Whenever Sheridan returns a kickoff for a touchdown, I think the same thing — man, no one does this better than the Broncs.

It happened again on Friday:

But that was never more than just a hunch.

Until now.

In looking at the past four years (2018-21) of kickoff and punt return touchdowns, the only four years where such data is immediately available, the Broncs are indeed Wyoming’s return kings. And it isn’t even close.

With 14 such touchdowns, nine via kickoff and five via punt return, no other team has been able to match Sheridan’s efficiency with special teams touchdowns.

Only two other teams are in double digits, and they both played six-man in that time. Burlington had 11 return touchdowns, nine via kickoff and two via punt, while Guernsey had 10, with nine by kick and one by punt.

Big Horn, Riverside and Douglas are tied for the fourth spot with eight returns apiece; Big Horn and Riverside each had six kickoffs and two punts that they returned for touchdowns, while Douglas flipped that with six punt return and two kick return touchdowns.

Dubois, Mountain View, Snake River and Star Valley have had seven apiece.

Conversely, six programs — Cheyenne Central, Green River, Newcastle, Tongue River, Wyoming Indian and Ten Sleep — haven’t returned a kick or punt for a touchdown in the last four seasons. Ten Sleep, though, sat out three of those seasons, while Wyoming Indian missed one.

Check out the full spectrum of kick and punt return touchdowns over the past four years below. Note that the totals are taken from the official stat sheets, so there is a chance that something might be missing if original stats were off, and that these totals do not include the 2022 season:

TEAMPUNTKICKTOTAL
Sheridan5914
Burlington2911
Guernsey-Sunrise1910
Big Horn268
Riverside268
Douglas628
Dubois077
Mountain View347
Snake River347
Star Valley437
Meeteetse066
Hanna066
Buffalo156
Worland156
Upton-Sundance156
Kaycee156
Wheatland336
Cokeville516
NSI055
Big Piney145
Wright145
Thunder Basin235
Pine Bluffs235
Midwest325
Lingle044
Natrona134
Glenrock134
Encampment134
Rocky Mountain224
Wind River224
Cheyenne South033
Pinedale033
Thermopolis033
Hulett033
Laramie123
Rock Springs123
Jackson123
Lusk123
Burns213
Saratoga213
Kelly Walsh022
Evanston022
Torrington022
St. Stephens022
Lander112
Greybull112
Farson112
Lyman202
Cheyenne East011
Cody011
Powell011
Rawlins011
Riverton011
Kemmerer011
Lovell011
Shoshoni011
Moorcroft011
Southeast011
Campbell County101
Cheyenne Central000
Green River000
Newcastle000
Tongue River000
Wyoming Indian000
Ten Sleep000

Got any statistical hunches you think might be true that you’d like for me to explore? Let me know in the comments!

–patrick

If it feels like home-field advantage isn’t what it used to be, you’re right.

Or you’re completely wrong.

It depends on what your definition of “used to” is.

In looking at the 24,426 games on wyoming-football.com since 1894 where we know the winner, the loser and the location — and where the location was not a neutral site — we can see a consistent pattern in how often home teams win games. In total, home teams have 13,495 victories, 10,392 losses and 539 ties, a baseline winning percentage of .564. (If your math isn’t up to par, or if you’re just skimming, that means home teams have won 56.4 percent of Wyoming high school football games.)

Remember .564. It’s the measuring stick against which all other numbers in this post are measured.

+++

From season to season, home teams deviate subtly, but consistently, away from that baseline.

And those deviations are a factor of time — as long as that time is your great-grandpa’s time.

From 1920 to 1938, for 19 consecutive seasons, the home teams won Wyoming high school football games at above-average rates. Since 1939, though, winning percentages have been much more consistent.

Moreover, since 1939, there has been no consistent pattern. There have been stretches of home-field success and home-field struggle. In fact, since 1939, the winning percentage for Wyoming high school football teams is .557, which almost a full percent lower than our baseline.

For five straight years from 1942-46, home teams won at above-average rates, the longest such stretch in that era. However, in the 18 seasons from 1958-75, home teams won at an above-average rate just twice (1962 and 1968). That includes a seven-year stretch from 1969-75 where home teams won at below-average rates, the longest such streak.

That record was recently challenged; from 2013-18, the home team won at a below-average rate, too. In 2019 (.592) and 2020 (.577), the rate was above average, though; last year’s .563 was almost exactly on the average.

