With the new year approaching, I got to thinking about the past decade of Wyoming high school football games and all of the great ones we’ve been privileged to watch, hear about, or (in my case) write about. With 2,948 games played since 2001, there are plenty of great games from which to choose. I started a mental checklist and kept coming up with games I had forgotten; there were probably 60 games on my original list. From that, I pared my list down to about 40, then to the top 20 games of the past 10 years.
The list is probably a little heavy on later-decade games, as I didn’t start my work at the Star-Tribune until 2005, and is also heavy on playoff games, but that makes sense considering that playoff games have more riding on them, better teams playing, and can end seasons — all heightening the drama and the memorable aspects involved.
I tried to pick the best games, where both teams were at full strength, where the stakes were high, where the outcome was in doubt until late. You won’t see any games decided by more than seven points on this list.
Obviously, this list is the work of one person. If you came up with your own list, you would probably include some games that I did not. And that’s encouraged. Take a look at this list, then let me know which games you think I forgot.
These games are in chronological order. It was hard enough for me to pick 20; rank-ordering those 20 would take me until the start of next season. (But check out the bottom of this post for my “game of the decade.”)
Without further ado, the top 20 games of Wyoming high school football in the past 10 years:
Big Piney 34, Glenrock 33, OT, 2001 Class 3A semifinals — Herders rally from 27-0 deficit, but miss extra point in overtime
Southeast 14, Lusk 7, 2001 Class 2A championship — Two two-time defending champs stage a classic
Worland 17, Star Valley 14, OT, 2002 Class 4A championship — 18-yard field goal by Casey Lass in OT wins it for Warriors
Cokeville 14, Southeast 13, 2003 Class 1A championship — Cyclones go for two, come up short with 2:14 to go
Green River 24, Riverton 21, 2004 Class 5A semifinals — Wolves nearly upset by Wolverines on their way to a perfect season
Guernsey-Sunrise 20, Cokeville 18, 2004 Class 1A championship — Nigel Bristow scores winning TD with 2 minutes to go
Cheyenne Central 23, Natrona 20, OT, 2005 Class 5A semifinals — Central drives late in fourth quarter for TD to tie it, wins in OT
Guernsey-Sunrise 26, Burlington 23, 2005 Class 1A semifinals — Vikings win with TD on final play
Big Piney 12, Newcastle 6, 2006 Class 3A quarterfinals — Punchers make the long trip, win with Seth Linn’s TD catch in final three seconds
Cheyenne East 5, Natrona 3, 2006 Class 4A semifinals — East scores five points in final three minutes, then holds off NC’s last drive
Guernsey-Sunrise 14, Cokeville 12, 2006 Class 1A championship — Panthers miss short field goal on season’s final play
Cheyenne East 35, Gillette 34, 2 OT, 2007 Class 5A semifinals — Blocked extra point in second OT helps to give T-Birds the victory
Jackson 10, Buffalo 6, 2007 Class 4A championship — Jackson produces epic goal-line stand in final 2 minutes
Riverside 21, Big Horn 20, 2007 Class 2A championship — Rebels go 99 yards on game-winning drive, convert 2-point try for championship
Glenrock 16, Buffalo 14, 2008 regular season — Herders’ biggest test during unbeaten season comes down to conversion try in final moments
Douglas 28, Powell 27, 2 OT, 2008 Class 4A semifinals — Cody Bohlander’s three-TD day is capped with winning conversion run
Kelly Walsh 28, Natrona 27, 2 OT, 2009 regular season — Trojans rally from 21-0 deficit, stop Mustangs on 2-point conversion in second OT
Kaycee 58, Midwest 56, 2009 Class 1A-six man semifinals — Buckaroos’ Shawn Straub scores long TD in final 15 seconds
Buffalo 24, Cody 21, OT, 2010 Class 3A semifinals — Bison rally from 14-0 deficit, come up with big defensive stand in overtime
Thermopolis 13, Big Horn 9, 2010 Class 2A championship — Bobcats repeat as champion with late TD by Mitch Syverson
Also on my short list: Lovell 18, Rocky Mountain 15, 2002 Class 3A quarterfinals; Gillette 40, Kelly Walsh 37, OT, 2005 regular season; Powell 33, Lander 31, 2005 Class 4A quarterfinals; Wright 13, Big Horn 7, 2005 Class 2A semifinals; Upton 7, Cokeville 3, 2005 Class 1A semifinals; Buffalo 17, Star Valley 14, 2005 Class 4A championship; Douglas 30, Jackson 26, 2006 Class 4A quarterfinals; Evanston 36, Kelly Walsh 31, 2007 Class 5A quarterfinals; Jackson 16, Douglas 14, 2007 Class 4A semifinals; Lander 6, Jackson 0, 2008 regular season; Douglas 21, Buffalo 14, OT, 2008 regular season; Pine Bluffs 22, Hulett 20, 2009 regular season; Sheridan 9, Kelly Walsh 7, 2009 Class 4A semifinals; Gillette 27, Sheridan 24, OT, 2010 regular season; Southeast 15, Rocky Mountain 14, 2010 Class 1A 11-man quarterfinals.
Of these games, though, one stands out as my choice for “game of the decade”…. and I’m going with the 2007 2A title game, Riverside over Big Horn. This game was etched into memory by Riverside’s game-winning 99-yard drive — and by the Rebels’ successful 2-point conversion late in the game. But this game was more than that. Riverside was avenging a home loss to Big Horn earlier in the season that had ended in similar fashion, with the Rebels having missed a two-point conversion in overtime; Riverside was coming off a two-point loss to Southeast in the 2006 title game; the Rebels had won their other two playoff games by a combined three points, while Big Horn had won its playoff games by eight and five points in one of the most even playoff brackets in recent memory; Big Horn was playing in its fourth state championship game in six years, having won in 2003 and 2004, while Riverside was playing for the town of Basin’s first state football championship…. all that drama, all that intrigue, all that background, and all you need to know is “Rebels convert.”
So what do you think? What games did I forget about? Which game would be your choice for top game of the decade? Post a comment below. Then let’s get set for another decade of high school football!
Happy New Year!