When the 2022 schedule came out, the Dubois Rams knew they had to start their season fast.

After all, Week 2 and the South Conference opener brought defending state champion Snake River to Fremont County. And Week 3 sent the Rams to play at Encampment, last year’s runners-up.

The gauntlet of the second and third weeks will prove to be a testing ground for a team with big aspirations.

It wasn’t that long ago — just back to 2018 — when Dubois went winless. The next season wasn’t much better, as the Rams went 1-7.

But younger players grew, and players even younger entered the program. Bit by bit, victories accumulated, as Dubois went 3-5 in 2020 and 5-5 last season. Last year also brought the program’s first playoff victory since 2014. Success in other sports has accompanied the success on the field — a tribute not only to the football program but to athletics as a whole, coaches and players and community together.

Meanwhile, with the bulk of their players returning, the Rams are counting on a breakout year in 2022. But they have to prove their potential in the next two weeks, that is.

No bigger challenge exists for Dubois than the one the one facing it this week. Snake River was undefeated last season and returns a Class 1A six-man high four all-state selections. The Rattlers started 2022 fast, shutting out Meeteetse 48-0 last week.

Snake beat Dubois 46-0 last year, which served as a reality check for the up-and-coming Rams that they still had work to do.

That leads into this week’s big question: How much better is Dubois? And if anyone is going to threaten Snake River’s chances at another championship, can Dubois be the one to do it?

And if the Rams somehow emerge as six-man’s favorites after knocking off the top-ranked Rattlers, can they muster the same kind of effort to do the same against Encampment next week?

Then again, Dubois has known since last November what kind of challenge the schedule presented and just how important a fast start would be.

For a program on the rise, that kind of challenge is both welcomed and necessary.

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Other games that are creating beeps on my doppler in Week 2:

Cheyenne East and Thunder Basin are both 2-0. East is in the middle of a tough stretch where four of five games are outside Cheyenne; this one is the second of that five-game stretch, with a home game against Laramie sandwiched in between two road games on either side. How East handles this stretch will dictate much of its season, although it started well last week with at road victory at Natrona. …

Time to figure out which 4A 1-1 team is a real contender: Natrona or Cheyenne Central. Should be a good one in the Capital City. …

Evanston has lost two consecutive one-point games. Will the Red Devils shake off the frustration of two losses like that against Riverton — the third of four consecutive road games for Evanston to start its season? …

Both Glenrock and Tongue River looked sharp to start the season. They’ll meet in the 2A East opener, and I’m extremely intrigued by this matchup. With as even as the East could be this year, the winner will be immediately in the discussion for home field — for now. …

The state’s longest active winning streak ended at 20 games last week with Lyman’s 28-0 loss to Bear Lake, Idaho. The Eagles face struggling Pinedale in their 2A West opener, and although the Eagles are still the favorite, how they match up against the Wranglers will tell us a lot about how the two-time defending 2A champs might fare the rest of the season. …

Wyoming Indian looked much improved in its first victory of the season against Guernsey, a game that broke the Chiefs’ 16-game losing streak. Moreover, that victory was Wyoming Indian’s first against a varsity opponent since Sept. 27, 2013, when the Chiefs beat Ten Sleep in six-man. Riverside will put up a bigger challenge, but the Chiefs should come to Basin confident. …

Speaking of losing streaks, Rawlins ended an 18-game losing streak last week by beating Pinedale. The Outlaws step up from 2A to 3A this week by playing Green River… but the Wolves have lost 14 in a row. Can the Outlaws show they can compete at that level, or will the Wolves break their own losing streak at the expense of the Outlaws? …

Star Valley and Sugar-Salem, Idaho, will renew what has become one of the best interstate rivalries in recent memory on Friday. With both teams coming in undefeated, something will have to give. …

Rich County, Utah, ventures into “2A West” play this week against Mountain View, winners against Wheatland last week, in the Bridger Valley. Get to know the Rebels — they’ll be around this side of the state all season long. …

Another out-of-state game that has my interest is Buffalo’s Saturday game with Resurrection Christian from Loveland, Colo. Resurrection Christian has consistently been one of Colorado’s best 2A teams and is jumping to 3A this year. That jump came with scheduling issues, though, as Buffalo is the second of three consecutive out-of-state foes the Cougars have. And the Bison are the closest of the three, by far. Last week, Resurrection Christian hosted — and beat — Orangewood Christian from Florida. Next week, the Cougars travel to Katy, Texas, to play St. John XXIII. It’s one of the most interesting three-week stretches I’ve ever seen on an out-of-state schedule, and the Bison are right in the thick of it.