+++

The outliers stretch our expectations of what’s possible.

In 1977, home teams had a winning percentage of .483, the only time in Wyoming’s history that home teams finished below .500. Twice — in 1917 and again in 1984 — home teams went exactly .500, going 140-140 in 1984 and a much more modest 6-6-1 in 1917. The fourth-lowest winning percentage for home teams came recently, in 2015, when home teams had a winning percentage of .507.

Home teams did best in the early years. Since 1939, when numbers began evening out, home team’s best success came in 2002, when home teams had a winning percentage of .613. That was followed by 1989 (.612), 1983 (.612), 1991 (.611) and 2010 (.608).

Between 1921 — when high school football really took off in Wyoming — and 1939, the best home-field winning percentage came in 1923, when home teams went 62-27-4 (.688). In the 18 years between 1921 and 1938, home teams had a winning percentage of .622, almost 6 percent better than the average.

+++

So what happened? Why was home-field advantage so advantageous in the early years and less meaningful since 1939?

The short answer boils down, I think, to two factors: consistency and infrastructure.

In Wyoming’s early days of high school football, referees weren’t always the most neutral parties. The Wyoming High School Activities Association wasn’t even formed until 1931, 10 years after high school football got going. And even then, it took a while before the WHSAA coordinated officiating. Once officiating became more consistent, so did the game results.

As for infrastructure, take a look at this map of Wyoming in 1927. Count up the number of paved roads. Not many, are there? As the road system improved — as evidenced by this map from 1951, just 24 years later — teams could travel faster, spend less time on the road and arrive at games more refreshed and ready to play.

Since 1939, the most remarkable thing isn’t the change in home-field advantage. It’s the lack of it.

+++

Here’s a table listing the home-team records and winning percentages by year for Wyoming high school football:

YearWLTHome win %
202116512800.563
202017312700.577
201917712200.592
201815313800.526
201716813200.560
201616313400.549
201514614200.507
201415614100.525
201315214000.521
201216812700.569
201116813000.564
201017411200.608
200916212900.557
200816212300.568
200716711400.594
200616113600.542
200517012700.572
200416912300.579
200316312800.560
200217411000.613
200115312900.543
200013812200.531
199914411300.560
199814610900.573
199714511000.569
199614110800.566
199513811300.550
199414010800.565
199314710000.595
199213911200.554
19911549800.611
199014312700.530
198916410400.612
198814912500.544
198713613210.507
198614911300.569
198514513100.525
198414014000.500
198316710600.612
198214612400.541
198115411400.575
198014112200.536
197915111800.561
197816110700.601
197712913800.483
197615711710.573
197515013400.528
1974153132110.535
197315813480.540
1972158129100.549
1971151116130.563
1970145132100.523
1969148136140.520
196816712540.571
196716013220.548
196615312720.546
1965144114120.556
1964146114120.559
1963137125120.522
196215411250.577
1961145120130.545
1960138133130.509
1959142114120.552
1958136109100.553
195714711370.564
195613710090.575
195513811080.555
195413397120.574
1953137108110.557
195213199120.566
19511229770.555
195013010040.564
19491159380.551
19481108770.556
194710592100.531
194610263190.606
1945967080.575
19441046670.607
19439162100.589
19427852100.593
194113010290.558
194010910070.521
19391128970.555
193810165160.599
19379456140.616
193610051150.648
193510055190.629
19349360100.601
19337851140.594
19328250110.612
1931904680.653
19308847110.640
19296938120.630
19286143130.577
19277745100.621
1926684190.614
1925693690.645
1924643680.630
1923622740.688
1922533120.628
1921352510.582
192017630.712
19196500.545
1918No games
19176610.500
19166240.667
19159700.563
19146500.545
19136210.722
19129420.667
19117210.750
19108120.818
19097510.577
19084310.563
1894-190716750.661
TOTAL13495103925390.564

–patrick

Lovell has had its fair share of football success.

With a pair of championships to its name and a runner-up finish in Class 2A last year, the Bulldogs have a proud gridiron history.

And now, Lovell can also call itself the capital of high school football coaches in Wyoming.

Three Lovell alumni will be head coaches across the state this year — Nicc Crosby for his alma mater, Richard Despain at Rocky Mountain and Eli Moody at Cheyenne South.

