A couple quick updates:

I added Glenrock’s coach for its first season, 1923 — it was C.H. Spearman.

I also added the first name for Glendo’s head coach in 1952, David Hamilton.

I also made some updates to the 1969 and 1970 Class A all-state teams; I had quite a few misspellings in those lists, and I did what I could to catch and fix all that I could. As always, if you see any misspellings anywhere on the site, please let me know!

–patrick

"The Eagles of Heart Mountain" book cover.

As I read “The Eagles of Heart Mountain,” one word kept circling through my brain — resilience.

Bradford Pearson’s book about the football teams from the Heart Mountain internment camp in northwestern Wyoming helps show the resilience of people who had everything stripped away from them except one another.

In Wyoming, we often get half the story about Japanese American internment at Heart Mountain. We hear the “during” of the story — how Japanese Americans from the West Coast came to Wyoming by force, how they persevered throughout their imprisonment, how they found their way in a shameful period of American choices.

“The Eagles of Heart Mountain,” though, shows a more complete picture of the breakdown of societal norms that allowed for more than 100,000 American citizens to be imprisoned by their own government due to their “blood.” It shows the development and richness of Japanese American culture in California prior to World War II; it shows the sacrifices they made to uphold both their American citizenship and their dignity and the lengths they had to go to show their loyalty to a country that deemed their very presence a threat to national security; and it shows the perseverance of those who had every reason to do the opposite. For Wyoming readers, the book will fill in “before” and “after” for many who may have only heard the “during.”

The resilience shows up at a variety of places in the book: a racetrack in suburban Los Angeles, a courtroom in Cheyenne, railroad tracks in eastern Washington, a prison in Kansas. Each could make an amazing book on their own.

However, the driver of the narrative of the book is the resilience shown by a group of Heart Mountain teenagers on a dusty football field in Park County. Football was just one vehicle for the resilience demonstrated time and again by Japanese Americans — and the Eagles had plenty of it.

The book introduces many people throughout its 301 pages. Wyoming residents will appreciate the references to Johnny Winterholler, Carl Dir, Charles Roberts, LeRoy Pearce, Joe Schwartz and others who dotted Wyoming’s athletics pantheon before and during World War II.

But that group is incomplete without the stories of Tamotsu “Babe” Nomura, George “Horse” Yoshinaga, and the rest of the Eagles from Heart Mountain. Their story — their “before” and “after,” not just their “during” — is worth your attention. And the dramatic retelling of the Eagles’ biggest, and final, game against Natrona will remind readers of “Friday Night Lights.” The difference, though, is that in “The Eagles of Heart Mountain,” the stakes go well beyond those of a state championship.

Pearson’s research shines at every step, giving readers both a complete picture of the big-picture hypocrisy that led to the imprisonment of American citizens and the personal choices made by politicians, civic leaders, business owners, coaches, lawyers and, most importantly, the Japanese Americans who had their lives changed forever.

Order “The Eagles of Heart Mountain” here. List price $28.

Note: This review is unsolicited.

–patrick

In late October, 1999, my senior year of high school, I was sitting in Mr. Balfour’s class when one of my friends came into class and told me: “Patrick, you made all-conference.”

Surprised wasn’t the right word. Confused was more like it. The only thing I could think was to wonder why my friend would play this joke on me.

It wasn’t a joke. In 1999, the four head coaches in the Class 1A-Division II Powder River Conference awarded me a spot on the all-conference football team.

I didn’t deserve that spot.

And I knew it.

Even on the worst team in one of the worst conferences in the classification made up of the the smallest schools in the smallest state in the country, I shouldn’t have been all-conference. I was (and am) 5-foot-7, maybe 150 pounds (bigger now). I made up for being slow by being weak, too.

My stats reflected that reality. I started at tight end/wide receiver and safety; I had maybe six catches all season (no touchdowns) and roughly 50 defensive points (no interceptions).

But I showed up to practice every day. I played hard. I was coachable. I didn’t cause any problems off the field. And I appreciate that my coaches deemed me worthy to nominate and other coaches agreed.

That was enough to make me a quota filler.

My all-conference selection is emblematic of all-conference football in Wyoming as a whole. Certainly, it’s not a new problem, but 2020’s selections revealed just how easy all-conference honors are to earn.

Consider the number of players who were recognized as first-team all-conference selections this year: 359. Yes, 359 different Wyoming players were named first-team all-conference selections after the 2020 season.

Of those, 76 came in Class 4A, 79 in Class 3A, 93 in Class 2A, 71 in Class 1A nine-man and 40 in Class 1A six-man.

