"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

Seven Wyoming high school football champs had weird spikes of success — going from losing record to state championship back to losing record over the span of three years.

The most recent such team was Guernsey-Sunrise’s 2009 team. The year before its title, the Vikings went 2-6; after moving to six-man in 2009, they went 9-0 and won the state’s first six-man championship in more than 60 years. Then, in 2010, the Vikings went 1-8.

The Vikings’ unexpected title was the third time that happened in three consecutive years. The same thing happened to Burns in 2008 (4-5, to 11-0, to 3-5) and to Jackson in 2007 (4-5, to 11-0, to 2-6).

But it hasn’t happened since 2009, and it rarely happened prior to 2007.

Prior to that, four other teams — Midwest in 1991, Green River in 1976, Natrona in 1957 and Cheyenne Central in 1941 — won state championships in between two losing seasons.

Midwest’s 1991 10-1 season was sandwiched between seasons of 4-5 and 0-8. Green River won the 1976 Class A title in between years of 2-7 and 1-8.

Natrona, meanwhile, won the 1957 championship with a 6-1-1 record in between identical 2-6-1 seasons.

Central’s 1941 team was the first to accomplish the feat, going 7-1-1 to win it all in 1941 despite going 4-5 the year before and 3-4 the year after.

For the 33 Wyoming teams who had losing records in 2020, hope is out there — for both winning a championship and avoiding a place on this short list by making winning a habit, not a flare-up.

–patrick

If you follow wyoming-football.com on its social media accounts — Facebook and Twitter — you’ve noticed me asking for your nominations for who you think would HAVE to be included on a list of Wyoming’s 100 best high school football players of all-time.

The #wyo100 (new unofficial hashtag) will highlight Wyoming’s 100 best high school football players ever, in line with what will roughly be the state’s 100th year of high school football. There’s still time for nominations — just reply here!

My research for this led me to compile a list of four-time, three-time and two-time all-state selections. The raw numbers for first-team picks:

  • Four-time selections: 3
  • Three-time selections: 112
  • Two-time selections: 1,095
  • Total first-team selections: 7,623

The math behind this? More than 99.4% of total all-state selections aren’t going to make the #wyo100. Even those two-time selections have barely a 9% chance of making it.

But I don’t want to just put a whole bunch of three-timers on the list and call it good. I REALLY want y’all’s insight. So leave your thoughts below about which player (or players) HAS to be on this list. And thanks a TON to those of you who have already chimed in with your nominations. Thanks!

–patrick

Pine Bluffs’ 42-point loss to Shoshoni in the first round of the Class 1A nine-man playoffs was not the way the Hornets wanted to end their season.

However, the loss — and specifically, the margin by which Pine Bluffs lost — puts the team in unique company.

For the 2020 season, the Hornets scored 258 points; they also gave up 258.

This statistical anomaly has only happened 28 times in Wyoming high school football history (to teams with a minimum of four games played in a season). It’s an anomaly nobody tries for and nobody plans for, which is what makes it so interesting to me.

It last happened in 2013, to Riverton. And, oddly enough, it’s happened twice to Pine Bluffs, which also had an even tally for the season occur in 2002.

Mathematical instinct tells us an even tally should mean an average record. This season, Pine Bluffs finished 5-4, one of just seven teams to finish with a winning record in this scenario. Green River also did so in 2009 at 6-4, but the Wolves were the first team to put up a winning record with an even season score since Deaver-Frannie went 5-3 in 1967. Of the remaining teams, 15 finished with losing records, while six finished exactly at the .500 mark.

The best team to finish with an even scoring tally was probably Laramie’s 1954 team, which shared a state championship with Cheyenne Central despite allowing and scoring 147 points during a 6-3 season.

Pine Bluffs is one of five programs to have hit the even tally twice, joining Douglas (1930 and 1940), Gillette (1936 and 2007), Powell (1962 and 1977) and Star Valley (1938 and 1956).

