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.

+++

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. …

+++

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).

+++

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.

+++

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.

How Big Horn and Upton-Sundance have missed each other the past few seasons defies a convenient explanation.

Big Horn hasn’t played Upton since the two teams played in the 2004 2A championship against each other and hasn’t played Sundance since 2008.

That’s weird. In Wyoming terms, they’re pretty close to each other — it’s 160 miles from Big Horn to Sundance and 147 from Big Horn to Upton. And they’re in the same classification and conference for every single other sport.

Also, the past three years, the schools have been dominant in their respective classifications:

  • In 2014, Big Horn was 10-1; Upton-Sundance was 6-4.
  • In 2015, Big Horn was 7-2; Upton-Sundance was 10-1.
  • In 2016, both programs finished 10-1.

Tally that up, and combined the past three seasons, Big Horn and Upton-Sundance are 53-10. Not too shabby.

However, despite being close in proximity, enrollment and success, the two programs tallied those records in different football classifications — 2A for Big Horn, 1A 11-man for Upton-Sundance.

This year, though, football classification shakeups brought this rivalry back to the fore. Big Horn is in the smallest 11-man division for the first time since playing in Class 1A Division II in 2000. Upton-Sundance, meanwhile, has been in the 1A 11-man ranks for the entirety of its co-op, remaining playoff eligible through a quirk of WHSAA rules that allows co-ops to claim only partial enrollments of schools.

In other words, Big Horn has been the small guy in the big division for a long time, while Upton-Sundance has been the big guy in the small division for a long time.

That changed this year, when Big Horn — after winning the 2A title in 2016 — came back to the 1A ranks and joined Upton-Sundance in the same classification (and the same conference) for the first time in football.

As expected, both teams have continued their streaks of dominance amid the conference restructuring. The Rams are 4-1, the lone loss by a single point in overtime to defending 1A 11-man champ Pine Bluffs and the four victories all by at least 28 points, while the Patriots are 6-0, their closest game last week’s 28-14 victory against Southeast.

In terms of the 2017 season, this game is critical for both programs as the 1A 11-man playoff race finds its form.

In terms of the rivalries that exist between the three schools — and the two programs — the game is more than just an opportunity to gain a better playoff seed. It’s an opportunity to revive a dormant regional rivalry between two programs that have consistently displayed excellence.

+++

Other games that look like they’re halfway decent:

The 3A East showdown between Torrington and Douglas could be for the conference crown. They’re the only two teams in the conference who are still unbeaten in league play. Winning Friday is no guarantee of a title, but the team that wins will be in control of its own destiny. …

The Bridger Valley Bowl is always interesting, full stop. Mountain View has the edge, but in a rivalry game, Lyman could be dangerous. Also, don’t overlook the Sublette County rivalry bubbling between Big Piney and Pinedale. …

The only interclass game of the week has Kemmerer at Lusk, and it could be a tight one. If it was in Kemmerer, maybe I’d go with the Rangers, but with almost 400 miles between the two communities — who are playing each other for the first time, by the way — the edge goes to the home team. …

Oh yeah, it’s rivalry week in 4A. Capital Bowl with East-Central, Oil Bowl with Kelly Walsh-Natrona, Energy Bowl with Sheridan-Gillette… and yet the best game in 4A might be Thunder Basin facing off against Rock Springs. Both teams desperately need this one to keep any dreams of a home playoff game alive. …

+++

On to some picks. As usual, the team I anticipate winning is bolded. Because the reverse of that would just look ridiculous and confusing. I have standards.

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

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

Thank goodness Evanston is off this week. They can’t screw up my picks. They were the *only* team to do so last week. Oh well. Maybe this week I finally have a perfect week in the regular season? Meh. It’s more fun when it’s not predictable.

Last week: 30-1 (97 percent). This season: 152-25 (86 percent).

So what rivalry in Week 6 are you most happy to see — revived or not? Post your thoughts in a comment and let me know!

–patrick

The Rawlins football program is desperate for success.

The Outlaws’ football history is filled with more troughs of frustration than peaks of success; with 471 losses over 93 seasons, Rawlins has lost more games than any other program in Wyoming.

But this season is different.

What Rawlins has done through five games in 2017 already has the Outlaws on track for their most memorable campaign in almost two decades. With its 5-0 start, a record at least at .500 is guaranteed — and that’s something that has happened just twice (1999 and 2000) in the past 30 years of Outlaw football.

