title despite missing the playoffs in 2015. Before the Hornets, the last state champion that missed an eight-team playoff bracket the year before? Cokeville in 1993. (In 1992, Cokeville finished 4-3 but missed out on a playoff spot; the Panthers won it all in 1A the next season.)

3. They have the same coach: Only eight of the past 115 state champions have won titles with a coach in his first year as head coach at the school. But the trend is changing, as it’s happened five times the past six years with Lyman’s Dale Anderson in 2012, Meeteetse’s Matt Jensen in 2013, Kaycee’s Lee Kremers in 2015, Star Valley’s McKay Young in 2016 and Kaycee’s Tony Rouse in 2017.

4. They had a winning record last year: Only 14 of the 120 state champions since 1994 had a losing record the previous season; nine of those occurrences were between 2005 and 2010. And it’s happened three time in the past three years. Those teams: Rocky Mountain in 1995, Kemmerer in 2005, Jackson in 2007, Cheyenne East in 2007, Burns in 2008, Gillette in 2008, Guernsey-Sunrise in 2009, Thermopolis in 2009, Snake River in 2010, Natrona in 2010, Star Valley in 2015, Pine Bluffs in 2016 and Cody in 2017.

5. They reached at least the semifinals the previous season: Only 26 of the 120 state champions since 1994 were not in the semifinals of the playoffs the year before. However, two of those 26 were last year: Cody in 3A and Mountain View in 2A.

6. They played in the state title game the year before: Of the past 120 state champs, 53 played in the state title game the previous season. However, just two years ago, this trend was busted up pretty well: None of the 2015 state champs played in the title game in 2014… the first time that’s happened since 1997.

So, to those 13 teams who had one win or fewer: Your title chances are basically zilch, based on historical precedent. Sorry.

To those 24 teams who missed the playoffs last season: Your title chances are basically zilch, based on historical precedent. Even though there’s a Pine Bluffs-in-2016-style chance, it happens rarely. The Hornets may have been the one exception granted by this rule for the next 20 years. Sorry.

To those 30 teams who had losing records: Your title chances are slim, slim, slim (about 1.7 percent) — but not zilch — based on historical precedent. Sorry.

To those 20 teams who reached the semifinals last year: Your title chances are actually pretty good, based on historical precedent! Hurray for you!

To those 10 teams who played in the title games last year: Your title chances are EXCELLENT, based on historical precedent! Hurray for you.

And to those 14 teams with new head coaches: Your title chances, oddly, are better than they’ve ever been. Congratulations?

–patrick

Saratoga will not play its varsity 11-man football schedule in 2018.

Saratoga activities director Greg Bartlett said Wednesday the program only expected 10 to 12 players to come out this fall, not enough for pursuing a full 11-man season.

With low participation, Bartlett said, “it’s tough to keep a season together.”

Instead, the Panthers will pursue a six-man sub-varsity schedule this season, scheduling as many games as possible against nearby junior varsity squads. Bartlett said he’s already got one game scheduled but would prefer five or six games. He said the team’s schedule should be mostly in place by the end of next week, but some games may be added later depending on how the schedule comes together.

Bartlett said the move is likely temporary.

“In about two to three years, we have some elementary boys coming into the middle school where there might be 20 boys per class,” Bartlett said.

The Panthers play in the Class 1A 11-man West Conference. The program also draws players from nearby Encampment.

Bartlett said about three seniors, a couple juniors, about four sophomores and three freshmen showed interest in playing this fall. He said more may join when the season starts, but the decision to forgo the varsity season had to be made based on the numbers of committed players, not on the number of maybes.

Logan Wright, who previously coached in Rock River and taught in Laramie, will be the Panthers’ new head coach this fall. Wright will also teach PE in Saratoga.

Wright previously was a six-man assistant at Rock River, as part of the middle-school program in 2013 and the high school in 2014 and 2015.

“I’m certainly going into it looking at like were a varsity team and we’re going to put our best foot forward every day,” Wright said via telephone on Wednesday. “Whether the games count or not doesn’t matter to me.”

Saratoga played in the Class 1A six-man East Conference for one season, in 2013. Otherwise, the Panthers have fielded a varsity 11-man program every year since moving up after a two-year stint of nine-man football in 1991. The program has played a varsity schedule every season since 1955.

–patrick

Ten Sleep is on the hunt for a new football coach.

Former coach Ross Hauptman has resigned after deciding to move to Gillette, he said to wyoming-football.com on Sunday. The Northern Wyoming Daily News reported his resignation from his teaching position in Ten Sleep in May.

Ten Sleep activities director Russ Budmayr did not immediately respond to an email inquiry about who would fill Hauptman’s spot.

Ten Sleep went 1-7 last year, Hauptman’s only year as head coach.

Other Wyoming schools with new head coaches, or with vacant head coaching spots, include Class 4A Cheyenne Central and Sheridan, Class 3A Green RiverLanderPowell and Rawlins, Class 2A Burns, GreybullLovellMoorcroft and Wheatland and Class 1A 11-man Big Horn. If you know of other coaching hirings or resignations statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Saratoga’s football coach has resigned and its 2018 season is in question due to a lack of players.

