Since the start of Wyoming high school football back in 1894, a total of 233 teams have gone undefeated — defined as playing at least four games in a season and not losing a single one of them.

But which team is the best of the bunch?

Since we can’t exactly put two teams from different eras on the same field at the same time, I think the best way to decide the answer to that question is one big bracket and a bunch of simulations.

Welcome to the Wyoming Football Ultimate Playoff: three single-elimination brackets set up to help decide which team truly was Wyoming’s best.

The three brackets are set up for each level of play — one for 11-man, one for six-man and one combined bracket for eight- and nine-man. Teams will face each other in simulation games staged on League Simulator. As the tournament progresses into later rounds, I’ll set up pre-game polls on the Wyoming-football.com Twitter account, so you can chime in with your thoughts on who you think will win the games closer to the championships.

Brackets are available here for each of the three divisions.

+++

I know you have questions. Let me try to address them before you ask them:

How did you seed the teams?

With way more time and care than I probably should have. For the 11-man bracket, I separated teams into three tiers based on the level at which they completed their undefeated season — what I called Tier 1, the big-school level (modern 4A); Tier 2, the medium-school level (modern 3A); and Tier 3, the smaller-school level (modern 2A and 1A). I subjectively ranked teams in each tier and then seeded each tier from there. That means the 64 teams in Tier 1 were seeded 1-64, then the 40 Tier 2 schools were seeded 65-104, and the remaining 75 Tier 3 schools were seeded 105-180.

Within each tier, I tried to separate the bracket so teams from the same school wouldn’t meet each other any sooner than the bracket’s quarterfinals. That means I didn’t seed the bracket 1-180 based on the rankings I would have given them; I got teams close, and then adjusted seeds to avoid same-school pairings until that quarterfinal round.

For the eight-man and six-man brackets, I didn’t have tiers — I just seeded them, also looking to avoid same-school matchups until as late as possible.

When seeding teams, I looked season records at whether the teams had any ties; any team with a tie was automatically sent to the bottom of the tier; for example, an 8-0-1 team was never going to be seeded higher than a 8-0 team from the same tier. From there, I used a combination of season scoring, an analyzation of teams’ closest victories, reputation, era, and intuition to rank them as well as I could. After seeds were in place, I started to do the math…

What effect do seeds have on the simulation?

Not a whole lot. After I was done seeding, I used a big Excel sheet to give each team’s offense and each team’s defense a single ranking from 1-9 (one being the worst, nine the best), as those are the ranking levels used for teams on League Simulator, the simulator I’m using for this project. It’s those rankings, NOT the seeds, that will have the biggest effect on the results of the simulated games.

I ran through a few dry runs on League Simulator, and I noted that the lower-ranked teams do occasionally still win — a fact I like a lot, which hopefully will make the bracket more realistic and give us a chance for a couple Cinderellas.

In determining a team’s rankings for offense and defense, I used a combination of points scored, points allowed, tier of play, and era. As I looked at the data, I noticed there were huge differences in teams that gave up, say, nine points per game in 2012 against a team that gave up the same amount of points in 1925. The 2012 team was, by all measures, a better defensive team; we can’t compare their defensive efforts head-to-head, point-to-point, without accounting for what era they played in. So I tried to “curve” scoring over each era to allow for more realistic comparisons between them. For era, I separated teams into pre-1945, 1946-1985 and 1986-present — the three eras when scoring between teams was relatively similar.

In the 11-man bracket, only two teams ended up with rankings of 9 on both offense and defense: Laramie 1964 (seeded #4 overall) and Natrona 2014 (seeded #13 overall). No teams are “perfect 18s” in either my six-man or eight/nine-man brackets.

Rankings for every team are available at the bottom of the brackets page.

I think my favorite team is seeded too low, or has rankings that I think are too low. Can I appeal the seed and/or the ranking?

No.

Can I complain?

Sure. Go nuts.

What if a really good team loses to a significantly lower-rated team really early in the bracket? I mean, come on, that would never happen in real life.

