Class 2A, noon Friday
Mountain View Buffalos (1W, 8-2) vs. Glenrock Herders (1E, 9-1)
Series record: Mountain View leads 8-5.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Glenrock beat Mountain View 37-0 in a 2A quarterfinal game on Oct. 30, 2015, in Glenrock.
State championships: Mountain View four, most recently in 2014. … Glenrock eight, most recently in 2008.
Previous title game record: Mountain View, 4-6. … Glenrock, 6-5.
The path to Laramie: Mountain View beat Thermopolis in the quarterfinals and Wheatland in the semifinals by identical 45-0 scores. … Glenrock blasted Lovell 61-6 in the quarterfinals and held off Big Piney 30-27 in the semifinals.
The case for the Buffalos: Let’s throw out Mountain View’s loss to Greybull in Week 8, which happened after the Buffalos had already secured the top seed from the West. Since Week 3, without the Greybull game, the Buffalos have outscored their opponents 284-6, including 90-0 in the playoffs. No team in 2A is hotter than Mountain View, and nothing in the playoffs has given anyone any reason to doubt their capability to win it all.
The case for the Herders: The Herders have won seven straight, and they’ve already had their playoff scare — last week’s 30-27 thriller against Big Piney. That loss should help focus the squad. Also, everyone knows what the Herders will do on offense: run. Tucker Bopp and Ian Arnold will get the bulk of the carries, and the Herders dare you to stop them. So far, even in the Herders’ one loss, no one has done that.
The pick
: This one will be billed as a battle between Glenrock’s top-ranked offense against Mountain View’s top-ranked defense. In cases like this, it’s almost always the other matchup that wins the game — and I like what I see from the Buffalos’ offense. Maybe there’s a game-winning drive in it. … Mountain View 26, Glenrock 22.

Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Cody Broncs (3W, 6-3) vs. Torrington Trailblazers (1E, 9-1)
Series record: Cody leads 5-3
Last meeting: Cody beat Torrington 47-0 on Sept. 17, 2010, in Torrington.
Last playoff meeting: Cody beat Torrington 19-6 in a 3A quarterfinal game on Oct. 30, 2009, in Cody.
State championships: Cody four, most recently in 2014. … Torrington three, most recently in 1990.
Previous title game record: Cody, 4-5. … Torrington, 2-9.
The path to Laramie: Cody won two road games, beating Buffalo 27-0 in the quarters and West top seed and two-time defending champ Star Valley 31-21 in the semifinals. … Torrington beat up on Worland 46-21 in the first round and squeaked past Green River 17-13 in the semifinals.
The case for the Broncs: Cody’s here for one reason: defense. No one has scored more than 22 points against the Broncs all season — and that was Jackson who scored 22 in a big blowout loss. So if Cody heads back to Park County with the first-place trophy, it will have to hold Torrington’s versatile offense in check. Ian Crawford and Matthew Skinner, Cody’s sack leaders, will be key in that effort.
The case for the Trailblazers: Torrington’s offensive flexibility is about as good as it gets at the 3A level, with the team’s running and passing yards pretty close to even. Bryan Lemmon’s legs and Breyden Biven’s arm give the ‘Blazers options most teams don’t have. Oh, and Torrington is getting about double the yards and more than triple the points of their opponents. Not a bad ratio.
The pick
: When a team pulls a big upset like Cody pulled last week against top-ranked Star Valley, one of two things usually happens: The winning team carries that momentum into the following week and keeps on winning, or that team can’t keep up the emotion from that victory and gets absolutely thumped the following week. I’m really tempted to pick Cody to keep the momentum, and I think it’ll be a close one. Still… … Torrington 30, Cody 24.

Class 1A six-man, 10 a.m. Saturday
Farson Pronghorns (1W, 9-1) vs. Kaycee Buckaroos (1E, 9-0)
Series record: Kaycee leads 4-0
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Kaycee beat Farson 41-30 in the 1A six-man title game on Nov. 11, 2016, in Laramie.
State championships: Farson none. … Kaycee two, most recently in 2016.
Previous title game record: Farson, 0-1. … Kaycee, 2-1.
The path to Laramie: Farson thumped Guernsey 73-24 in the first round and exacted revenge on Snake River 50-32 in the semifinals. … Kaycee destroyed Meeteetse 77-0 in the quarterfinals and survived a challenge from Burlington 47-38 in the semifinals.
The case for the Pronghorns: As noted by one of this site’s readers last week, the Pronghorns were under the weather for their only loss of the season in Week 8 to Snake River. The turnaround Farson showed last week proved that they’re ready for the challenge Kaycee will throw their way. Juniors Lain Mitchelson and Clancy Gines are a nice 1-2 punch, but a host of supporting players have turned the Pronghorns into a true team.
The case for the Buckaroos: One pair of stats shows just how dominant Kaycee has been this season: The Buckaroos average 11.2 yards per play on offense and allow just 2.6 yards per play on defense. Read that stat again, and think about it. Both are tops in six-man. With a senior class that has more players (nine) than some entire six-man teams, and the momentum of 29 consecutive victories and two consecutive state championships behind them, Kaycee is setting a standard for all six-man teams for years to come… if they win on Saturday.
The pick
: Farson has a great team this year. Kaycee has one of the greatest six-man teams the state has ever seen. … Kaycee 60, Farson 44.

