It’s not hard to find articles addressing recent dips in high school football participation and in high school sports participation in general.

Here’s the Washington Post addressing the numbers. Here’s a piece from Forbes expounding on meaning. And here’s The Atlantic trying to address the roots in a very Atlantic kind of way.

Every state faces its own unique circumstances.

In Illinois, football participation is at a 26-year low (Chicago Tribune). In California, numbers are down again, following a consistent trend (L.A. Times). Numbers are also down in New Mexico as several schools are playing as independents (Associated Press).

The same problems are happening in North Carolina (football participation down 23% over 10 years), Connecticut (big drops in participation), Minnesota (flat now but down over five years), Kentucky, Maine, and, yes, Wyoming… You name the state, and it’s probably seeing drops in high school football participation.

As noted, Wyoming is not immune. Figures from the National Federation of High Schools — the same figures used in every single story linked above — show Wyoming’s football participation numbers dropping, but the Equality State has a different picture than most other states.

In all, Wyoming had 2,654 high school football players in the 2018 season, combining totals of 11-man, six-man and girls, which the NFHS tallies separately. In 2017, Wyoming had 2,847 high school football players — meaning the state had a drop of about 6.8 percent from year to year, typical of the kind of drops that made headlines across the country.

Moreover, 2018’s total of 2,654 players was Wyoming’s lowest since 2004, when 2,621 high schoolers played football.

But there’s no reason to panic in Wyoming. Yet.

For now, the 2018 drop in football participation looks to be an anomaly, totally within range of normal participation figures over the past 30-plus years.

Since 1987, Wyoming has had somewhere between 2,618 and 2,924 players come out, with the lowest total coming in 2003 and the highest in 1987. The 2018 total of 2,847 was the state’s fifth-highest total since 1987. In the four seasons between 2014 and 2017, Wyoming was above 2,800 every season, something that had NEVER happened over four consecutive years since NFHS data became more consistent starting in 1979.

If we looked at this data a year ago, we could have said Wyoming was seeing unprecedented growth and consistency.

Also, within the past 30 years, Wyoming has seen drops in participation like this before and has always rebounded. This chart compares Wyoming’s football participation trends to the country:

Here’s a table showing Wyoming’s high school football participation tallies, as provided by the NFHS since 1987 (click on the column headers to sort):

YearTotal Football Players
20182,654
20172,847
20162,819
20152,808
20142,825
20132,793
20122,892
20112,843
20102,874
20092,781
20082,778
20072,822
20062,727
20052,756
20042,621
20032,618
20022,787
20012,825
20002,845
19992,843
19982,635
19972,667
19962,762
19952,892
19942,832
19932,691
19922,748
19912,776
19902,778
19892,783
19882,829
19872,924

(NFHS data prior to 1987 looks really inconsistent when compared to previous seasons — for example, in 1981, Wyoming’s NFHS numbers come in at 1,432, sandwiched between seasons of more than 2,100. So I made the decision to start this analysis at 1987. Numbers include totals of 11-, 9-, 8- and 6-man, both boys and girls.)

Yes, Wyoming high school football participation fell off by almost 7 percent from 2017 to 2018. And yes, drops in participation are affecting programs.

And yes, nationwide, participation in high school sports in aggregate is down, as is participation in football specifically.

For now, last year’s dip in Wyoming looks like an anomaly, not the start of a trend that mirrors what’s happening nationwide.

–patrick

Ten Sleep will not field a football team for the second consecutive year.

The Pioneers’ 2019 six-man season was canceled this week, Ten Sleep AD Sarah Novak said Thursday via email to wyoming-football.com.

The season schedule on the Ten Sleep school page also noted the cancellation and also said the school’s middle school season had been canceled, too.

Novak said Ten Sleep had seven players come out for the high school team — two freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and one senior. However, the two oldest players suffered injuries, one a season-ending injury and the other significant enough to put the season in question.

“We were planning on playing, but (with) the injury bug it just will not work,” Novak wrote.

Last year’s season was also canceled, as the Pioneers only had four players who showed interest in joining the 2018 team.

Lusk native Taylen Arnett had been named the new head coach for the 2019 season.

–patrick

The 2019 edition of the Wyoming Sports Preview Guide magazine is now available!

Click here to read full team previews on every team in Wyoming.