Right. But I guess that’s the fun (and frustration) of a single-elimination bracket, isn’t it? If we ran this simulation 10 different times, we’d probably get 10 different champs. I hope the brackets stimulate conversation, not end it.

What inspired this?

I’ve been thinking about doing this for years. I actually drew up a preliminary bracket in 2015, but I never felt like I had the right approach until the past few weeks when I started playing around with online simulators, looking for one that would give me the closest thing to what I was looking for. That, plus a bizarre start to 2020 (a safer-at-home order from my governor, a shutdown at my employer, and some free time) made now the right time to do this. Oh, and the fact that Wyoming high school football is nearing its unofficial 100th birthday next year helps, too!

Games start Friday, April 10.

That’s it for now. Watch for game results on the Wyoming-football.com Twitter account, and follow the brackets here.

Even better, set up an office pool. We haven’t had enough of those in 2020.

–patrick

For the first time since it began in 1974, the Wyoming Shrine Bowl all-star football game won’t be played.

The 2020 version of the game won’t be played due to risks associated with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, a release from Wyoming Shrine Bowl executive director Frank Selby said.

“The overall well-being of our communities remains on the forefront of our minds as we weather these uncertain times,” the release said. ” … In addition to potential risks that linger as game time nears, we cannot in good conscience ask for financial support from communities as they are left reeling in economic effects associated with the outbreak.”

In the release, Selby apologized for the inability to stage the game. He said players coaches, trainers and managers — who had already been selected for the game — as well as others associated with the now-canceled game will still receive recognition.

“Our focus at this time is to ensure that the players, coaches and participants are justly recognized for their achievements and the commitment that brought us together,” the release said.

The game acts as a fundraiser for the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. The game has raised more than $450,000 since its inception, the Wyoming Shrine Bowl website said, with $30,000 raised last year.

Selby said the game will return, as the 2021 Shrine Bowl is scheduled for June 12, 2021, in Casper.

Here is the full press release.

–patrick

Riverton assistant football coach Troy Anderson has been promoted to be school’s new head football coach, wyopreps.com has reported.

Citing a news release from Riverton high school, Wyopreps said Anderson had been an assistant coach with the Wolverines the past four years, most recently coaching the offensive and defensive lines.

Anderson is serving overseas as part of the Wyoming National Guard right now and will coordinate his coaching efforts from there until his return in June, Wyopreps said.

Anderson takes over for Pat Patterson, who resigned after last season. Patterson had coached the Wolverines for seven seasons, finishing 27-39, including 4-6 last season.

Fellow Class 3A programs Powell and Green River have also hired new head coaches since the end of last season. Class 1A six-man Midwest is also seeking a new head coach for 2020. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Green River alumnus Kevin Cuthbertson, who’s been an assistant football coach with the Wolves, has been named the program’s head coach.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported Cuthbertson’s hiring on Monday.

Cuthbertson graduated from Green River High School in 1991 and played collegiately at Southern Utah University. He told the Star-Tribune he had been an assistant coach with the Wolves for about a decade, working with previous head coaches Don Maggi and Marty Wrage.

Green River went 2-6 last season.

Other Class 3A programs Powell and Riverton as well as Class 1A six-man Midwest are also seeking a new head coach for 2020. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Powell football coach Aaron Papich has resigned after two years leading the Panthers, wyopreps.com has reported.

Papich was Powell’s head coach the past two years. He helped Powell to a Class 3A runner-up finish last year. Powell went 7-5 last year and 2-7 in 2018.

Papich previously coached in Riverton, Burlington and Casper as well as in Montana. He is the head coach for the North team in the 2020 Shrine Bowl.

Other Class 3A programs Green River and Riverton as well as Class 1A six-man Midwest are also seeking a new head coach for 2020. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

The Wyoming high school football makeup will see a huge shift in 2020, as reclassification introduces a nine-man classification and sends 12 schools into different classifications.

But what if reclassification had hit in 2019 instead of 2020? What if next year’s conferences were in place this year? How different would the 2019 season have turned out?

