When Buffalo moved from Class 3A to Class 2A this season, everyone in 2A mentally made a note — Buffalo and Glenrock will be in the same conference.

That note included an automatic asterisk: When they face each other, it’ll be huge.

Even though the showdown between the Bison and Herders comes fairly early in the season, they’re already the only two teams who remain undefeated in the 2A East standings.

They both notched important victories last week, as Buffalo bopped Burns and Glenrock wore down Wheatland, to set up this matchup of teams both 2-0 in conference play and looking for that opportunity to take the lead for a conference title and home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Glenrock and Buffalo have a bit of an odd series history — they haven’t been in the same classification, let alone the same conference, since 2000. But between 2001 and 2008, they played each other six times, with Buffalo winning four of those six. The last meeting in 2008 was a classic, with Glenrock holding on late to beat Buffalo 16-14; that season, Buffalo finished as the 3A runners-up and Glenrock won the 2A championship.

In the intervening 10 years since that game, Glenrock has made three trips to the 2A championship game, finishing 0-3 in those contests. Buffalo has struggled more in those years, but the move to 2A this year came at a time when the Bison were showing signs of a turnaround, including a 6-3 season last year.

You could argue the anticipation for this game is actually more than two years in the making. For the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Buffalo had the enrollment of a Class 2A school but opted up to play at the Class 3A level.

Thus, everyone knew as soon as Buffalo’s move to 2A for 2018 became final that this one against the Herders would mean more than usual. It’s more than just a big conference game; it’s the renewal of a competitive rivalry.

And, after 10 years since the last one and two years later than expected, that game will be played on Friday.

+++

Some other games that have me looking over my shoulders as if anyone else recognizes what kind of awesome quality we have developing for Week 4:

A huge game is brewing between Upton-Sundance and Big Horn. Right now, the 1A 11-man East is a three-team race between these two and Pine Bluffs. The difference between first place and third place in that conference really hasn’t meant that much in terms of the first round of the playoffs — the third-place team from the East has won on the road in the first round of the playoffs each of the past five years — but in terms of who gets to host in the semifinals, this one is absolutely critical. I’d be more excited for this game if last year’s game was in any way close, but the Rams lambasted the Patriots 53-13 last year in Sundance. …

Cody will likely top Jackson in the meeting of 3A West Broncs. Still, Jackson’s turnaround continues, and if the black-and-orange Broncs can pull off an upset of the defending 3A champs at home, watch the heads turn statewide like owls spotting a field mouse. …

The Gillette Camels will head across town to Thunder Basin to face the ‘Bolts in the Coal Bowl (sorry, Wright and Upton… Gillette’s stealing this rivalry name). It won’t be much of a game, as the Camels are 0-4 and the ‘Bolts 4-0, but rivalries like this are fun regardless, especially young rivalries still developing their own character. …

The loser of the Sheridan-Kelly Walsh game will be 2-3 after Friday. Not too many people saw that coming at the start of 2018; Sheridan has lost two in a row in the same season for the first time since 2007, while Kelly Walsh hasn’t yet capitalized on the momentum of its semifinal appearance last year and lost 14-7 on the road last week to a younger Rock Springs team. …

For some reason, Pinedale-Greybull is a REALLY intriguing game. …

The 1A six-man West is now officially crazy at the top. We’ll see if Meeteetse can keep things rolling against Burlington — a tall order, but doable for the Longhorns after soundly taking down Snake River last week. …

+++

Here are this week’s picks. Bolded names mean teams I think will win. But life is more complex than that, and we would do well to recognize this inescapable fact.

Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne Central at Laramie
Cheyenne South at Rock Springs
Gillette at Thunder Basin
Natrona at Cheyenne East
Sheridan at Kelly Walsh
Class 3A
Cody at Jackson
Green River at Star Valley
Powell at Evanston
Rawlins at Douglas
Riverton at Worland
Torrington at Lander
Class 2A
Buffalo at Glenrock
Kemmerer at Big Piney
Lovell at Lyman
Newcastle at Moorcroft
Pinedale at Greybull
Thermopolis at Mountain View
Wheatland at Burns
Class 1A 11-man
Pine Bluffs at Tongue River
Shoshoni at Cokeville
Southeast at Lusk
Upton-Sundance at Big Horn
Wright at Wind River (at Ethete)
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at Meeteetse
Farson at Riverside
Hanna at Lingle
Midwest at Kaycee
Saturday
Class 1A six-man

Guernsey-Sunrise at NSI
St. Stephens at Snake River
Interclass
Saratoga at Dubois
Open: Hulett, Rocky Mountain.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 4” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 20-10 (67 percent). This season: 82-31 (73 percent). I meant to pick Mountain View over Lovell last week, but the bold button slipped on me. However, the bold has the power, and I abide by its choice.

Week 4 is the halfway point of the regular season. So who’s halfway to a championship, and who’s already full-way to thinking about 2019? Leave a comment and we can talk a bit about it.

–patrick

Last year, the football programs at Jackson, Burns, Kemmerer and NSI combined to finish with a win-loss record of 2-31.

This year, those same four teams are a combined 7-1. In fact, as I noted on Twitter last week, Kemmerer and Burns are the last two undefeated teams in Class 2A.

If you’re looking for early turnaround success, look here — to a pair of programs with first-year head coaches who have found early success and another pair with second-year coaches moving the needles in their programs the way they’d like.

Jackson‘s struggles have been well-documented. From 9-2 and 3A semifinalists in 2015, the Broncs crashed to 1-8 in 2016; in 2017, under new coach David Joyce, the Broncs went 0-9. Eventually, they lost 16 in a row, including this year’s season opener against across-the-mountains rival Teton, Idaho.

But their past two weeks have produced emphatic victories, as the Broncs thumped Bear Lake, Idaho, 41-13 two weeks ago and Pinedale 35-10 last week. Now, Jackson faces 1-1 Worland to gauge how well they’ll fare in 3A this fall — and it might be the toughest game of the week in the state for me to pick.