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On to this week’s picks. Bolded teams are the ones I anticipate winning, but I’m often wrong, and I appreciate teams pointing out to me when they’re better than I think they are. It helps.

Thursday
Class 1A nine-man
Greybull at Shoshoni
St. Stephens at Wind River
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne East
at Thunder Basin
Cheyenne South at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Sheridan
Natrona at Cheyenne Central
Rock Springs at Campbell County
Class 3A
Evanston
at Riverton
Lander at Powell
Rawlins at Green River
Worland at Cody
Class 2A
Big Horn
at Upton-Sundance
Cokeville at Lovell
Glenrock at Tongue River
Lyman at Pinedale
Newcastle at Wheatland
Thermopolis at Kemmerer
Torrington at Burns
Class 1A nine-man
Lingle
at Lusk
Pine Bluffs at Guernsey
Rocky Mountain at Big Piney
Saratoga at Moorcroft
Southeast at Wright
Wyoming Indian at Riverside
Class 1A six-man
Snake River
at Dubois
Interstate
Douglas
at Gering, Neb.
Rich County, Utah, at Mountain View
Star Valley at Sugar-Salem, Idaho
Wood River, Idaho, at Jackson
Saturday
Class 1A six-man
Burlington
at Hulett
Encampment at Farson
Meeteetse at Kaycee
Ten Sleep at Midwest
Interclass
Cheyenne East frosh at Hanna
Interstate
Buffalo at Loveland Resurrection Christian, Colo.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 2” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.

+++

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

Last week: 27-8 (77 percent). This season: 39-11 (78 percent).

+++

Whose Week 1 performance was an aberration and is ready for redemption in Week 2? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

I’ve already talked a lot leading into this season about what fun Class 1A nine-man will be this season, so I won’t belabor it anymore.

This week, the hype can stop and the games can start.

Finally, the fun actually begins.

Prime on the schedule is the showdown between last year’s two conference champions — West champ and eventual state champion Shoshoni and East champ and semifinalist Pine Bluffs.

It’s the game many (including me) thought would be the nine-man championship game last year. And it’s also a reprisal of one of the best-played nine-man games of last year’s regular season, Pine Bluffs’ 34-25 victory against Shoshoni in the Wranglers’ only loss of a championship campaign.

They didn’t get to reprise that game in Laramie after Rocky Mountain upset Pine Bluffs in last year’s nine-man semifinals.

So Week 1 this season will have to do.

A postseason rematch is certainly no guarantee, as the Hornets can attest. Rocky Mountain and Wind River loom large in the West as legit title contenders, while a host of other programs have enough potential to play spoilers’ roles.

Regardless of who picks up the victory in Week 1, this game will be an indicator of just how awesome a season we really might have on our hands in this classification.

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Week 1 is always full of intrigue. Every game will uncover secrets we didn’t understand about the 2022 season until it actually started being played. Nevertheless, some games that are drawing a particular bit of curiosity for me include some under-the-radar choices:

East-Natrona and Thunder Basin-Rock Springs will draw the 4A attention, because all four teams won their openers last week. But the Campbell County-Laramie game might be the most intriguing because both teams, despite losing, had their moments last week. Time to see who might be a spoiler. …

Every 2A game is tough to pick, in part because 2A is such a mysterious classification this year. Many of these are literally coin flips — as in, I actually flipped a coin to pick a potential winner. Hopefully 2A clears itself up a bit after this week. Or not. That’s fun too. …

Hulett is in one of the weirdest situations ever — playing the same team three times in a row. Hulett closed its 2021 season with two games against Dubois, one a Week 8 victory, the next a quarterfinal loss. And guess who Hulett gets in Week 1 of 2022? Yep, Dubois, as the two teams meet in a neutral-site game in Ten Sleep. Off the top of my head, the last time I can remember this happening was when Kelly Walsh played Campbell County three straight times in 2003-04, again in a regular season closer –> quarterfinal –> season opener trio. Can anyone else think of other times when this has happened?

+++

On to this week’s picks. Week 1 picks are tough, but I bold teams I think will win anyway because, well, someone has to win. We don’t allow ties anymore.