Here’s a quick hypothetical look at how 2019 may have developed if we were using the 2020 conference alignments:

Class 4A: No differences. Class 4A is untouched by reclassification. Sheridan still wins it all.

Class 3A: The only difference in 3A is Buffalo taking Torrington’s spot. And the Bison had a pretty salty team last year, finishing second in 2A. So where would Buffalo have finished in a parity-filled 3A East? Good question… but my guess is just above the three-way tie for second, just behind Lander. Maybe a final order of Lander, Buffalo, (tied teams Riverton, Douglas, Worland,) Rawlins. But Star Valley still wins it all.

Class 2A: Ready for this simulation to get weird? With Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Tongue River and Cokeville in (and Buffalo, Moorcroft and Greybull out), the dynamics in 2A take on a much different look. Based on interclass games and score comparisons, this is the best I could come up with in terms of what the conference standings might have looked like in 2019:

2A East: Big Horn, Burns, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Wheatland, Tongue River, Glenrock, Newcastle.

2A West: Mountain View, Thermopolis, Cokeville, Lyman, Big Piney, Lovell, Pinedale, Kemmerer.

That means the first-round playoff matchups would have looked like this: (4W) Lyman at (1E) Big Horn; (3W) Cokeville at (2E) Burns; (3E) Upton-Sundance at (2W) Thermopolis; and (4E) Torrington at (1W) Mountain View. Those 2-3 matchups are doozies, and I’d pay good money to watch them. But ultimately, I think Big Horn and Mountain View end up in the title game, and I think Mountain View still takes it all.

Class 1A nine-man: You thought 2A was weird? Let’s try 1A nine-man, a classification that barely resembles the 1A 11-man class from 2019. It’s hard to compare across classifications here, but this is what I think the standings might have ended up looking like in 2019 with the teams in the conferences for 2020:

1A-9 East: Southeast, Wright, Lusk, Lingle, Moorcroft, Saratoga, Pine Bluffs.

1A-9 West: Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Greybull, Riverside, Wind River, St. Stephens, Wyoming Indian.

That leads to some interesting playoff pairings: Riverside at Southeast; Greybull at Wright; Lusk at Rocky Mountain; Lingle at Shoshoni. And from there, honestly, anything could happen. The East was the stronger conference, so it would have been entirely likely to see something like a Southeast-Wright championship game.

Class 1A six-man: A return to normalcy comes with six-man, as the two state title game opponents, Snake River and Hanna, remain in the classification. But with Lingle and St. Stephens gone, and Encampment in, a few teams would have finished higher in the standings than they did, and some of the first-round playoff pairings would have been a bit different.

1A-6 East: Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Guernsey, Midwest, NSI.

1A-6 West: Snake River, Burlington, Farson, Encampment, Meeteetse, Dubois, Ten Sleep (Ten Sleep didn’t field a team in 2019).

First-round pairings would have had Guernsey at Snake River, Kaycee at Burlington, Farson at Hulett and Encampment at Hanna. Ultimately, the Rattlers and Miners would have squared off again in Laramie, with Snake River winning it.

As teams, players and communities adjust to the new structure of Wyoming high school football in 2020, it’s interesting to think about what those changes will mean long-term. This little peek behind the curtain of this new structure could reveal some important distinctions about how 2020 might be different beyond just different players, coaches and schedules.

Hopefully, the season can happen.

–patrick

By comparing missing first names of coaches on the Coaches Project to names available on the season recaps at wyoming-basketball.com, I updated the following first names:

Big Piney 1939: R.W. Duggan
Big Piney 1943: Harry Magee (also updated to correct spelling for Reliance 1945)
Glenrock 1933: Vaden Rock
Guernsey 1934 (and 1930): Ray Frink
Lyman 1941: Lawrence Slater
Manville 1932: Jess Ekdall (also updated to correct spelling for Lusk 1933 and 1934)
Manville 1941: Thurman Chase

–patrick

A handful of times in century-plus of Wyoming high school football, teams have scheduled each other one time for a regular-season contest only to never play each other again.

