Class 2A championships aren’t supposed to be won as easily as the way Buffalo won its title in 2018.

After opting up to play in Class 3A in 2016 and 2017, the Bison entered 2A last year as one of the favorites to win the title. They had several things going for them — their size (biggest school in 2A), their talent, their recent experience against bigger 3A programs.

Bolstered by all of that, the Bison lost just once in 2018 (7-0 to 3A Douglas in the season opener) and won their final 10 games to claim the 2A title, the program’s first championship since the dominant 2005 squad won it all in 3A.

Only one team stayed within single digits of the Bison, and even the championship game turned into a rout as Buffalo bumped off Mountain View 43-18.

Whether the Bison’s title was the start of a dynasty or a coalescing of multiple right factors at the right time will be seen in 2019. For now, though, everyone’s chasing the little-guys-turned-big-guys, who are now defending a title instead of chasing one.

Four questions to answer

Was Buffalo’s championship the start of a new 2A dynasty? Possibly. The Bison get back five all-state players from last year’s title team, setting them up well for a repeat in 2019. If that momentum can keep building, the Bison could be the team to beat in 2020, too.

Who’s Buffalo’s biggest threat? Mountain View, again. Just like Buffalo, Mountain View returns five all-state players. And like Buffalo, Mountain View has seen a ton of success in the postseason recently. Mountain View will start as the favorite in the 2A West and, if everything falls together by November, the Buffalos could notch their first undefeated season since 1997.

Will anyone else challenge for a championship? Probably not. Mountain View and Buffalo return five all-state players apiece; the rest of 2A, combined, has four (Burns’ Boe Clayson, Kemmerer’s A.Q. Martinez, Moorcroft’s Rowdy Pfeil and Thermopolis’ Logan Cole). The talent gap between Buffalo and Mountain View and the rest of 2A is pretty wide this season, so any dark horses will need a bunch of talent to develop quickly to put up a legitimate challenge to the top squads.

Will the West Conference have as much parity in the middle as it did last year? Almost certainly. No one represented the West’s parity like Pinedale, which won conference games by scores of 28-22, 21-14 and 14-6 and lost them by scores of 14-7, 21-14, 12-6 — a net score of plus-one in six games decided by eight points or less. With basically every team (outside of Mountain View) returning similar talent at similar levels, the rest of the West appears to be a crapshoot, one that will be decided in tight games week after week.

Four players (OK, three players and a unit) to watch

Hunter Gross, Mountain View. When coaches get together to award player of the year honors, they almost always go to a senior. Not last year, and not for Gross, who won the 2A lineman of the year award as a junior. He was second for the Buffalos in defensive points and racked up a team-high eight sacks — and he could be even more dominant this year.

Rowen Ruby, Buffalo. Ruby was one of 2A’s most consistent running backs last season, finishing with 1,072 yards (7.5 per carry) and 14 touchdowns. The Bison’s featured running back could have an even better season in 2019; Buffalo graduated its quarterback, its top receiver and its No. 2 running back, putting Ruby in a much brighter spotlight.

Dawson Hatch, Buffalo. Hatch was all over the field for the Bison last year, finishing first for the team in defensive points. He somehow finished with 10 tackles for loss and six interceptions, helping prove his versatility. And he was Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver and even carried the ball a few times.

Everyone from Mountain View’s backs and receivers. How do you stop Mountain View’s offense? You don’t — not with all the returning talent the Buffalos have, and not with their ability to place basically anyone in any spot at any time. Briggin Bluemel ran for 1,106 yards and Kimball Madsen added 985; Madsen threw for 866 yards and Braeden Walk chipped in 381; Walk led the team with 468 receiving yards, Ashton Schofield had 300, Bluemel had 163 and Madsen 140. The versatility the Buffalos have — particularly with those four players — makes them a challenge for any opposing defense.

Four key games

Pinedale at Kemmerer, Sept. 20. With the parity on display in the West Conference last year, this Week 3 game — after both teams have already played Lyman to open their conference schedules in Week 1 and Week 2, respectively — will tell us a lot about the makeup of a tumultuous West Conference.

Buffalo at Burns, Sept. 20. The Bison’s first road conference game of 2019 will be in eastern Laramie County against an up-and-coming Burns squad. A Buffalo victory here will be key in a repeat attempt… but a Broncs upset could completely change the outlook for the rest of the season for every team in the East.