Wednesday
Interclass
Cokeville at Smithfield Sky View, Utah, JV (as seen on Twitter)
Thursday
Class 1A nine-man
Moorcroft at Greybull
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni
Wind River at Saratoga
Friday
Class 4A
Campbell County
at Laramie
Cheyenne East at Natrona
Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne Central
Sheridan at Cheyenne South
Thunder Basin at Rock Springs
Class 3A
Douglas
at Jackson
Lander at Green River
Powell at Worland
Riverton at Cody
Class 2A
Kemmerer
at Glenrock
Lovell at Big Horn
Mountain View at Wheatland
Tongue River at Thermopolis
Class 1A nine-man
Big Piney
at Lusk
Lingle at St. Stephens
Southeast at Riverside
Wright at Rocky Mountain
Wyoming Indian at Guernsey
Class 1A six-man
Kaycee
at Hanna
Snake River at Meeteetse
Interclass
Newcastle at Buffalo
Rawlins at Pinedale
Interstate
Evanston at Jordan, Utah
Lyman at Bear Lake, Idaho
Mitchell, Neb., at Torrington
Preston, Idaho, at Star Valley
Yuma, Colo., at Burns
Saturday
Class 1A six-man

Casper Christian at Burlington
Dubois
vs. Hulett (at Ten Sleep)
Ten Sleep at Encampment
Interclass
Kelly Walsh sophs at Midwest
Open: Farson, Upton-Sundance.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 1” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.

+++

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

Last week: 12-3 (80 percent). This season: 12-3 (80 percent).

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Which teams are ready to draw attention their way with a Week 1 victory? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

Zero Week, and Week 1, by default answer more questions than any other weeks during the season.

And this week’s slate is no exception.

Can Lyman keep its state-best 19-game winning streak going against a Malad, Idaho, team that stayed within a touchdown of the Eagles last season?

Can Sheridan start its Class 4A title defense with a victory against an improved Cheyenne Central?

How will Cheyenne South look in its debut under new coach Eli Moody — and how will that debut influence if the Bison can end a 20-game losing streak, the longest active streak in the state, this season?

How will former Jackson coach David Joyce do in his first game as the head coach of Teton, Idaho — against Jackson and new head coach David White?

And how will the 54 teams in action across games, scrimmages and jamborees statewide perform in their first action against someone other than their teammates?

One way or another, the course for the season is set this weekend.

Oddly enough, the game I’m most interested in won’t even be played in Wyoming. Star Valley will be the first Wyoming team to play a game on the blue turf of Boise State University, as the Braves face consistently solid Shelley, Idaho, in Boise. It’s not geographically sensical — it’s a little over two hours from Afton to Shelley but about five and a half hours from Afton to Boise — but that’s OK. The opportunity to play in that stadium is worth it.

Speaking of out-of-state foes, eight out-of-state games are on the schedule this week. Utah’s traditionally early start means a couple of teams playing against Wyoming opponents won’t have those first-game jitters. Evanston’s opponent, Ben Lomond, Utah, is already 1-1; Green River foe Uintah, Utah, is 0-2. Every other out-of-state foe is in the same boat as the Wyoming teams, playing their respective season openers.

+++

On to the picks. The teams in bold are the teams that I think will win. But it’s the opening weekend, so there’s a lot we don’t know, and I’m more liable to be wrong this week than most. That’s fine — and fun!

Friday
Class 4A
Campbell County at Cheyenne East
Cheyenne Central at Sheridan
Cheyenne South at Thunder Basin
Natrona at Laramie
Rock Springs at Kelly Walsh
Class 3A
Riverton at Powell
Interstate
Ben Lomond, Utah
, at Evanston
Jackson at Teton, Idaho
Lyman at Malad, Idaho
Star Valley vs. Shelley, Idaho (at Boise, Idaho)
Torrington at Gering, Neb.
Uintah, Utah, at Green River
Wheatland at Mitchell, Neb.
Saturday
Interclass
Sheridan JV at Tongue River
Interstate
Bridger, Mont.
, at Meeteetse

The rest of the schedule:
Scrimmages and Jamborees
Friday
Big Piney, Cokeville, Kemmerer at Kemmerer jamboree
Buffalo at Lovell
Burns, Glenrock, Mountain View, Rawlins at Rawlins jamboree
Casper Christian at Midwest
Cody, Douglas, Newcastle at Douglas jamboree
Lingle, Pine Bluffs, Southeast at Pine Bluffs jamboree
Lusk, Saratoga, Shoshoni, Wind River, Wright at Casper jamboree
Pinedale at Lander
Thermopolis at Worland
Saturday
Dubois, Encampment, Farson at Encampment jamboree
Natrona sophs at Big Horn
Greybull, Moorcroft, Riverside, Rocky Mountain at Shoshoni jamboree
Open: Burlington, Guernsey, Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, St. Stephens, Snake River, Ten Sleep, Upton-Sundance, Wyoming Indian.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 0” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.