Class 1A 11-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Big Horn Rams (2E, 9-1) vs. Pine Bluffs Hornets (1E, 10-0)
Series record: Tied 1-1
Last meeting: Pine Bluffs beat Big Horn 22-21 in overtime on Sept. 15 in Big Horn.
Last playoff meeting: Big Horn beat Pine Bluffs 41-14 in a 2A semifinal on Oct. 31, 2003, in Big Horn.
State championships: Big Horn five, most recently in 2016. … Pine Bluffs one, in 2016.
Previous title game record: Big Horn, 5-9. … Pine Bluffs, 1-3.
The path to Laramie: Big Horn topped Wind River 51-0 in the first round and edged past Cokeville 12-7 in the semifinals. … Pine Bluffs shut out Saratoga 58-0 in the quarterfinals and topped Upton-Sundance 14-7 in the semifinals.
The case for the Rams: We don’t need to look any further than last week. Cokeville had one of its best teams in school history, and even that Panther team couldn’t get past the Rams. With running back Kade Eisele, quarterback Quinn McCafferty and one of 1A’s best lines, Big Horn has by far 1A’s best offense. And the defense has been solid, with a lot of opposing teams scoring their points in garbage time.
The case for the Hornets: Let’s lay out the facts: Pine Bluffs is undefeated. It is a defending state champion. And it already beat Big Horn once this year, in Big Horn, in overtime. The mix of skills the Hornets have is all but unparalleled at 1A, with talent in the backfield (Isaiah Montanes, Haize Fornstrom), on the edges (Andrew Fornstrom, Ishmael Depaulitte) and up front (Hunter Jeffres, Wyatt Fornstrom, James and John Merryfield, Brad Shmidl). What more can you ask for?
The pick
: The question here isn’t who won the last game. It’s who’s improved more since that last game. I think the Rams flip the result from the last meeting, but dang if the Hornets don’t make it difficult — and maybe make the Rams go for two late in the game to secure the win. … Big Horn 14, Pine Bluffs 13.

Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Natrona Mustangs (2, 10-1) vs. Sheridan Broncs (1, 11-0)
Series record: Natrona leads 56-46-6
Last meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 37-34 in overtime on Sept. 8 in Sheridan.
Last playoff meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 56-28 in the 4A championship on Nov. 12, 2016, in Laramie.
State championships: Natrona 17, most recently in 2014. … Sheridan 25, most recently in 2016.
Previous title game record: Natrona, 10-6. … Sheridan, 15-6.
The path to Laramie: Natrona beat Laramie 44-7 in the quarterfinals and shut out Cheyenne East 44-0 in the semis. … Sheridan posted a 54-7 victory against Cheyenne Central in the quarterfinals and beat Kelly Walsh 28-7 in the semifinals.
The case for the Mustangs: How many schools — ever — can claim to have both the top rusher and the top passer in a classification? But that’s what Natrona has in running back Brett Brenton and quarterback Jesse Harshman. The defense is rock-solid and ranked second in Class 4A in yards per game. And moreover, most of this year’s contributors were also key on last year’s title-game run. Deep, experienced, versatile and unintimidated: The Mustangs are primed for a championship.
The case for the Broncs: How can you go against a team that is undefeated and going for its third consecutive 4A championship? Sheridan is on a run that hasn’t been seen since… well, since Sheridan made its run of four straight titles in 1990-93. The offense, like Natrona, is versatile, and the defense is opportunistic. The Aaron (or is it Airin’?) duo of quarterback Aaron Woodward and receiver Aaron Sessions gives the Broncs quick-strike capabilities, and lineman Blayne Baker, a UW commit, may be the state’s best player. 
The pick
: These two programs have met in seven previous title games (1933, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1996, 2010, 2016) and three de-facto state title games in years without playoffs (1939, 1952 and 1957). And they met last year. This isn’t new. Much like the 1A 11-man title game, this game pits an undefeated team against a one-loss team with a regular-season game that went into overtime. They’re familiar with each other as two programs can possibly be. It simply boils down to who can execute their plans better. Two of the state’s best coaching staffs — not just the head coaches, but everyone from the top down — will have their guys ready to go. This could be one for the ages. … Sheridan 36, Natrona 32.

Here’s how my picks went last week… which just goes to show that my picks aren’t always perfect and should be taken with a grain of pepper (because salt is for chumps).

Last week: 7-3 (70 percent). This season: 256-44 (85 percent).

We are here! The last week of the 2017 season. Who are your picks for the five title game winners? Leave a comment with your picks, and I can almost guarantee that no matter who wins and who loses, we’re going to have a great time seeing how these games play out on Friday and Saturday. Can’t wait!

–patrick

At War Memorial Stadium, Laramie
Friday, Nov. 10
Class 2A championship, (1W) Mountain View vs. (1E) Glenrock, noon
Class 3A championship, (3W) Cody vs. (1E) Torrington, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 11
Class 1A six-man championship, (1W) Farson vs. (1E) Kaycee, 10 a.m.
Class 1A 11-man championship, (2E) Big Horn vs. (1E) Pine Bluffs, 1 p.m.
Class 4A championship, (2) Natrona vs. (1) Sheridan, 4 p.m.

–patrick

Individual schools lost the ability to host state football championship games in 2009 — a fact with which some folks around the Equality State still haven’t reconciled.

However, there’s some consolation in knowing that almost every school in the state had a chance to host at least one championship game before the state’s move to a neutral championship site eight years ago.

In all, 52 Wyoming high schools (and 50 separate cities) have hosted at least one state championship game; only 13 haven’t, and of those 13, eight are at the six-man level.

The five 11-man programs who haven’t hosted a state title game in their program history are Cheyenne South, Newcastle, Saratoga, Wright and Wyoming Indian. South’s inclusion makes sense, having joined the varsity ranks in 2011 after title games had already been moved to Laramie. Of the remaining four, Wyoming Indian has yet to play in a state football title game; Newcastle’s one title-game appearance in 1981 came on the road; Wright has played in two title games, both on the road; and Saratoga has played in two title games and “hosted” the 1975 B title game, but opted to play it in Rawlins instead of Saratoga.

Of the eight six-man programs who haven’t hosted a title game, two have the entirety of their histories since 2009, when six-man came back fully (Kaycee, Rock River) and two others (Farson and Snake River) had sparse histories prior to 2009. The other four include Ten Sleep, which hasn’t yet played in a title game; St. Stephens and Normative Services, who have each played in one title game, each on the road; and Dubois, who’s played three title games on the neutral field in Laramie and a fourth on the road.

