When the Wyoming High School Activities Association handed nonconference football scheduling back to individual schools, reducing travel was the goal.

The schools came through on that end — big time.

A breakdown of the 2017 schedule shows travel is going to be down. WAY down.

The average Wyoming high school football road game trip this year, one way, is going to be more than 20 miles shorter than it was last year. And the average nonconference trip, one way, is going to be 70 miles shorter than it was last year. Even one-way mileage for conference games is down:

  • Average one-way trip for all games: 175 miles, down from 196 last year
  • Average one-way trip for conference games: 183 miles, down from 189 last year
  • Average one-way trip for nonconference games: 147 miles, down from 217 last year

Meanwhile, the median one-way nonconference trip this season will be 137 miles; the median one-way trip in 2016 was 221 miles.

In part, this is because some of the absurdly long trips teams made have also been pared down. In 2016, seven games had one-way trips of more than 400 miles; in 2017, only one game (the ridiculous Torrington-Star Valley game) is more than 400 miles one way.

Also, shorter trips are more numerous. Last season, 24 games had one-way trips of 50 miles or less; this year, 34 such games are scheduled.

A big reason for the mileage reduction is schools’ ability to schedule sub-varsity games in nonconference weeks. Five schools, so far, have taken advantage of that opportunity, and more may do so before the season starts in August.

Another thing that helped reduce the longest trips was Evanston’s move from 4A to 3A, which eliminated the Red Devils’ trips to, or their opponents’ trips from, Gillette and Sheridan — traditionally the longest trips on the Wyoming high school football schedule regardless of classification.

The reduced travel comes with tradeoffs, though.

Namely, eight schools don’t have full schedules. Rocky Mountain, Tongue River, Powell, Evanston, Cody and Wright all tentatively have bye weeks scheduled; Rocky Mountain actually has two open weeks, back-to-back, right now. Also, Riverton and Douglas have a scrimmage scheduled for the opening week of the season, which is far from ideal. No one had a scheduled open week last season.

We’ve seen that competitive equity scheduling increased travel but decreased competitiveness. Those trends continued in both 2015 and 2016. Maybe 2017 will bring us closer games AND reduced travel. For eight programs, though, the tradeoff might be one (or more) Friday night on the couch instead of on the field.

How mileage was calculated: Using Google Maps directions, distances from city to city were calculated for each game of the 2016 season and each scheduled game for the 2017 season. Scrimmages and jamborees were not considered. Games involving Upton-Sundance used the closer of the two schools for road games and the actual site for home games. Travel went “through the park” via Yellowstone when possible. Google Maps’ suggestions were used unless a shorter mileage option that did not significantly add to travel time (15 minutes or more) was available.

–patrick

Wyoming will have 14 new high school football series begin in 2017, but nine of them will belong to the same school.

Obviously, the entire Thunder Basin schedule will consist of new series starting — nine new series with each one of the other 4A schools. The new high school in Gillette is scheduled to open this fall and start varsity football immediately.

The other five new series on the 2017 schedule include Rock River/Meeteetse (Week 1), Rawlins/Wind River (Week 3), Big Horn/Upton-Sundance (Week 6), Kemmerer/Lusk (Week 6) and Worland/Pinedale (Week 8).

Also, 13 other series will include their first meeting at a particular location: Snake River at Lingle (Week 1), Shoshoni at Thermopolis (Week 1), Jackson at Sugar-Salem, Idaho (Week 1), Newcastle at Upton-Sundance (Week 2), Riverside at Snake River (Week 2), Shoshoni at Tongue River (Week 3), Wright at Upton-Sundance (Week 4), Burlington at St. Stephens (Week 4), Riverside at St. Stephens (Week 5), Kaycee at Lingle (Week 6), Riverside at Farson (Week 7), Snake River at Burlington (Week 7) and Rock River at Lingle (Week 8). Most, but not all, of these series began last year and are the second meeting between these programs.

–patrick

Now that the 2017 Wyoming high school football schedule is (mostly) put together, we can start to see some clear patterns emerge. Some schools won. Some schools lost. Some schools just changed. And two games in particular are just plain baffling.