Ever since a surprising first-round playoff exit after an undefeated regular season in 2013, Burns has been struggling to find success in the win-loss column. In the four seasons after that, the Broncs went 2-6, 0-8, 2-6 and 1-7. New coach Brad Morrison didn’t inherit a program in disarray, though — most of his players this year were part of those struggles and had the edge in experience at the varsity level.

That edge has shown in the first two weeks, as Burns ripped through Wright to open the season and outscored Moorcroft in a 41-30 shootout last week. Now, the Broncs are 2-0 for the first time since that 2013 season; however, to keep the momentum going, they have to defeat 2A newcomer Buffalo, in Buffalo, on Friday. That’s a tall test for a developing program.

Kemmerer had a unorthodox start to its season, playing in two scrimmages in Weeks 0 and 1, before playing its first game against Lyman in Week 2. Obviously the approach worked, as the Rangers jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead before beating the Eagles 28-6 in the Rangers’ first conference victory since 2012.

Second-year coach Bart Jernigan helped the Rangers start last year 1-1 before they lost seven in a row to finish the season. But this feels different. The Rangers were efficient and enthusiastic in taking out the Eagles and sent a signal that they could be ready for the postseason if the rest of the 2A West doesn’t take them seriously. This will be put to the test this week against another old conference rival, Pinedale, who’s tied atop the conference standings with Kemmerer (and Mountain View) with an early 1-0 record.

NSI has started 2-0 just two other times in program history — its first two seasons in 2000 and 2001. The Wolves have never started a season 3-0. This from a program that went 0-7 last year. With the Wolves, though, last season never matters; none of last year’s players are on this year’s roster, and even the coach, Antoine Proctor, is new.

This week, NSI hosts Midwest, a team the Wolves have beaten just once in their past five meetings since NSI moved to six-man. After that, the Wolves host Guernsey before traveling to Hanna for a Week 5 game that all of a sudden looks way more important than it did in mid-August.

All four teams could win this week.

All four could be playoff contenders.

All four are showing the past is only a small part of the future.

+++

Some other games that look good on paper:

Thunder Basin has two huge road tests the next three weeks. This week, the ‘Bolts are at Sheridan; in Week 5, they’re at Natrona. In between is the rivalry game with Gillette. After an impressive victory against Cheyenne East last week, though, the ‘Bolts look like a team capable of anything. …

The upset special this week might be Rock Springs — off a huge boost of a double-OT victory — at home against Kelly Walsh, who struggled early last week against winless Cheyenne South. If the Trojans aren’t careful, watch out. …

The luster wore off this week’s game between Green River and Torrington, a rematch of a 3A semifinal from last year, with the Wolves’ loss to Rawlins last week. Was it a surprise that will get the Wolves refocused, or a portent of things to come? …

+++

Here. I picked some games. Bold means projected winner, but the way things have gone for me this season, I wouldn’t get too worked up over any one pick:

Thursday
Interclass
Shoshoni at Riverton JV
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Gillette
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne East
Kelly Walsh at Rock Springs
Laramie at Natrona
Thunder Basin at Sheridan
Class 3A
Cody at Rawlins
Evanston at Lander
Green River at Torrington
Jackson at Worland
Powell at Douglas
Star Valley at Riverton
Class 2A
Burns at Buffalo
Glenrock at Wheatland
Greybull at Big Piney
Kemmerer at Pinedale
Mountain View at Lovell
Thermopolis at Moorcroft
Class 1A 11-man
Big Horn at Wright
Pine Bluffs at Southeast
Tongue River at Upton-Sundance (at Upton)
Wind River at Lusk
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at St. Stephens
Farson at Dubois
Kaycee at Guernsey-Sunrise
Interclass
Cokeville at Lyman
Riverside at Saratoga
Saturday
Class 1A six-man
Hulett vs. Hanna (at Midwest)
Meeteetse at Snake River
Midwest at NSI

Lingle is off this week thanks to Rock River’s season cancelation; Newcastle has already defeated Rocky Mountain by forfeit.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 3” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 25-9 (74 percent). This season: 62-21 (75 percent).

Through Week 2, which teams look the best to you? Who are your biggest surprises, either way? Leave a comment and add to the train of thoughts I helped start here.

–patrick

Make 4A Football Great Again

Hat from Donald Trump Hat Generator at http://trumphat.github.io/.

Most weeks, Class 4A football stinks.

And I can prove it.

In the 364 Class 4A games played between 2011 and 2017, 85 finished with a margin of victory of eight points or fewer; 103 finished with a margin of victory of 35 points or more. The average margin of victory in those 364 games was 24.7 points; the median 22.5.

So far in 2018, the 10 4A games have been decided by 7, 7, 13, 15, 44, 47, 52, 59, 59 and 62 points — average MOV of 36.5 points.

Moreover, it’s the same teams that do the winning — and the losing.

Since 2011, Sheridan, Natrona, Cheyenne East and Gillette have combined for 25 winning seasons, one .500 season and two losing seasons (and one of those losing seasons was the Camels’ 0-9 year last year when it played with a bunch of underclassmen due to some unique circumstances). Kelly Walsh, Rock Springs, Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne South, Evanston (now in 3A), Laramie and Thunder Basin have combined for two winning seasons, seven .500 seasons and 33 losing seasons at the 4A level in that same span.

In 2018? Basically, it’s more of the same, with Thunder Basin unsurprisingly taking Gillette’s place in the upper echelon.

Class 4A’s four 0-2 teams (Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne South, Gillette and Rock Springs) have been outscored by a total of 377-32 — and Rock Springs has 20 of those 32. Meanwhile, the four 2-0 teams (Cheyenne East, Natrona, Sheridan and Thunder Basin) have outscored their opponents 384-39.

The idea that the 2-0 teams are all going to face each other this week is a pretty exciting prospect. East journeys north to Thunder Basin while Sheridan heads south to play Natrona.

All kinds of interesting subplots are in play here: Sheridan has won 20 games in a row, now the state’s longest active streak regardless of classification; Thunder Basin hasn’t allowed a point yet this season; Natrona’s 117 points are the most of any 4A school; Cheyenne East is the only one of the four to beat a team with a victory this season.