Only three times has it happened in the same season to two different teams: in 1938 (Lingle and Star Valley), 1967 (Deaver-Frannie and Evanston) and 2002 (Dubois and Pine Bluffs). Although the season isn’t officially over, it’s probably pretty safe to say the Hornets will be the only team to accomplish this feat in 2020.

Here’s the full list of teams who have scored exactly as many points as they allowed in a season (minimum four games played):

Douglas 1930 (3-3): 65 points
Cowley 1931 (3-4): 78 points
Gillette 1936 (4-2): 85 points
Lingle 1938 (3-3-1): 83 points
Star Valley 1938 (2-2-1): 45 points
Douglas 1940 (5-2): 63 points
Upton 1947 (2-3-1): 40 points
Sheridan 1951 (2-3-1): 98 points
Laramie 1954 (6-3, state champs): 147 points
Star Valley 1956 (3-3-1): 145 points
Natrona 1959 (3-4-2): 116 points
Powell 1962 (5-4): 137 points
Shoshoni 1963 (3-3-1): 64 points
Deaver-Frannie 1967 (5-3): 187 points
Evanston 1967 (4-6): 177 points
Powell 1977 (4-5): 119 points
Lyman 1980 (3-5): 113 points
Burlington 1987 (3-5): 152 points
Pinedale 1989 (3-5): 141 points
Moorcroft 1992 (3-5): 120 points
Big Horn 1993 (3-5): 202 points
Dubois 2002 (4-5): 233 points
Pine Bluffs 2002 (4-5): 176 points
Gillette 2007 (5-6): 233 points
Green River 2009 (6-4): 281 points
Hulett 2012 (3-6): 320 points
Riverton 2013 (5-5): 270 points
Pine Bluffs 2020 (5-4): 258 points

–patrick

With myriad playoff seeding possibilities still waiting to be played out, here’s a quick glance at what’s come together so far, and what’s possible for the teams chasing those postseason spots:

Class 4A
In: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Thunder Basin, Natrona, Rock Springs, Sheridan.
Neither in nor out: Kelly Walsh, Campbell County, Laramie, Cheyenne South.
Out: None.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Quite simply: nope.
Break it down for me: East, Central and Thunder Basin are at the top at 6-1; Natrona, Rock Springs and Sheridan are tied at 4-3. After that, Kelly Walsh (3-4) is in best position to secure a playoff spot; South will be out if they lose this week.

Class 3A East
In: No one.
Neither in nor out: Everyone.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes; if Douglas beats Buffalo and Riverton beats Worland, then Douglas will be the top seed.
Break it down for me: Douglas controls its destiny, and Lander and Worland are right behind and will fight it out for the No. 2 seed. Riverton and Buffalo are scrambling for the fourth seed, while Rawlins needs a victory in the worst way to keep pace.

Class 3A West
In: Jackson.
Neither in nor out: Cody, Powell, Green River, Star Valley, Evanston.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes; if Jackson beat Powell and Green River beats Cody, Jackson will be the top seed.
Break it down for me: After Jackson, it’s a fight for the final three seeds, with Cody and Powell (2-1) having the inside track and Green River and Star Valley (1-2) scrapping for a spot, too. The Week 8 game between Green River and Star Valley looms large.

Class 2A East
In: No one, technically.
Neither in nor out: Wheatland, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Big Horn, Glenrock.
Out: Burns, Tongue River, Newcastle.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Pffft… no.
Break it down for me: Wheatland, Upton-Sundance, Torrington and Big Horn, all 4-1 in conference, are all but guaranteed the East’s four spots; the question now is order. Glenrock needs to win both of its remaining games, including on Friday against Upton-Sundance, and hope for some tiebreaker magic to break up that four-team mishmash at the top.

Class 2A West
In: Mountain View.
Neither in nor out: Lyman, Big Piney, Cokeville, Lovell.
Out: Thermopolis, Pinedale, Kemmerer.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Potentially. A Mountain View victory against Thermopolis paired with a Lyman loss to Pinedale would give Mountain View the top spot.
Break it down for me: Mountain View is in the catbird’s seat, with Lyman next up with just one loss. Big Piney, Cokeville and Lovell all have 3-2 records in conference play. That’s a problem because there’s only four playoff spots…. One of these four will be out of it.