+++

As usual during Zero Week, here is a reminder of the rules I use to determine whether a Zero Week contest is a game or is something else:

  • 1. Was the game played with four 12-minute quarters with normal timing rules?
  • 2. Were officials used? And were normal rules of play instituted for the game?
  • 3. Was score kept?

If these three criteria are met, I call it a game and record it as such on this site.

+++

Which teams are ready to make an impression in the halfway start to 2022? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

Wyoming has never had four teams repeat as state champions in a single season, much less five.

The way 2022 is shaping up, though, it’s a distinct possibility that several of last year’s champs could end up as this year’s champs, too.

Most of the 2021 champions return loads of all-state choices, making them the early favorites in their respective classifications. Those numbers don’t always hold until the end of the following season — transfers, injuries and who knows what else will happen between now and November. But for now, here are the way-too-early top fives in each classification for 2022:

Class 4A
1. Natrona
: A strong group of seniors-to-be has been waiting for this year, and a 4A-high five first-team all-conference returners will help the Mustangs cash in on their potential.
2. Cheyenne East: Like Natrona, East also has five first-team all-conference players coming back in 2022, and a 4A high three all-state players returning will put the T-Birds in the mix immediately.
3. Sheridan: Every 4A discussion has to include the defending champs, who return someone no one else has in Gatorade POY/4A offensive player of the year RB Colson Coon.
4. Thunder Basin: The ‘Bolts get back a pair of first-team all-conference picks and should be competitive thanks to their always solid depth.
5. Cheyenne Central: The Indians had an off year in 2022 but should be bolstered by the return of four first-team all-conference selections.
Wild card: Rock Springs. The Tigers’ run to the 4A title game last year was a blast to watch. But can they do it again after graduating 11 first-team all-conference players and seven all-staters?

Class 3A
1. Cody
: Cody has six returning all-state players. The rest of Class 3A has four combined. That about sums it up… and it makes the Broncs the clear 3A favorites.
2. Douglas: The Bearcats lose a lot but get back four all-conference players, including their QB Jackson Hughes and a pair of key linebackers in Karson Ewing and Luke Skeen.
3. Star Valley: Outside of Cody, Star Valley is the only team in the 3A West to return any all-conference selections. That experience gives the Braves the early edge in chasing down Cody.
4. Buffalo: The Bison get back five all-conference players, most in the East, and WR Blake Bell is the only returning all-state receiver in 3A from 2021.
5. Lander: The Tigers return four all-conference selections and have experience returning in basically every area.
Wild cards: Jackson and Powell. Both of these programs have the ability to reload. That ability will be put to the test in a season where they combine for zero all-conference returners from 15 combined selections.

Class 2A
1. Lyman
: Much like Cody, Lyman has a big advantage in all-state returners. The two-time defending champion Eagles have three, while the rest of 2A has four combined.
2. Torrington: The Trailblazers return three all-conference players from a conference championship team — a good place to start.
3. Wheatland: The Bulldogs should be tough again with their three all-conference picks also coming back, but most of the big offensive weapons have graduated.
4. Cokeville: The Panthers look like one of the strongest teams in the West to challenge Lyman, with four returning all-conference players. But the transition to a new coach will be an adjustment.
5. Lovell: The 2021 runners-up lose a lot but return the Nichols twins to build around on both offense and defense.
Wild cards: Newcastle and Big Horn. Both the Dogies and Rams return three all-conference players, so big things could come from either team if everything lines up.

Class 1A nine-man
1. Shoshoni
: The defending champs return seven of their nine all-state players, experience that will be necessary in an absolutely stacked nine-man field in 2022.
2. Pine Bluffs: The Hornets return the bulk of their contributors and four all-state players, so they will be ready for any challenge that comes their way.
3. Rocky Mountain: The Grizzlies were runners-up last year and have five all-state players coming back — normally the recipe for a title run. But (see above) there’s a lot of competition for that.
4. Wind River: Last year’s Cinderellas return four of their five all-staters and are out to prove last year was no fluke. (Have we mentioned nine-man is gonna be crazy?)
5. Lusk: The Tigers are on the outside looking in right now, but they could be a surprise contender if their younger talent grows around the three all-conference returners.
Wild card: Lingle. The only team in nine-man to return every single one of its all-conference players, Lingle with its four key guys back should be a significantly improved team.