And then there’s three other 4A games to figure out who’s going to be first-round playoff cannon fodder.

I hope for a time when parity in Class 4A is a thing — when any team can beat any other on any given weekend. This Friday’s 4A games kind of have that feeling, and it’s nice. Don’t we wish every 4A Friday could feel like this?

+++

Some other Week 2 games are more intriguing than usual:

Burns and Moorcroft are both 1-0, facing off for early control of the 2A East in Week 2. It’s good to see Brad Morrison in Burns and Travis Santistevan in Moorcroft having some early success in their first seasons at their respective posts. …

Big Horn faces a key early test of its attempt to win the 1A 11-man crown when it journeys to face 2A contender Greybull. If the Rams can pull this one off, they could be in position to run the table this season. Just don’t tell them. …

Jackson ended its 16-game losing streak last week with an impressive 41-13 victory against Bear Lake, Idaho. The Broncs could make it two in a row if they can knock off Pinedale at home. …

The most interesting game on the schedule just might be the one between 1A 11-man Upton-Sundance and 2A Wheatland. The Patriots and Bulldogs both have aspirations of postseason success this year, and this interclass matchup could be telling for both teams. …

Snake River and Burlington will meet up in the best six-man game of the week. Burlington bopped three-time defending champ Kaycee by 62 points last week, while Snake River is 2-0 to start the season. This one will help set the pace in the West Conference for the entire season. …

Now, the picks. Bolded teams should win, but un-bolded teams have a chance, too (even in 4A):

Thursday
Class 1A six-man
St. Stephens at Meeteetse
Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne East at Thunder Basin
Cheyenne South at Kelly Walsh
Gillette at Laramie
Rock Springs at Cheyenne Central
Sheridan at Natrona
Class 3A
Evanston at Riverton
Lander at Powell
Rawlins at Green River
Worland at Cody
Class 2A
Big Piney at Mountain View
Buffalo at Thermopolis
Glenrock at Newcastle
Lyman at Kemmerer
Moorcroft at Burns
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville vs. Southeast (at Rawlins)
Lusk at Tongue River
Rocky Mountain at Wind River (nonconference, at Ethete)
Wright at Pine Bluffs
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Riverside
NSI at Lingle
Snake River at Burlington
Interclass
Big Horn at Greybull
Lovell at Shoshoni
Pinedale at Jackson
Saratoga at Farson
Upton-Sundance at Wheatland
Interstate
Douglas at Hot Springs, S.D.
Gering, Neb., at Torrington
Star Valley at Sugar-Salem, Idaho
Saturday
Class 1A six-man

Guernsey-Sunrise at Hulett
Hanna at Midwest
Rock River at Kaycee
Interclass
Natrona JV at Wyoming Indian

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 2” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 24-10 (71 percent). This season: 37-12 (76 percent).

As we enter Week 2, what are the things you’re seeing that are interesting and worthy of attention? Post a comment and let’s make conversation great again.

–patrick

It’s not uncommon for two teams that played in state championships to face each other the next season.

It IS rare, though, for those two teams to be from two different classifications.

However, that’s what’s happening in Week 1 when last year’s Class 3A runner-up, Torrington, heads northwest to play last year’s Class 2A runner-up, Glenrock.

After scrimmages last week, both teams will start their regular seasons with each other. Heading into this week, it’s one of the most intriguing games on the schedule.

Both squads finished 9-2 last season; they had four opponents in common in Wheatland, Newcastle, Riverton and Lander. Torrington swept the four common foes pretty emphatically; Glenrock went 3-1 with the only loss a 50-48 shootout against Riverton.

And both teams had their seasons end in frustrating fashion — Torrington out-gained Cody but still lost 20-0 for the 3A title, while Glenrock couldn’t maintain a 28-14 lead against Mountain View and fell 35-28 in the 2A championship.

They both have reasons to think that 2018 is their year.

They get to begin to prove that by facing each other.

+++

Meeteetse hosts Hafford, Saskatchewan, on Saturday.

Yes, Saskatchewan as in Canada.

The game will be more than a game: The Saskatchewanians are making the trip for more than just four quarters of football. The trip includes some education and bonding, and even a trip to Yellowstone.

By the way, the Canadians are excited for this trip. You can even buy a T-shirt. I might buy one myself — if they’ll take American money.

Wyoming teams don’t play Canadian teams that often. This will be the fifth such game, the others coming between Sheridan and Regina Riffel, Saskatchewan, in 1993 and 1994; Laramie and Raymond, Alberta, in 1998, and Cody and Raymond in 2000.

The Americans are 4-0.

+++

Other games drawing my attention this week:

Kelly Walsh-Cheyenne East is the premier matchup of the 4A schedule, the only game pitting two teams who won last week. Two weeks ago, I’d have picked KW, but after last Friday, I’m inclined to go with East. …

Mountain View-Cokeville is always a fun matchup. The Buffalos have the upper hand this year, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers can’t make it difficult on them. …

The Tongue River-Moorcroft game scheduled for Thursday was a tough game to pick. It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in that one. …

Other decisions that required more thought than usual included Powell-Worland, Rawlins-Evanston and Burlington-Kaycee. All three of those games have game-of-the-week potential, for their own reasons. …

Here are my picks for this week’s games. Teams I think will win are in bold, but hey, it’s early in the season and I’ve been know to pick games wrong before so thank goodness they actually play these things or we’d all be in trouble and it’d be a lot less fun.