This week, the Outlaws will have the chance to show they aren’t just settling for .500.

However, when 5-0 Rawlins hosts 4-0 Douglas on Friday night, the Outlaws will play in unfamiliar conditions. The last time Rawlins as many as five consecutive games was in 1999 and 2000; the Outlaws won their last game in 1999 and then went 9-0 to win the 3A championship in 2000. Prior to that, Rawlins hadn’t won five in a row since winning six straight to open the 1986 season.

Rawlins’ opponent on Friday is in a completely different historical era.

Douglas has won at least five straight games eight different times since 1999, including a 30-game winning streak from 2008-10. And the last 17 times Rawlins and Douglas have played, Douglas has won; Rawlins hasn’t beaten Douglas since the 2001 regular season.

The fact that Rawlins comes into the game not only undefeated but with perhaps a slight edge speaks volumes to what the coaches and players have been able to do since Corey Wheeler took over as head coach in 2014. The former Cheyenne Central star immediately led Rawlins to a 4-5 mark, then slipped back to 2-6 before again finishing 4-5 last year.

Last year’s Outlaws started 4-1 before losing their final four games.

This year’s Outlaws are proving they learned lessons from that frustrating finish.

Slowly but surely, Rawlins’ desperation for success has morphed into an expectation of success.

+++

Other games that might be halfway decent this week:

Beyond Rawlins-Douglas, the other 3A East games are also big this week. After losing to Rawlins last week, Buffalo needs to beat Torrington to keep any hopes for a home playoff game alive. Meanwhile, Lander and Riverton face off in the Fremont County rivalry after both losing last week in their conference openers, meaning both teams will be on edge that much more. …

Star Valley’s trip to Cody might be interesting. Even though the Broncs lost to Green River last week, they’ve proven they have the ability to play close with anyone in 3A, including the top-ranked Braves. But Star Valley has owned this series, winning 10 straight in Cody since the early 1990s. …

The battle of tough nonconference schedules comes to a head in the 2A East when Wheatland (which played three 3A foes in Weeks 1-3) plays Glenrock (which played two 3A foes and top 2A contender Greybull in Weeks 1-3). They both won their conference openers last week. …

Upton-Sundance has a potential trap game this week in its venture to Yoder to play Southeast. The Patriots have Big Horn next week, and if they get caught looking ahead, the Cyclones might be an upset-maker. …

The toughest game of the week to pick may be Lingle at Hanna. Barring a late-season upset of some kind, the winner of this game likely makes the playoffs, and the loser is likely out. That means both teams should feel a little urgency, which can be either a blessing or a curse. …

+++

Here are the Week 5 picks. Winners, or so I think.

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

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

Here’s how well I did last week. This should give some hope to those teams I didn’t bold. I’m wrong often enough to feel good about your chances.

Last week: 26-6 (81 percent). This season: 122-24 (84 percent).

So who’s your boo for Week 5? Who’s ready to spring a big upset? Leave a comment so we can talk about it!

–patrick

Everything — except history — will be on Thunder Basin’s side when the ‘Bolts face Gillette on Friday.

The game will be the first between the new Gillette rivals, the beginning of a rivalry that will likely live for decades and develop its own rich character and flavor.

The short-term football history between the intra-city foes is pretty simple: When the returning seniors and juniors got to choose their school, most of them chose Thunder Basin. Because of that mass migration south, Thunder Basin has a better-than-average chance of ending a streak of bad luck for first-year programs playing intra-city rivals for the first time.

The ‘Bolts are a respectable 2-2; losses to Cheyenne East and Sheridan the past two weeks have slowed their momentum a bit, but they’re still one of the better Class 4A teams in Wyoming.

The Camels, meanwhile, are 0-4, outscored 251-19 while playing with what mostly amounts to a junior-varsity team.

Yes, Thunder Basin will probably win the first “Coal Bowl.” However, while the short-term history might be on Thunder Basin’s side, long-term history is on Gillette’s side: Schools playing an intra-city foe in their first season have had historically bad luck, going 0-5 all-time.

Those losses include:

In 1960, Cheyenne East lost its first game to Cheyenne Central 13-7. (East beat Central 7-6 the next season.)

In 1965, Kelly Walsh lost its first game to Natrona 12-7. (Kelly Walsh first beat Natrona 8-7 in 1969.)

In 2011, Cheyenne South lost its first game to Cheyenne Central 63-0 and its first game to Cheyenne East 49-6. (South first beat Central 31-28 in 2014 and first beat East 31-28 last season.)