Greybull at Mountain View, Oct 25. These two teams have been in the West Conference’s top three finishers every season since 2014, and last year they finished as the top two teams in the conference. A Week 8 showdown could determine the conference champion again this year.

Thermopolis at Burns, Oct. 25. Both teams are ready to make leaps up the East Conference standings this season. If they both capitalize on that potential through the season, this Week 8 meeting could be absolutely huge.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Buffalo, Thermopolis, Burns, Glenrock, Wheatland, Moorcroft, Newcastle.

West Conference: Mountain View, Greybull, Kemmerer, Big Piney, Lovell, Lyman, Pinedale.

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Mountain View 28, Buffalo 26. The Buffaloes have been scary consistent, with four trips to Laramie in the past six years. With a deep and motivated senior class, this just might be Mountain View’s year to return to the top of 2A. But Buffalo is the defending champs, and the Bison won’t make anything easy.

Stadium tour and season preview video

What do you think? Is another Mountain View-Buffalo championship game inevitable? Or is there someone outside of last year’s two title-game teams who could challenge for the 2A championship? Is 2A is any deeper than the two teams that are on top on paper? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Next week: Class 3A preview.

–patrick

Well, Big Horn, how do you come up with an encore for that?

The Rams were more than just dominant in 2018 on their way to the Class 1A 11-man title. The numbers speak for themselves — 11-0 record, a state 11-man record 577 points scored, a title-game victory margin of 53 points, a state record for most points scored in a three-game playoff series… and on and on.

Now, the Rams have to find a way to remain competitive despite graduating seven all-state picks. Somehow, they have six other all-state picks coming back, and Big Horn remains the favorite to win 1A 11-man even with all the changes.

Part of the reason the Rams are drawing so much respect is because the talent well is just that deep in Big Horn. And part of it is that the Rams proved they could handle change last season when they shifted head coaches, giving Kirk McLaughlin a perfect start to his head coaching career with that dominant season.

If anyone can handle high expectations AND transition at the same time, it’s Big Horn. However, a repeat of last year’s record-setting season would be a surprise — and challengers like Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs and Cokeville will make an undefeated season in and of itself a challenge.

Four questions to answer

What makes Big Horn the favorite again? Returning firepower. In short, no other team returns what Big Horn returns this fall. The six returning all-state players is the highest number in the state regardless of classification, and with so many key players back from an undefeated team, the Rams start the year as the favorites.

Who’s most likely to challenge Big Horn for the top spot? Is “pick ’em” an option? Several squads return key chunks of players, including Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs and Lusk from the East and Cokeville, Rocky Mountain and Shoshoni from the West. Any one of those teams is capable of pulling off a first-round playoff victory given the right circumstances, although Upton-Sundance appears on paper to be the most capable of challenging Big Horn for both conference and state title honors.

What was that about Lusk? Oh yeah, Lusk is a thing again. The Tigers return four of their five all-conference choices from last year, including a pair of all-staters in senior Damien Molzahn and junior Drake Lamp. After missing the playoffs last year thanks to a little bad luck in a coin flip, Lusk should be a contender again this year.

What about the West Conference? In short — what about it? Aside from Cokeville, the conference was disappointing in the postseason last year, with the No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds losing first-round games by scores of 67-8, 54-0 and 56-0. With Saratoga playing six-man and Wyoming Indian playing a patchwork schedule, four teams are eligible for the four playoff spots out of the West — not exactly conditions conducive to creating playoff-ready, tested squads.

Four players to watch

Quinn McCafferty, Big Horn. Any discussion of the Rams’ hopes this year starts with the man under center. McCafferty led Class 1A 11-man with 1,731 passing yards (157.4 per game). His completion percentage of 63.4 (92 of 145) was by far the best among 1A, and he had a 27-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio. His presence will keep the Rams stable in a new season.

Will Pelissier, Big Horn. Pelissier is a rare player that can show up in the top 10 of the classification in both the rushing and receiving categories. He was ninth in 1A in rushing last year, carrying 82 times for 653 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he was just as dangerous through the air, finishing with 20 catches for 429 yards. As a senior, both yardage totals could go up as Pelissier gets even more opportunities.

Dax Yeradi, Wright. The Panthers broke a long streak last year by qualifying for the playoffs, and Yeradi was a big reason why. As the Class 1A 11-man leader in defensive points each of the past two years, Yeradi has consistently proven his ability to provide huge plays (class-high seven interceptions last year) and keep Wright in games.

