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!