THE WINNERS

Thunder Basin might have the best schedule of any 4A team, and the ‘Bolts had nothing to do with it. With the WHSAA setting the full schedule for 4A teams, Thunder Basin benefited. First — Thunder Basin only has four road games. Second — one of those four road games is just down South Douglas Highway at in-town foe Gillette. Third — of the three out-of-town road trips Thunder Basin has, two come in the last three weeks, meaning the ‘Bolts only leave Campbell County once in the first six weeks of the season. Clearly, the WHSAA learned from experience; the last new 4A school, Cheyenne South in 2011, was forced to open its program by playing at defending 4A champ Natrona in Casper for its first game.

Four teams also finagled the schedule to score five home games against only three road games: Farson, Meeteetse, Southeast and Moorcroft. Southeast and Moorcroft scored their fifth home game via sub-varsity opponents; Farson and Meeteetse, meanwhile, have full varsity schedules but managed to score five home games. Also, Farson scheduled a couple of its home games for darkness hours. Is a new football facility — with lights — in the works for the 1A six-man runners-up? (Let me know if it is!)

THE LOSERS

Douglas and Riverton ended up being the odd teams out of the Week 1 nonconference bonanza. While everyone else scored an opponent, these 3A East Conference foes were left with only each other. The answer, for now, will be a jamboree in Riverton involving the Wolverines, Bearcats, Bear Lake (Idaho) and JV teams from Gillette and Natrona — a schedule that is subject to change. It’s not perfect, but given the circumstances, it might be the best either team can do.

Rocky Mountain scheduled Big Horn for its season opener but still has open weeks for Weeks 2 and 3. The kicker is everyone else has filled their schedules for those weeks, so the Grizzlies will likely have to go the sub-varsity route to fill those weeks.

Both NSI and St. Stephens got put in a poke by ending up with only three home games this season; each team has five games on the road.

Newcastle also got five road games in weeks 1-8 but augmented that with a home game against traditional Zero Week foe Custer, S.D., so the Dogies aren’t in the dire straits that NSI and St. Stephens are.

THE SHIFTERS

Glenrock went up, big time. The 2A Herders went out and scheduled last year’s 2A runner-up and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in last year’s semis, Greybull, for Week 1 before hosting 3A Lander in Week 2 and going to 3A Riverton in Week 3. Last year, Glenrock had Pinedale and Lyman in its nonconference slate — no slouches, but not the caliber of foe the Herders will see in 2017.

Conference rival Wheatland did Glenrock one better. The 2A Bulldogs scheduled three 3A teams — Torrington, Rawlins and Douglas — before its 2A East schedule starts.

Traditional 1A 11-man power Cokeville also upgraded its nonconference slate, picking up games against three 2A foes — Mountain View, Pinedale and Lyman — in Weeks 1-3.

Kemmerer, which enters 2017 on a state-record 36-game losing streak, had the chance to pick up a couple winnable games in its schedule. The 2A Rangers scheduled a pair of 1A 11-man teams that failed to qualify for last year’s playoffs — Saratoga in Week 1 and Lusk in Week 6 — in an attempt to get off the schneid.

Wyoming Indian scheduled three sub-varsity teams (JVs from Lander, Wind River and Riverton) for its nonconference games; however, if the Chiefs decide to play Lander in Lander, they won’t have a home game until Week 6.

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THE PLUSES

At a glance, travel does seem to be reduced, although maybe not as significantly as hoped due to the dominance of conference games on the schedule. Moorcroft, Lyman, Southeast, Wind River and Wyoming Indian had chances to fill their schedules with nearby sub-varsity opponents, while several teams have open weeks that may be filled with similar opponents prior to the start of the season. That’s fortunate — after all, that was one of the goals in giving nonconference scheduling abilities back to the schools.

Also, conference rearranging means we get to see a few rivalries come back — the Thunder Bowl between Big Horn and Tongue River is back for the first time since 2012, while is the rivalries between Burns and Pine Bluffs and the one between Upton-Sundance and Moorcroft are back after one-year hiatuses.