Thursday
Interclass
Hulett at Sheridan JV
Natrona JV
at Rock River
Snake River at Natrona sophs
Tongue River at Moorcroft
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Sheridan
Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne East
Natrona at Gillette
Rock Springs at Laramie
Thunder Basin at Cheyenne South
Class 3A
Lander at Green River
Powell at Worland
Rawlins at Evanston
Riverton at Cody
Class 2A
Lyman at Pinedale
Wheatland at Newcastle
Class 1A 11-man
Upton-Sundance at Lusk
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at Kaycee
Dubois at Midwest
Farson at Guernsey-Sunrise
Hanna at St. Stephens
Interclass
Big Piney at Shoshoni
Burns at Wright
Douglas at Buffalo
Greybull at Rocky Mountain
Mountain View at Cokeville
Thermopolis at Big Horn
Torrington at Glenrock
Wind River at Lovell
Interstate
Blackfoot, Idaho, at Star Valley
Jackson at Bear Lake, Idaho
Lingle at Sioux County, Neb.
Southeast at Mitchell, Neb.
Yuma, Colo., at Pine Bluffs
Saturday
Class 1A six-man
Riverside at NSI
International
Hafford, Saskatchewan, at Meeteetse
Open: Saratoga, Wyoming Indian. Kemmerer will scrimmage the Riverton JV on Thursday.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 1” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 13-2 (87 percent). This season: 13-2 (87 percent).

So how about we make this a conversation, and you tell me what YOU think? Leave a comment and let’s talk Week 1 stuff.

–patrick

The two Class 4A programs with more questions hovering over them than any others this offseason? Thunder Basin and Cheyenne Central.

For everyone’s convenience, they’ll play each other in the first game of the year on Friday when the ‘Bolts head south to face the Indians in Cheyenne.

The question marks around Thunder Basin as it enters its second year are sparked by one overarching question.

In their first season, the ‘Bolts stole most of the players from a Gillette Camel team that was supposed to be one of 4A’s top contenders. If anyone should have come out of the gate hot in its first season, it was Thunder Basin.

However, having 90 percent of the available high school football talent in the city of Gillette wasn’t enough to get Thunder Basin past .500 last year. Now, a lot of those key contributors are gone. That brings up questions: What will the ‘Bolts look like in their second year? Will new personnel mean a new approach? And, perhaps most importantly, was Thunder Basin’s .500 finish more attributable to the feeling-out process that comes with a new program, or was it tied to an actual shift in how football functions in the city of Gillette?

In Cheyenne, the Central Indians made one of the biggest offseason splashes by hiring away Mike Apodaca from Silver Creek High School in Colorado. Apodaca had been a successful coach at Silver Creek for more than a decade, but the opportunity to coach his alma mater was too great an opportunity to ignore.

So now Apodaca’s the coach of the Indians — and arguably the red and black will change more than any other 4A team this offseason. The only other new coach in the big-school ranks, Sheridan’s Jeff Mowry, has already said he won’t change much from the previous regime, and the coaching staff remained pretty much in tact for the Broncs. For the Indians, Apodaca’s hiring represents a change not only in personnel but in approach, where most of what was in place has been removed for something that will attempt to make Central a true contender for the first time in almost a decade.

Last year when these two teams met, questions dominated: Right up until the day of the game, questions existed even about the location of the game. Central played Thunder Basin surprisingly tough before falling 34-29.

This year, at least we know where the game will be played.

But there’s arguably more questions around this year’s contest than last year’s.

And that makes it perhaps the biggest 4A game of the week.

+++

While I’m keeping close watch on ‘Bolts-Indians, a few other games are worth noting in Wyoming high school football’s soft launch of 2018:

Three-time defending Class 1A six-man champ Kaycee will have a tough one on its hands when it plays MonDak (Westby-Grenora), Montana’s defending six-man champion, in a halfway-meet game in Broadus, Montana. MonDak was also Montana’s six-man runner-up in 2016 and 2014, so pitting the two dominant regional squads of the mid-teens against each other will be a cool game to watch. It would have been even better if it had been scheduled for last year, though, when both programs were peaking — but hindsight is 20-20. Nevertheless…

Speaking of three-time champs on the road, Sheridan’s first game in the post-Don Julian era will be in Rock Springs as the Broncs take on the Tigers. Rock Springs has floated under the radar a bit this offseason, and with quarterback Graedyn Buell transferred to Cheyenne East, the Tigers could head back to their run-first roots. It will be interesting to see how a rebuilding Sheridan defense handles that kind of challenge. …

Don’t overlook any of the interstate games on Saturday. While Kaycee-MonDak will get the early headlines, the Star Valley-Hillcrest, Idaho, game should be a doozy, and Snake River taking on North Park, Colorado, in a late addition to the six-man schedule should be good, as well. The Friday interstate games aren’t nearly as intriguing, although it will be interesting to see of Jackson can get off the schneid and knock off Teton, Idaho, in Driggs to open the season. …

On to some picks. Just in case you forgot how we do things here, or in case this is your first time here, projected winners are in bold.

Games
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne East at Gillette
Laramie at Kelly Walsh
Natrona at Cheyenne South
Sheridan at Rock Springs
Thunder Basin at Cheyenne Central
Class 3A
Riverton at Powell
Interstate
Evanston at Altamont, Utah
Jackson at Teton, Idaho
Lead-Deadwood, S.D., at Upton-Sundance
Newcastle at Custer, S.D.
Saturday
Interclass
Evanston JV at Farson
Lovell at Natrona JV
Rocky Mountain at Powell JV
Interstate
Kaycee vs. Mon-Dak (Westby-Grenora), Montana, at Broadus, Montana
North Park, Colorado, at Snake River
Star Valley vs. Hillcrest, Idaho, at Pocatello, Idaho

Scrimmages and Jamborees
Friday
Big Piney, Douglas, Pinedale at Lander Jamboree
Cody, Moorcroft, Wright at Big Horn Jamboree
Cokeville at Kemmerer
Greybull at Tongue River
Lingle, Midwest at Guernsey-Sunrise Jamboree
Lyman at Rawlins
Mountain View at Green River
Pine Bluffs at Glenrock
Saratoga at Rock River
Saturday
Buffalo at Worland
Burns, Lusk, Thunder Basin JV, Torrington, Wheatland at Southeast Jamboree
Hulett, Riverside at Meeteetse
Shoshoni, Wind River at Thermopolis
Open: Burlington, Dubois, Hanna, St. Stephens, Worland, Wyoming Indian.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here.