Jayden Caylor, Upton-Sundance. As a junior, Caylor was instrumental in the Patriots’ run in the playoffs. He led U-S in several key statistics, including rushing (779 yards), receiving (331 yards), scoring (110 points), tackles (91), and defensive points (147). As the Patriots’ only returning all-state player, Caylor might see his responsibilities increase in 2019 — as if that’s possible.

Four key games

Big Horn at Upton-Sundance, Sept. 27. This showdown between the Patriots and the Rams is always key — and the Rams have always had the upper hand. Big Horn is 2-0 against the U-S co-op, winning 55-14 last year and 53-13 the year before that.

Cokeville at Rocky Mountain, Oct. 11. The Panthers appear to be ready to cruise to yet another West Conference title, and no one appears to be in a position to put up much of a fight against that. However, the up-and-coming Grizzlies, at home in Week 6, are in the best position to catch the Panthers in a potential trap game.

Upton-Sundance at Pine Bluffs, Oct. 18. This game between the Patriots and Hornets has had playoff implications for the past several years. Expect similar stakes this year, where a victory could mean the difference between having a home playoff game and not.

Pine Bluffs at Lusk, Oct. 25. A lot of people are looking at Lusk as a potential breakout team in 2019. If the Tigers uphold their end of the expectations, this Week 8 meeting at home against perennially tough Pine Bluffs could have higher stakes than pride on the line.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs, Lusk, Tongue River, Wright, Southeast.

West Conference: Cokeville, Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Wind River, Wyoming Indian.

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Big Horn 34, Upton-Sundance 24. By acclimation, the Rams are the favorites in 1A this year. A surprise might be waiting somewhere along the line, but as of August, the Rams are in the best position to be the last team standing come November.

Stadium tour and season preview video

What do you think? Can Big Horn keep up the pace it set for itself last year? Could Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs or someone else end the Rams’ run in the East? Is Cokeville, of all programs, being overlooked? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Next week: Class 2A preview.

–patrick

After two consecutive runner-up finishes, Farson finally won its first state football championship last year.

And how.

The Pronghorns stampeded their way to an 11-0 finish, outscoring their opponents 790-231, and won the state title game 73-38.

The question facing six-man in 2019, though, is if the Pronghorns are still the favorites despite losing several key playmakers to graduation.

Although the Pronghorns figure to be in the hunt, the tides are shifting a bit in six-man. The East Conference — which went 0-for-4 in its first-round playoff games last year — is much stronger this year, with Hanna the favorite to take the top seed. Snake River could emerge from a weaker but still competitive West. Burlington learned a lot from its runner-up finish. And several other teams return enough players to stay competitive and potentially pull a playoff upset or two.

While Farson was the favorite from start to finish last season, no team takes that honor this year. In what might be six-man’s most wide-open season since its inception in 2009, no team is the definitive favorite.

Four questions to answer

What’s different about six-man this year? The conference balance. Last year, the West dominated the East; the West was much stronger, top to bottom, and East teams didn’t win a single playoff game. This year, though, the East has 14 returning all-conference players, total, while the West has eight. While East teams won’t be as dominant as West teams were last year, they’ll be much more competitive than they were in 2018.

So which team from the East has the best chance of upsetting the West’s dominance? Hanna. The Miners were undefeated in the regular season last year before losing to West No. 4 seed Burlington in the first round. They return most of their key players from 2018, including the McGraw twins (Conor and Shane), who play equally important roles. That was shown in one key statistic, total offense — Shane had 1,596 yards of total offense last year, while Conor had a nearly identical 1,590.

So let’s get to it — who’s gonna win the state championship? Probably Snake River. The Rattlers will have close to a dozen seniors on this year’s team, including a pair of all-staters in Riggen Myers and Wyatt Duncan. After finishing third in the West and reaching the semis last year, Snake River has the chance to be the team everyone else is chasing.

Who’s ready to surprise everyone? Riverside. The Rebels had a roster last year that included zero seniors, one junior, three sophomores and eight freshmen. Although the Rebels are still ineligible for postseason play — and will move to nine-man in 2020 — they could have a heck of a final year in six-man if the young players develop quickly.

Four players to watch

Riggen Myers, Snake River. Myers was a beast on both offense and defense for the Rattlers. Last year, he ran for 1,398 yards and 24 touchdowns while also piling up 207 defensive points and 71 total tackles. On a senior-laden Rattler team, Myers will be the pacesetter.

Conor McGraw, Hanna. The Miners’ dynamic McGraw twins fulfill different, but similar, roles. It’s Conor McGraw’s role to run the ball (881 yards, 14 touchdowns last year) and lead the defense (207 points, second-best in six-man last season).