Class 1A nine-man East
In: Lusk, Southeast.
Neither in nor out: Pine Bluffs, Saratoga, Wright, Lingle.
Out: No one.
Ineligible: Moorcroft.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It WILL be, as the winner of Lusk vs. Southeast this week will be the conference’s top seed in the playoffs.
Break it down for me: Lusk and Southeast will be the top two seeds; after that, though, it’s a mess. Pine Bluffs is in the best spot for the postseason. Saratoga, Wright and Lingle are all at one conference victory and two of them (Saratoga and Wright) play this week.

Class 1A nine-man West
In: Rocky Mountain.
Neither in nor out: Shoshoni, Riverside, Wind River, Greybull.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It was already decided; Rocky Mountain had the top seed wrapped up after Week 5.
Break it down for me: This one got weird quick, as all four teams beneath Rocky Mountain have one conference victory apiece. The kicker is that Shoshoni is the only team in the group to have two conference games remaining; everyone else only has one. Get your tiebreakers ready.

Class 1A six-man East
In: Kaycee.
Neither in nor out: Hulett, Hanna, NSI, Guernsey, Midwest.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It’s possible; if Kaycee beats Midwest and Hulett beats Hanna, then Kaycee will earn the top seed.
Break it down for me: Kaycee is in the best spot, and Hulett and Hanna (who play each other next week) are also in good shape. The winner between NSI and Guernsey is in line for a spot, too. Midwest has the toughest road to the postseason and needs victories and help.

Class 1A six-man West
In: Meeteetse, Farson.
Neither in nor out: Snake River, Encampment, Dubois, Burlington, Ten Sleep.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It can’t help but be, as the Farson-Meeteetse winner this week will be the top seed in the playoffs.
Break it down for me: Farson and Meeteetse are 1-2 in some order, and everyone else is fighting for the final two spots. Encampment and Snake River are in the best positions with two conference victories each, while Dubois and Burlington (one conference W each) and Ten Sleep (zero) need victories and help to make it to the postseason.

–patrick

My obsession with Wyoming high school football scoreboards began a few weeks ago when I caught a livestream of a Worland football game.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Worland’s scoreboard is on a unique position on its field, nearly behind the visiting bench. Here’s a screenshot from the NFHS Network broadcast of Worland’s game with Green River a couple weeks ago:

Worland plays Green River, 2020. The scoreboard is in a unique spot.

I had never seen a placement like that before. I thought about it and realized the scoreboard placement could actually be an advantage to the Worland team and coaches, who can do a quick glance up to the scoreboard to see what’s going on, while the road team coaches have to turn their heads all the way around to see the score and time.

I know, I know, I know… small, small, small advantage, likely one that isn’t going to affect a single outcome of any game. I don’t know of any Wyoming high school football coaches with neck impairments — or, if any do, any who aren’t smart enough to hire an assistant without one. (And the press box usually houses coaches from both schools, further negating my theory.) For the players, it’s absolutely no advantage whatsoever.

But it got me wondering about scoreboard placements in Wyoming high school football stadiums. How unique was Worland’s? How unique is anyone’s?

So, I did what I usually do with my free time: I got on Google Maps. Then I started tracing — drawing lines on a computer screen to match the lines of the scoreboards on the map.

This is what I came up with:

Wyoming high school football scoreboard alignments, based on where the home team stands and benches are. Each line represents a scoreboard; the circle vaguely represents a track.

Keep in mind here that I used Google Maps, which is often a couple years behind, so any scoreboards put up in the past year or two aren’t accounted for here (looking at you, Natrona and Rock Springs). For a few stadiums where I couldn’t determine from Google Maps where the scoreboards were, I looked at photos online to try to pinpoint my best estimate.

And as it turns out, Worland was — as I had anticipated — a pretty severe outlier, one of only two scoreboards in what I’d call the “chaotic evil” of scoreboard placements.