Class 1A six-man
1. Snake River
: The defending six-man champs return four all-state players, so they’re set up well for another deep playoff run and a shot at back-to-back titles.
2. Encampment: Last year’s runners-up get back a pair of all-staters in Quade Jordan and Ryan Miller and should contend in a deep South Conference.
3. Dubois: The Rams return two all-state choices (Wyatt Trembly and Ryan Wells) and have the experience to hold up in close games.
4. Hulett: Last year’s East champs return a couple of all-conference players and benefit from the confidence built by a dominating run through that conference last year.
5. Burlington: The Huskies don’t have a ton of decorated players back but should improve on last year’s mark with Seth Wardell leading the way.
Wild card: Midwest. No team in the rejuvenated North Conference returns as many all-conference players as Midwest does with its three, but none of them will be seniors in 2022.

Who do you have pegged as the teams to beat in 2022? Leave a comment and let’s get into this discussion way earlier than anyone ever should realistically.

–patrick

For the first time since 2012, all five championship games were rematches of regular-season encounters.

And if you wanted to know how the title games went, you didn’t have to look any further than those earlier games.

All five teams that won these matchups in the regular season also won them on Friday and Saturday in Laramie, as Sheridan, Cody, Lyman, Shoshoni and Snake River made it clear their victories earlier this season were no flukes — they were trends.

Sheridan won its second Class 4A championship in three years and its fifth in seven years with an overwhelming offensive performance, beating Rock Springs 45-27. Rock Springs fell behind on the opening kickoff, which Sheridan ran back for a touchdown, and never recovered. The Broncs led 24-7 at halftime and the Tigers never got closer than 16 points in the second half. Compared to Sheridan’s 27-24 victory against Rock Springs in the regular season, this one wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking, but since the W came in Laramie, it generated significantly more excitement.

The Class 3A classic many expected — expectations based on Cody’s last-minute 21-15 victory against Jackson in Week 8 — didn’t develop. But Cody doesn’t mind that at all. Three long pick-sixes from Cody on three consecutive possessions in the second half broke open what had been a close game. The Broncs rode that momentum to a 41-24 victory and a second consecutive state championship and its fourth since 2014. At 11-0, Cody finished with its first undefeated, untied season since 1932.

In Class 2A, points came at a premium. Lyman’s second-quarter score and two-point conversion was enough for an 8-6 victory against 2A West foe Lovell. The game was nothing like the regular-season matchup the two teams had in September, when the Eagles scored points in bunches in a 34-15 victory. Lyman, though, will take that victory any way it can, marking a school-record 19th consecutive time the Eagles have finished with more points than their opponents. It’s the longest active winning streak in Wyoming, and it will continue into 2022.

Shoshoni’s championship in Class 1A nine-man built slowly. The Wranglers scored once each in the first, second and third quarters and had a 19-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter; they held on to beat Rocky Mountain 19-6. For the two West Conference rivals, their meeting in Week 11 was quite similar to their Week 2 game that Shoshoni won 27-10. Shoshoni will take it; the title is the program’s first since 1985. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies finished 9-2, with both losses to Shoshoni.

The Class 1A six-man championship game between Snake River and Encampment, at least in terms of the final score, was nearly identical to the regular-season matchup. Snake River won the championship game and capped an undefeated season with a 65-24 victory; the Rattlers won the regular-season matchup 66-24. The championship game itself was close at halftime, but an inspired Snake River effort on defense in the second half helped the Rattlers win their fourth state championship since 2010 and their second in the past three years.

And that’s how the 2021 season came to a close — familiarly.

+++

Here are the results of my picks from last week, this season and all-time:

Last week: 4-1 (80 percent). This season: 261-50 (84 percent). 17-year overall mark: 4,085-999 (80 percent).

+++

Several pages have already been updated, including the 2021 scores and standings pages, the playoff brackets, the state champions listings, the state championship games and a few others. Individual team pages, scoring records, streaks, all-time standings and everything else I can update with the 2021 games will be updated throughout the day on Sunday.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship. Sponsorships are $20 per year, and they help keep the site running. If you’re interested in sponsoring a page, email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com. A big thank you to all my page sponsors for this year!

–patrick

Post updated at 9:33 a.m. Nov. 14 to correct an error in reporting on Class 4A.