+++

In terms of host cities, Laramie, with 44 title games hosted (including all 40 since 2009), obviously leads the way. Casper also hosted neutral-site Class AA title games in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and has hosted 15 title games in all. Other towns around the state have hosted neutral-site title games for smaller-classification teams, mostly in the mid- to late 1970s. The total number of title games per town (not necessarily per school) includes:

Laramie: 44
Cokeville: 16
Casper: 15
Cheyenne: 10
Byron, Sheridan, Torrington: 8
Afton: 7
Big Piney, Evanston, Worland: 6
Big Horn, Douglas, Mountain View, Rawlins, Rock Springs, Thermopolis: 5
Buffalo, Cody, Lovell, Lusk, Midwest: 4
Burlington, Burns, Gillette, Hanna, Kemmerer, Riverton: 3
Dayton, Glenrock, Green River, Guernsey, Hulett, Jackson, Meeteetse, Powell, Sundance, Wheatland, Yoder: 2
Basin, Greybull, Lander, Lingle, Lyman, Moorcroft, Pavillion, Pine Bluffs, Pinedale, Shoshoni, Upton: 1

For more, dive into the newly rebuilt state championship game listings.

–patrick

The Wyoming state football championships — or, as I’m now calling it, War MemoriBowl VIII (but that’s a name I came up with while sleep deprived, and it’s awful) — start Friday in Laramie. I see four amazing games and one decent game in the works for the weekend. Now, which is which? Well, here’s the breakdowns for each five games, in chronological order, as well as my choice for who I think will win:

Class 1A six-man, noon Friday
Kaycee Buckaroos (1E, 10-0) vs. Farson Pronghorns (1W, 10-0)
Series record: Kaycee leads 3-0.
Last meeting: Kaycee beat Farson 65-6 on Sept. 7, 2012, in Farson.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Kaycee one, in 2015. … Farson zero.
Previous title game record: Kaycee, 1-1. … Farson, 0-0.
The path to Laramie: Kaycee beat up on Burlington 60-18 in the quarterfinals and Meeteetse 56-21 in the semifinals. … Farson ousted Hanna 85-26 in the first round and Guernsey-Sunrise 61-25 in the semis.
The case for the Buckaroos: They’re undefeated. They’ve got the longest winning streak in the state, regardless of classification, at 19 games. They’ve won every game this season by at least 35 points. They’ve got a diverse offense with a game-breaking running back in Danny Ramirez (more than 15 yards per rush, 26 TDs) and an efficient passing game — entering the semis, sophomore QB Hunter Rouse had completed 83 percent — EIGHTY THREE PERCENT! — of his passes and had a 29-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The bottom line is Kaycee knows how to win, knows how to win in Laramie, and knows how to win with the talent it has.
The case for the PronghornsAs noted last week, Farson’s growth has been a slow burn, not a sudden explosion. The growth is predicated mostly on sophomores, as Lain Mitchelson has notched 1,552 rushing yards, tops in six-man; Clancy Gines has 10 rushing TDs, leads the team in receiving yards and is third on the team in tackles; and Cortland Barker is tied for the team lead with seven sacks. And seniors Thomas Rezzonico (leading tackler) and Ed Barlow have provided leadership and stability. The Pronghorns have the right mix of talent and potential to be champions for the first time in program history.
The pick
: No matter who wins, we may be seeing the birth of a couple dynasties. Both squads are young (Kaycee has just two seniors, Farson four), and the young players are talented; they’re both loaded for success both Friday and beyond. Honestly, neither team has an advantage on paper. When that’s the case, go with the team that’s been here before and won’t be overwhelmed by the setting. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to look ahead to the rematch in Laramie in November 2017. But first… Kaycee 52, Farson 44.

Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Star Valley Braves (2W, 10-1) vs. Powell Panthers (1W, 8-3)
Series record: Star Valley leads 25-13.
Last meeting: Powell beat Star Valley 22-14 on Sept. 30 in Powell.
Last playoff meeting: Powell beat Star Valley 13-10 in the 3A title game on Nov. 9, 2012, in Laramie.
State championships: Star Valley nine, most recent in 2015. … Powell eight, most recent in 2013.
Previous title game record: Star Valley, 8-10. … Powell, 6-2.
The path to Laramie: Star Valley outscored Riverton 35-27 in the first round and Douglas 61-42 in a semifinal shootout. … Powell held down Lander 58-6 in the quarterfinals and Green River 27-10 in the semifinals.
The case for the Braves: Star Valley has done this before. The defending 3A champions have been remarkably consistent this fall, and they’ve proven they can win games by grinding it out or by shooting it out. That versatility and that consistency is sparked by 3A’s top rushing offense — by far — with Kellen Hansen, Colin McGinley and Josh Dawson all capable game-breakers, and 3A’s top rushing defense, with McGinley, Dawson, Conner Smith, McCabe Smith and a host of others in there screwing things up for opponents. Last year’s MO was different, but first-year head coach McKay Young has shown the Braves can adapt to the talent they have. That sets up well for a repeat run.
The case for the Panthers: No team in the state may have improved more between Week 1 and Week 8 than Powell. The Panthers had a bad loss to Douglas (41-6), followed up by a now-head-scratching loss to Buffalo (7-6), in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively; only a 23-18 victory against Riverton kept Powell from losing four in a row. But the season turned around after beating — guess who? — Star Valley in Week 5. Since then, Powell hasn’t lost, winning six consecutive games, currently the longest winning streak in the state in 11-man. Oh, and the Panthers have the talent to make the individual play when it’s needed. T.J. Abraham is a beast on both sides of the ball; Mason Olsen plays off him and is a versatile threat under center; Brooks Asher, Nathan Magill and Max Gallagher consistently frustrate opposing offenses up front.
The pick
: When you look at title games like this, you throw out the first half of the season. You realize that Powell defeating Star Valley was no fluke. You try to find where another team has an advantage, on either side of the ball. You stare until you feel cross-eyed. Then you realize it’s a toss-up. Star Valley 28, Powell 27, in overtime.