In Wyoming, the placement of the scoreboards around fields statewide fall into six distinct categories.

Working counter-clockwise from the home stands, they are:

1. Straight on, right side: Cokeville, Kaycee, Burns, Natrona, Glenrock, Kemmerer, Jackson, Thermopolis, Cody, Saratoga, Torrington, Upton, Evanston, Cheyenne East, Laramie, Lusk, Thunder Basin, Star Valley, Lander, Rawlins, Campbell County, Lovell, Sheridan, NSI, St. Stephens, Kelly Walsh, Wyoming Indian.

Of these, NSI, St. Stephens, Kelly Walsh and Wyoming Indian have scoreboard alignments that appear to be slightly angled to the home side, but not all that severely. Cokeville and Kaycee have scoreboards that are much closer to the home bench than the road bench, which is less common than the opposite.

2. Home-team benefitted, right side: Riverton, Lyman, Powell, Pinedale, Rocky Mountain, Green River, Burlington, Newcastle, Mountain View, Big Horn, Moorcroft, Snake River, Greybull, Encampment, Midwest, Southeast, Lingle, Riverside.

All of these scoreboards, except Riverside, are closer to the visitor bench than the home bench but angled to face toward the home bench — making it easier for the home team coaches to see the scoreboard than the road team. Riverside varies by being closer to the visitor bench but still perpendicular to the field.

3. VERY home-team benefitted, right side: Hulett, Worland.

4. Home-team benefitted, left side: Cheyenne Central, Wind River, Tongue River, Farson, Rock Springs.

5. Straight on, left side: Hanna, Pine Bluffs, Buffalo, Meeteetse, Cheyenne South, Douglas, Sundance, Big Piney, Wheatland, Shoshoni, Wright, Guernsey-Sunrise.

Hanna and Pine Bluffs, like Riverside, are perpendicular to the field but closer to the visitor bench.

6. Road-team benefitted, left side: Ten Sleep.

Ten Sleep has the only scoreboard in the state that is purposely skewed AGAINST the home team; the Pioneers’ scoreboard is built at almost a 45-degree angle facing the visitor’s bench. Maybe the Pioneers are trying to overcompensate for their Washakie County neighbors in Worland.

+++

As I looked at all the little lines I drew, a pattern I didn’t anticipate when I started became clear fast.

Almost three-quarters of scoreboards are on the right side in relation to the home stands and bench. In all, only 18 of the 65 Wyoming high school football fields (28%) have the scoreboards on the left side from the home bleachers, while 47 (72%) are on the right side from the home bleachers.

For a solid day, I couldn’t figure out why.

And then I had an epiphany: track.

Track straightaways tend to go in front of the “home” stands from left to right. Scoreboards tend to be on the same side as the finish lines.

That blew my mind; I’m 39 years old, and I had never critically thought about why scoreboards are where they are. Of course, scoreboard placement has nothing to do with trying to gain a home-field advantage.

The bigger epiphany: Scoreboards aren’t just about football. Most fields have multiple purposes, including track and often soccer, too. That got me thinking about scoreboard placement in general. Why do we put scoreboards where we do? Why do we put stadiums where we do? Why do we put anything where we do? Why do we do anything?

Then I came back down from my mania, refocused on scoreboards, and thought about who really uses scoreboards the most. Aren’t they really there for the fans? Isn’t that why so many of them are oriented to face the home stands — because that’s where most of the people sit? And… in some cases, like (get this) Worland, all the fans are on one side, because there are no road-side bleachers?

Maybe Worland’s scoreboard placement isn’t as odd, or as sinister, as I thought. Maybe it’s perfect: perfect for the fans, the group of people who will look at it the most. Maybe that should be the goal behind the design of a good stadium — one that creates an enjoyable time, something you want to repeat as often as possible. Maybe Worland’s weird scoreboard shouldn’t be so weird. Maybe it should be a trendsetter.

Maybe I’m reading too much into every single bit of this. If you made it this far, maybe you are, too. But the journey is a fun one, innit?