+++

It’s finally here. Thank goodness. What do you see as the most interesting or intriguing part of the 2018 Wyoming high school football season? Post your thoughts and let’s get full on into the latest chapter of Wyoming high school football.

–patrick

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

Thirty-five years have gone by since Kelly Walsh made its last trip to a football championship game.

Since then, Sheridan has played in 14 state title games.

History is on the side of the Broncs when the two teams meet Friday in Sheridan in the Class 4A semifinals. However, if history is going to be turned on its axis in 4A, it’s going to be in the semifinals — a round known for its fair share of surprising outcomes.

Make no mistake: A KW victory against Sheridan would be a surprise. The Trojans are having their best season in nearly a decade, entering the semifinals at 7-3. Sheridan, though, is undefeated, 10-0, and trying to win its third consecutive Class 4A title.

If Kelly Walsh can beat Sheridan — and that’s a big if — the Trojans will continue a trend we’ve seen in recent years in Class 4A.

Since 2011 in the 4A brackets, of the 12 semifinal games, five of the victors (42 percent) have been lower seeds: Natrona beat Gillette in last year’s semis in Gillette; in 2014, it was Gillette beating Cheyenne East in Cheyenne; in 2013, East beat Sheridan in Sheridan while Natrona beat Gillette in Gillette; in 2011, East beat Natrona in Casper.

The rate of 4A upsets is higher than 3A, 1A 11-man (both four of 12) and 1A six-man (no lower-seed victories in the semis since 2010). And it’s equal to 2A’s semifinal lower-seed success rate.

Even so, the 4A championships since 2011 have tended to follow the scripts set for them, with Sheridan’s victory against Gillette in 2015 the only time (17 percent) a lower seed beat a higher seed for the championship.

So if we’re going to see an upset in the big-school ranks, it will likely be this Friday.

That should please the Trojans — and scare the Broncs.

+++

Aside from Kelly Walsh’s 35-year championship game gap, the next-longest title-game drought for any team in the semifinals belongs to Torrington, where it’s been 20 years since a championship-game appearance.

For Big Piney, it’s been 10 years. For the 17 other teams in the semifinals, though, every single one has been to at least one title game in the past decade.

Speaking of the Punchers, they broke a long semifinal-less streak with their victory against Newcastle last week. Big Piney is in the semis for the first time in 10 years.

And aside from Kelly Walsh, which is in the semis for the first time since 2009, and Burlington, which is making its first semis appearance since 2012, every other team every other class has been to the semis at least once since 2014.

Sheridan, in fact, is in the semis for the 10th consecutive year. With Gillette failing to reach the semis and ending its run of quarterfinal victories at 12, Sheridan’s semis streak is now the longest active such streak in the state.

+++

On to the picks, where I’m trying to forecast into the future even though it’s quite impossible to do so:

Class 4A
(4) Kelly Walsh at (1) Sheridan: Aside from the 37-34 nail-biter Sheridan had against Natrona, Kelly Walsh actually gave Sheridan its second-biggest scare of the season. Even so, that was still 30-7 in Week 4. The Trojans won’t go down without a fight, but the Broncs haven’t gone down all season. (First playoff meeting since 2012 4A quarterfinals.)
(3) Cheyenne East at (2) Natrona: These two squads hung close back in Week 4, with Natrona winning 14-7 in Casper. The rematch is in Casper, too, and the Mustangs — thanks to that game more than a month ago — may have the mental edge. (First playoff meeting since 2013 4A championship.)
Class 3A
(2W) Green River at (1E) Torrington: A year ago, Green River went to Torrington in the quarterfinals and knocked off the Trailblazers on their home field. I’m positive the ‘Blazers remember — and want some revenge. (Rematch of a 2016 3A quarterfinal, obviously.)
(3W) Cody at (1W) Star Valley: The only team to stay within 10 points of Star Valley all season was Cody. Granted, that game was in Cody, and the rematch is in Afton, so the Braves still have the advantage. But the Broncs should feel confident. (First playoff meeting since 2014 3A semifinals.)
Class 2A
(2W) Big Piney at (1E) Glenrock: This is the sixth time Glenrock and Big Piney are playing against each other. The previous five games have all been playoff semifinals. Weird. The home team has had the advantage in the previous matchups, winning four of those five. So, Herders. (First playoff meeting since 2006 3A semifinals.)
(2E) Wheatland at (1W) Mountain View: Wheatland’s 5-4 record is deceiving — three of those losses came to 3A teams. They’ll push the Buffalos hard and may even pull off a road upset. Still, Mountain View, at home, is the favorite. (First postseason meeting.)
Class 1A 11-man
(2E) Big Horn at (1W) Cokeville: Back in August, I picked this matchup to be for the state championship. As it worked out, it will be a hard-fought, well-contested game in the semifinals. Either team could win, but I’ll pick the undefeated, senior-laden team at home, knowing full well this may be the best game of the week — or of the season. (First playoff meeting since 1988 1A championship.)
(3E) Upton-Sundance at (1E) Pine Bluffs: Two weeks ago, on the same field and with relatively the same kickoff time, the Hornets doubled up the Patriots 28-14. U-S will make the defending champs earn their spot back in Laramie; a couple mistakes either way could tilt this one. (Rematch of a 2016 1A 11-man semifinal.)
Class 1A six-man
(2W) Burlington at (1E) Kaycee: Burlington has been on quite a roll lately, winning seven straight coming into this game. Whether the Huskies can actually stay with Kaycee (winners of 28 straight, on their way to being listed as one of Wyoming’s best six-man teams ever) remains to be seen. (Rematch of a 2016 1A six-man quarterfinal.)
(3W) Snake River at (1W) Farson: Two weeks ago, the Pronghorns went to backs and came back smarting from a 53-18 loss. This time around, Farson gets to host. And I guarantee it’ll be closer than 53-18. Even so, the Rattlers should be confident after manhandling the Pronghorns just 14 days prior. (First playoff meeting since 2010 1A six-man quarterfinals.)

For a full schedule including kickoff times, check out the 2017 schedule and results page.