THE MINUSES

Two games on the 2017 schedule make absolutely no sense to me. Anyone out there want to try to explain these matchups to me logically? Because I can’t figure them out:

Rawlins at Wind River. In Week 3, the 3A Outlaws will make the trip to Pavillion to play the 1A 11-man Cougars. In some fantasy worlds, a 3A vs. 1A 11-man game would be cool to see, especially if the 1A 11-man team was wildly successful and the 3A school was among the smaller ones. (For example, wouldn’t it be fun to see Upton-Sundance or Big Horn take on Buffalo?) Instead, the Outlaws — who were 4-5 last year and a coin flip away from the playoffs — are playing a Wind River team that went 1-7 and beat only winless Wyoming Indian in the state’s smallest 11-man division. I don’t see how this game will be good for either team.

Torrington at Star Valley. I thought this Week 2 meeting between 3A rivals was the exact kind of nonconference game schools were trying to avoid. Instead, the Trailblazers will go 490 miles, one way, to Afton for this contest. FYI: Torrington is closer to Iowa and to Texas than it is to Afton.

What are your thoughts on the 2017 schedule? Leave a comment and let me know who you think did the best — and the worst — with their 2017 options.

–patrick

As schools are now scheduling their own nonconference games, the 2017 Wyoming high school football schedule is likely to be much more malleable than previous seasons.

Even so, most schools have their 2017 schedules set. The schedules by week, as provided by the schools, are available here. (When schools listed different days or start times, the time provided by the home team was used. Evanston and Natrona did not submit schedules to wyoming-football.com despite repeated requests.)

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Here are the early picks for games of the week for each of the nine regular-season weeks:

Week 0: Rock Springs at Sheridan. Class 4A gets the jump start on everyone else, as usual, and this rematch of a 4A semifinal game from 2016 will probably be the most telling game of the week. Other key game: Cheyenne Central at Thunder Basin (first game for the ‘Bolts).

Week 1: Gillette at Natrona. Gillette’s only losses last year were to Natrona. Normally late in the season, this rivalry game between the Camels and Mustangs will be staged early in 2017. Other key games: Glenrock at Greybull; Snake River at Lingle; Cokeville at Mountain View; Wheatland at Torrington; Guernsey-Sunrise at Farson.

Week 2: Burlington at Farson. Beating Burlington early last season helped set the course for Farson’s undefeated regular season in 2016. Another early meeting could set the stage similarly in 2017 — for either team. Other key games: Natrona at Sheridan; Torrington at Star Valley; Lingle at Guernsey-Sunrise; Burns at Pine Bluffs; Newcastle at Upton-Sundance.

Week 3: Pine Bluffs at Big Horn. The 2016 2A champs host the 2016 1A 11-man champs. And it’s a conference game. Of all the games on the schedule for 2017, this one might be the most intriguing. Other key games: Cheyenne East at Cheyenne South; Star Valley at Evanston; Lovell at Mountain View; Shoshoni at Tongue River; Glenrock at Riverton; Snake River at Meeteetse.

Week 4: Riverton at Douglas. Riverton finished a deceiving 3-6 last season; the Wolverines have the firepower to keep up with anyone. 3A East rival Douglas knows that better than anyone. Other key games: Thunder Basin at Gillette; Cody at Green River; Greybull at Pinedale; Newcastle at Glenrock; Cokeville at Rocky Mountain; Tongue River at Pine Bluffs.

Week 5: Evanston at Green River. Since 1932, these two teams have missed each other on the schedule only a handful of times: From 1977-80 and from 2011-16. It’s nice to see this traditional rivalry back on the schedule. Other key games: Cheyenne East at Laramie; Gillette at Rock Springs; Lander at Riverton; Wheatland at Glenrock; Upton-Sundance at Southeast; Meeteetse at Burlington; Guernsey-Sunrise at Kaycee.

Week 6: 4A rivalry week. This week, we get the Capital Bowl with Cheyenne Central playing at Cheyenne East; we get the Oil Bowl with Kelly Walsh at Natrona; and we get the Energy Bowl with Sheridan at Gillette. These won’t just be rivalry games — they’ll likely all be key to playoff seeding, as well. Other key games: Jackson at Star Valley; Torrington at Douglas; Greybull at Lovell; Lyman at Mountain View; Pinedale at Big Piney; Big Horn at Upton-Sundance; Shoshoni at Rocky Mountain; Farson at Meeteetse; Kaycee at Lingle.