But the number 359 barely scratches the surface.

Class 4A’s numbers game

The most absurd recognitions come in the classification with the biggest schools. In Class 4A, some level of all-conference recognition is barely above that of a participation award.

The problem in 4A is that there are three levels of all-conference recognition: first team, second team and honorable mention. The 76 players I mentioned before were first team, on which there are 92 available spots across the two all-conference teams (4A gives all-conference and all-state honors by position). There were another combined 66 second-team spots, and this year there were 93 combined honorable mention selections.

That’s 251 possible all-conference choices. In one classification. For 10 teams. Quick math: That averages out to 25 selections per team reaching some level of all-conference recognition.

Basically, all you have to do to get an all-conference selection in Class 4A, all things being equal, is start. With 11 positions on offense, 11 positions on defense, kicker, punter, returner, and there’s 25 positions to nominate for the roughly 25 positions per school available for all-conference.

This year, 174 individuals filled those 251 spots in 4A. And as you dig in, you begin to see some of the absurdities.

Thunder Basin had 40 all-conference choices — almost double the number of available starting spots on Thunder Basin’s team. In all, 25 different ‘Bolts players were named all-conference to those 40 spots. Of those Thunder Basin choices, 16 were on offense and 19 were on defense, with the remainder falling into special teams or “at-large” selections.

Now, pay attention, because this is where the absurdity starts to show: at the position breakdown. Thunder Basin had eight defensive linemen, seven defensive backs and five wide receivers make all-conference.

At least for Thunder Basin, it was easier to get all-conference recognition than it was to earn a starting position in 2020.

For as fine of a team as Thunder Basin had this year, even that is pushing it. This isn’t just a Thunder Basin problem, though.

Natrona and Sheridan had 22 individuals named all-conference — Sheridan’s players to 31 spots and Natrona’s to 28. That’s not all that far behind Thunder Basin.

Also, it’s not just an issue of the top teams soaking up all the spots: Nine of the 10 Class 4A teams had at least 11 all-conference selections on offense. Thunder Basin, as noted, had 16; Campbell County had 14; Natrona and Sheridan had 13; Central and Laramie had 12; East, Rock Springs and Kelly Walsh had 11 apiece.

Then again, when you have that quota of 251 spaces to fill, you’ve gotta get a little creative.

That’s how guys become quota fillers.

All-state is problematic, too

All-state awards are much more selective. More spots are available on all-state, though, than ever before, as well — this year, 186 players were named first-team all-state across Wyoming’s five classifications.

A look at the all-state teams of the past shows how much the teams have been expanded, with numbers creeping up bit by bit, year by year.

The 186 players named all-staters in 2020 is the highest number in Wyoming history. This year’s total breaks a record set in 2019, 2018 and 2016 of 182.

Here’s a chart that shows the incremental creep of all-state awards. (Note that the dip in 1994 is due to incomplete data; the 1A nine-man all-state team from that year still has yet to be found.)

Historically, the biggest jumps are when Wyoming adds a classification of football — from 89 selections to 110 between 1982 and 1983 with the move from three to four classes, and the jump from 109 to 140 selections between 1989 and 1990 with the move from four to five.

Even so, the 140 players on Wyoming’s first five-class all-state teams in 1990 collectively total 46 fewer players than the 186 players recognized in 2020.

(If you really want to dig deep on this, click here to see a breakdown of the number of all-state players by classification and year.)

The solution?

What coaches and administrators across the state need to decide is if all-conference awards are exclusive.

Right now, they’re not.

In another 20 years, how many of the 359 first-team players across the state who were given all-conference recognition will say the same? How many of those 174 individuals across the gamut of 251 first-team, second-team and honorable mention selections in 4A? How many of those eight Thunder Basin defensive linemen?

Heck, how many will say it now?

I think one answer is to change all-conference (and all-state) teams to true team selections. By position, choose 11 players for offense, 11 for defense, three for special teams for an even 25 players per conference; adjust accordingly for nine-man (9-9-3 for 21) and six-man (6-6-2 for 14). Across Wyoming’s five classifications and 10 conferences, that’s 220 players: 50 in 4A, 3A and 2A, 42 in nine-man and 28 in 1A.

For all-state, that would be 25 for 4A, 3A and 2A, 21 for nine-man and 14 for six-man; in all, that’s 110 all-state picks.

If coaches want to recognize their players, they can continue to do so with team-specific awards. That would truly be more meaningful than a recognition so watered down that it might be mistaken for a joke.