With three alumni among Wyoming’s head football coaching ranks, Lovell can claim more than any other program.

While seven other schools (Campbell County, Cheyenne Central, Douglas, Green River, Hulett, Kelly Walsh and Wheatland) have two alumni leading up Wyoming high school football programs, no one can touch Lovell’s trio.

Here’s a quick glimpse of where Wyoming’s high school football coaches went to high school:

Crosby is one of 11 coaches who ply their trade at their alma mater. The others:

  • Andrew Rose, Campbell County
  • Mike Apodaca, Cheyenne Central
  • Kevin Cuthbertson, Green River
  • Patrick Sweeney, Worland
  • Travis Romsa, Burns
  • Jeromy Moffat, Big Piney
  • Trent Aagard, Burlington
  • Boz Backen, Hulett
  • Dave Largent, Kaycee
  • Jack Cobb, Snake River

Most Wyoming head football coaches come from Wyoming high schools, with 42 of the 64 coaches statewide graduating from in-state high schools. The count of 42 is up quite a bit from the total of 34 in 2018. Fifteen others come from bordering states, with Nebraska and Idaho (four each) the most popular. Coaches also hail from Montana and Utah (three apiece) and Colorado (one).

The remaining seven head coaches come from Washington (two) and New York, North Carolina, California, Maryland and Ohio (one each).

On the college level, though, only 19 coaches are graduates of the University of Wyoming. It’s still the most of any college, though, as Black Hills State claims nine alumni, and Chadron State has four.

Schools with two alumni among the ranks of Wyoming high school head football coaches include Sioux Falls, Montana State, Colorado Mesa, Weber State, Utah State, Southern Utah, Dakota Wesleyan and Dickinson State. Schools with a single alumnus are Augustana (South Dakota), Dana (Nebraska), Hiram (Ohio), Idaho State, Marist (New York), MSU-Billings, MSU-Northern, Montana-Western, Northern State, Tabor (Kansas), UNLV and Wayland Baptist (Texas). Four coaches statewide have not finished a bachelor’s degree.

–patrick

Making an all-state football team is a challenge.

Making an all-state football team as an underclassman is even more challenging.

Making an all-state football team as an underclassman and then making all-state again after changing schools, though, is so rare that the number of incidents in Wyoming where that’s happened can be counted on two hands — and you’d still have fingers left over.

One player in Wyoming will be trying to do just that this year, as Dom Kaszas, an all-state selection at wide receiver for Sheridan last year, will play his senior year at Cheyenne East.

An examination of the 11,060 all-state selections on wyoming-football.com shows that Kaszas’ attempt, if successful, will accomplish something only a handful of players have ever done — reach all-state status with two separate Wyoming football programs.

The list of names is short — seven for sure, and two more maybes where I need to get your help.

The seven players who have done this before, in reverse chronological order:

  • Josh Dawson, Jackson/Star Valley: Dawson was an all-state selection as a sophomore at Jackson in 2015, then finished his career at Star Valley as a junior and a senior, where he was all-state both in 2016 and 2017.
  • Jordan Roberts, Campbell County/Sheridan: Roberts’ transfer might be the most famous in state history. He was an all-state running back at Campbell County as a sophomore and a junior in 2009 and 2010. He then moved to Sheridan as a senior, where he set the state’s all-time single-season rushing record (2,688 yards), which still stands.
  • Boyd McMaster, Big Horn/Lusk: McMaster was a second-team 1A all-stater as a junior at Big Horn in 1986 and a first-team 2A all-state pick in 1987 as a senior at Lusk. Both times, he was chosen to positions on the defensive line.
  • Ron Cathcart, Greybull/Lander: Cathcart was a Bighorn Basin star as a junior with Greybull, notching an honorable mention to the Class A all-state team in 1962 at guard. Then he transferred to Lander for his senior year, earning Class AA honorable mention all-state honors at tackle in 1963 with the Tigers.
  • Larry Dickman, Shoshoni/Morton: Dickman’s journey is one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. As a sophomore, he played at Morton; as a junior in 1962, he was at Shoshoni, where he was honorable mention to the Class B 11-man all-state team as a guard. Then, as a senior, he went back to Morton, where he was a 1963 Class B first-team all-state guard.
  • Larry Kellner, Hulett/Upton: A running back, Kellner was a Class B eight-man honorable mention selection to the all-state team as a sophomore with the Red Devils in 1961. His junior and senior years, though, he played at Upton, where he earned first-team Class B all-state honors in both 1962 and 1963.
  • John Turner, Saratoga/Evanston: Turner was a second-team all-state selection in the Class B eight-man division while playing at Saratoga in 1961; he was also a heck of a basketball player and was team MVP. As a senior, though, he played at Evanston, earning first-team Class A all-state recognition as an end.