Many times, the one-and-done scenario isn’t played out a second time because the first game was so non-competitive that the schools realized the matchup was a bad idea in the first place.

Occasionally, though, teams scheduled each other one time, played a pretty decent game — and then never played each other again.

I compiled a list of these times — when two current programs played each other once, and only once, in the regular season in their histories. I found 79 such games. The games fell into eight categories:

  1. Teams punching above their weight in games in the 1920s and 1930s, when no one really fully understood the advantage big schools had.
  2. Games scheduled right before a program went away, either temporarily or for good, which disallowed a return game in the process.
  3. Games from 2013. (I’ll explain more on that in a second.)
  4. Games from 2019. Those involve Encampment, which just came back last year and hasn’t had a chance to play return games.
  5. Games that fall into that “mistake” category — blowouts of 40-plus points.
  6. Games that fall into the “too far” category — they weren’t blowouts of 40-plus points, but the trips were more than 250 miles one-way.
  7. Games that were actually decent matchups: within 250 miles, within 40 points.
  8. Games that were scheduled but never played because they were forfeited, and then never put on the schedule again.

I mentioned 2013, which ended up being a bizarre year for scheduling. If you’ll remember, that’s the year the Wyoming High School Activities Association had to put together a schedule that was more temporary than the rest. The WHSAA was deep in some reclassification discussions and put everything on hold for a year but still allowed teams to change classifications in football for the 2013 season before reclass fully hit in 2014, returning then to the normal two-year cycle. Consequently, the 2013 football schedule ended up with a lot of games that couldn’t be returned in 2014 as classifications and conferences changed the following year, including 10 games that were the only regular-season matchups ever between the participating schools.

However, of the 79 games that fall into one of these eight categories, eight 10 are on the schedule for 2020: Encampment’s games with Burlington, Midwest, Dubois, Meeteetse and Snake River; Lingle vs. Wright; Pine Bluffs vs. Riverside; Meeteetse vs. NSI; and St. Stephens vs. Wyoming Indian and Greybull.

Of the 16 games that I actually called decent matchups that might be worth seeing again, only three are probably feasible today due to classification changes since the games were originally played. None of the 16 games involved teams that are now in the same classification, but games involving 2A or 3A programs (where scheduling could actually make it happen) could be Cokeville-Jackson, Evanston-Pinedale and Pinedale-Worland.

Here are the times when current programs played each other one time and then never again, with the score of the game included and a $ mark indicating games we’ll see in 2020:

Punching above their weight in the early days
Gillette-Moorcroft 1922: Gil 58-0
Greybull-Natrona 1922: Nat 52-12
Greybull-Sheridan 1922: She 68-0
Glenrock-Natrona 1924: Nat 52-0
Cheyenne Central-Lingle 1925: CC 59-0
Green River-Saratoga 1926: GR 53-0
Powell-Ten Sleep 1926: Pow 72-0
Rawlins-Saratoga 1926: Raw 32-6
Rock Springs-Saratoga 1926: RS 47-0
Cokeville-Star Valley 1928: Cok 17-3***
Cheyenne Central-Lusk 1929: CC 38-0
Midwest-Rawlins 1930: tie 7-7***
Buffalo-Ten Sleep 1932: Buf 52-0
Hanna-Lander 1932: tie 6-6***
Cody-Ten Sleep 1933: Cod 25-0
Hanna-Natrona 1933: Nat 41-0
Riverton-Shoshoni 1933: Sho 6-0***
Kemmerer-Sheridan 1939: She 24-0
***-the little guy actually won, or tied

Programs be gettin’ canceled out here
St. Stephens 1965 (last season for several decades)
Buffalo-St. Stephens 1965: Buf 43-0
Greybull-St. Stephens 1965: SS 12-7 $
Kemmerer-St. Stephens 1965: Kem 12-0
Encampment and Farson 1990 (last seasons for several decades)
Big Horn-Farson 1990: BH win by forfeit
Burlington-Encampment 1990: Brl 21-0 $
Encampment-Midwest 1990: Mid 49-0 $
Farson-Lingle 1990: Lin win by forfeit
Hulett 2009 (played 2010 as a JV six-man)
Hulett-Lusk 2009: Lus 24-10
Hulett-Pine Bluffs 2009: PB 22-20
Rock River 2016 (hasn’t returned since)
Lingle-Rock River 2016: Lin 92-13