–patrick

Only the most astute Wyoming high school football fans noticed the peculiarity of Cheyenne Central’s 62-15 victory against Cheyenne South last week.

Yes, certainly, the GAME itself had significance. Central stayed unbeaten, South stayed winless, the Indians moved a step closer to the Capital City title… but I think I’m the only person who realized the significance of the SCORE.

Since Wyoming high schools started playing football in 1894, Friday’s game was the first time a game had ended with a final score of 62-15.

More than 25,000 games, and Indians-Bison was the first 62-15.

That blows my mind.

The amazing thing is that this happens nearly every week, usually more than once.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Scorigami, I recommend taking 20 minutes and watching this video. If you’re into sports, and into breaking down sports until the amazing appears, it’ll be the best 20 minutes of your day:

And then check out this website that tracks NFL scorigami. It’s pretty cool.

The difference between scorigami in the NFL and scorigami in Wyoming high school football is that scorigami for Wyoming high school football has many more opportunities. With six-man in particular, scores of games often go high enough to necessitate more squares on the board — hence more empty squares to fill.

This season alone, we’ve had 14 instances of Wyoming high school football scorigami. In addition to Central’s victory Friday, we’ve also seen our first instances of games ending with final scores of:

  • 43-33 (in Week 3, Meeteetse over Dubois)
  • 44-23 (in Week 1, Cody over Riverton)
  • 52-4 (in Week 2, Kaycee over NSI)
  • 57-30 (in Week 1, Burlington over Hulett)
  • 57-32 (in Week 3, Ten Sleep over NSI)
  • 58-33 (in Week 3, Natrona sophs over Midwest)
  • 58-35 (in Week 2, Lusk over Pine Bluffs)
  • 60-19 (in Week 2, Natrona sophs over Hanna)
  • 64-8 (in Week 1, Lusk over the Kelly Walsh sophs)
  • 67-7 (in Week 1, Farson over Guernsey)
  • 74-32 (in Week 3, Farson over Encampment)
  • 78-52 (in Week 3, Kaycee over the Sheridan sophs)
  • 85-6 (in Week 1, Dubois over Midwest)

While most of these involved six-man or nine-man teams, two 11-man games this season (the aforementioned Central-South and Cody-Riverton) produced scorigami.

And the pace of 14 scorigami games through four weeks is pretty close to the pace we’ve come to expect. In 2019, 28 games were scorigami; in 2018, 31; in 2017, 27; and in 2016, 43.

Slowly but surely, though, the spaces are filling. As that happens, scorigami will become less and less common.

A chart showing scorigami in Wyoming high school football.
Wyoming high school football scorigami chart. Gray squares represent games prior to 2016; red is 2016, green is 2017, yellow is 2018, blue is 2019 and purple is 2020. Click to see a bigger version.

When I initially did this research after the 2015 season, I used it to detail the state’s most common final scores. Now I’m finding the less common scores drawing my interest more often.

Even with all the scores that have been “filled in” on the chart above, some scores are still out there to be obtained. NSI’s four-point final against Kaycee two weeks ago may become more common, as six-man field goals are worth four points. (Final scores of 4 points, as well as 5, are already ridiculously uncommon, as I’ve detailed in a previous post.) The losing scores of 9 and 11 also have bunches of empty squares.

Then there are the really random empty spots, like 23-15, 25-17, 36-19, 31-23 or 56-18, that have never been filled. Up until last Friday, 62-15 was one of those, too.

And even though a 4-2 game sounds like a boring defensive slugfest, it would be a scorigami dream.

As long as there are still squares to be filled, scorigami will exist.