Two other instances of possible transfers have popped up, but I have yet to prove anything definitively on whether they’re the same person or two people with the same name in similar times:

  • Devin Wilson, NSI/Moorcroft: There was a Devin Wilson, a junior, who was a Class 1A all-state selection while playing at NSI in 2007; there was a Devin Wilson, a senior, who was a Class 3A all-state selection while playing at Moorcroft in 2008. I don’t know if they’re the same guy.
  • Matt Miller, Kemmerer/Big Piney: There was a Matt Miller, a junior, who was a Class A all-state selection at offensive tackle at Kemmerer in 1979; there was a Matt Miller who was a Class B first-team all-state selection at offensive and defensive tackle at Big Piney in 1980. Again, I don’t know if they’re the same guy.

If you, dear reader, can provide any insight on either of the two cases above, leave a comment on this post!

–patrick

I love hopping on Google Maps and planning a trip — whether it’s to British Columbia, Australia, Kazakhstan or somewhere in between — that I will likely never take in my life.

So, once again, it’s time to plan the trip I’ll never take.

This annual version of “what if” always leads me back to Wyoming and the roundabout trip I would take if I had forgotten my job, maxed out my credit card and alienated my wife. This is that trip: the dream Wyoming high school football road trip for 2022:

Week 0 (Aug. 26-27)
Casper nine-man jamboree, noon Friday
Rock Springs at Kelly Walsh, 6 p.m. Friday
Shoshoni nine-man jamboree, 10 a.m. Saturday
Right now, five teams are scheduled to be at the Casper jamboree, including defending 1A nine-man champ Shoshoni, so a stop there will help suss out where the season might be headed. Then, to make it easy, let’s stay in Casper to watch last year’s runner-up Tigers face Kelly Walsh. The Saturday slate is jamboree-heavy, so why not another bunch of nine-man scrimmages in Shoshoni?

Week 1 (Sept. 1-3)
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni, 4 p.m. Thursday
Kaycee at Hanna, noon Friday
Campbell County at Laramie, 6 p.m. Friday
Ten Sleep at Encampment, 2 p.m. Saturday

There’s no way I’d miss the 1A nine-man title game we missed last year, with Pine Bluffs-Shoshoni at the top of the docket for the week. A little adventuring around the Snowies will give me three games all intriguing in their own right, although none stands out on the can’t-miss list in the preseason (although seeing Ten Sleep in its first game back after missing 2021 is a cool opportunity).

Week 2 (Sept. 8-10)
St. Stephens at Wind River, 5:30 p.m. Thursday
Snake River at Dubois, 3 p.m. Friday
Evanston at Riverton, 6 p.m. Friday
Ten Sleep at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday

This is a big week in Fremont County, so why not hit up as many games in County 10 as I can? The marquee matchup is Snake River-Dubois, pitting two six-man teams that figure to be near the top of the classification this year. And Midwest is the closest Saturday game, so let’s go for it.

Week 3 (Sept. 15-17)
Big Piney at Greybull, 6 p.m. Thursday
Lovell at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday
Sheridan at Rock Springs, 6 p.m. Friday
Lusk at Saratoga, 2 p.m. Saturday

It’s an early wake-up call to get from Greybull to Lyman, but it’s worth it to see rematches, plural, of two of the 2021 state title games on the same day. The 2A game is reprised in the Bridger Valley between Lovell and Lyman, while the 4A game sees a do-over in trona country between Sheridan and Rock Springs. Everything else is gravy.

Week 4 (Sept. 22-24)
Burlington at Meeteetse, 7 p.m. Thursday
Cody at Jackson, 5 p.m. Friday
Farson at Dubois, 2 p.m. Saturday

After two consecutive 3A title game showdowns, there’s no way I’d miss another Cody-Jackson showdown, especially since this one is the 3A West opener for both teams. I could have snuck in another game with some creative planning, but a one-game Friday is worth it if this is the game.