The legacy of a quota filler

I never framed my all-conference award, and I never hung it on my wall. I’m not even sure where it is, to be honest. It’s probably buried among perfect attendance honors and report cards, but I’ve never felt compelled to go look for it.

This is totally antithetical to who I am, though. I’m a nostalgic dude. I love keeping the past alive. I think often about my experiences in high school sports. I’ve been known to watch the occasional game tape on YouTube. And I run this website. My wife has called me Uncle Rico, and sometimes I wonder if she’s not joking.

But the all-conference honor I got as a senior?

I didn’t deserve it, and I know it.

It means so little to me because it meant so little to the ones who bestowed it on me.

–patrick

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A few weeks ago, I broached this topic on Twitter, asking if the number of players selected for all-conference honors was too many, too few or just right. Here’s what you all said:

What do you think? Be sure to leave a comment.

The 2021 Wyoming Shrine Bowl all-star football games now have their full complement of coaches.

Shrine Bowl Executive Director Frank Selby announced the full coaching staffs in a release Tuesday, completing the staffs started with the announcement of head coaches in December.

South head coach Brent Walk of Mountain View will be joined by assistants Paul Garcia of Cheyenne East, Wes Gamble of Douglas, Michael Collins of Mountain View, Logan Wright of Saratoga and Jack Cobb of Snake River.

North head coach Matt McFadden of Cody will have Trent Pikula of Thunder Basin, Jim Talich of Cody, Kirk McLaughlin of Big Horn, Larry Yeradi of Wright and Zeb Hagen of Meeteetse on his staff.

This year’s game will be June 12 at Cheney Alumni Field in Casper.

–patrick

A total of 96 Wyoming high school football players have been nominated for the scholar-athlete awards given by the Wyoming Chapter of the National Football Foundation.

Two finalists from each classification — one lineman and one back — will be given $1,200 scholarships from the group. The top scholar-athlete will earn an additional $1,200 scholarship and is eligible for regional and national recognition.

The group will also give out awards to honor contributions to amateur football, to fans of UW and high school football, to coaches and officials, and to players who are nominated for courage and perseverance awards.

The scholar-athlete awards are based 40% on football ability, 40% on academic achievement and 20% on extracurricular activities and citizenship. All nominees must be seniors and have a GPA of 3.0 or better.

Last year’s winner was Dax Yeradi of Wright. Here is a list of all former Wyoming Chapter award winners.

Due to COVID-19, a date and location for the group’s annual award ceremony have not been set.

The nominees are:

Class 4A
Cheyenne Central: Andrew Johnson.
Cheyenne East: Josiah Aragon, Nick Begeman, Trey Bower, Graedyn Buell, Shaye Ellis, Dakota Heckman, Jackson Hesford, Logan Kusler, Isaac Marshall, Cael Pugh, Jake Rayl, Bradley Whitright.
Cheyenne South: Kobe Barto.
Laramie: Isaac Sell.
Natrona: Myllian Allison, Dominick Bradach, Rhett Buhler, Braxton Bundy, Avery Cox, Robert Douglas, Bode Draper, Brady Dutcher, Jace George, Colter Helm, Ben Hoppens, D’Anthony Smith, Zack Southerland, Harrison Taubert, Nolan Valdez.
Rock Springs: Collin Madsen.
Sheridan: Izak Aksamit, Rance Beck, Kavan Bede, Alexander Coon, Carter Dubberley, Francisco Gallegos, Zach Koltiska, Quinton Mangus, Ryan Marchant, Kyle Meinecke, Ben Novotny, Reece Osborne, Kahlil Rios, Matthew Taylor, Justin Vela, Gaige Vielhauer.
Thunder Basin: Sergio Aguilar, Dillon Bannister, River Brisko, Gavin Carroll, Michael Coleman, Kameron Engle, Andre Felton, Hayden Lunberg, Hunter Lunberg, Alex O’Dell, Scott O’Dell, Jaxon Pikula, Brody Richardson, Camden Schlekeway, Dyse Shepherd.

Class 3A
Cody: Keaton Stone, Nic Talich.
Green River: Jacob Fuss, James King, Jacob Marinez, Seth White.
Lander: Jack Sweeney.
Riverton: Rylan Koehn.
Star Valley: Brant Nelson.
Worland: Rudy Sanford.

Class 2A
Kemmerer: Aaron Ortiz, Austin Peternal.
Lovell: CJ Lindsay.
Mountain View: Hunter Meeks.
Pinedale: Carson Gregory.
Wheatland: Adam Suko.