+++

Now let’s actually talk about what’s going on this week. Here are some Week 5 games that butter my bread:

Natrona hosts Sheridan in the 4A game of the week, and I’m not sure what to expect. Both teams are coming off losses, and while it’s not desperation time yet for either team, a loss here might make it that way. …

Lander-Douglas could end up being for the 3A East championship when it’s all said and done. Buffalo was the only other team to win its conference opener last week, so…. you do the math. …

After Star Valley and Powell finish their game on Friday, one of them will be 0-2 in 3A West play. Didn’t see that one coming. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the loser isn’t still a threat. …

Another great round of 2A West games awaits with Cokeville traveling to Thermopolis and Lovell going to Big Piney. Count on games decided by single digits, and count on unpredictability of who’s actually going to be ahead by the time it’s all finished. …

Farson and Kaycee meet in a showdown of six-man undefeated teams. Farson will be the favorite in a game that will tell us a ton about the relative strengths of the East and West conferences. …

Don’t look now, but Meeteetse’s 4-0, the only other six-man undefeated team behind Farson and Kaycee. Beat Encampment this week, and we’ll have to start taking the Longhorns seriously. …

+++

Now, for everyone’s favorite part of their Thursday, picks! Did you know I bold teams who I think will win? Well now you do, because I just told you.

Thursday
Interclass
Greybull at Worland JV
Sheridan JV at NSI
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Campbell County
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne East
Laramie at Rock Springs
Sheridan at Natrona
Thunder Basin at Kelly Walsh
Class 3A
Evanston at Cody
Jackson at Green River
Lander at Douglas
Riverton at Buffalo
Star Valley at Powell
Worland at Rawlins
Class 2A
Burns at Wheatland
Cokeville at Thermopolis
Kemmerer at Lyman
Lovell at Big Piney
Mountain View at Pinedale
Newcastle at Glenrock
Tongue River at Upton-Sundance
Torrington at Big Horn
Class 1A nine-man
Lusk at Wright
Moorcroft at Southeast
Saratoga at Lingle
Wind River at Riverside
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Burlington
Farson at Kaycee
Saturday
Class 1A nine-man
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni
Class 1A six-man
Guernsey-Sunrise at Hulett
Meeteetse at Encampment
Midwest at Hanna
Ten Sleep at Snake River
Open: Rocky Mountain.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 5” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 19-10 (66 percent). This season: 108-36 (75 percent). Does not include forfeits from last week.

+++

Want more scorigami content? Let me know! Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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–patrick

Wyoming high school sports are still on track to start on time, even after the Mountain West Conference postponed fall sports, including football.

Wyoming High School Activities Association Commissioner Ron Laird said Tuesday in an interview with wyoming-football.com that the Mountain West’s decision isn’t affecting how high schools, or the WHSAA, will move forward with fall sports.

“We’re totally different than them,” Laird said, “and I would hope that everyone would continue to look at where we are in Wyoming and what’s going on in Wyoming.”

Laird said the state’s high schools have done well instituting the required protocols to protect students who participate in activities. Laird cited a survey the WHSAA did in late June, noting that more than 4,000 daily screenings of players and coaches had yielded zero COVID-19-positive results.

“Our schools have done a great job this summer of putting those protocols in place,” he said. ” … I have the utmost confidence in our schools that they’re going to continue to do that.”

Of the three tiers in place in the WHSAA’s “Smart Start Guidance,” Laird said all but two schools are in Tier I. In Tier I, schools are open and teams practice screening, sanitizing and social distancing. The only two schools not in Tier I are Wyoming Indian and St. Stephens, which both recently canceled fall sports.

Athletes from those two schools can transfer to other schools to compete this fall as hardship cases, Laird said, but both schools have to agree to the transfer first. Students can also return to their first school and retain eligibility when their first school reopens, but Laird said he hoped schools would work to arrange transfers at the end of grading periods so students who make such a move don’t lose credits.

On a statewide level, Laird said he was not naive enough to think there won’t be cases of COVID-19 on high school campuses this fall. But he also said he is confident in the protocols that are in place if a case does arise. He also said students, coaches and parents need to be honest about what they see.

“Our goal is to complete the season, and our purpose is to have kids compete,” Laird said, adding that students, coaches or parents who try to hide someone’s symptoms so they can play “wrecks it for everybody else.”

“If we want this opportunity, we’ve got to keep doing the protocols, staying safe and making good decisions.”