Week 5 (Sept. 29-Oct. 1)
Upton-Sundance at Newcastle, 6 p.m. Thursday
Torrington at Tongue River, 2 p.m. Friday
Campbell County at Thunder Basin, 7 p.m. Friday
Hulett vs. Snake River, at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday

I finally get to the northeast corner of the state in Week 5, where I can catch a pair of 2A East games as well as the Coal Bowl. Seems like the right way to spend the week.

Week 6 (Oct. 6-8)
Wright at Guernsey, 7 p.m. Thursday
Tongue River at Burns, 2 p.m. Friday
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne East, 6 p.m. Friday
Snake River at Encampment, 2 p.m. Saturday

The Capital Bowl between Central and East is always worth your attention, and the games around it make for a fun week. A thin Saturday slate is highlighted by the six-man title game rematch, though, and Carbon County is now becoming a frequent stop… not that I’m complaining.

Week 7 (Oct. 13-15)
Shoshoni at Wind River, 7 p.m. Thursday
Cokeville at Thermopolis, 2 p.m. Friday
Worland at Lander, 6 p.m. Friday
Burlington at Ten Sleep, 2 p.m. Saturday

I’m really curious to see how the Fremont County rivals Shoshoni and Wind River stack up against each other this year, so the Thursday game is the one that drove the other choices for the week. That said, everything else is intriguing in its own way — especially as we get closer to the playoffs.

Week 8 (Oct. 20-22)
Riverside at Big Piney, 4 p.m. Thursday
Lyman at Cokeville, 1 p.m. Friday
Star Valley at Jackson, 6 p.m. Friday
Kaycee at Farson, 3 p.m. Saturday

Numbers won out here. There were lots of great games scheduled for Week 8 across the state, but the most intriguing pair of games that was geographically feasible was the Cokeville-Jackson duo, both of which could have some big postseason ramifications hanging on the line.

In this scenario, I end up seeing 46 of Wyoming’s 64 teams, including 15 teams twice — Rock Springs, Campbell County, Jackson, Lyman, Tongue River, Cokeville, Shoshoni, Wind River, Big Piney, Kaycee, Encampment, Dubois, Meeteetse, Burlington and Farson. I’d also see Ten Sleep and Snake River three times apiece. I’d see eight of the 10 4A teams, seven of 12 3A teams, nine of 15 2A teams, 11 of 16 1A nine-man teams and all 11 1A six-man teams.

I’d also make it to 28 locations, including Jackson, Shoshoni, Wind River, Dubois, Encampment and Midwest twice.

And I’d be broke, so I’d probably start a GoFundMe after Week 8 so I could see the playoffs.

If you want to plan your trip, or at least just see when and where your favorite teams are playing, check out the full 2022 season schedule. Bookmark it — it’s where I will post results all season long and any updates to the schedule.

–patrick

A high school football team can only have, at most, 99 players.

That’s because at most, a team can only have 99 different uniform numbers.

Of course, this is only a problem for a few select programs statewide. But if we were to put together all the teams in the state and choose players based on their uniform number, only choosing one player per number, what would that roster look like?

Well, probably something like what I’ve shared below — a compilation of Wyoming’s top returning players by their uniform number.

This is something I’ve done for four years (see the 20212020 and 2019 versions of this list to compare). It’s always fun to compare players in ways that are unusual; for example, is the better player a 3A backup fullback or a six-man starting wide receiver?

I did my best to look through last year’s stats as well as comments from coaches that I’ve talked to for the annual Wyoming high school football preview magazine to come up with this list. Even so, there’s probably a place where you think I screwed up. That’s cool — leave a comment and let’s chat about it!

My annual disclaimer: I can’t guarantee that the numbers players wore last year will be worn again by them this year. I can’t even guarantee that they’ll go out, or that they haven’t moved since the end of last year (although at least a couple players who would have made the list have moved out of state and have been removed). I used last year’s stat listings and rosters posted online to determine what jersey number players wore; if your team didn’t compile stats or didn’t post a roster, I didn’t (moreover, couldn’t) include those players. Also, at least two of these players wore more than one number last year; they’re noted with asterisks.

