You know what we’re here for — a breakdown of this week’s title games. So why put that off any longer?
Class 2A, noon Friday
Mountain View (1W, 10-0) vs. Buffalo Bison (1E, 10-0)
Series record: Buffalo leads 4-3.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Buffalo beat Mountain View 43-18 in the Class 2A championship on Nov. 10 in Laramie.
State championships: Mountain View five, most recently in 2017. … Buffalo six, most recently in 2018.
Previous title game record: Mountain View, 5-7. … Buffalo, 6-10.
The path to Laramie: Mountain View whitewashed Wheatland 72-0 in the quarterfinals before thumping Burns 56-12 in the semifinals. … Buffalo fought past Lovell 28-6 in the first round and outlasted Thermopolis 45-22 in the semifinals.
The case for the Buffalos: My goodness, Mountain View has been on a tear this season. The Buffs haven’t been in a single close game this year and have outscored opponents more than tenfold, 525-37. Their diverse offense can beat you in a thousand different ways; their defense allows fewer than 100 yards per game. For a senior class who knows its way around War Memorial (in its third consecutive title game) and knows its way to victory, a championship makes a lot of sense.
The case for the Bison: Knock, knock. Hi. Buffalo is the defending 2A champs. The Bison have won 20 games in a row. Rowen Ruby has been all but unstoppable at running back with 1,699 yards. The defense has bent a bit but hasn’t broken. And when they’ve been pushed, as they were both early in the season and in the playoffs, the Bison pushed back — and kept on winning.
The pick: Last year’s game ended up being great for Buffalo, not so great for Mountain View. If nothing else, this game should be a better game — but the Buffalos have shown all season they’re ready for a different result. … Mountain View 34, Buffalo 28.
Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Powell Panthers (4W, 7-4) vs. Star Valley Braves (1W, 11-0)
Series record: Star Valley leads 29-13.
Last meeting: Star Valley beat Powell 36-0 on Oct. 4 in Afton.
Last playoff meeting: Star Valley beat Powell 28-10 on Nov. 11, 2016, in the 3A championship game.
State championships: Powell eight, most recently in 2013. … Star Valley 11, most recently in 2018.
Previous title game record: Powell, 6-3. … Star Valley, 10-10.
The path to Laramie: Powell won a pair of road games, beating Lander 41-14 in the first round and Park County rival Cody 20-13 in the semifinals. … Star Valley won a pair of games at home, topping Douglas 45-12 in the first round before beating Jackson 42-21 in the semis.
The case for the Panthers: In short, #ethanstrong. To be honest, Powell’s 5-4 regular season was nice but easily forgettable. But the Panthers have gone to another level in the playoffs. Attribute that to any number of reasons, sure, but the emotion of playing for someone who can’t has to be in the back of the mind not only of everyone in uniform, but everyone on Powell’s side of the field.
The case for the Braves: Star Valley has the favorite to win the 2019 3A title since about halfway through the 2018 season. Deep, talented, experienced… what more could you want? The Braves lead 3A in yardage defense and scoring defense; they control the pace of the game; they get stronger, not weaker, as games move along. Even with plenty of individual talent, it’s the Braves’ team chemistry that really sets them apart.
The pick: The emotional pick is for Powell to complete its incredible run. The logical pick is for Star Valley to complete its incredible run. Either way, whoever wins this game will absolutely, positively deserve it after a season that’s been memorable for divergent reasons, leading to the same concluding point. … Star Valley 35, Powell 20.
Class 1A six-man, 10 a.m. Saturday
Hanna Miners (1E, 10-0) vs. Snake River Rattlers (1W, 9-0)
Series record: Snake River leads 8-7.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Snake River beat Hanna 75-13 on Oct. 27, 2017, in a 1A six-man quarterfinal game in Hanna.
State championships: Hanna three, most recently in 1989. … Snake River two, most recently in 2011.
Previous title game record: Hanna, 3-3. … Snake River, 2-1.
The path to Laramie: Hanna’s offense took care of business in the playoffs, rolling up big numbers in beating Meeteetse 73-36 in the first round and Lingle 92-58 in the semifinals. … Snake River shut down Kaycee 59-0 in the quarterfinals and did the same to Hulett 61-0 in the semis.
The case for the Miners: The offense is diverse and can score seemingly at will. With 34 points in the title game, Hanna will set the record for highest scoring offense in state history, topping Farson’s 71.82 ppg from last season. Senior twins Conor McGraw and Shane McGraw are both over 1,000 rushing yards for the season, and Shane McGraw has thrown for more than 1,000, too. The defense hasn’t always been perfect, but, hey, 10-0 is 10-0.