And, in 1908, University Prep lost its first game to Laramie 6-5. (Prep never beat Laramie, going 0-10-1 all-time.)

Thunder Basin will probably break this 109-year-old trend. After all, who needs history when you’re barely a month old?

If somehow Gillette pulls this one off, though, we can chalk it up to more than a century of history stacked against the ‘Bolts.

+++

A few other games that have me rubbernecking to check them out:

I didn’t anticipate that the Week 4 game between Rawlins and Buffalo would match up two undefeated teams. But here we are. And the winner might secure home field in the playoffs by late October in what’s turning into a weekly gauntlet in the 3A East. …

Last year’s 2A runner-up, Greybull, is off to a somewhat surprising 1-2 start. That makes Friday’s game against Pinedale — which started 2-0 in conference play — all of a sudden a make-or-break game for the Buffaloes. …

Tongue River travels south to play Pine Bluffs in a rematch of last year’s 1A 11-man title game. That feels like a lifetime ago. Nevertheless, in a competitive 1A 11-man East where only one team has a losing record right now, this is a big one. …

East-Natrona ought to be a good one. Even though East is undefeated, Natrona is still the favorite. I’m sure that will get East fired up. …

I’m curious to see how Cody stacks up on the road against Green River. The Wolves should win, but the Broncs have shown some pluck this season and I think they’ll be tougher than people might anticipate. …

Shoshoni’s been outscored 135-0 this season; Wind River’s been outscored 132-20. Someone will get off the schneid when they play each other; the winner’s likely headed for the playoffs. …

The only interclass game this week (Mountain View at Jackson) is actually really intriguing. Curious to see how the Buffalos do punching above their class against the winless Broncs. …

+++

Picks. Bold for winners. Obviously.

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

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

I pick every game every week. And I tally how well I do. But you knew that, right?

Last week: 27-5 (84 percent). This season: 96-18 (84 percent).

+++

On Rock River: As reported a couple weeks ago, Rock River has decided to forgo its varsity season. Longhorns coach Doug Spriggs said via email to wyoming-football.com this week the Longhorns will play a junior varsity schedule this year. The Longhorns have only six healthy players on their roster right now, Spriggs said; four of those hadn’t played varsity football prior to this season.

“It was not in the best interests of our student athletes or programs future to take on the juggernaut of six-man varsity football given these circumstances,” Spriggs wrote.

Spriggs said Rock River will run its junior high program this season and intends to field a high school varsity team in 2018.

+++

After this week, we’ll be halfway through the season. Who’s been your surprise team so far? Who’s been doing exactly what you expected? Leave a comment and let’s talk!

–patrick

History won’t matter much on Friday night in Big Horn.

About half the time, when a defending state champion plays a defending state champion, the matchups prove to be a year late — at least one of the two teams had its better team in its championship year. The other half of the time, though, the matchup gives us a memorable meeting between two squads eager to prove their success spans multiple seasons.

That is the history facing Week 3 combatants Pine Bluffs at Big Horn, each team a defending champion — Big Horn in 2A last year, Pine Bluffs in 1A 11-man.

Friday’s game will be the 23rd time in state history two defending Wyoming state champions face off against each other. In about half of the 22 previous defending champion showdowns, at least one of the teams went on to win another state championship.

The most memorable state champ vs. state champ series of games came right around the turn of the century, with three games involving the same two programs. In 2000, Lusk and Southeast played each other as defending 2A and 1A champs, respectively. Lusk won easily, but both teams went on to win their respective state championships. A year later, they played twice — this time as 2A rivals — and Southeast won both rematches, including the one in the state championship game.

Similarly, in both 1953 and 1954, defending Class AA champ Sheridan played defending Class A champ Worland. In 1953, Sheridan won 18-0, and both teams went on to win titles; in 1954, the Warriors beat the Broncs 14-12, later winning yet yet another Class A championship.

Southeast also played Guernsey-Sunrise twice in 2007 when both were defending champions; the second time they met was in the 1A championship game.

Oddly enough, Kemmerer played TWO defending state champions in 2008. Kemmerer, the defending 3A champ, played defending 4A champ Jackson and defending 2A champ Riverside that season. Kemmerer won both.