NumberNameSchool
1Keagan BartlettCheyenne Central
2Lucas TalichCody
3Tucker CarricatoSaratoga
4Grayson BeaudrieCody
5Colson CoonSheridan
6Ryan FornstromPine Bluffs
7Kade WeberWorland
8Alex MillsShoshoni
9Garet SchlabsCheyenne East
10Ashton HouskeeperLyman
11Wyatt PowellNatrona
12Stu LerwickPine Bluffs
13Breckin McClintockNatrona
14Ethan BrinkmanCheyenne East
15Dalton SchaeferPine Bluffs
16Seth MaxsonSnake River
17Hadley MyersSnake River
18Zane MathesonSnake River
19Russell CrosbyRocky Mountain
20Logan JonesGlenrock
21Wyatt TremblyDubois
22Nolan SpearsLingle
23Karson EwingDouglas
24Carson EardleyMountain View
25Aric SukoWheatland
26Jackson SchroederCody
27Remy BroussardCody
28Dom JarvisShoshoni
29Luukas RyhtiMeeteetse
30Holden McConkeyNewcastle
31Ty StrohscheinRiverside
32McKoy SmithLyman
33Quade JordanEncampment
34Charlie WonkaBuffalo
35Dillon GlickThunder Basin
36Ben NicholsLovell
37Matisse WeaverLander
38Preston NicholsLovell
39Korbyn ElaissenThunder Basin
40Pehton TruemplerShoshoni
41Slayd DaleySaratoga
42Carter ArchuletaDouglas
43Jeremiah SalmoGreen River
44Dylan AlexanderRiverside
45Jake SchlattmannGreybull
46Liam BaldwinPinedale*
47Logan ClassCody
48Lannon BrazletonPowell
49Ian SimmonsNewcastle
50Wyatt CampbellSoutheast
51Carter McBurnettRock Springs
52Braden VincentRiverton
53Max GregoryLyman
54Trevor EldridgeCheyenne East
55Korbin DewittShoshoni
56Drew SmialekWheatland
57Clay MerrittStar Valley
58Diego PaniaguaPine Bluffs
59Kolbe DierksCheyenne East
60Haydan HuyserGlenrock
61Dane BransonMountain View
62Zane CollinsLovell*
63Colton PrindleCheyenne Central
64Kiefer DunhamBig Horn
65Jacob PrellNewcastle
66Jeral NehlUpton-Sundance
67Lyric GordonRiverton
68Tyler MairMountain View
69Cordelle LanePinedale
70Dayne LampLusk
71Tiegen ThompsonSoutheast
72Chris BenboeCheyenne Central
73Cody CrawfordNatrona
74Gage FinleyGreen River
75Blake MillerLusk
76Sam BirdsallTorrington
77Dylen ClendenenRocky Mountain
78Tucker JensenWind River
79Tegen SeedsDouglas
80Mickey MaroniBurlington
81Vaun PiersonKaycee
82Tanner NielsenNewcastle
83Jackson LynnSheridan
84Tanner HatchCokeville
85Jake KampmanKemmerer
86Hogan TystadNewcastle
87Chase StewartStar Valley
88Collin HaslemRocky Mountain
89Kayden PharrNatrona
90Ezra ArchuletaRawlins
91Travis KelleyNatrona
92No returners identified
93No returners identified
94No returners identified
95No returners identified
96No returners identified
97No returners identified
98Beckham StoweKelly Walsh
99Jaxson StanleyShoshoni

*-Baldwin also wore No. 65; Collins also wore No. 86.

Special note: For the first time, this list has an honorable mention selection: Dom Kaszas, an all-state wide receiver who transferred from Sheridan to Cheyenne East over the summer. He wore No. 7 with Sheridan, but I have no idea what he’ll wear with East. …

–patrick

Editor’s note: This post was written by “Stat Rat” Jim Craig, formerly of Lusk and now of Cheyenne, who has provided significant help to the research on Wyoming sports history.

+++

[Researching as a go-fer for Patrick Schmiedt is a pastime this retired teacher/coach truly enjoys. It’s fun to occasionally turn up useful nuggets for inclusion in several of his ongoing projects, be it the exhaustive wyoming-football.com, a developing wyoming-basketball.com, or his newest addition to Wyoming prep sports canon, champlists.com. Take a moment sometime online to eyeball all that he has amassed and gathered, a truly amazing compendium of Wyoming prep sports data and information.]