Week 7: Powell at Star Valley. This is one of three championship rematches this season (Natrona-Sheridan in Week 2 and Pine Bluffs-Tongue River in Week 4 the others). And this one might be the best game of that trio. Other key games: Pinedale at Lovell; Upton-Sundance at Tongue River; Kaycee at Midwest; Snake River at Burlington.

Week 8: Mountain View at Greybull. Both of these teams came up short of their championship dreams last season — Mountain View in a shocking quarterfinal upset, Greybull on the turf at War Memorial. This game could be key in 2017 to decide the 2A West champion. Other key games: Cheyenne East at Sheridan; Cheyenne South at Cheyenne Central; Rock Springs at Natrona; Powell at Cody; Riverton at Torrington; Star Valley at Green River; Cokeville at Shoshoni; Tongue River at Big Horn; Upton-Sundance at Pine Bluffs; Burlington at Riverside; Farson at Snake River.

See the full 2017 schedule here.

Coming later this week: The winners and losers with the new schedule. Which program benefited the most from scheduling its own nonconference games — and which schools got burned?

What are your thoughts on next year’s schedule? Leave a comment here and let’s use our words to express ourselves…

–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 matchups for the Wyoming high school football playoff semifinals:

Class 4A
Natrona at Gillette
Rock Springs at Sheridan
Class 3A
Star Valley at Douglas
Green River at Powell
Class 2A
Greybull at Glenrock
Newcastle at Big Horn
Class 1A 11-man
Tongue River at Shoshoni
Pine Bluffs at Upton-Sundance
Class 1A six-man
Guernsey-Sunrise at Farson
Meeteetse at Kaycee

–patrick

For the 2017 season, the Wyoming High School Activities Association will allow football teams to schedule their own nonconference games.

The WHSAA will continue to schedule conference games for programs statewide.

WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said via email the schools were struggling with the expanded travel created by the WHSAA schedules.

We have had more and more complaints about the non-conference travel each year,” Laird said. “We have been told that some of the schools would like to play a larger school’s lower level team instead of traveling across the state.”

Since 2001, the WHSAA has scheduled football games in Weeks 1-8 for all schools. Since 2006, schools in the 3A through 1A classifications could schedule their own Zero Week opponents; 4A schools could do the same from 2006-08.

The WHSAA’s takeover of scheduling in 2001 was tied to the group’s implementation of power ratings for playoff qualification. For the power ratings to work, and to give every team a full schedule of games, the WHSAA took over scheduling of games that year.

Power ratings were eliminated prior to the 2009 season. However, the WHSAA maintained control over scheduling, even though it had previously volunteered to give that responsibility back to the schools. WHSAA scheduling gave programs a full schedule of varsity opponents, but often at the cost of extended travel.

A 2014 evaluation by this site found teams across the state were traveling further to play in games that were not as competitive.

Laird said schools would have no restrictions on their nonconference scheduling. The statewide scheduling meeting will be Nov. 15-16 in Casper.

The 10-school Class 4A plays a round-robin schedule, and as such, the WHSAA will continue to create the entire 4A season schedule.

In 2017, Thunder Basin High School’s opening in Gillette as a Class 4A school will shift classifications and conference alignments for several schools. For football, Evanston will move to the 3A West and Big Horn will go to the 1A 11-man East. Lingle will also be eligible for the 1A six-man playoffs next season.

–patrick

Game times and dates will be released by the WHSAA later this week.

Updated Saturday with winner of 3A East coin flip; updated Saturday with Farson’s victory against Snake River; updated Saturday with results of 1A six-man West coin flip.

Class 4A
(8) Cheyenne South at (1) Gillette
(5) Natrona at (4) Kelly Walsh
(7) Cheyenne East at (2) Sheridan
(6) Laramie at (3) Rock Springs
Class 3A
(4W) Cody at (1E) Douglas
(3E) Riverton at (2W) Star Valley
(4E) Lander at (1W) Powell
(3W) Green River at (2E) Torrington
Class 2A
(4E) Newcastle at (1W) Mountain View
(3W) Pinedale at (2E) Big Horn
(4W) Lyman at (1E) Glenrock
(3E) Wheatland at (2W) Greybull
Class 1A 11-man
(4E) Southeast at (1W) Shoshoni
(3W) Cokeville at (2E) Tongue River
(4W) Saratoga at (1E) Upton-Sundance
(3E) Pine Bluffs at (2W) Rocky Mountain
Class 1A six-man (projected)
(4E) Hanna at (1W) Farson
(3W) Snake River at (2E) Guernsey-Sunrise
(4W) Burlington at (1E) Kaycee
(3E) Midwest at (2W) Meeteetse

–patrick

The Wyoming High School Activities Association this week officially juggled classifications for four football programs for the 2017 football season to accommodate a new high school set to open in Gillette next year.