This is the eighth year we’ve been able to bring this magazine to you. It’s the most comprehensive preview you’ll find anywhere. I interviewed every single head coach in the state (except one, as astute readers will notice), pored over stats, pestered ADs for schedules, predicted some winners — and it’s all here.

While the digital version is out today, the hard-copy version won’t be out for another week or so. When the hard copies do come out, you should be able to pick them up, for free, at the locations of the advertisers listed in the magazine. Please support the advertisers who support this magazine; it doesn’t happen without them.

Enjoy!

–patrick

A familiar person around Natrona County will be the new head football coach at Midwest.

Dean Kelly will lead the Oilers in 2019. Both Kelly and Midwest activities director Michael Gibson verified the hiring via email to wyoming-football.com on Monday.

Kelly teaches math at Midwest and was the head girls basketball coach the past two years. He was also an assistant coach with the Oilers’ football team the past two years.

Prior to moving to Midwest, Kelly was the principal at Natrona County High School in Casper. He was also previously the athletic director for the Natrona County School District and, before that, taught math at NCHS, starting in 1997.

He also previously taught and coached in Glenrock from 1992-97 and Stanton County High School in Kansas from 1989-92. He was an assistant football coach for nine years in that span, plus the two years at Midwest. He also coached basketball and track, with three years as the boys basketball head coach at Stanton County and four years as the girls basketball head coach at Glenrock.

He resigned as NC’s principal in 2014 after assuming the job before the start of the 2007-08 school year.

Kelly replaces Ken Swieter, who resigned after 12 years as Midwest’s head coach to become an assistant at Kelly Walsh. Gibson will join the coaching staff as an assistant coach, he said.

Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock SpringsEvanstonTorringtonGlenrockLovellBig PineyPinedaleWyoming IndianKayceeMeeteetse, NSI and Ten Sleep.

–patrick

Chad Lobdell will be the football coach for the six-man football team at NSI Academy near Sheridan this fall.

Lobdell confirmed his hiring, which happened last week, to wyoming-football.com on Wednesday.

A native of Buffalo, Lobdell works at the school as the admissions director. He was an assistant coach with the Wolves in both 2014 and 2015. He previously coached in Holbrook, Arizona, and has also coached wrestling and baseball at the high school level. He also works in Wyoming as a wrestling official.

Lobdell will replace Antoine Proctor, who coached the Wolves to a 3-4 record last season in the Class 1A six-man East Conference.

Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock SpringsEvanstonTorringtonGlenrockLovellBig PineyPinedale, Wyoming IndianKayceeMeeteetse and Ten Sleep. In addition, Midwest is seeking a new head coach. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Three players from Wyoming will be a part of the 2019 Can-Am Bowl, a six-man all-star game.

Farson’s Clancy Gines and Lain Mitchelson and Meeteetse’s Kirwin Johnson will be a part of Team USA, Farson coach Trip Applequist said via email on Friday.

The game takes place every July in Saskatchewan. A six-man all-star team from the United States faces a six-man all-star team of players from Saskatchewan and Alberta. Full rosters are not yet available.

The game will be July 6 in Wakaw, Saskatchewan.

This will be the 23rd Can-Am Bowl. Team USA has an 18-4 series edge and won last year’s game 68-30. Wyoming players began playing in the Can-Am Bowl in 2014.

Applequist and Farson’s Scott Reed will be among the coaches for the team.

The Team USA provided by Applequist includes:

Montana: Cobe Begger, Caleb Fix, Joey Hale, Bill Hansen, Caleb Hess, Seth Prevost, Bryce Reitz, Jake Solomon, Zane Somerfeld, JR Spenser, Sawyer Thiel, Tyler Thiessen, AJ Ullmer, Colby Zentner.
Nebraska: AJ Jenkins.
Texas: Trisdon Bynum, Toby Cran, Bastion Pickens, Corbin Ruthehardt, Corbin Schrotke, Jake Weiser.
Wyoming: Clancy Gines, Kirwin Johnson, Lain Mitchelson.

–patrick

Updated 8:40 a.m. Saturday, June 29, to include the Team USA roster.

Nate Reinhardt, a business and physical education teacher at Guernsey who has coached basketball and track for the Vikings, will be the new head football coach at Wyoming Indian.

Wyoming Indian activities director Keith Bauder verified Reinhardt’s hiring via email to wyoming-football.com on Tuesday.