Shane McGraw, Hanna. Meanwhile, it’s Shane McGraw’s role to pass (558 passing yards, 12 TDs and zero interceptions), run (762 rushing yards, 13 TDs) and support defensive efforts (fourth on the team with 139 defensive points, including three sacks and three pass break-ups).

Jarom Davidson, Burlington. Davidson is the only returning all-state selection for last year’s runners-up, and he’ll be a terror on defense. He led the Huskies and was fifth in the state in defensive points last year, racking up 127 total tackles. He was also the Huskies’ top receiver last year.

Four key games

Kaycee at Burlington, Sept. 7. Both programs have had recent success — Kaycee with three straight titles from 2015-17, Burlington with a runner-up finish last season. But neither is in the early talk for state title contenders. That could change with a statement victory against the other on opening weekend.

Farson at Snake River, Oct. 12. This Saturday matchup between the Pronghorns and Rattlers in Baggs might determine the West’s No. 1 seed. On paper, they’re the two best teams entering 2019, which means something will have to give.

Burlington at Farson, Oct. 18. The rematch of last year’s state championship game comes in Week 7 in Farson — and both teams will need to win here to keep hopes of a No. 1 seed alive.

Hanna at Guernsey, Oct. 25. Hanna finishes its schedule with its two toughest games — at Kaycee in Week 7 and at Guernsey in Week 8. Whether the Miners muster a postseason push that gets them to Laramie may well depend on whether they can win in Platte County in the regular-season finale.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Hanna, Guernsey, Hulett, Lingle, Kaycee, Saratoga*, NSI, Midwest.

West Conference: Snake River, Farson, Burlington, Meeteetse, Riverside*, St. Stephens, Dubois, Ten Sleep.

*-ineligible for playoffs

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Snake River 54, Hanna 52. On paper, these are the two best teams entering the season. Both teams return a ton of players from competitive teams, and either one could be six-man’s most dominant program in 2019. Call this pick a bias for geography: It’d be fun to see these two Carbon County rivals play each other in the season finale.

Stadium tour and season preview video

What do you think? Is a Hanna-Snake River title game the stuff of legend, or will another team (like, say, the defending state champs from Farson) come along and surprise us all? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Next week: Class 1A 11-man preview.

–patrick

Thanks to former Midwest coach Mike Good (my football coach through most of high school), I’ve added to the Midwest game tape archive I have on YouTube. Previously, I published 84 Midwest game films, and then later eight more, throughout the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. This new pack of games includes 22 games between 1990 and 2000, bringing the total of Midwest game films on my YouTube playlist to 114.

This batch includes games against Big Horn, Dubois, Encampment, Hanna, Hulett, Moorcroft JV, Saratoga, Ten Sleep and Wright JV.

These are the new uploads:

1990 season
Saratoga
Hanna
Encampment

1991 season
Dubois

1992 season
Ten Sleep
Dubois (low quality)
Big Horn

1993 season
Moorcroft JV

1994 season
Moorcroft JV

1995 season
Ten Sleep
Big Horn
Wright JV

1996 season
Big Horn
Ten Sleep

1997 season
Ten Sleep
Hanna
Hulett

1998 season
Dubois

1999 season
Big Horn
Hanna
Hulett

2000 season
Big Horn

As previously noted: If you’ve got Wyoming varsity high school football game tapes around that you’d like digitized and posted to YouTube, let me know! I’m happy to help. I love seeing the game in its previous eras.

–patrick

Midwest alums Cathy and Steve VanNorman hooked me up with some more Midwest game films from the early 1980s, including the first two Class 1A state championship games from 1983 and 1984. Score! I’ve added these games to my YouTube playlist of archived Midwest football game films:

1980 vs. Big Horn
1983 vs. Guernsey-Sunrise
1983 vs. Cokeville (1A state championship game)
1984 vs. Big Horn
1984 vs. Tongue River
1984 vs. Moorcroft
1984 vs. Burlington (1A semifinal)
1984 vs. Cokeville (1A state championship game)

With the earlier upload of Midwest football game videos, this now makes 92 MHS football games available online.

If you’ve got Wyoming varsity high school football game tapes around that you’d like digitized and posted to YouTube, let me know! I’m happy to help. I love seeing the game in its previous eras.