Last week was the first time I’ve ever gone perfect in the quarterfinals in 13 years of picking quarterfinals, so I guess 13 was my lucky year or something. Here’s how I’m doing:

Last week: 20-0 (100 percent). This season: 249-41 (86 percent).

We’re a week away from the championships. Arguably, the week of the semifinals has historically been more exciting than the week of the championships. So who’s ready to pull an upset and reach Laramie? Post your thoughts, because I’d love to hear them.

–patrick

Pine Bluffs had one of Wyoming’s finest six-man football teams in 1948.

Through a five-game regular season, the Hornets went 5-0, defeating their opponents by a combined 229-13. Through that, they earned the Southeast District championship and the right to host the Southwest District champ, Jackson, in a playoff semifinal.

Pine Bluffs won that game 43-24 before hosting — and losing to — Byron in the six-man title game seven days later.

No one knew after the Byron game that Pine Bluffs would have to wait 69 more years before hosting another playoff game.

Finally, on Friday, the Hornets break that streak when they host Saratoga in a Class 1A 11-man quarterfinal game.

Since losing to Byron for the 1948 six-man title, Pine Bluffs has played in 19 playoff games; of those, 18 were on the road and one (last year’s 1A 11-man title game) was at a neutral site. Three of those 19 were championship games.

Pine Bluffs won its first state championship last year, winning the 1A 11-man championship after winning two road playoff games. This year, the Hornets enter the postseason undefeated, riding a 12-game winning streak into a historic first-round game against Saratoga, the fourth seed from the West Conference.

If the Hornets have their way, the wait between Friday’s home game and the next home playoff game won’t be another 69 years; it’ll be seven days.

Home is where the helmet is: While Pine Bluffs’ 69-year streak is by far the longest home playoff-less streak to end, a couple other programs are also hosting playoff games for the first time in a while.

Despite a ton of recent success, including a 3A runner-up finish in 2015, Green River is hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2011. Big Piney, meanwhile, is hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2007, while Hanna is hosting its first postseason matchup since 2010 and Burlington is hosting its first since 2012.

Playoff qualification streaks: Wind River and Worland are both in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, breaking long streaks of missing the postseason in the process.

Meanwhile, Gillette is missing the playoffs for the first time in 27 years. Natrona now has the state’s longest active streak of playoff qualifications, with this year being the Mustangs’ 26th consecutive postseason appearance.

Repeat matchups: Of the 20 first-round matchups, seven pit teams that have already played each other once this season. Obviously, that’s the case with all four Class 4A games, but the other three are all rematches of Week 1 games: Cody vs. Buffalo in 3A, and Midwest vs. Burlington and Guernsey-Sunrise vs. Farson in 1A six-man.

+++

On to the picks, with projected winners in bold, as usual, because tradition is important:

Class 4A
(8) Cheyenne Central at (1) Sheridan: The Broncs are undefeated and rolling right now. The Indians couldn’t stay within 30 points of Sheridan back in Week 1, and with the Broncs on fire AND at home, they should cruise easily into the semifinals for the 10th consecutive year. (First playoff meeting since 2014 4A quarterfinals.)
(5) Thunder Basin at (4) Kelly Walsh: KW beat Thunder Basin just two weeks ago, 21-7, in Gillette. This one might be closer, but the Trojans still have the advantage over the ‘Bolts. (First playoff meeting. Duh. This is Thunder Basin’s first season.)
(6) Rock Springs at (3) Cheyenne East: Just like KW-Thunder Basin, this game was played two weeks ago, and East had little trouble in a 31-6 victory. This one, too, might be closer than the regular-season game, but this one, too, should go to the team that won this matchup 14 days ago. (First playoff meeting since 2015 4A quarterfinals.)
(7) Laramie at (2) Natrona: It’s hard to discern too much from the regular-season matchup, which was back in Week 3. Natrona won that game 42-10 — the first of six consecutive victories for Natrona. Laramie meanwhile, has gone 2-3 down the stretch and was outscored 89-21 in its final two games. (First playoff meeting since 2011 4A quarterfinals.)

Class 3A
(4W) Worland at (1E) Torrington: Torrington has won six in a row and has shown no mercy in that stretch, the closest game being a 34-6 victory against Buffalo. Worland will be game, but the Trailblazers have too much talent to overcome in this one. (First playoff meeting since 1989 3A semifinals.)
(3E) Douglas at (2W) Green River: This will be a weird one. Both teams come into this game after shutout losses in Week 8 — Douglas 17-0 to Buffalo, Green River 21-0 to Star Valley. Success in this one may belong to the team that can overcome their Week 8 loss faster mentally. (First playoff meeting since 2012 3A quarterfinals.)
(3W) Cody at (2E) Buffalo: When these two teams met in Week 1, Buffalo eked out a 10-7 victory. Now, eight weeks later, this game becomes a test to see which team has improved more. And both teams can claim that. This one may be the best game of the week. Overtime? (First playoff meeting since 2010 3A semifinals.)
(4E) Rawlins at (1W) Star Valley: Rawlins’ turnaround continues to be one of 2017’s most interesting takeaways. In terms of the 3A playoffs, though, it’s a footnote to the Braves’ push for a third consecutive championship. (First playoff meeting.)

Class 2A
(4W) Lovell at (1E) Glenrock: Lovell went through a stretch in Weeks 3-5 when it went 0-3 and lost those games by a combined 77-7. The Bulldogs’ turnaround — winning three straight to qualify for the playoffs — means they come in hot. But Glenrock’s been hot all season. (First playoff meeting since 2015 2A semifinals.)
(3E) Newcastle at (2W) Big Piney: I love, love, love this matchup. Senior-heavy Big Piney has been solid all season long; baby-faced Newcastle has grown a lot since losing three straight in Weeks 2-4. Don’t forget: Newcastle went on the road in the 2A quarters last year and pulled off a huge upset. (First playoff meeting since 2006 3A quarterfinals.)
(3W) Greybull at (2E) Wheatland: Of all the 2 vs. 3 matchups, this one could give us more excitement than any other. Honestly, it’s a toss-up; I like Wheatland’s consistency just as much as I like Greybull’s explosiveness. When in doubt in the playoffs, go with the home team…. (Rematch of a 2016 2A quarterfinal game.)
(4E) Thermopolis at (1W) Mountain View: Don’t read too much into Mountain View’s loss last week to Greybull. The Buffalos already had the No. 1 seed from the West wrapped up. Against the Bobcats, they’ll show why they’re still among 2A’s best. (First playoff meeting since 2014 2A quarterfinals.)