Reinhardt has been the head boys basketball coach at Guernsey the past three seasons. He has also been the head track and field coach for the Vikings. He also previously coached football and basketball at a variety of levels at Kemmerer and at schools in Poplar and Highwood, Montana.

As it did last season, Wyoming Indian will play mostly a sub-varsity schedule in 2019. The Chiefs were 1-4 last year.

Reinhardt replaces Todd Ghormley, who was the Chiefs’ coach the past five seasons.

Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock SpringsEvanstonTorringtonGlenrockLovellBig PineyPinedale, Kaycee, Meeteetse and Ten Sleep. Schools looking for new head coaches include Midwest and NSI. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Updated 3:17 p.m. MDT Wednesday, June 26, to include more details Reinhardt’s coaching background.

Dave Largent, an assistant coach with the Kaycee football team last year, will be the Buckaroos’ new head football coach in 2019.

Kaycee activities director Jason Humble confirmed Largent’s hiring in an email to wyoming-football.com on Friday.

Largent is a rancher who lives near Kaycee. He replaces Tony Rouse, who was Kaycee’s coach for two seasons and led the Buckaroos to their third consecutive Class 1A six-man championship and a 10-0 season in 2017.

Kaycee went 5-4 last season and lost in the first round of the 1A six-man playoffs.

Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock SpringsEvanstonTorringtonGlenrockLovellBig PineyPinedale, Meeteetse and Ten Sleep. Schools looking for new head coaches include Wyoming IndianMidwest and NSI. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Zeb Hagen, who was Meeteetse’s head football coach more than a decade ago and its head boys basketball coach the past two seasons, has been named as the Longhorns’ newest head football coach.

Meeteetse Superintendent Shane Ogden confirmed Hagen’s hiring via email to Wyoming-football.com on Tuesday.

Hagen was the Meeteetse football team’s head coach from 2006 to 2008, when the Longhorns played in the Montana six-man league. In his first year of 2006, he helped lead Meeteetse to a spot in the six-man semifinals in Montana. He went a combined 15-13 in his three years as head coach.

In addition to coaching basketball, he has also recently been an assistant football coach with Meeteetse.

Hagen did not reply to an email late Tuesday. This post will be updated with new information when available.

Other schools looking for new head coaches include Wyoming Indian, Midwest and NSI. Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock Springs, Evanston, Torrington, Glenrock, Lovell, Big Piney, Pinedale and Ten Sleep. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Ken Swieter, who has been the head football coach at Midwest for the past 12 seasons, has resigned to become an assistant coach at Kelly Walsh, his alma mater.

Swieter, who graduated from KW in 1997, resigned from his spot on Friday. He will also take a new teaching job at Pineview Elementary in Casper.

Swieter said Monday to wyoming-football.com that he would miss Midwest and his players there, but “I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go back and coach for my alma mater.”

KW will be led by first-year coach Aaron Makelky, who formerly led Class 2A Big Piney.

Swieter said one of his favorite memories was transitioning Midwest from 11-man to six-man; when he took over in 2007, the Oilers still fielded an 11-man team. In 2008, the Oilers played six-man games for the first time because they couldn’t field an 11-man team, playing other varsity squads who played six-man against the Oilers to help Midwest keep its program going. Sanctioned six-man football came one year later.

“Without that (2008 season), I’m not sure if Midwest would have had football,” Swieter said. “If we would have canceled that season, I’m not sure if we would have been able to get anyone out.”

Instead, in 2009, Midwest started its first sanctioned six-man season winning six consecutive games, eventually reaching the 1A six-man semifinals that season.

“The kids bought into the system, and when kids buy in, they’re going to work a lot harder,” he said.

Swieter finished a combined 58-51 in his 12 seasons in Midwest. The Oilers’ best finish came in 2013, when they finished as state runners-up. Prior to Swieter taking over in 2007, and aside from a non-varsity season in 2002, Midwest had not had a winning season since 1991.

Tentatively, Swieter is going to coach linebackers and coordinate special teams at KW, he said.

On Tuesday, Midwest activities director David Sunday said via email the job had been posted as open. He said the position would likely be filled quickly, “depending upon the candidates and the timeline of the district.”

Other schools looking for new head coaches include Wyoming Indian,Meeteetse and NSI. Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock Springs, Evanston, Torrington, Glenrock, Lovell, Big Piney, Pinedale and Ten Sleep. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Updated 9:24 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, to add comments from Midwest AD Sunday.

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