The case for the Rattlers: Nine games. Zero points allowed. That’s what Snake River’s defense has done this year. That record-setting pace is unheard of, but at six-man? That’s just banana pants crazy. And the offense? Super efficient, with Riggen Myers consistently breaking defenders’ hearts, and ankles.
The pick: Yes, everyone will look at the Miners’ offense vs. the Rattlers’ defense, and that might be the most fun matchup to watch this weekend. But this game may be decided by the Rattlers’ offense vs. the Miners’ defense, and that’s where Snake River has the edge. … Snake River 50, Hanna 38.
Class 1A 11-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Cokeville Panthers (1W, 10-1) vs. Big Horn Rams (1E, 10-0)
Series record: Series tied 3-3.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Big Horn beat Cokeville 56-3 on Nov. 10, 2018, in the 1A 11-man championship in Laramie.
State championships: Cokeville 22, most recently in 2014. … Big Horn six, most recently in 2018.
Previous title game record: Cokeville, 21-7. … Big Horn, 6-10.
The path to Laramie: Cokeville held off Wright 20-16 in the first round and held strong to beat Upton-Sundance 16-7 in the semifinals. … Big Horn rolled through Wind River 82-0 in the first round and beat Southeast 48-7 in the semifinals, both at home.
The case for the Panthers: I’ve heard rumors that UW will install a third locker room at War Memorial — one for home teams, one for visiting teams, and one for Cokeville. Because the Panthers have made trips to title games a habit over the past four decades. Who else but Cokeville would you expect in this game? Even with a team that started inexperienced, decimated by graduation, Todd Dayton and the Panthers have lost only to 2A Mountain View and blown out almost everyone else behind a surprisingly diverse offense and a defense that can stand up to pretty much anyone.
The case for the Rams: Where to start? Big Horn racks up more yards and more points than anyone in 1A 11-man, and it’s not even close. The Rams also allow fewer yards than anyone in 1A 11-man. Can’t get much better than that. Oh, and they beat Cokeville in last year’s championship by 53 freakin’ points — one of 21 consecutive victories, Big Horn’s longest in program history and the longest active winning streak in the state.
The pick: No one’s winning this by 53. But Big Horn is still the favorite, and Cokeville will need to play not just flawless to win — the Panthers will have to create opportunities they didn’t even know existed. The Rams won’t allow that. … Big Horn 38, Cokeville 21.
Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Sheridan Broncs (2, 10-1) vs. Thunder Basin ‘Bolts (1, 11-0)
Series record: Series tied 2-2.
Last meeting: Thunder Basin beat Sheridan 37-30 on Sept. 20 in Gillette.
Last playoff meeting: Sheridan beat Thunder Basin 14-7 on Nov. 2, 2018, in a 4A semifinal in Gillette.
State championships: Sheridan 26, most recently in 2017. … Thunder Basin zero.
Previous title game record: Sheridan, 16-7. … Thunder Basin, 0-0.
The path to Laramie: Sheridan put up a pair of 62s, beating Kelly Walsh 62-14 in the quarterfinals and Cheyenne Central 62-35 in the semifinals. … Thunder Basin played in a pair of tight games, beating crosstown rival Gillette 24-20 in the quarterfinals before topping Cheyenne East 27-21 in the semifinals.
The case for the Broncs: This is familiar territory for Sheridan. Since the title games moved to Laramie in 2009, the Broncs have won five championships and finished as runners-up twice, and this is their fifth title game appearance in a row. Led by Garrett Coon, their rushing game is strong; the rush defense, though, could be even stronger — and that sets up well for success in mid-November.
The case for the ‘Bolts: To be honest, a lot of the ‘Bolts’ success may ride on Mason Hamilton’s shoulders — er, shoulder, which he injured in last week’s semifinals. With him in the first half, Thunder Basin scored 27 points; without him in the second half, zero. If he can go, watch out. If he can’t, the ‘Bolts will need to rely on its defense (tops in 4A in yards allowed, by the way) to complete an undefeated season and win the program’s first 4A title.
The pick: The last game of the weekend should be the closest of the weekend. Both teams have defenses upon which they can rely. And both have offenses capable of controlling the clock AND striking for fast scores. I really like how Sheridan is looking right now, though, and as the underdogs, they have a little less pressure on them. … Sheridan 28, Thunder Basin 27.
Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:
Last week: 8-2 (80 percent). This season: 245-57 (81 percent).
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