Class 2A, 10 a.m. Saturday
Big Horn Rams (2E, 9-1) vs. Greybull Buffaloes (2W, 9-1)
Series record: Big Horn leads 14-5.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Greybull beat Big Horn 27-25 in a 2A quarterfinal game on Oct. 30, 2015, in Greybull.
State championships: Big Horn four, most recent in 2013. … Greybull one, in 1960.
Previous title game record: Big Horn, 4-9. … Greybull, 1-1.
The path to Laramie: Big Horn squeaked past Pinedale 20-14 in overtime in the quarterfinals and beat Newcastle 27-7 in the semis. … Greybull blasted Wheatland 61-22 in the first round and shut out Glenrock 26-0 in the semis.
The case for the Rams: The Rams have the experience to play in the pressure of a title game — this is their third visit to Laramie the past four years. Big Horn isn’t here by fluke: Its offense is the best in 2A, averaging 400 yards per game, and its defense gives up just 214. Colton Williams can beat teams by rushing (1,660 yards, 25 TDs), catching (416 yards, 4 TDs) or on special teams (leads 2A with 24.3 yards per punt return). Nolan McCafferty fronts a defense that has a plus-14 turnover ratio, best in 2A. Talented, experienced, motivated? That’s a tough combo to stop, and that’s the combo Big Horn is bringing to Laramie.
The case for the Buffaloes: Greybull is one successful two-point conversion away from entering this week undefeated. All season, the offense has been salty (47.9 points per game, best in 2A), but it’s the defense that’s carried the load. The Buffs have 2A’s top run defense, giving up just 71.3 yards per game, and stopped cold undefeated Glenrock’s heavy-duty rushing game last week in the semis. Six players average at least 10 defensive points per game. The offense is predicated on Dawson Forcella and his ability to run (1,483 rushing yards) and score (23 TDs), but he’s got help from an efficient-enough passing game that can do the job when needed. And the senior class is massive and focused.
The pick
: The big question entering this week is if Greybull spent all its playoff mojo in Glenrock last week. The victory against the previously undefeated Herders proved Greybull belongs here, but often we see teams who gear up and play beautifully a semifinal game like that have difficulty going to the well one more time the next week. That’s why I think the Buffs won’t dominate the Rams like they did the Herders. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Greybull is deep, senior-laden and motivated to get the school’s first football title in 56 years. Greybull 30, Big Horn 24.

Class 1A 11-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Pine Bluffs Hornets (3E, 8-2) vs. Tongue River Eagles (2E, 8-2)
Series record: Tongue River leads 3-0.
Last meeting: Tongue River beat Pine Bluffs 28-14 on Oct. 14 in Dayton.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Pine Bluffs zero. … Tongue River five, most recent in 1974.
Previous title game record: Pine Bluffs, 0-3. … Tongue River, 1-5.
The path to Laramie: Pine Bluffs beat Rocky Mountain 23-14 in the first round and Upton-Sundance 19-13 in the semis in back-to-back road games. … Tongue River topped Cokeville 27-12 in the opening round and Shoshoni 37-6 in the second round.
The case for the Hornets: By statistical measure, Pine Bluffs is the superior team in this matchup. The Hornets gain more yards than the Eagles (350.4 ypg to 317.4) and give up fewer (188.3 to 198.1). The talent is there: No Class 1A 11-man running back in the state has more rushing yards than Ruger Lewis’ 1,703, and he reached that total without playing in every game. Of the team’s two losses so far this season, the Hornets have already avenged one; they can avenge the other on Saturday. And Pine Bluffs, as noted above, has the added inspiration of playing to earn the school’s first state football championship.
The case for the Eagles: The Eagles have been here before, coming up short in last year’s 1A 11-man title game, so they won’t be awed by the War or thrown off by the unexpected twists the experience of a title game will bring. They’ll be prepared. It doesn’t really show on the stat sheets, but Tongue River has been one of the state’s most consistent teams, and that also means consistently improving. Brennan Kutterer has been a triple threat as a runner (1,452 yards, 21 TDs), passer (524 yards) and tackler (team-high 206 defensive points). However, he bears a disproportionate load for his team, and he’ll need more help than usual to hold off the Hornets. If TR’s role players make plays when they have the opportunity, then watch out.
The pick
: When these teams played less than a month ago, it was a tight one; the game was tied 14-14 entering the fourth quarter. To boot, Pine Bluffs played without Lewis in that game. With him ready to play in the title game, there’s absolutely no reason to think the Hornets can’t beat the Eagles. If the Eagles can adjust to Lewis’ presence quickly, then they’ll be able to control the pace and play to their style. If not, the Hornets are in prime position to hoist their first state football title trophy. This one may come down to a late fourth-quarter drive and either a big score or a big stop. May be the best game of the weekend — and that’s saying something. Tongue River 28, Pine Bluffs 21.

Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Natrona Mustangs (5, 6-5) vs. Sheridan Broncs (2, 10-1)
Series record: Natrona leads 56-44-6.
Last meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 37-13 on Oct. 14 in Casper.
Last playoff meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 35-10 in a 4A semifinal game on Nov. 6, 2015, in Sheridan.
State championships: Natrona 17, most recent in 2014. … Sheridan 24, most recent in 2015.
Previous title game record: Natrona, 10-5. … Sheridan, 14-6.
The path to Laramie: Natrona beat Kelly Walsh 37-21 in the first round and upset Gillette 30-28 in the semifinals. … Sheridan handled Cheyenne East 34-17 in the quarterfinals and Rock Springs 35-6 in the second round.
The case for the Mustangs: No team in 4A started slower than Natrona, which posted shutout losses to Cheyenne Central and Cheyenne East the first two weeks of the season. Since then, Natrona hasn’t been a crew of world-beaters, but the Mustangs won the right games — the playoff games. All of a sudden, the team that started the season as the team couldn’t score is finishing the season as the team that can’t be stopped. Brett Brenton and Jesse Harshman make a nice 1-2 combo on offense; Thomas Robitaille leads a wrecking crew on defense; Riley Shepperson might have the best kicking leg in the state. Most importantly, the gears are meshing at exactly the right time.
The case for the Broncs: We knew all season long Sheridan would be a prime contender to repeat. And aside from a 24-21 loss to Gillette in the Energy Bowl, Sheridan has made good on that assumption. They have 4A’s top defense and top passing offense. They protect the ball: QB Drew Boedecker has a 25-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and the team averages less than one turnover per game. Coy Steel is one of the best deep threats in Wyoming, and the defense plays well as a unit. A flexible, diverse and deep offense; an opportunistic, fundamentally sound defense. Sounds like the recipe for a state champ.
The pick
: Class 4A has had remarkable parity the last 20-some years: Only one program, Rock Springs in 2001 and 2002, has repeated as the big-school champion since 1994. And Natrona has won the 4A title every even-numbered year this decade (2010, 2012 and 2014). So the historical precedents against the Broncs are definitely there. But history doesn’t dictate destiny. Natrona proved that last week; now Sheridan can prove that this week. In a little bit of a shootout… Sheridan 42, Natrona 30.