And then 2013 happened
Big Piney-Riverside 2013: BP 19-10
Burlington-Thermopolis 2013: The 40-26
Farson-Wyoming Indian 2013: Far 67-61
Guernsey-Sunrise-St. Stephens 2013: GS 85-0
Kaycee-Wyoming Indian 2013: Kay 77-26
Lingle-Wright 2013: Lin 35-18 $
Midwest-St. Stephens 2013: Mid 63-20
Pine Bluffs-Riverside 2013: Rsd 34-16 $
St. Stephens-Wyoming Indian 2013: WI 86-6 $
Snake River-Wyoming Indian 2013: SR 46-12

Too soon, man
Dubois-Encampment 2019: Enc 60-24 $
Encampment-Meeteetse 2019: Enc 45-15 $

Blowout mistakes (victories by 40-plus)
Lusk-Powell 1944: Pow 47-0
Cokeville-Farson 1988: Cok 48-0
Buffalo-Rocky Mountain 2003: Buf 42-0
Burns-Midwest 2005: Bur 60-0
NSI-Upton-Sundance 2012: US 48-6
NSI-St. Stephens 2014: NSI 59-12
Kaycee-Riverside 2016: Kay 56-0
Kemmerer-Rocky Mountain 2016: RM 47-7
Pine Bluffs-Wind River 2016: PB 41-0
Tongue River-Wyoming Indian 2016: TR 68-0
Rawlins-Wind River 2017: Raw 49-0

Ever look at a map? (victories by 39 or less but more than 250-mile trip one-way)
Jackson-Kelly Walsh 1966: KW 33-0
Lovell-Rawlins 1970: Lov 28-14
Sundance-Wyoming Indian 1986: WI 12-6 OT
Kemmerer-Worland 1988: Wor 12-0
Laramie-Powell 1990: Lar 48-13
Hulett-Wyoming Indian 1994: Hul 38-0
Hanna-Upton 1995: Upt 32-0 (played in Lingle)
Guernsey-Sunrise-Riverside 2002: GS 41-14 (played in Casper)
Glenrock-Jackson 2004: Glk 24-13
Newcastle-Rawlins 2004: Raw 21-13
Kemmerer-Lusk 2017: Lus 22-12

Hey that was actually a decent matchup (victories by 39 or less, fewer than 250-mile trip one-way)
Lingle-Newcastle 1937: Lin 13-12
Lander-Shoshoni 1950: Lan 40-25
Encampment-Snake River 1956: Enc 16-6 $
Moorcroft-Ten Sleep 1962: Mor 12-0
Big Piney-St. Stephens 1964: SS 13-0
Dubois-Mountain View 1968: MV 20-0
Cokeville-Jackson 1974: Cok 31-12
Evanston-Pinedale 1974: Eva 19-2
Gillette-Rawlins 1976: Raw 13-6
Lyman-Wind River 1976: Lym 32-0
Guernsey-Sunrise-Sundance 1978: GS 26-14
Greybull-Meeteetse 1985: Gre 39-6
Riverside-Thermopolis 1990: The 45-14
Greybull-Sundance 1995: Sun 14-13
Moorcroft-NSI 2004: Mor 26-14
Pinedale-Worland 2017: Wor 27-7

Good job, good effort
Meeteetse-NSI 2001: Meeteetse win by forfeit $
Wright-Wyoming Indian 2016: Wright win by forfeit

–patrick

Updated 10:40 a.m. Feb. 25 to add St. Stephens-Wyoming Indian and St. Stephens-Greybull to the list of games that will be played in 2020.

I’m watching the Midwest basketball teams with special interest this season — and not just because I’m an MHS alumnus.