From Sheridan trying to extend its state record of championships to 28 to Encampment trying to win its first in just its third year back, the 2021 Wyoming high school football title games won’t be short on intrigue.

Each of the five championships, back at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie after the 2020 games were at host sites due to COVID-19, has interesting historical perspective.

The Class 3A game between Cody and Jackson is the only rematch from 2020, but Lyman in 2A is also going for a repeat championship. Meanwhile, the two teams in the 1A nine-man title game have never played in Laramie before this weekend, and new champs are guaranteed in 4A, 1A nine-man and 1A six-man.

Here is a quick look at all five championship games:

Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Rock Springs (2, 10-1) vs. Sheridan (1, 10-1)
Series record: Sheridan leads 27-4-2.
Last meeting: Sheridan beat Rock Springs 27-24 on Sept. 17 in Sheridan.
Last playoff meeting: Sheridan beat Rock Springs 35-6 on Oct. 30, 2020, in a Class 4A quarterfinal game in Sheridan.
State championships: Rock Springs seven, most recently in 2002. … Sheridan 27, most recently in 2019.
Previous title game record: Rock Springs, 5-7. … Sheridan, 17-7.
The path to the title game: Rock Springs took care of Kelly Walsh 42-21 in the quarterfinals and thumped Cheyenne East 55-34 in the semifinals. … Sheridan wiped out Cheyenne Central 48-14 in the first round and beat Natrona 38-24 in the semifinals.
The case for the Tigers: The best argument for Rock Springs is a simple one — the best offense and the best defense in Class 4A belong to the same team, and it’s the Tigers. That combination rarely fails. Rock Springs has a diverse offense that gets lots of people involved, and QB Brock Bider takes care of the ball well. And the defense plays consistently, with eight of nine regular-season opponents being held to 18 points or less.
The case for the Broncs: No team is better at creating opportunities for itself than Sheridan. With a turnover ratio of plus-24, the Broncs have consistently put themselves in positions to have success. Colson Coon is a 1,000-yard back and leads Class 4A in touchdowns, and a menagerie of players contribute to an efficient defense. Oh, and something about 27 state championships.
The pick: For some reason, a three-point margin was the margin of choice for several 4A games this year, including five games in the span of three weeks. One of those was Sheridan’s 27-24 victory against Rock Springs. The Broncs had a few things going for them in that game, though, including the big one — the game was in Sheridan. Is a neutral site enough to swing a game those extra points? … Rock Springs 24, Sheridan 21.

Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Jackson (2W, 9-2) vs. Cody (1W, 10-0)
Series record: Cody leads 23-8.
Last meeting: Cody beat Jackson 21-15 on Oct. 22 in Cody.
Last playoff meeting: Cody beat Jackson 34-31 on Nov. 14, 2020, in the Class 3A championship game in Cody.
State championships: Jackson three, most recently in 2007. … Cody six, most recently in 2020.
Previous title game record: Jackson, 3-2. … Cody, 6-5.
The path to the title game: Jackson scored a ton in the quarterfinals to beat Buffalo 75-27 and held on to beat Douglas 28-20 in the semifinals. … Cody eased past Worland 40-7 and nudged out Star Valley 24-17 in the semifinals.
The case for the orange-and-black Broncs: Any conversation about Jackson inevitably starts with the Broncs’ high-octane offense and multiple weapons, as 3A’s top rusher (Brody Hasenack) and passer (Sadler Smith) and three of the top five receivers (Nate Keipert, Colter Dawson, Sam Scott) are in Jackson. But the defense has been more than up to the task, with Dawson’s monster efforts accentuated by players in good schemes around him.
The case for the blue-and-gold Broncs: The defending state champions have won 15 consecutive games going back to last year, seemingly not missing a beat from 2020 to 2021. Class 3A’s second-best offense (behind Jackson) and second-best defense (behind Douglas) has been an unbeatable combination, and the Broncs have done so behind the spread-the-love team approach that has been coach Matt McFadden’s calling card his entire time in Cody.
The pick: The Week 8 classic these two teams staged in Cody isn’t far from either team’s mind, as a Cody touchdown in the waning moments provided the difference in a 21-15 victory. Both teams have had similar playoff experiences — opportunities set up by easy first-round victories were nearly squandered by second-half slowdowns in the semifinals. Regardless, this is the championship matchup, the rematch, we’ve been waiting a whole year to see. It won’t disappoint. … Cody 31, Jackson 28, in overtime.