Laird said state and local health departments and school boards will still maintain control when, or if, COVID-19 cases arise. Laird said he was satisfied with the discussions he has had so far with Dr. Alexia Harrist, Wyoming’s state health officer and state epidemiologist.

“I was just very pleased with Dr. Harrist and her staff,” he said. “They were very reasonable.”

One of the reasons high school sports can continue while the Mountain West cannot, Laird said, were outbreak hotspots in the MW. Since high schools aren’t sending players to outbreak locations like California, Las Vegas or Boise, the risk is much lower, Laird said.

Laramie’s University of Wyoming, meanwhile, is not a COVID-19 hotspot but suffered the consequence of being associated with schools in hotspot areas.

“UW did a great job with their kids and their protocols and the safety of their students,” Laird said. “It was outstanding. … But they have just so many factors out there that they have no control over.”

Laird said one of the reasons high school sports can continue this fall even though spring sports were canceled when the state had lower infection rates is because of the evolving knowledge about how the disease is spread. This allowed schools and organizations like the WHSAA and the National Federation of High Schools to develop protocols like the ones used this fall by teams in every sport to limit the spread of disease.

“I think everybody has just learned so much more about this as we’ve gone through it, including the experts,” Laird said. ” … We’re all concerned with the total health of our students, and the mental and emotional health of our students is an important part of that, too.”

Practice for golf, tennis and Class 4A football started Monday. Practice for cross country, girls swimming, volleyball and class 3A, 2A and 1A football begins next week.

Interscholastic competition starts Wednesday for golf and Saturday for tennis. Football games start Aug. 28.

–patrick

About this time last year, I posted something fun: Wyoming’s top returning high school football players by uniform number.

You all liked it. Like, a lot. Only one other post got more views all year long than the one I’ve linked above.

I hear you. So we’re back at it again.

The gist of this is that rather than looking by team or position, we’re picking out Wyoming’s best returning players by the number you’ll use to identify them on the field.

For some numbers, that’s exceedingly difficult. For most single-digit numbers, and for some reasons several numbers in the 20s, it was hard to pick just one player. For other numbers, it was easy — because only one returning player in the state wore that number last year.

The result is that this list recognizes a variety of players, from schools large and small, across all kinds of talent spectrums. Of course, a list like this has no right or wrong answers. It just has my answers. If you disagree with my selections, that’s awesome! After all, that’s why we play the game. And I’d love to hear your comments about who you think belongs in the spot belonging to a specific uniform number.

A quick note: 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. I used last year’s stat listings to determine what jersey number players wore; if your team didn’t compile stats, I didn’t (moreover, couldn’t) include those players. Also, a few of these players wore more than one number last year; they’re noted with asterisks.

All that said: Here it is, Wyoming’s top returning high school football players by jersey number for 2020.

