It’s way too early for this. That’s never stopped us before. Let’s take a look at 2019’s top five teams in each class, way too early before it’s practical to do so:
1. Thunder Basin: The state’s most dynamic offensive duo will likely be on Gillette’s south side in 2019, with quarterback Mason Hamilton (4A’s top passer last year) and wideout Blaine Allen (4A’s top receiver last year) ready to lead the ‘Bolts to unprecedented heights in 2019. The lines lost several key players, though.
2. Natrona: Running back Dante Wallace highlights a senior class that’s done a lot of winning, including last year’s state title. The Mustangs will be tough to stop with a balanced group of players coming back.
3. Cheyenne East: Class 4A’s most diverse offense in 2019 may belong to the Thunderbirds. Between seniors Christian Anderton and Chance Aumiller and junior Graedyn Buell, East will present troubles for any opposing defense.
4. Sheridan: The Broncs only return one all-state player, senior Garrett Coon, but few programs rebuild as efficiently as Sheridan does. Count on Sheridan being in the championship chase again.
5. Cheyenne Central: New coach Mike Apodaca took some lumps in his first year at Central, but the Indians showed great potential at times. With three returning all-conference players, the Indians return a solid chunk of contributors that could make Central a threat.
Dark horse: Laramie. The Plainsmen were a solid five seed in 4A last year but need to replace a good group of seniors. If that happens as efficiently as coach Clint Reed hopes, Laramie could be a challenger again.
1. Star Valley: By accident or by design, the Braves’ juniors got a ton of experience last year. Five all-state players will be back this fall, including Super 25 pick Chase Merrell and three starting linemen. That will put Star Valley in perfect position to repeat.
2. Cody: The Broncs get back four all-state selections, second only to Star Valley, as well as six total all-conference picks. RB Charlie Beaudrie will be tough to stop, and lineman Keith Conner was a Super 25 pick.
3. Jackson: Jeydon Cox — who broke the 2,000-yard barrier last season — will probably be the most exciting running back in the state next year. But he can’t do it alone. The Broncs lose a big chunk of contributors but should have enough back to prove last year was no fluke.
4. Douglas: I like what the Bearcats have coming back next fall, and it starts with an experienced all-state quarterback in A.J. Yeaman. There are some other holes to fill, but the Bearcats should be competitive.
5. Torrington: The Trailblazers lost a huge senior class, so staying in the title hunt will be challenging. However, they do return a pair of all-conference linemen in seniors Corbin Harris and Tyler Schaub, and that’s a good place to start.
Dark horse: Lander. In a sentence: Don’t discount coach John Scott’s ability to quickly build a competitive program.
1. Mountain View: Almost all of the Buffalos’ key contributors are back in 2019. This includes four two-time all-state choices (Briggin Bluemel, Hunter Gross, Kimball Madsen and Braeden Walk). No team in 2A can match that.
2. Buffalo: The defending 2A champs aren’t going anywhere. The Bison have five returning all-state choices, tied with Mountain View for the most in the class — and those returners aren’t concentrated in any one specific area.
3. Thermopolis: After a couple years of building, the Bobcats may be ready for a breakthrough in 2019. Junior Logan Cole has proven to be a dependable running back, and he’s got a good number of key contributors surrounding him.
4. Greybull: At a glance, the 2A West seems like it doesn’t have the depth it did in 2018. However, the Buffaloes should remain competitive, with all-conference picks Ben Kraft and Felipe Gaytan leading the way.
5. Burns: The Broncs have been leading up to a breakthrough in 2019. Boe Clayson is a dynamic running back, and an experienced group of seniors will help Burns into the playoff chase.
Dark horse: Glenrock. Yeah, it seems weird to see the Herders outside the top five. But with a new head coach and a new set of leaders needing to emerge on both offense and defense, Glenrock is on the outside for now. If the program can preserve its momentum under a new coach, Glenrock should continue to be a winner.
Class 1A 11-man
1. Big Horn: Yes, the Rams lose one of the best senior classes to ever play at this level. At the same time, they return six all-state choices, more than any other program in 1A, and they’ve got momentum and confidence. A repeat will be tough, but this group has that ability.
2. Cokeville: The Panthers do lose eight all-state choices, but they also return five all-conference picks. They absolutely obliterated every other team in the West last year. And no one — no one — reloads like Cokeville reloads.
3. Upton-Sundance: All-stater Jayden Caylor and all-conference pick Kye Taylor have to lead the task of carrying on the Patriots’ tradition. There’s work to do, but U-S has depth and has shown throughout the history of its co-op that it can get players to step up when needed.
4. Pine Bluffs: Brian Steger, an all-state pick, and Donte Jacobsen, an all-conference selection, will be the leaders on a less-experienced but still dangerous Hornet team. They’ll need to build some depth, but if that can happen quickly, they’ll be in the hunt come November.
5. Lusk: The Tigers return four all-conference choices, second to Big Horn in the East, and junior Drake Lamp and senior Damien Molzahn will create a backfield duo most 1A teams would envy.
Dark horse: Rocky Mountain. The Grizzlies had seven all-conference choices in 2018: one senior, five sophomores and a freshman. If Rocky’s youth can prove itself against tougher competition, it could be the team to challenge Cokeville in the West.
Class 1A six-man
1. Hanna: Twins Connor and Shane McGraw are just the starting point for the Miners, who return five all-conference choices and are poised to build on last year’s unbeaten regular season with some postseason victories this time.
2. Snake River: The Rattlers were really competitive last season despite having a senior class small enough to fit on a motorcycle. Riggen Myers provides dynamism, and a host of others from what will be a deep senior class will make Snake River a title threat.
3. Meeteetse: This year’s deep senior class will be gone, but the Longhorns still return enough depth to stay competitive. That charge will be led by a pair of all-conference picks, Asa Eldredge and Kaden Redding.
4. Farson: Ready to play a game of “Who’s that”? The Pronghorns’ senior class will be pretty thin in 2019, but its upcoming junior class is deep and ready to fill the spots vacated by this year’s graduating class.
5. Burlington: Senior Jarom Davidson will be the lone all-conference holdover from last year’s runner-up squad, so the Huskies have some clear rebuilding to do. But the 2018 season should give the program momentum.
Dark horse: Guernsey. The Vikings return three all-conference choices (seniors Alex Delgado, Jeremy Hartt and Justin Malcolm), and all three were key contributors on defense. If the defense can hold up early, the offense could come around late and help the Vikings win in the postseason.
What do you think? Who’s ready for a breakout season in 2019? Which teams are too low? Leave a comment and let’s discuss what might be on the way by the time the 2019 season starts.