Nineteen of the 22 champ vs. champ games were regular-season games; the aforementioned 2A title game in 2001 and 1A title game in 2007, as well as a 1991 Class 1A 11-man semifinal between defending 1A-11 champ Cokeville and defending 1A nine-man champ Lingle, were the only times two defending state champions faced each other in the postseason.

The defending champ vs. defending champ games, with the year of the game, the winner and the score:

Worland/Sheridan 1953, Sheridan 18-0 (both went on to win state titles)
Worland/Sheridan 1954, Worland 14-12 (Worland went on to win state title)
Powell/Sheridan 1958, Sheridan 21-14 (Sheridan went on to share state title)
Cody/Laramie 1959, Cody 12-6
Cody/Green River 1977, Cody 41-20
Mountain View/Cokeville 1985, Mountain View 28-0
Big Piney/Cokeville 1989, Cokeville 36-14 (Cokeville went on to win state title)
Cokeville/Lingle 1991, Cokeville 31-6
Sheridan/Cody 1992, Sheridan 28-18 (Sheridan went on to win state title)
Big Piney/Cokeville 1999, Big Piney 22-6
Southeast/Lusk 2000, Lusk 40-0 (both went on to win state titles)
Southeast/Lusk 2001, Southeast 21-7 and Southeast 14-7 (second meeting in state title game)
Big Piney/Cokeville 2002, Cokeville 25-12 (Cokeville went on to win state title)
Glenrock/Big Horn 2004, Big Horn 49-6 (Big Horn went on to win state title)
Sundance/Upton 2006, Sundance 17-0
Southeast/Guernsey-Sunrise 2007, Southeast 30-12 and Southeast 28-12 (second meeting in state title game)
Jackson/Kemmerer 2008, Kemmerer 39-0
Kemmerer/Riverside 2008, Kemmerer 51-6
Glenrock/Burns 2009, Glenrock 49-13
Mountain View/Cokeville 2015, Mountain View 18-15

We’ll have to wait until the postseason to figure out if Friday’s Pine Bluffs-Big Horn showdown is a classic in the making or a game that came a year too late.

History aside, we already know the game is important for 2017: Both Big Horn (which moved to 1A 11-man from 2A after last season) and Pine Bluffs enter Friday’s game at 2-0. This meeting is key for playoff seeding and the East Conference championship race.

Even in this moment, though, we can appreciate the relative rarity of aligning circumstance that provides this game’s backdrop, no matter what history’s judgment ultimately is.

+++

Every game in Week 3 has my attention, but some games have my attention more than others:

The best game of a lackluster 4A slate might be Rock Springs visiting Kelly Walsh. Both teams are 2-1 and already jockeying for playoff seeding. …

It’ll be interesting to see if the first meeting between Sheridan and Thunder Basin carries with it the same intensity of an Energy Bowl game between Sheridan and Gillette. Do we have a budding new rivalry, or will the change actually take some of the life out of the Sheridan-Gillette rivalry? …

It’s nice to see the Star Valley-Evanston rivalry back on the schedule. This game will be their 90th meeting, and that much history counts for a lot. …

I think Glenrock has what it takes to knock off Riverton. The Herders, No. 1 in 2A, beat 3A foe Lander with relative ease last week. Riverton’s a step up, and the game is in Fremont County, and it’ll be close, but I like what the Herders are putting together this season. …

The second-best interclass game might be between aforementioned Lander playing 2A Thermopolis. The Bobcats have been much improved, surprising everyone but themselves in the process. They might give the 3A Tigers a fight at LeRoy Hayes Field. …

Don’t be surprised to see Big Piney give Greybull a run for its money. The Punchers almost beat Mountain View last week and should be a confident bunch heading north this week. …

Upton-Sundance is the favorite against Lusk, but the Tigers should feel good about their 2-0 start. They’ve been impressive, especially on defense. We’ll see if they can slow down a Patriot attack that’s rolling early this season, though. …

Also, this will be the first game for the U-S Patriots in Sundance since 2014, as the squad christens the new field (with lights!) in that community. A new elementary school went on top of the old football field, so it only makes sense a new football field would go on top of the old elementary school. …

The showdown between Guernsey-Sunrise and Midwest could be for a home playoff game this year. I’m going with the Vikings, but it’s a really tentative pick, especially with the Oilers at home. …

The hardest game of the week to pick was Hanna-Hulett. I have no idea what to expect. …

Oh yeah. Rawlins-Wind River. How did this game get scheduled again? …

Here are this week’s picks, with the team I think will win in bold and the team I’m ready to have surprise me in regular type:

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

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

I pick every game every week. And I tally how well I do. But you knew that, right?