When it came time to accumulate state tourney results for volleyball, we knew it’d be problematic to find accurate accounts from the early years. Volleyball received short shrift via the media in its initial decade — the 1970s — as volleyball’s seasonal counterpart, prep football, dominated the sports writing of that time. An account of the first state volleyball tourney in the Casper Star-Tribune merited just five sentences in all, and that was the state champions’ home newspaper. That’s too bad, because that initial culminating event had all the elements of a classic, one that has yet to be duplicated to this day.

First and foremost, the 1971 gathering was open to all comers, almost. Only the Big Horn Basin teams had qualifying events, but from the other three corners of the state ANY team could enter. Eventually 34 teams were bracketed into a single-elimination contest. Lacking a venue like the Ford Wyoming Center, four gymnasiums were used: Natrona County and Kelly Walsh high schools and Dean Morgan and East junior highs. Secondly, it was a one-day — Saturday, Nov. 13, 1971 — event: win to advance, lose to end the day. Finally, there were NO classifications: Little, big and medium-sized schools were all included in the SAME bracket.

Of the 31 — out of 34 — teams we’ve been able to identify, two were Class 1A, 14 were Class 2A, six were Class 3A, and nine were Class 4A (although back then they were classed C, B, A and AA).  First-round upsets of 4A schools thinned the competition quickly. Little Burlington bounced Natrona from further action and Sundance did likewise to Cheyenne Central. Pre-tourney favorite Cheyenne East was eliminated by Wheatland while Buffalo ejected Riverton, Albin sent Rawlins packing, and one of our three unidentified teams ousted Powell. By the round of 16, only three 4A schools remained: Laramie, Cody and Kelly Walsh.

The round of 16 produced a “battle of “Ingtons” — sadly, Arlington, Wyoming, has no high school — and 1A Burlington and 3A Torrington squared off for bragging rights, certainly a rarity as the two schools are neither close in geography nor in school demographics. The small-school Huskies defeated the Trailblazerettes — it took awhile for the “ettes” diminutive suffix to thankfully exit the sports vernacular — to enter the quarterfinals. Of the seven quarterfinalists we know, 4A, 3A, and 2A each had two representatives along with 1A Burlington.

The semifinals found 2A Mountain View versus 4A Kelly Walsh while 2A Upton faced 3A Douglas. Mountain View had a heck of a run to the semis, defeating 3A Lusk, 4A Cody and 4A Laramie, but Kelly Walsh took the semifinal W by scores of 15-11 and 15-4. Douglas had similar luck with Upton, winning 15-12, 15-2. At the end of a long day, Kelly Walsh needed three sets to defeat Douglas by scores of 13-15, 15-10 and 15-11 to win the first state volleyball championship, claiming a bit of glory for all of the state’s largest schools.

Officials were pleased with the tourney but disappointed in the turnout, probably explained partially by its four competition sites. Tickets were $1 for adults, 50 cents for students. Nowadays, 32 teams still gather in Casper for a bacchanalia of bumps, sets and spikes. Four champions are crowned, one for each classification. Still, one exits today’s tourney wondering how the teams — in particular the champions — would fare against one another. That initial 1971 tourney provided answers to such questions.

Today, June 23, marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. Events like the ’71 state championship show that in some areas, Wyoming was ahead of the curve, at least by a few months for volleyball in this case. However, by late 1971 the WHSAA had held championships for girls’ teams in alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, golf, swimming, tennis and track for several years. Cross country and basketball would follow in the 1975-76 school year, within the compliance time allowed by Title IX. Wyomingites by nature are loath to accept most any edict from the federal government, but Title IX is definitely an exception. The playing field was leveled for an excluded half of the population. Those that participated in the first volleyball state tourney — women now in their 60s — are true pioneers.

About a decade ago, I looked at Wyoming’s record against out-of-state opponents.

In the past 10 seasons, the Equality State’s success record against out-of-state foes remained remarkably stable.

Wyoming’s all-time record for varsity vs. varsity games involving an out-of-state opponent is 1,581-1,526-105, a winning percentage of .509.

That winning percentage is exactly what it was 10 years ago.