Thunder Basin High School in Gillette will waste no time, starting its varsity football program in Class 4A in 2017. Their entry will force one school to shift its classification for the 2017 season: Evanston will go from 4A to 3A, Buffalo will go from 3A to 2A and Big Horn will go from 2A to 1A 11-man. Also, Lingle, currently in 1A six-man but ineligible for the playoffs, will formally move from 1A 11-man to 1A six-man and become eligible for the six-man playoffs in 2017.

Buffalo will remain in 3A after opting up despite the program’s reclassification.

Wyopreps.com reported the changes in a series of tweets.

Buffalo officials have previously said the Bison would opt up to Class 3A for 2017. Buffalo is the only one of the four schools affected by the changing classifications to note its desire to opt up. Coaches and administrators from Evanston, Big Horn and Lingle indicated to wyoming-football.com Tuesday they would accept the classification level set by the WHSAA.

The proposal had been addressed first at the WHSAA’s board of directors meeting in February and was formally approved at the board’s meeting Tuesday in Casper.

With Buffalo’s successful appeal to Class 3A, three classifications — 3A, 2A and 1A 11-man — will have 13 programs apiece.

Normally, by structure, the 10 largest schools in the state are classified as 4A schools; the next 12 are classified in 3A; the next 14 are in 2A; the next 14 are in 1A 11-man; and the remaining schools are in 1A six-man.

Conferences will be set prior to the release of the 2017 schedule in early November. Schools in each classification for the 2017 season will be:

Class 4A: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South, Gillette, Kelly Walsh, Laramie, Natrona, Rock Springs, Sheridan, Thunder Basin.
Class 3A: Cody, Douglas, Evanston, Green River, Jackson, Lander, Powell, Rawlins, Riverton, Torrington, Star Valley, Worland, Buffalo.
Class 2A: Big Piney, Burns, Glenrock, Greybull, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Moorcroft, Mountain View, Newcastle, Pinedale, Thermopolis, Wheatland.
Class 1A 11-man: Big Horn, Cokeville, Lusk, Pine Bluffs, Rocky Mountain, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Southeast, Tongue River, Upton-Sundance, Wind River, Wright, Wyoming Indian.
Class 1A six-man: Burlington, Dubois, Farson, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Lingle, Meeteetse, Midwest, Normative Services, Riverside, Rock River, St. Stephens, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

–patrick

The Midwest football team has set plans to play its home games in Casper this season — fallout from a leak of toxic chemicals from an abandoned oil well that closed the school indefinitely on May 26.

The school has yet to be reopened, even though the well near the school thought to be the source of the leak was plugged. Midwest students will start the school year in Casper, and games will be played in Casper as long as the school in Midwest remains closed.

Midwest games will be split between Natrona County and Kelly Walsh high schools, Midwest coach Ken Swieter and Midwest AD Susan Rodabaugh said.

Midwest has home games scheduled with Dubois (Week 1, Friday, Sept. 2); Lingle (Week 4, Friday, Sept. 23); Rock River (Week 5, Friday, Sept. 30) and Hanna (Week 8, Friday, Oct. 21) and also has a home Zero Week contest with Dubois and Snake River scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 27.

The games against Dubois, Rock River and Hanna have tentatively been set to be played at Natrona County, while the Zero Week contest and the Lingle game are tentatively scheduled for Kelly Walsh. Game times and dates would not change.

Hulett and Hanna are also scheduled to play their Week 3 game (Saturday, Sept. 17) in Midwest. Plans for that game were not immediately known.

Swieter said Midwest’s practices will either be at the old CY Junior High fields in Casper or at the park near the former Westwood Elementary in west Casper, which is where Midwest’s kindergarten through eighth-grade students will be housed until the Midwest school can be reopened.

–patrick

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