Saratoga activities director Greg Bartlett said via email Tuesday that if a full 11-man squad can’t be fielded, the Panthers would field a six-man team and try to secure games against nearby junior varsity squads. A final decision on Saratoga’s 2018 season will likely be made in the second week of July, Bartlett said.

Meanwhile, coach Kegan Willford, the Panthers’ coach the past two seasons, said via email early this week that he is no longer the head coach at Saratoga. It was unclear whether Willford resigned or was let go from the position; Willford did not respond to follow-up emails.

Saratoga went 3-7 last season and lost to eventual Class 1A 11-man champion Pine Bluffs 58-0 in the first round of the playoffs.

Saratoga played in the Class 1A six-man division for one season, in 2013. The Panthers have fielded a team every season since 1955, occasionally fielding eight-man or nine-man teams.

Of the 21 players listed on the Saratoga roster from last season, seven were seniors.

–patrick

Team Wyoming topped Team Nebraska 16-14 on Saturday in Albion, Nebraska, in the seventh annual Six-man Shootout.

Kaycee’s Danny Ramirez scored both touchdowns for Wyoming, one on a 43-yard run in the second quarter and another on a 35-yard interception return in the third quarter. Ramirez was the game’s offensive MVP.

Mark Largent of Kaycee added a fourth-quarter safety.

Nebraska scored all 14 of its points in the third quarter. Nebraska’s Garrett Egger, of Cody-Kilgore, who recovered a fumble in the end zone for one of the scores, was the defensive MVP.

Wyoming now leads the all-time series 4-3.

Next year’s game will be hosted by the 2018 Wyoming six-man state champion.

–patrick

The seventh annual Six-man Shootout game, pitting the best six-man players from Wyoming and Nebraska in an interstate showdown, will be played Saturday.

The game is set for a 2 p.m. kickoff in Albion, Nebraska.

The Wyoming roster includes:

BURLINGTON: Tallon Wiles.
DUBOIS: Matt Codevilla.
FARSON: Cruz Lucero.
GUERNSEY-SUNRISE: Garret Oneyear.
HULETT: Josh Stevens.
KAYCEE: Brice Austin; Hunter Elmer; Atticus Garrett; Mark Largent; Danny Ramirez.
MEETEETSE: Braenn Smith.
MIDWEST: Kayden Best; William Chapman.
RIVERSIDE: Justen Miller.
SNAKE RIVER: J.D. Corson; Kameron Evans; Trenton Jeannerett; Tyler Jensen.
Coaches: Tony Rouse, Kaycee, head coach; Trent Aagard, Burlington; Ken Swieter, Midwest; Jason Humble, Kaycee.

The Nebraska roster includes Issac Buitron of Arthur County; Brody Davis and Garrett Egger of Cody-Kilgore; Derrick Buescher of Deshler; Caleb Werger of Elwood; Tyler Wall of Hampton; Austin Bell, Jaydan Callahan and Tycker Scherbarth of Harvard; Trystin Gielssen of Hyannis; Riley Swerczek of Riverside; Mark Thurston of Silver Lake; and Dan Carraher, Paul Diessner and Spencer Leslie of Spalding Academy. The coaches are head coach Joe Imus of Riverside and assistants Troy Kleffner of Spalding Academy, Landon Miller of Cody-Kilgore and Scott Trimble of Harvard.

The series is tied at 3-3, but Nebraska has won the last three games, including last year’s game 58-38.

–patrick

Eli Moody, a Lovell native who played football at Wyoming, has been hired as the head football coach at Greybull.

Greybull AD Nolan Tracy verified Moody’s hiring in an email to wyoming-football.com on Thursday.

Moody graduated from Lovell in 2012; he first attended Rocky Mountain College before transferring to UW. He was a PE teacher at Stagecoach Elementary in Rock Springs this year.

Other Wyoming schools with new head coaches, or with vacant head coaching spots, include Class 4A Cheyenne Central and Sheridan, Class 3A Green RiverLanderPowell and Rawlins, Class 2A BurnsLovellMoorcroft and Wheatland and Class 1A 11-man Big Horn. If you know of other coaching hirings or resignations statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Clayton McSpadden will be the new football coach at Rawlins.

Rawlins AD Sandy Jebens confirmed via email to wyoming-football.com on Monday that McSpadden — a 2009 Rawlins High graduate — will be the program’s head coach. McSpadden’s hiring was confirmed by the Carbon County School District No. 1 board on Thursday.

McSpadden was also hired to teach PE at Rawlins High School, the board meeting agenda showed.

McSpadden was a Shrine Bowl selection for Rawlins and played football collegiately at Black Hills State.

He replaces Corey Wheeler, who resigned in May after four seasons as the Outlaws’ head coach. Rawlins finished 7-3 last season, its first winning season since 2000.

Other Wyoming schools with new head coaches, or with vacant head coaching spots, include Class 4A Cheyenne Central and Sheridan, Class 3A Green RiverLander and Powell, Class 2A Burns, Greybull, Lovell, Moorcroft and Wheatland and Class 1A 11-man Big Horn. If you know of other coaching hirings or resignations statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

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