If I picked against your favorite squad this week, no worries. My picks clearly don’t mean much, at least not after last week:

Last week: 6-4 (60 percent). This season: 244-56 (81 percent).

So… who do YOU have winning the five title games this weekend? Leave a comment and let’s chat about all the fun that might go down in the Gem City this weekend.

–patrick

When the Class 1A six-man and 3A championship games are played Friday in Laramie, the teams will revive a state tradition dating back to just after World War I — a tradition started by that very war.

Friday is Nov. 11. Through 1954, Nov. 11 was known across the country as Armistice Day, the day the Great War ended on the Western Front in Europe in 1918.

In Wyoming, the day quickly became synonymous with high school football. Armistice Day football games were a Wyoming tradition from the state’s first full season in 1921. Coincidentally, Nov. 11 in 1921 came on a football Friday, and eight games were played on that date — including the first meetings between Natrona and Sheridan and between Cody and Powell.

The tradition of Nov. 11 games continued every year forward from 1921, no matter what day of the week Nov. 11 was, with one exception: In years where Nov. 11 was a Sunday, teams scheduled games for Nov. 10 or Nov. 12.

Armistice Day became the default date for rivalry games across the state. Rock Springs and Green River, Worland and Thermopolis, Laramie and Cheyenne Central, Cody and Powell, Riverton and Lander, Greybull and Basin and others consistently scheduled their annual showdowns for Nov. 11.

The tradition grew year by year, with between 10 and 17 games played per year statewide on or around Armistice Day, up to as many as 20 on Armistice Day in 1941.

However, after World War II, the tradition faded fast. Only 10 Armistice Day games were played in 1947, and by 1948, that number was down to five. In the seven seasons between 1951 and 1957, only 10 total non-playoff Armistice Day games were played.

In part, the fall was precipitated by the addition of playoffs for Class A and Class B schools, which mandated that teams end their seasons earlier so playoffs could be played into the second and third weeks of November.

The last true Nov. 11 regular-season games came in 1963, when Torrington beat Rawlins, and 1964, when Torrington lost to Gering, Neb.

Like the football tradition tied to it, Armistice Day itself didn’t survive long past World War II; it was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Between 1964 and 2005, only one game — the 1978 Class AA championship game — was played on Nov. 11. Since 2005, though, eight championship games (Class 5A in 2005, all classes in 2006 and 2A and 3A in 2011) have been staged on Nov. 11. Two more are scheduled for Friday: the 3A title game between Star Valley and Powell and the 1A six-man title game between Kaycee and Farson.

Oh, by the way? In case you forgot? Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, is Veterans Day. And those title games will be played in a venue called, appropriately, War Memorial Stadium.

I’m thankful to see the old tradition revived, even if it’s only coincidence.

Playing on that day allows us to keep our little game in a greater perspective. We can be thankful we’re fighting for a trophy and not our lives.

Even though the Armistice Day tradition has all but ended, we’d do well to keep that perspective going, no matter what day the games are played.

–patrick

Wyoming high school football state title game matchups:

Friday, Nov. 11
Class 1A six-man championship, Kaycee vs. Farson, noon
Class 3A championship, Star Valley vs. Powell, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12
Class 2A championship, Big Horn vs. Greybull, 10 a.m.
Class 1A 11-man championship, Pine Bluffs vs. Tongue River, 1 p.m.
Class 4A championship, Natrona vs. Sheridan, 4 p.m.

–patrick

The 2015 season — aside from individual records, all-state, all-America and Super 25 recognition — has been uploaded to the site. Let me know if you see any errors or problems!

That said, 2015 had some pretty remarkable, unique or crazy things come from it:

  • Wyoming did not have any undefeated state champions this year, as all five state champs finished with one loss apiece. The last time Wyoming didn’t have any undefeated teams was 2006.
  • 2015 is the first year since Wyoming moved to five classes for football in 1990 that all five champs had the same number of losses (1). The last time all state champs finished with same number of losses was 1975; all three state champs (Natrona, Douglas, Pinedale) went unbeaten that year.
  • Sheridan won its 24th state title, extending its existing state record.
  • Despite losing the 4A state title game, Gillette did set single-season record for points in an 11-man season (539). The Camels beat Natrona’s record from 2012 by three points.
  • Likewise, Meeteetse set the all-class state record for average points per game (68.27), beating the 2009 Guernsey team by .05 ppg.
  • Four of the top 10 combined scoring games in state history were played in 2015, including the record game in which Dubois (102) and Ten Sleep (60) combined for 162 points.
  • St. Stephens’ average of 80.14 points allowed per game this season topped the not-so-good record list of most points allowed per game in a season. Their average was about 10 points per game worse than the old record, also set by St. Stephens, from 2013. Dubois, meanwhile, gave up 569 points total this year, second-most all time in one season, just below the record Midwest set last year of 573.
  • Cokeville’s streak of 175 games with at least one point ended in 2015; it’s a state record. However, spots No. 2 and 3 on the list are active streaks entering 2016 — Gillette hasn’t been shut out in 125 straight games, while Natrona has scored in 120 consecutive games.

Finally, here’s a peek at the final picks tallies for the year. It finally happened — Tad and Homer saved their best for last, and they both beat me on the title game picks.

Last week’s records: Patrick, 3-2 (60 percent); Tad, 4-1 (80 percent); Homer, 4-1 (80 percent).