Class 1A 11-man
(4E) Southeast at (1W) Cokeville: The only possible way Southeast pulls the upset here is if the conditioning the Cyclones got by playing in a much tougher East Conference gives them the mental toughness to stick with the Panthers. Cokeville, though, is absolutely crushing teams right now. (First playoff meeting since 2013 1A 11-man semifinals.)
(3W) Wind River at (2E) Big Horn: The Cougars are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Rams are in the playoffs for the 19th consecutive year. History and tradition side with the home team. (First playoff meeting since 2002 2A semifinals.)
(3E) Upton-Sundance at (2W) Rocky Mountain: In 2013, 2014 and 2016, Rocky Mountain has hosted first-round playoff games. The Grizzlies are 0-3. The Patriots are likely to extend that mark to 0-4. (First playoff meeting since 2015 1A 11-man quarterfinals.)
(4W) Saratoga at (1E) Pine Bluffs: The defending 1A 11-man champs are unbeaten and at home. The Hornets should have little trouble dispatching the Panthers, who come into the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. (First playoff meeting.)

Class 1A six-man
(4W) Meeteetse at (1E) Kaycee: Kaycee has outscored its opponents this season 528-32. Moving on… (Rematch of a 2016 1A six-man semifinal.)
(3E) Midwest at (2W) Burlington: Midwest is absolutely capable of winning this game, and I won’t be surprised if the Oilers go on the road and get this one. The Huskies beat the Oilers back in Week 1 by a 44-40 score, and I think that will narrow Burlington’s focus this week. (First playoff meeting since 1991 1A nine-man semifinals.)
(3W) Snake River at (2E) Hanna: The Rattlers might be the best team in the West, but they caught the short end of the coin in the 1-2-3 flip. Hanna is solid, but Snake River is dangerous. (First playoff meeting since 2014 1A six-man quarterfinals.)
(4E) Guernsey-Sunrise at (1W) Farson: The Pronghorns will be smarting after losing last week, but I think they’ll have enough in the tank to beat the Vikings — a team they thumped 60-13 back in Week 1 in Farson. (Rematch of a 2016 1A six-man semifinal.)

For a full schedule including kickoff times, check out the 2017 schedule and results page.

I keep track of the games I pick, because it’s good for self-loathing:

Last week: 26-6 (81 percent). This season: 229-41 (85 percent).

So here we are. The playoffs. Who’s ready for a Pine Bluffs in 2016 kind of run, where road games are no sweat? And who’s ready to carry their top seed and their home-field advantage all the way to a title? Leave a comment to help me get my mind right.

–patrick

Of all the 41 potential playoff scenarios that exist heading into Week 8, none is weirder than Lovell’s.

Of the eight possible scenarios coming out of the 2A West, Lovell makes the playoffs in five of them and misses the playoffs in three of them.

Here’s the kicker, though: Lovell could lose and qualify for the playoffs. They could also win and miss the playoffs.

Obviously, the odds are better if Lovell wins. Of the four scenarios in which Lovell wins its game on Friday against Kemmerer, the Bulldogs qualify for the playoffs in three of them; of the four scenarios in which Lovell loses, the Bulldogs still make the playoffs in only two of the four scenarios.

The odd duck scenario where Lovell wins but still doesn’t qualify happens if the Bulldogs beat Kemmerer, Lyman beats Big Piney and Greybull beats Mountain View. In that scenario, Lyman and Lovell end up tied for the No. 4 seed, and thanks to Lovell’s loss to Lyman, the Bulldogs would be out and the Eagles in.

So is it possible Lovell could take the field on Friday night and actually TRY to lose to help qualify for the playoffs? Or just forfeit the game completely?

The short answer: No.

The reason? Kickoff times.

The first game played in the 2A West on Friday will be the one between Big Piney and Lyman, which kicks off at 2 p.m. If Big Piney wins, Lovell’s in the playoffs, no matter what.

However, if Lyman pulls the upset, Lovell HAS to win (and then hope Mountain View beats Greybull) to qualify for the playoffs.

So even though the scenarios outline a situation where it would be better for Lovell to lose, the kickoff times assure us we won’t see anyone intentionally tanking in Week 8 to qualify for the playoffs.

Thank goodness. Because as weird as Lovell’s situation is this week, it’d be even weirder to see a team intentionally trying to lose to qualify for the playoffs.

+++

We know some things — but not everything — entering the final week of the Wyoming high school football regular season.

Twelve teams (Kelly Walsh, Worland, Cody, Torrington, Glenrock, Big Piney, Wheatland, Mountain View, Cokeville, Rocky Mountain, Meeteetse and Kaycee) already know their playoff seedings.

Two first-round playoff games are already set: Worland at Torrington in 3A and Meeteetse at Kaycee in 1A six-man.

And 10 teams (Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne South, Greybull, Lyman, Lovell, Lusk, Southeast, Guernsey-Sunrise, Hanna and Hulett) are playing for their playoff lives this week. Two games — Cheyenne Central hosting Cheyenne South and Southeast hosting Lusk — are direct winner in/loser out scenarios.

+++

Obviously, Week 8 is full of important games. Here’s some highlights of a few of them.