NumberNameSchool
1Carson BatesBig Horn
2Jackson HesfordCheyenne East
3Hyrum HatchBuffalo
4Cooper HillLingle
5Brant NelsonStar Valley
6Tyler NicholsLovell
7Kieser WolfeTorrington
8Sadler SmithJackson
9Andrew JohnsonCheyenne Central
10Nate BarnesCokeville
11Izak AksamitSheridan
12Harrison TaubertNatrona
13Graedyn BuellCheyenne East
14Tryston TruemplerShoshoni
15Collin MadsenRock Springs
16James WoodCheyenne South
17Jake RaylCheyenne East
18Cason JamesLovell
19Preston BrewerLyman
20Carter LobatosCheyenne Central
21Liam HughesBig Piney
22Jess ClaycombUpton-Sundance
23Tyler BanksRocky Mountain
24Dylan TaylorGreen River
25Kade GuentherGlenrock
26Christian WalkerBig Horn
27Hunter KramerGillette
28Jaxon PikulaThunder Basin
29Rylan WehrDouglas
30Dominick BradachNatrona
31Grant MillsWright
32Jack SweeneyLander
33Cord HerringSoutheast
34Tate ClutterRiverside
35Nate LundbergCheyenne Central
36Triston LamorieFarson
37Connor BrownMountain View
38Julien GuinaLander
39Tony PerfettiTongue River
40Drake LampLusk
41Dominic GrayKelly Walsh
42Gabe BormanDouglas
43Dayne LampLusk**
44Colter DawsonJackson
45Tiger BullenNSI
46Bradyn StroufBuffalo
47Kolby BroederlowBurlington
48Kobe BartoCheyenne South
49Nic TalichCody
50Cordell ForknerLingle
51Dylan MolzahnLusk
52Ethan ZancanellaWright
53Noah RimmerSaratoga
54Trey BowerCheyenne East
55Julian VigilCheyenne East**
56Dakota HeckmanCheyenne East
57Ethan WeissBig Horn
58Joey KosteleckyCheyenne Central
59Chris LarsonSheridan
60Jimmy KoenigCheyenne Central
61Derek JohnsonEvanston
62Sawyer AndersonSoutheast
63Aaron OriaDouglas**
64Remington FerreeThermopolis
65Mason WellsLusk
66Quinton MangusSheridan
67Kannon ProchnowKelly Walsh
68Ethan BirdCokeville
69Nick CarlsonKemmerer**
70Gabe NieldStar Valley
71Sam HendersonKelly Walsh
72Mason HutsonLander
73T.J. WilsonCheyenne Central
74Jake MartinezGreen River
75Kale CorleyNewcastle
76Hunter MeeksMountain View
77Trey WrightWorland
78Jacob KnoblochTongue River
79Tim PeckKemmerer
80Jake HicksWheatland
81Jared LucasRiverton
82Rhys StaffordKaycee
83Rodee BrowWheatland
84Brock StoreboCheyenne Central
85Caleb CockrumKelly Walsh
86Jaret TaylorCheyenne East
87Brady StoreboCheyenne Central
88Broden MathesRiverton
89Lucas EngleRiverton
90No returners identified
91No returners identified
92No returners identified
93No returners identified
94No returners identified
95No returners identified
96No returners identified
97No returners identified
98No returners identified
99Kevin GunhammerTorrington**

**-Last year, Lamp also wore #70; Vigil also wore #87; Oria also wore #99; Carlson also wore #54; Gunhammer also wore #74 and #84.

Feedback? Leave a comment, or consider following along with what I do on Twitter or Facebook.

–patrick

Usually, the math is pretty simple: When you win more games than you lose, you go to the playoffs.

Occasionally, though, that simple math doesn’t quite work the way it should.

Since 2000, the number of playoff-eligible teams to finish with a winning record but still miss the playoffs is short: Saratoga in 2013 (5-3), Greybull in 2011 (6-4) and Sheridan in 2007 (5-4). (Riverton finished 6-4 in 2002 and did not make the playoffs, but was 4-4 in the regular season before winning the consolation playoffs. Remember those?)

Prior to 2000, missing the playoffs with a winning record was more common, in part because many classifications still only had four teams reach the postseason. However, some programs still finished with winning records in classifications with eight-team brackets only to miss the playoffs, usually because of a poor conference record but a strong nonconference stretch. That included two programs in 1999, Sundance (6-3) and Meeteetse (4-3), the last time two teams with winning records missed the playoffs in eight-team brackets in the same year.

But 1999 has nothing on 1994, when four teams with winning records in classifications with eight-team brackets — Tongue River, Greybull, Lingle and Guernsey-Sunrise — all missed the playoffs. All four finished 4-3.

The last team to be victimized two years in a row in this way was Ten Sleep, which finished with winning records in 1996 (5-2) and 1997 (4-3) but missed the playoffs both times in eight-team brackets.

The last two-loss team to miss the playoffs was Lyman, which went 6-2 in 1998 but missed the playoffs in the four-team Class 2A bracket. The last one-loss team to miss the playoffs was Wright in 1988; the Panthers were 7-1 but did not make the four-team 2A playoffs.

(Note that Lusk finished 7-0 in 1991 and 8-0 in 1992 but did not qualify for the playoffs, as the Tigers were not eligible for the playoffs those years.)

–patrick

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