Season records: Patrick, 232-64 (78 percent); Tad, 187-109 (63 percent); Homer, 171-125 (58 percent).

Patrick’s 11-year total: 2,583-668 (79 percent)

All-state and Super 25 will be uploaded when distributed publicly; individual season records will be posted once official season statistics are made public later this week.

Of course, just because the season is done does not mean we’re done here. This blog will be full of interesting tidbits throughout the year. If you want to suggest a blog post for me to write — or if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — let me know. Of course, I make no guarantees that I’ll write about your idea, or that I’ll publish any contributed posts, but I’m open to ideas.

Don’t forget about wyoming-basketball.com.

Thanks for making the trip with me all season long.

–patrick

A breakdown of each one of this weekend’s five championship games:

Class 2A, noon Friday
Glenrock Herders  (2E, 8-2) vs. Wheatland Bulldogs (1E, 9-1)
Series record: Wheatland leads 15-13.
Last meeting: Wheatland beat Glenrock 22-8 on Sept. 25 in Glenrock.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Glenrock eight, most recent in 2008. … Wheatland one, in 1984.
Previous title game record: Glenrock, 6-4. … Wheatland, 1-2.
The path to Laramie: Glenrock shut out Mountain View 37-0 in the first round and beat Lovell 13-10 in overtime in the semifinals. … Wheatland destroyed Lyman 70-6 in the quarterfinals and shut out Greybull 40-0 in the semifinals.
The case for Glenrock: The Herders have a system that works. They stick to it, and it produces results. For a team that didn’t even make the playoffs a year ago, an appearance in the title game isn’t all that surprising. Glenrock’s football tradition breeds this kind of success. The running game is on point — both Garrett Schwindt and Alec Arnold have topped 1,000 yards rushing this fall. The passing game is opportunistic. And, most importantly, the defense rarely breaks: The Herders shut out five of their opponents this fall.
The case for Wheatland: All season long, Wheatland has been the Class 2A favorite. The Bulldogs started the season ranked first in the class and, aside from a 28-14 loss to Big Horn in Week 8, have lived up to that billing. They’ve scored 451 points and only given up 48. They’re well-rounded, talented, strong up front and experienced. A deep senior class, led by Josh Calvert, Nathan Willis, Daniel Chesser, Justis Borton, Preston Gunther, Kyle Pollock and a host of others, wants to end their careers with a state title, something that’s evaded Wheatland since 1984. And the Bulldogs have six shutouts. So there.
The pick
: Class 2A’s top two offenses and top two defenses will meet for the title. Only seems right. Both teams are senior-laden, talented, hungry. But from the end of last season to today, this has been Wheatland’s title to lose. Glenrock has had a nice season. It’s just a shame they’re running into a juggernaut. And as long as Wheatland doesn’t believe that, it’ll be fine. Wheatland 20, Glenrock 12.

Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Green River Wolves (3W, 6-4) vs. Star Valley Braves (2W, 9-1)
Series record: Star Valley leads 36-31-5.
Last meeting: Star Valley beat Green River 16-15 on Oct. 9 in Green River.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Green River five, most recent in 2004. … Star Valley eight, most recent in 1996.
Previous title game record: Green River, 4-2. … Star Valley, 7-10.
The path to Laramie: Green River topped Buffalo 24-20 in the quarterfinals and upset Jackson 24-15 in the semis. … Star Valley beat Douglas 35-13 in the first round and Torrington 42-27 in the semifinals.
The case for Green River: Remember when Green River was 2-4? The Wolves’ turnaround wasn’t really a turnaround — they just started winning the close games they had lost early in the year. Green River’s two playoff victories, a 24-20 squeaker over Buffalo and a surprisingly dominant 24-15 victory over Jackson, have hardened their playoff mettle. Quarterback Tyler Vendetti, who leads the Wolves in rushing yards (932) and passing yards (890), may be the most versatile offensive player in 3A. And although the Wolves don’t have any eye-popping statistical edges, they have confidence, both in their ability to win (four in a row at the most critical time in the season) and in their specific ability to beat the Braves — the last team to beat Green River before it turned around.
The case for Star Valley: In a word? Uniformity. Prepping for Star Valley is like prepping for a flood. Stopping one drop of water looks easy, but stopping all of those drops proves nearly impossible. The Braves have that approach on both offense and defense — if you focus on one, another one will slip by and beat you. Every player has to be accounted for, because every player is capable of making a play. Quarterback Reese Hiibel, running back Kellen Hansen, defensive centerpieces Bailey Johnson, Kyler Battleson, McCabe Smith, Conner Smith, Sean Pittman and Alex Howell… all potential game-breakers. And even if you shut them down, the Braves’ less-heralded players are just as capable. That makes planning for, and playing against, the Braves a logistical nightmare.
The pick
: Star Valley won’t underestimate Green River. After all, the Braves needed a field goal on the last play of the game to beat Green River in their first meeting this year. The Wolves are capable. But, as improved as the Wolves are, the Braves still have my edge, although not by much. And it might come down to the kicking game. Again. Star Valley 24, Green River 21.