–patrick

I’m going to try something new tonight: a livestream! Chat Wyoming high school football with me in real time. Post comments and questions here, and I’ll answer them as I see them. Plus, it’s likely my cat will maeke an unscheduled cameo appearance!

http://www.youtube.com/user/pschmiedt/live

–patrick

This spring, I digitized 84 Midwest High School football game tapes and posted them to YouTube. The games range from 1980 to 2007, but most of the games are from the 1980s and the 2000s. I created a playlist on YouTube for all the games, but I’ve also posted links to the individual games below. Many thanks to Midwest coach Ken Swieter for giving me access to the tape library!
If other schools have similar tape libraries they would like to see digitized, let me know.

One of the cool things about this project is that it’s not just for Midwest; footage of teams from 17 other schools are here, too.

My favorite game in the collection is the 1986 game between Midwest and Big Horn. I knew the significance of this game long before I saw the game footage — both teams entered the regular-season finale undefeated, but only the winner moved on to the playoffs. I also knew Big Horn won in overtime. What I did not realize was that Big Horn tied the game with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter (update: I watched again, and it was actually 40 seconds remaining) with an 85-yard touchdown pass. Heartbreak for the Oilers; jubilation for the Rams; astonishment for me, 30 years later. (If you want to see that play, fast forward to 41:10 on that video.)

Another good one is the 1989 nine-man semifinal game between Midwest and Dubois. Midwest was down 15-14 in the fourth quarter but staged an epic 16-play drive — all running plays — and converted two fourth downs on its way to the winning touchdown. I lived seven years in Midwest and never heard about that drive…. Well, now, we can all see it in its full glory.

The following games have been added to YouTube:

1980 season
Moorcroft

1982 season
Upton
Natrona sophs
Tongue River
Moorcroft

1983 season
Tongue River
Moorcroft

1984 season
Wright

1985 season
Guernsey-Sunrise
Moorcroft
Sundance
Upton
Wright
Tongue River
Hulett

1986 season
Guernsey-Sunrise
Moorcroft
Upton
Wright
Tongue River
Hulett
Big Horn

1987 season
Guernsey-Sunrise
Moorcroft
Sundance
Upton
Wright
Tongue River
Hulett
Big Horn
Cokeville
 (1A semifinals)

1988 season
Moorcroft
Sundance
Upton
Wright
Tongue River
Hulett
Big Horn

1989 season
Moorcroft
Tongue River
Sundance
Wright
Dubois
Big Horn
Dubois (1A semifinals)
Hanna (1A state championship)

1991 season
Ten Sleep

1993 season
Big Horn

1998 season
Big Horn
Hulett

1999 season
Dubois
Meeteetse

2000 season
Normative Services
Ten Sleep
Meeteetse
Hulett

2001 season
Hanna
Ten Sleep
Meeteetse
Big Horn

2002 season
Upton JV
Sundance JV
Meeteetse
Natrona sophs 1
Hulett
Natrona sophs 2

2003 season
Upton
Guernsey-Sunrise
Lingle
Burlington
Ten Sleep
Hulett

2004 season
Wyoming Indian
Guernsey-Sunrise
Lingle
Burlington
Hanna
Ten Sleep
Hulett
Normative Services

2005 season
Upton
Moorcroft
Natrona sophs
Normative Services

2007 season
Shoshoni

–patrick

This week, I acquired several old game tapes from my alma mater, Midwest. One of the tapes in the stack was the Class 1A nine-man state championship game from 1989 between the Oilers and the Hanna Miners. Hanna won the game, and the video — now more than 26 years old — was worth digitizing (and uploading to YouTube).

If you have old game videos, especially of playoff and championship games, that you’d like me to digitize and share here, let me know! I’m happy to do so.

–patrick

I recently converted the game tape of the 1998 meeting between Midwest and Hulett to a digital format and loaded it onto Youtube.

I played for Midwest in this game, which we won 19-16. Other than that, the game doesn’t really have any special significance, although I did call it my most memorable game in A Century of Fridays. For the fun stuff, fast forward to 31:30, to watch Midwest’s game-winning drive, down 16-13.

If you’ve uploaded game film to Youtube, I’d love to hear about it. Post a comment below! Of course, not every game film will get a post on this blog, but if anyone has gone to the effort of restoring playoff/championship game films, I’d be glad to share them around. I’ve previously linked to the 1954 Class A championship film and to Powell’s 1957 playoff games, including the Class A title game.

In uploading this video, I also stumbled across Meeteetse’s game films for the year, including the state championship against Midwest.

–patrick

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