Class 2A, 10 a.m. Saturday
Lovell (2W, 9-1) vs. Lyman (1W, 11-0)
Series record: Lyman leads 11-10.
Last meeting: Lyman beat Lovell 34-15 on Sept. 17 in Lovell.
Last playoff meeting: Lyman beat Lovell 22-20 on Nov. 10, 2012, in the Class 2A championship game in Laramie.
State championships: Lovell two, most recently in 2011. … Lyman five, most recently in 2020.
Previous title game record: Lovell, 2-5. … Lyman, 5-1.
The path to the title game: Lovell beat Upton-Sundance 21-8 in the quarterfinals and had little trouble with Torrington, winning 35-7 in the semifinals. … Lyman topped Big Horn 42-20 in the first round and knocked out Wheatland 38-28 in the semifinals.
The case for the Bulldogs: Lovell’s offense is one big game of whack-a-mole; when a defense focuses on one, the others can make them look silly. The defense is opportunistic and plays big when it needs to, resulting in the best scoring defense in 2A. And Lovell has won seven in a row since that early loss to Lyman and is looking like an entirely new team.
The case for the Eagles: Put simply: Lyman has won 18 in a row and 22 of 23 the past two seasons. The defending 2A champs are built for efficiency, with QB Ashton Houskeeper leading the team in passing and rushing, Rho Mecham leading the defense in TFLs, sacks and bruised dreams and McKoy Smith being indispensable on both sides. It’s a group that knows how to win, and they keep proving that fact over, and over, and over.
The pick: To find success in 2A, you have to be able to run the ball, and you have to be able to stop the run. So it’s no surprise the top two rushing offenses and the top two rushing defenses are meeting in the title game. Although it would be easy to look at that Week 3 game and decide this is Lyman’s game to lose, Lovell learned a lot from that loss and has been playing lights-out ever since. It’ll be close, and tough, and a struggle, and one mistake could make the difference. … Lyman 26, Lovell 21.

Class 1A nine-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Rocky Mountain (2W, 9-1) vs. Shoshoni (1W, 9-1)
Series record: Rocky Mountain leads 14-13.
Last meeting: Shoshoni beat Rocky Mountain 27-10 on Sept. 10 in Cowley.
Last playoff meeting: Rocky Mountain beat Shoshoni 59-6 on Oct. 23, 1998, in a Class 1A-Division I quarterfinal game in Byron.
State championships: Rocky Mountain four, most recently in 1998. … Shoshoni two, most recently in 1985.
Previous title game record: Rocky Mountain, 4-1. … Shoshoni, 2-0.
The path to the title game: Rocky Mountain dispatched defending champ Southeast 37-22 in the first round and came back to beat Pine Bluffs 30-24 in the semifinals. … Shoshoni shut out Wright 55-0 in the quarterfinals and did the same to Wind River 27-0 in the semifinals.
The case for the Grizzlies: Rocky’s offense keys through QB Carsyn Weber, who leads the Grizzlies in both rushing and passing. The defense is consistent and has multiple players who can make a big play. And after winning eight in a row, including the defending champs (Southeast) and the odds-on, undefeated favorites (Pine Bluffs) in the playoffs, they’re justifiably confident.
The case for the Wranglers: A mid-season, nonconference loss to Pine Bluffs aside, the Wranglers have been in control of every single game they’ve played so far. They haven’t given up a point in the playoffs and boast the classification’s toughest defense and its most opportunistic. Pehton Truempler is a 1,000-yard back, Alex Mills a 1,000-yard passer, and four players are 120-point defensive men. What more do you need?
The pick: Either way, one program will win its first state title this century. The question will be which team — neither of which has ever played in a title game at The War — handles the new surroundings the best. Neither team lacks focus or discipline, and in that kind of matchup, things like depth, execution and momentum are amplified. Closer than Week 2, but a totally different game. … Shoshoni 30, Rocky Mountain 26.