Class 1A six-man, 10 a.m. Saturday
Meeteetse Longhorns (1W, 10-0) vs. Kaycee Buckaroos (1E, 9-1)
Series record: Meeteetse leads 4-3
Last meeting: Meeteetse beat Kaycee 45-20 in a six-man quarterfinal game on Oct. 31, 2014, in Kaycee.
Last playoff meeting: Same.
State championships: Meeteetse two, most recent in 2013. … Kaycee is going for its first.
Previous title game record: Meeteetse, 2-1. … Kaycee, 0-1.
The path to Laramie: Meeteetse thumped Guernsey-Sunrise 70-26 to start the playoffs and offed Hulett 68-36 in the semifinals. … Kaycee ran over Dubois 76-18 in the quarters and beat Snake River 51-14 in the semifinals.
The case for Meeteetse: Is there anything else Meeteetse could do to prove its case? They’re undefeated. They’ve won every game by at least 21 points, most by a lot more than that. They’ve scored almost 72 points per game, on pace not only to beat but to destroy the state record for most points scored per game. And they’ve done so via the spreading the love, as seven players have scored at least five touchdowns apiece this season. While multipurpose threat Carter Johnson and quarterback Dalton Abarr make the offense click, everyone has had a hand in the Longhorns’ success. That diversity is dangerous.
The case for Kaycee: Since a 6-0 hiccup loss to Guernsey in Week 2, the Buckaroos have been unstoppable, winning by at least 37 points every time out. Kaycee’s defense has given up more than 18 points to just two opponents all year, a remarkable tally for six-man where offense is king. What set Kaycee apart this year, though, is its diversity. When the season started, a lot of pressure was on senior Taylor Rouse’s shoulders to carry this team to Laramie. However, Kaycee has found success in diversification, which has allowed both Rouse and his teammates — guys like fellow senior Hayden Fauber, sophomore Danny Ramirez and others — to find their place and help carry the load.
The pick
: We figured back in August that Meeteetse and Kaycee would rise to the top of six-man this year. What we didn’t foresee was just how dominant Meeteetse’s run would be, or how Kaycee’s one slip-up would completely refocus the Buckaroos’ season. It’d be easy to pick Meeteetse, and I will. However, Kaycee will give Meeteetse its toughest test of the season. The Buckaroos are capable of playing with, and beating, the Longhorns. Maybe THIS is the year we finally get that close, nerve-wracking six-man title game we hope for every year but have yet to see come to fruition. Meeteetse 60, Kaycee 52.

Class 1A 11-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Tongue River Eagles (3E, 8-2) vs. Upton-Sundance Patriots (2E, 9-1)
Series record: Upton-Sundance leads 2-0; Tongue River leads series with Sundance 27-24 and Upton 19-17.
Last meeting: Upton-Sundance beat Tongue River 35-6 on Sept. 18 in Dayton.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Tongue River five, most recent in 1974. … Upton-Sundance is going for its first, although Upton and Sundance have combined for three, most recent for both schools in 2005.
Previous title game record: Tongue River, 1-4. … Upton-Sundance, 0-0, but Upton 2-7 and Sundance 1-2.
The path to Laramie: Tongue River beat Cokeville on the road 28-21 in the first round and Lingle on the road 28-9 in the semifinals. … Upton-Sundance beat Rocky Mountain 39-12 in the quarterfinals and Southeast 26-14 in the semis.
The case for Tongue River: There’s two ways to look at the Eagles: They’re either a team that’s learned how to win or a team that’s had an incredible lucky streak. If you subscribe to the former, you look at guys like Dillon Lyons, a 1,000-yard rusher, and Brennan Kutterer, a one-man wrecking crew on defense, and coach John Scott, and you see that the Eagles’ success is no accident. However, even the most ardent Tongue River supporter can’t deny how fortunate the Eagles were in the second half of the season, as the squad won consecutive games by 5, 9, 3 and 7 points before beating Lingle by 19 in the semis. That’s either luck, or it’s the cementing of a won’t-lose mentality. If it’s the latter, watch out.
The case for Upton-Sundance: The Patriots’ program has been built slowly, piece by piece, the past four years. Playoff berths in 2012 and 2013, a playoff win in 2014, a title game appearance in 2015. This program has all the earmarks of one built for longevity, not just one fleeting title run. Running back Dawson Butts is the offensive focus, but he has a ton of support; Rourke McPeters anchors the defense, but he, too, is surrounded by capable and talented teammates. The Patriots have enough playmakers in enough places, enough postseason experience, enough confidence, enough success and enough ability to lift a trophy on Saturday.
The pick
: You look at the first meeting these two teams had, and you’d think this pick is easy. It’s not. Tongue River is not the same team that lost to the Patriots in September. The Eagles have been playing for their lives the past five weeks. And look at what they’ve done: Beat Southeast 12-7, beat Lingle 48-39, beat Pine Bluffs 28-25, beat Cokeville 28-21, beat Lingle 28-9. Four of those five victories came on the road. Confidence breeds confidence; success breeds success. And while it’s easy to focus on the Eagles’ recent run, just take a look at the Patriots’ entire 2015 season. Destiny is a temptress, and I still like the Patriots. In a thriller. Enough is enough. Upton-Sundance 21, Tongue River 18.

Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Sheridan Broncs (2, 10-1) vs. Gillette Camels (1, 11-0)
Series record: Sheridan leads 41-30-1.
Last meeting: Gillette beat Sheridan 20-14 on Oct. 2 in Gillette.
Last playoff meeting: Gillette beat Sheridan 35-16 in a 4A semifinal game on Nov. 3, 2012, in Gillette.
State championships: Sheridan 23, most recent in 2011. … Gillette four, most recent in 2008.
Previous title game record: Sheridan, 13-6. … Gillette, 4-8.
The path to Laramie: Sheridan shut out Evanston 48-0 in the quarterfinals and overcame Natrona 35-10 in the semifinals. … Gillette smoked Laramie 73-33 in the first round and destroyed Cheyenne East 61-6 in the semifinals.
The case for Sheridan: The Broncs don’t have the eye-popping statistics that most 10-1 teams have. That’s just the way they like it. Sheridan can beat teams in about 100 different ways. Blake Godwin can beat teams through the air thanks to a diverse receiving corps, or Evan Coon can beat teams by running right past them. The defense is hard to prepare for because they can stop teams in so many ways, both with varying schemes and varying personnel. In short: The things that make Sheridan tough every year make the Broncs tough again this year. You’d think the whole program is built this way or something. 🙂
The case for Gillette: First things first: Gillette has beaten Sheridan five times in a row. The Camels have owned the recent series, and maybe the mental edge, against the Broncs. Second things second: The Camels may have more individual talent than any team in the state. QB Dalton Holst has already set Wyoming’s single-season passing record; Madden Pikula might be more difficult to stop than any other receiver in the state; Roo Aten has been a multipurpose dynamo; Zach Taylor has been a rock at linebacker; the guys up front have been the catalyst for it all. Most importantly, those individual players have been part of a team concept that’s bigger than any single one of them.
The pick
: This is the game we’ve seen coming all season. Even though these two teams have the best offenses, by far, in Class 4A, this game will be decided by defense. The regular-season matchup showed us that. I envision some sort of defensive play — a pick-six, a safety, a fumble recovery deep in enemy territory — swinging this game one direction or another. Keep in mind, the Camels have been stymied in Laramie; they’re the only “big four” team to not win it all in the War. If Gillette can get that key defensive play, chances are good they’ll hoist that trophy. It’s time for the rise of the CCSC — the Campbell County State Champions. Gillette 27, Sheridan 25.