Wyoming’s opportunities for out-of-state games have mostly come against teams from the six bordering states. Here is how Wyoming has fared in those series:

Wyoming vs. Nebraska (836 games): Wyoming trails 383-435-18 (.469)
Wyoming vs. South Dakota (826 games): Wyoming leads 434-363-29 (.543)
Wyoming vs. Montana (493 games): Wyoming leads 243-232-18 (.511)
Wyoming vs. Colorado (487 games): Wyoming trails 217-241-29 (.475)
Wyoming vs. Idaho (330 games): Wyoming leads 166-155-9 (.517)
Wyoming vs. Utah (226 games): Wyoming leads 129-95-2 (.575)

Other series include:
Wyoming vs. North Dakota: Series tied 2-2
Wyoming vs. Saskatchewan: Wyoming leads 2-1
Wyoming vs. Alberta: Wyoming leads 2-0
Wyoming vs. Texas: Series tied 1-1
Wyoming vs. Minnesota: Wyoming leads 1-0
Wyoming vs. Nevada: Wyoming leads 1-0
Wyoming vs. Kansas: Wyoming trails 0-1

The most common out-of-state series is (still) Sheridan vs. Billings Senior, Montana; the two squads have played each other 59 times, although the last meeting came in 1969.

Other series with at least 40 games are Torrington vs. Gering, Neb. (55); Newcastle vs. Custer, S.D. (52); Newcastle vs. Lead, S.D. (44); Cheyenne Central vs. Fort Collins, Colo. (41); Jackson vs. Teton, Idaho (41); and Sheridan vs. Miles City, Mont. (40).

Meanwhile, 10 active programs — Cheyenne South, Farson, Lander, Riverside, St. Stephens, Shoshoni, Thunder Basin, Wind River, Wright and Wyoming Indian — have never played a varsity out-of-state opponent.

–patrick

Richie Mitchell.

Rob Russell.

Casey Lass.

These three Wyoming high school football players are bound by one similarity — their shoes were the last thing to touch a football in a state championship game.

All three had game-winning kicks on the final play of a championship game, the only three such players to have that honor since state football title games started officially in Wyoming in 1931.

Perhaps not coincidentally, all three had their kicks in overtime.

Russell came first in the capper to one of the most exciting championships in state history. Russell’s extra-point kick on the final snap of the third overtime helped Cody defeat Laramie 41-40 in the Class AA championship in 1976.

Mitchell kicked an extra point on the final snap of overtime to give Thermopolis a 21-20 victory against Lovell in the Class 2A title game in 1990.

Lass’ 18-yard field goal (shorter than an extra point) came on the final play of overtime in Worland’s 17-14 victory against Star Valley in the 2002 3A title game.

Across 260 all-time championship games, they are the only three to end with a kick through the uprights to make title dreams come true.

Honorable mentions

The closest Wyoming has ever come to a regular-season final-play deciding kick came in 1997. Brooks Paskett kicked a field goal with 9 seconds left in the Class 3A title game in 1997 to boost Riverton to a 23-20 victory against Star Valley.

Also, Moorcroft’s Kyle Workman (1996), Meeteetse’s Jason Yockey (1993), Jackson’s Bill Wiley (1986) and Pinedale’s Tanner Boone (1975) hit field goals in the final two minutes of their games to help their respective teams win state championships. Workman and Yockey broke ties; Wiley and Boone boosted teams that trailed at the moment of their kicks.

On the “what could have been” end of things, Cokeville missed a short field goal in the final minute of the 2006 Class 1A title game that would have likely won the game; instead, Guernsey-Sunrise claimed the crown.

Is there a title-game, playoff or regular-season kick that sticks out in your memory? Leave a comment about it!

–patrick

Nine games in 2022 will put together teams who have never faced each other.

Of those games, four will involve two in-state teams. The remaining five are games against out-of-state programs, including three new opponents for Rich County, Utah.

Here are the varsity vs. varsity matchups we will see for the first time in 2022:

Week 1: Lingle vs. St. Stephens; Wyoming Indian vs. Guernsey; Evanston vs. Jordan, Utah; Ten Sleep vs. Encampment*

Week 2: Jackson vs. Wood River, Idaho

Week 4: Rich County, Utah, vs. Thermopolis

Week 5: Encampment vs. Kaycee; Lovell vs. Rich County, Utah

Week 8: Pinedale vs. Rich County, Utah

*-signifies game that was scheduled in a previous season but was forfeited

For a full look at the 2022 schedule, go here. Bookmark it, too, because it’s the page where scores will be available all season long.

–patrick

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