Class 1A nine-man 
Pine Bluffs: Marvin Reza.
Saratoga: Teagan Love.
Shoshoni: Kaden Dower.
Southeast: Sawyer Anderson, Brant Fullmer, Bodie Herring, Reece Robertson.
Wind River: Colter Collver.
Wright: Kagen Baker, Kayden Mack.

Class 1A six-man
Encampment
: Dalton Peterson.
Farson: Parker Clawson, Carson Jones, Colby Jones, Zander Reed.
Meeteetse: Hadley Abarr, Tozai May, Dale McBride.

–patrick

This post was updated at 8:11 p.m. MST Jan. 4 to correct a spelling mistake on Bodie Herring’s name.

Cover for the book "A Century of Fridays: Wyoming High School Football, 1894-2020," which will be out soon!
A Century of Fridays: Wyoming High School Football, 1894-2020,” will be out soon!

“A Century of Fridays: Wyoming High School Football, 1894-2020,” my book all about the history of Wyoming football from its inception to today, will be out soon.

The book is in the final stages of proofing. I hope to have it out in the next few weeks.

If you want to be the first to know when the book is ready for purchase, share your email address with me and I’ll give you a heads up before anyone else. The people on the list will have an exclusive window of opportunity to buy the book (potentially at a lower price) than anyone else. Your email address won’t be sold or shared with anyone else.

Be the first to know — all it takes is a few seconds. You can sign up by clicking here.

Thanks for supporting this adventure.

–patrick

Some updates to the site:

I added David Jones’ 1982 rushing season to the individual records listings. The back from Saratoga had 1,976 rushing yards that year, good for ninth all-time.

I also added a few new first names to the all-state listings from 1920-39. I’m still missing more than 100 first names, though, so if you can help filling in those gaps, let me know.

I also added the 2020 Casper Star-Tribune’s Super 25 first team to the Super 25 listings. Thanks to Jack Nowlin at the Star-Tribune for providing the details necessary to make that happen!

I also added a page for the Wyoming-Nebraska Six-man Shootout game, listing game results, coaches and players for each year.

I also added a page for Wyoming high school football players who played at least one NFL regular-season snap. This information was previously on my blog, but I wanted to give it a more permanent home.

–patrick

Brent Walk of Mountain View and Matt McFadden of Cody will be the head coaches for the 2021 Shrine Bowl all-star football game.

Walk will lead the South team while McFadden will lead the North, Shrine Bowl executive director Frank Selby said Tuesday in a release.

Walk was the head coach of the South for last year’s Shrine Bowl, which was canceled due to COVID-19.

McFadden was previously head coach for the North in the 2015 game; Walk was also the South’s head coach that year.

The North has won seven Shrine Bowls in a row and leads the series 25-18-3.

This year’s game will be played June 12, 2021, at Cheney Alumni Field in Casper.

–patrick

Eli Moody, the head coach at Greybull the past three seasons, has resigned as the Buffaloes’ leader.

Greybull activities director Nolan Tracy confirmed Moody’s resignation in an email to wyoming-football.com on Friday. Moody did not return an email sent Thursday.

Greybull went to the playoffs twice in Moody’s three years but never advanced past the first round. In the last three years, Greybull has gone a combined 8-18.

The Buffs went 2-7 last year, falling to Lusk in the first round of the Class 1A nine-man playoffs.

Tracy said the position has not yet been posted, but he said the position would likely be posted after New Year’s.

Class 4A Laramie is also seeking a new head coach this offseason. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Clint Reed, who has been the head football coach at Laramie the past four seasons, won’t return as the Plainsmen’s head coach in 2021.

Reed’s resignation came Wednesday, a report from KOWB-1290 AM Radio in Laramie said. Laramie activities director Ron Wagner released a statement acknowledging Reed’s contributions to the program.

Reed confirmed via email to wyoming-football.com on Thursday that he was no longer part of the program.

“I would’ve liked to continue as a coach, but after discussions with our administration it became clear it was best for me to step down,” Reed said via email. “My hope is that the next coach will continue to work on the foundation and help Laramie become a competitive and winning program.”

Reed will continue to teach math at Laramie High School.

Reed has been with the Laramie program for close to two decades, the last four as head coach.

Laramie has a combined record of 10-29 the past four seasons, including a 2-8 mark in 2020. The Plainsmen haven’t had a winning season or won a playoff game since going 9-1 and finishing as Class 4A runners-up in 2000.

Reed’s resignation is the first reported head coaching change in Wyoming this offseason. If you know of other head coaching changes, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Note: This post was updated at 8:43 p.m. MST Dec. 17 with comments from Reed.

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