+++

Tad and Homer picked their title-game winners, as well. Tad had the easier time, as he picks the series leader, but Homer struggled because the games are at neutral sites and none of the five series included any neutral-site games. So he just picked the higher seed, the “home” team for the championship game, and called it good.

The picks
Tad: Sheridan over Gillette; Meeteetse over Kaycee.
Homer: Gillette over Sheridan; Kaycee over Meeteetse.
Both: Star Valley over Green River; Wheatland over Glenrock; Upton-Sundance over Tongue River.

(Series records already in preview; first neutral-site game for all series.)

Last week’s records: Patrick, 7-3 (70 percent); Tad, 9-1 (90 percent); Homer, 7-3 (70 percent).

Season records: Patrick, 229-62 (79 percent); Tad, 183-108 (63 percent); Homer, 167-124 (57 percent).

Who are your five picks for state champions? Leave a comment and let me know who you think has the edge in Laramie!

–patrick

Powell’s 2011 playoff run was, simply put, inspired.

Few teams have done what Powell did that season — win three road playoff games to win a state championship.

In fact, since Wyoming expanded to five classifications in 1990, 212 teams have played in state championship games after making their way through eight-team playoff brackets (through the end of the 2014 season). Of those 212 teams:

  • 18 teams (8.5 percent) played in the title game after playing their first playoff game on the road.
  • 3 teams (1.4 percent) won the state championship after opening the playoffs on the road.
  • 2 teams (0.9 percent) won the state championship after playing all three of their playoff games on the road (or by playing in a neutral-site championship).

Only a small handful of teams reach the title game after starting the playoffs on the road. Even when such teams make it to the title game, those road-first squads are just 3-15 in the championship. Only Powell in 2011 and Glenrock in 2003 won titles by playing three straight road games in the playoffs; in addition, Big Piney won a title in 2006 after winning its quarterfinal game on the road, its semifinal game at home and its title game on the road.

Between 1990 and 2008, after which state title games moved to Laramie, only one team that started the playoffs in an eight-team bracket on the road hosted the state title game: Lovell in 2003. Oddly enough, Lovell lost that championship game to the aforementioned Glenrock squad. Yeah, the 3A playoffs in 2003 were crazy. I blame power ratings.

I have rambled about this before, back when I used to work for the Casper Star-Tribune and produced the blog “Sports Goulash.” Unfortunately, that blog post (along with every other one I wrote there) has been eliminated from the CST site.

When I first wrote about this idea, I used it as a call to reduce the playoff brackets from eight to four teams, and to extend the regular season a week. More games for all teams, fewer first-round playoff blowouts, an emphasis on the regular season…. After all, I reasoned at the time, it hardly seems worth it to have the playoffs at three rounds when less than 2 percent of teams that don’t host in the first round win a state championship anyway. Sounded good at the time.

I’m not so sure I agree with that assessment now, especially after the first two rounds of the playoffs this year.

The 2015 postseason showed us two more reasons to keep the playoffs at eight teams per classification, as both Green River and Tongue River reached this week’s championship games after starting the postseason on the road. Tongue River made a pair of long road trips to reach Laramie, beating defending champion Cokeville in Cokeville in the quarterfinals and topping East Conference top seed Lingle in Lingle in the semis. Green River, meanwhile, beat Buffalo in Buffalo in the 3A quarterfinals before beating West top seed Jackson in Jackson in the semifinal round.

In four-team brackets, neither the Wolves nor the Eagles would have even had the chance to make it this far. Now they’re playing in Laramie.

The more I think about it, the more I like the fact that a lot of teams make the playoffs — it makes almost every regular-season game important. That makes the regular season, especially Weeks 6-8, quite fun.

A longer regular season doesn’t necessarily mean a better regular season. If only four schools per classification qualified for the playoffs, some teams could be eliminated from postseason consideration halfway through the season. That’s not much fun.

And the upsets are, in part, what makes the postseason fun and memorable. Eight-team brackets expand the chances for those upsets, even if they don’t happen that often, and even if the 50 percent of the teams in the playoffs who start with a road game win titles 1.4 percent of the time.

If you’re unsure where you stand, just ask anyone playing for Green River or Tongue River this weekend. They’ll help you figure it out.

For reference, here are the 18 teams that played in the state championship game after starting their playoff run on the road (eight-team brackets only, from 1990-2014):

The three state champions
Powell, 2011 (quarterfinals and semifinals on the road; championship at neutral site in Laramie as “road” team)
Big Piney, 2006 (quarterfinals on the road, semifinals at home, title game on the road)
Glenrock, 2003 (all three games on the road)
The 15 other state runners-up
Kaycee, 2009; Evanston, 1993 and 2007 (’07 semis at home); Cheyenne East, 2006; Gillette, 2003 (semis at home); Lovell, 2003 (hosted title game) and 1990; Lusk, 2003 (semis at home); Normative Services, 2001; Mountain View, 2000; Sheridan, 1996 and 1997; Pine Bluffs, 1991 and 1994; Wind River, 1992 (semis at home).

–patrick

Here are the matchups for the state championship games at War Memorial Stadium, Laramie:

Friday, Nov. 13
Class 2A championship
Glenrock vs. Wheatland, noon
Class 3A championship
Green River vs. Star Valley, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 14
Class 1A six-man championship
Meeteetse vs. Kaycee, 10 a.m.
Class 1A 11-man championship
Tongue River vs. Upton-Sundance, 1 p.m.
Class 4A championship
Sheridan vs. Gillette, 4 p.m.

–patrick

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