Last week: 30-3 (91 percent). This season: 69-13 (84 percent).

So who do YOU have as a potential sleeper for Week 3? What game do you think will be the best of the bunch? Leave a comment below and let’s talk September football.

–patrick

Two of the most highly anticipated games of 2017 will be played on Friday.

One matches up the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in Class 4A, the other matches up the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in Class 3A.

Can’t get much better than that, can it?

Let’s start in 4A, where Natrona and Sheridan renew their longstanding rivalry with one of their most highly anticipated regular-season games in their long history. In addition to being the top two ranked teams at this point in the season, they’re also reprising their state title game from a year ago when Sheridan beat Natrona 56-28 in Laramie.

Sheridan’s presence in the title game wasn’t a surprise. The Broncs were the defending champs and had been the class of 4A all season in 2016.

Natrona’s was. The Mustangs lost by shutout in their first two games of 2016 — the first time the program had ever been shut out in consecutive games to start a season — but a junior-laden team improved significantly throughout the season and upset Gillette to make it to the title game.

Friday’s game could be a classic. Natrona lost little to graduation and is ready to unseat Sheridan as 4A’s top team. Sheridan lost more to graduation than Natrona did but remains 4A’s two-time defending champ and plenty loaded itself.

In the first four games of the season, Sheridan and Natrona are a combined 4-0, outscoring their foes by a combined 226-13. Yeah, 226-13.

For both teams, this is their first, and maybe biggest, test of 2017.

+++

Meanwhile, a similar scenario is unfolding in Class 3A, where Torrington makes the 1,000-mile round-trip across the state to Afton to play top-ranked Star Valley.

This will be the first time Star Valley and Torrington have played each other in the regular season. And, boy, did they pick the right year to do so.

The Braves, like Sheridan, are a two-time defending champion. Torrington, however, has been a perennial contender the past few years but has yet to survive the gauntlet of the 3A playoffs to reach a title game.

In 2014, the Trailblazers lost to conference foe Douglas in the semifinals. In 2015, the Braves beat the Trailblazers in Torrington in the semifinals to end their season. And in 2016, Green River came to Torrington and beat the Blazers at home in the quarterfinals.

But Torrington was junior-heavy last year, and only one of the Trailblazers’ seven all-state players graduated. In short, Torrington is loaded this year, and they’re ranked third in 3A (and second in my ballot).

The Trailblazers wasted no time in smoking rival Wheatland 56-6 in Week 1. Star Valley, meanwhile, has beaten a pair of stubborn out-of-state foes in diverse ways: 55-42 against Spring Creek, Nevada, and 28-14 against Preston, Idaho.

Both teams want to prove they’re the team to beat in 3A. And they both want a mental edge against the other, just in case they meet again as expected in Laramie.

Any other week, it would be the biggest game in the state.

+++

Even though there are 33 games on the schedule this week, a few of them are more intriguing than the others. These are those:

I picked both Buffalo and Worland to lose last week. They both won. Now they’re playing each other. Someone’s going to be 2-0, and whichever team wins on Friday will have established a ton of momentum. …

Thunder Basin-East could be interesting if for no other reason than East has looked much better than I anticipated while Thunder Basin has been a bit slow to warm. Even so, both teams are 2-0, and trying to keep pace with Sheridan and Natrona will be a season-long process. …

Cody-Evanston could be for a playoff spot by the time the 3A West cools down. …

Big Piney looked sharp in beating Wind River last week. Against Mountain View, we’ll see if the Punchers are for real. …

The undercard game of the week could be Newcastle playing in Upton against Upton-Sundance. Or it might be Pinedale (which looked WAY better than I expected in beating Lyman last week) heading to Cokeville. Both games pair 2A schools playing on the road against 1A 11-man schools, and I always like it when the little guys have home-field against the big guys. …

On to this week’s picks, with the teams I anticipate winning noted in bold and the teams I anticipate doing better than I think in non-bold:

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

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

My Week 1 picks went how Week 1 picks typically go — a few more surprises than usual. Nevertheless, I did OK:

Last week: 26-7 (79 percent). This season: 39-10 (80 percent).

Who are the teams you think have a chance to pull off a Week 2 upset? Who are the favorites who are ready to avoid such an upset? Leave a comment and we’ll talk about all the fun this week presents us.

–patrick

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