So far this season, the Midwest teams are a combined 1-33 — 1-15 for the girls and 0-18 for the boys. Right now, the only thing keeping the Midwest teams from being officially 0-fer is the girls’ forfeit victory against Guernsey back in December, a victory that was retroactively added within the last couple weeks for reasons beyond me.

That one forfeit victory could keep the Midwest teams from joining a short list — when both the boys and girls basketball teams from the same school go winless in the same year.

The only verified instance I can find of both the boys and girls basketball teams from the same school going winless in the same season happened 21 years ago, in 1999.

That year, Hulett’s boys and girls basketball teams both went 0-15.

(If that game total seems low to you, it is. Back in the day, Crook County schools played fewer than the maximum allowed by the WHSAA due to budget restrictions.)

Hulett’s struggles in 1999 were a combination of two factors — a classification change and a dip in momentum for both programs.

The Hulett boys notched a state title game appearance in 1995, and the Red Devils also had state qualifications at 1A in 1996 and 1997, but the move to 2A was tough to handle. In 1998, the 2A Red Devils only had two victories, both against 1A Midwest. (And, yes, I played for Midwest that season.) The following year, the Red Devils had that winless 0-15 campaign, and after moving back to 1A in 2000, Hulett finished 1-15.

The Hulett girls, meanwhile, had only been to the state tournament once before they moved to 2A in 1998. They also struggled moving up a class, finishing 1-16 in 1998 before their 0-15 season in 1999.

The troubles didn’t last.

In 2002, the Red Devil girls took home their first state basketball trophy with a 1A consolation championship, and they finished third at state in 2003. And in 2005, the Red Devil boys played in the 1A state championship game.

So, Midwest, take heart.

+++

Is Hulett alone?

Maybe. But I don’t have all the data I need to know for sure.

I’ve found five four other instances of teams finishing with winless seasons where I don’t know the record of the opposite gender at the same school, but I know the opposite gender didn’t qualify for state. Those are Greybull in 1980 (boys 0-18, girls unknown), Greybull in 1984 (boys winless, girls unknown), Green River in 1980 (girls 0-20, boys unknown) and Medicine Bow in 1980 (boys 0-17, girls unknown).

By the way, this is also an opportunity to let you know that I could use your help in tracking down records to plug into wyoming-basketball.com’s annual season records lists. If you know any information that’s missing from these lists, email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

+++

Postscript: You want to know the other one, too, don’t you? Where both the boys and girls teams went unbeaten in the same season? That list is double the length of the winless list: Mountain View, 1977, and Snake River, 2012. And it’s not being added to in 2020.

–patrick

Post updated 7:44 a.m. Feb. 21 to remove a pairing of teams from the list of possible double 0-fers.

Both leading up to and after Sunday’s Super Bowl, I saw several stories about Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid being the NFL coach with the most victories who had never won a Super Bowl.

As with most things I see, I took this bit of information and applied it to Wyoming high school football — who’s the coach in Wyoming who has the most victories without a state championship?

After thumbing through the numbers, I realized it was Pete Petranovich. The coach in Douglas from 1943-68, Petranovich had 115 career victories, right now good for 20th in state history. His teams finished with two runner-up finishes (in 1952 and 1959) but no titles.

Second on the list is Tony Gamble, who was the head coach at Guernsey-Sunrise from 1967-81 and at Wright from 1985-86. His 93 victories ranks 33rd. Like Petranovich, Gamble’s teams finished as state runners-up twice, in 1976 and 1985.

The coach with the most victories without a state title or championship game appearance is the victim of bad timing. Andy Johnson was one of Wyoming’s best coaches in the 1960s and 1970s, notching 82 victories while leading Hanna (1962-65) and Basin (1966-76). But his teams never finished higher than third in final statewide poll; the only time he led his team to a playoff appearance was in 1975. However, playoffs didn’t exist for Class B schools until 1975, so making a championship game was impossible for the bulk of Johnson’s coaching career in Wyoming.

–patrick