If you asked me which game I want to see most this week, it’s Upton-Sundance vs. Pine Bluffs. I want to know if Upton-Sundance’s 40-point loss to Big Horn two weeks ago was an aberration or a harbinger. We’ll find out Friday when the Patriots face an undefeated defending state champion on that champ’s home field. …

Star Valley faces Green River for the top seed in the 3A West. Star Valley will be the favorite, even on the road, but Green River could really upset expectations if they can somehow beat the two-time defending champs. …

Farson facing Snake River in Baggs could be the best game of the six-man regular season. Yes, Snake River lost to Burlington last week, but the Rattlers can still win the West’s No. 1 seed with a victory. Farson, meanwhile, is still undefeated and angling for a second consecutive trip to Laramie. …

Cheyenne East and Sheridan are playing what could objectively be called the game of the week. After all, Sheridan is 8-0 and undefeated in 4A, while Cheyenne East is 7-1 and proving it knows how to win games in all styles, but especially close ones. The Broncs should be the favorites, but the Thunderbirds are likely to give Sheridan a necessary challenge heading into the playoffs. …

The Thunder Basin-Laramie game could be a hidden gem in the Gem City. It’s an important game in the 4A seeding race, and Laramie has the potential to pull the surprise at home if the ‘Bolts overlook them. …

The Mountain View-Greybull game isn’t quite what we thought it might be at the beginning of the season, but nevertheless it’s a big one in the 2A West. And Mountain View has to make the trip to Greybull, making things a little more difficult on the no-e Buffalos. …

The Thunder Bowl is back in Sheridan County after a three-year hiatus as Big Horn faces Tongue River. Honestly, there’s no reason why this game should ever be off the schedule, and I’m glad to see the regional rivals facing off again. …

The Rocky Mountain-Wright game is a late addition to the schedule after Wyoming Indian forfeited to Rocky Mountain a couple weeks ago. Wright had an open week scheduled, so it makes sense for the two of them to meet halfway in Sheridan — Rocky as a playoff tune-up, Wright as one more chance to take the field as a team. …

On to my choices for each game. You know how I do this by now: predicted winners in bold, and then we all watch the games, which is way more fun than predicting them:

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

For a full schedule including kickoff times, check out the 2017 schedule and results page.

Results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 24-6 (80 percent). This season: 203-35 (85 percent).

So here we are: the last week of the regular season. Who’s your surprise team for a championship run? And what does week 8 hold for them? Leave a comment and let’s enter into a dialog.

–patrick

Technically, only one conference champion is guaranteed to be crowned this week.

Either Kaycee or Midwest will win the 1A six-man East Conference championship when the two programs face each other Friday night in beautiful downtown Midwest.

Oh, sure, four other programs can win their respective championships this week, too: Torrington in the 3A East, Glenrock in the 2A East, Mountain View in the 2A West, Cokeville in the 1A 11-man West. Also, Sheridan could win 4A’s top seed with a victory and a Cheyenne East loss to Rock Springs, while Star Valley would win the 3A West with a victory and a Green River loss to Jackson.

But it’s possible that every single one of those teams could lose on Friday. That’s why Kaycee-Midwest is so intriguing — unless it ends in a tie or is postponed or we see the destruction of the Earth between now and about 9:30 p.m. Friday, the top seed from the 1A six-man East Conference will be sewn up at the conclusion of this game.

Midwest has been a nice surprise this season. The Oilers have won four in a row since losing to Burlington 44-40 to open their season. Every game has been a little bit closer than the last one, though — from a 62-point victory against NSI to a 45-point victory against Guernsey-Sunrise to a 36-point victory against Lingle to a 13-point victory against Hulett.

Meanwhile, 32 miles to the north, top-ranked Kaycee has been perhaps the most dominant six-man team the state has ever seen.

The Buckaroos have won their past 25 games, but by far the 2017 season has been the most dominant. With first-year head coach Tony Rouse leading a deep senior class, Kaycee has outscored its opponents 370-26 this season, including its last three by 224-0.

Week 7 is always a little strange, because so many potential playoff scenarios exist. By my math, only three of the state’s 65 teams (Jackson, Wright, Wyoming Indian) have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (see below for more on Wyoming Indian). And no matter what happens, two conferences (1A 11-man East and 1A six-man West) are guaranteed NOT to have a conference champion by the time Week 7 is done.

That’s why Friday’s game in Midwest is so interesting. It’s nice to have a little certainty in uncertain times.

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Other stuff on my sonar for Week 7:

The Kelly Walsh-Thunder Basin game is the most intriguing game on the 4A schedule. Thunder Basin is stronger than it’s been all season thanks to the return of running back Austin Clemetson, who came back last week. A ‘Bolts victory gives them all the tiebreakers necessary for a home playoff game, and that’s super helpful. …

Greybull’s surprising loss to Lovell last week turned the 2A West into a big quagmire. Right there in the middle of the mess with Greybull are Lyman, Pinedale and Lovell. They’ll play on Friday (Greybull at Lyman, Pinedale at Lovell), and I honestly have no idea what to expect in either game. …

The only interclass game of the week is really interesting. It’s the two “Bigs” (Big Horn and Big Piney) meeting halfway in Riverton. And they’re both 5-1 coming into the game. Could be a hidden gem of a game on that neutral field on Friday. …

Evanston against Worland in the 3A West could be a really close game. Both teams need this victory to stay in the playoff race, and that may bring out the best in both squads. …

Wheatland has been resurgent of late and could steal a home playoff game if they can top Newcastle. …

I’m interested to see how much of a challenge one-loss Burlington can give undefeated Snake River in Burlington. …

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On to this week’s picks. As usual, the predicted winners are in bold, because to change that tradition now would just be silly:

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

For a full schedule including kickoff times, check out the 2017 schedule and results page.

My picks were made last week. By me. I made the picks. Most of them were right. Here’s how many:

Last week: 27-4 (87 percent). This season: 179-29 (86 percent).

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Chiefs forfeit final two games: Wyoming Indian will forfeit its final two games of the year, as reported by Brady Oltmans of the Casper Star-Tribune on Twitter on Tuesday. The Chiefs were scheduled to play Shoshoni this week and Rocky Mountain in Week 8; they were 1-5 prior to ending the season early.

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With the playoffs a scant couple weeks away, what teams do you see as the ones ready to make a late-season run? Post a comment so we can dig deep into week 7!

–patrick

Post updated 9:01 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017, to reflect Lingle’s playoff possibility.

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