Class 1A six-man, noon Friday
Encampment (2W, 8-1) vs. Snake River (1W, 9-0)

Series record: Encampment leads 2-1.
Last meeting: Snake River beat Encampment 66-24 on Sept. 10 in Baggs.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Encampment zero. …. Snake River three, most recently in 2019.
Previous title game record: Encampment, 0-0. … Snake River, 3-1.
The path to the title game: Encampment whaled on Guernsey 68-0 in the quarterfinals and outlasted Dubois 56-36 in the semifinals. … Snake River overwhelmed Kaycee 62-8 in the first round and barely advanced past Meeteetse 47-46 in the semifinals.
The case for the Tigers: Who doesn’t love the underdog story? From not even existing to state title game in less than four years, Encampment has proven right every hope the community had when it brought the program to life in 2019. They’re deep but also top-heavy; they’re diverse but also specialized. In short, they’re everything a six-man team should be — and they’re in the title game for a reason, not for a fluke.
The case for the Rattlers: Six-man’s most efficient offense (9.6 yards per play) and stingiest defense (3.8 yards per play) on the same team? Makes sense that Snake is unbeaten. The only team to come close to the Rattlers was Meeteetse (twice) and non-playoff Farson; every other victory, including the one against Encampment, hovered past the 40 margin. Health is the big question.
The pick: In a version of the game often defined by offense, the state’s top two defenses will decide the title. To be clear, there will be plenty of offense. Usually at some point in a six-man game, though, one team will make a series of defensive stops to take control of the game’s pace. The problem is when both teams do that at the same time — and both of these Carbon County rivals are capable of that. … Snake River 47, Encampment 37.

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

Last week: 8-2 (80 percent). This season: 257-49 (84 percent).

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This is it — your last chance to say something about the 2021 season before it’s over. Take advantage. Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

If you look up “dynasty” in the dictionary, it does not say: “See also: Sheridan.”

But give it time.

The way things are going, Webster is going to have to make room for the Broncs.

For the 14th consecutive year, Sheridan is in the Class 4A football semifinals.

Only one other program in state history has had the same level of consistency in the playoffs. Cokeville reached 22 consecutive semifinal rounds from 1993-2014 — the only team to exceed Sheridan’s current streak of success.

But Cokeville isn’t Sheridan.

The Broncs compete at Wyoming’s big-school level, constantly facing the best teams the state has to offer. For almost a generation, the Broncs have shown they are up to the challenge.

Eight times in those 14 years, the Broncs have advanced to the state championship game. Six of those times, the Broncs have won it all.

So fortune should favor top-seeded Sheridan when it plays against Natrona in the 4A semifinals on Friday. After all, the Broncs are — get this — 41-2 at home in playoff games all-time, including last week’s 48-14 victory against Cheyenne Central in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

Read that record again. Forty-one. And. Two. Five away from a Tool song.

The “two,” though, might give Natrona some hope. The Broncs’ only two home playoff losses, ever?

  • 2008: Green River. Semifinals.
  • 2013: Cheyenne East. Semifinals.

The only two home playoff losses the Broncs have ever had have come in the 14-year streak, and they’ve come in the semifinals.

Natrona: I’m telling you, there’s a chance.

Against a dynasty at their place, sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

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Sheridan’s semifinal streak isn’t the only one continuing this year — for the fifth consecutive year, streaks to the championship doorstep for Cheyenne East and Cody also continue. Meanwhile, feel-good Wind River broke an 11-year streak of semifinal-less years by beating Lusk last week, and the Cougars’ semifinal road trip, just down the back road to Shoshoni, is significantly shorter than its quarterfinal trip to Niobrara County.

Meanwhile, where’s Upton-Sundance? The Patriots are out after seven straight years of semifinal berths, the longest such streak broken this year.

Six of the 10 games are rematches from the regular season, including both 4A and 1A six-man games. Meanwhile, Lovell and Torrington are facing each other for the first time ever. Rocky Mountain and Pine Bluffs are playing each other for the fourth time, but for the first time the game is in Laramie County (although Byron High did come to Pine for the 1948 six-man championship).

All that said, the semifinals shape up well this year — lots of contenders, a grand total of zero pretenders (legit, in all five classifications) and quite a bit of uncertainty.

This time of year, that’s how it should be.

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Here are the semifinal picks. If you don’t know what bold means by now, then I suggest you come here more often, get acquainted, grab a drink, settle in. We have fun here, and you should be a part of it.

Friday
Class 4A
(4) Natrona at (1) Sheridan: Natrona is tough and confident and will give the Broncs a tussle, but I think they might be a year away. Sheridan’s time is now, and it will show at Homer Scott Field.
(3) Cheyenne East at (2) Rock Springs: I love this matchup so much, and I think the Thunderbirds absolutely have the potential to knock off the Tigers on the road. But Rock Springs is rolling right now, and a 31-15 victory against the T-Birds just two weeks ago in the capital city has to give them confidence.
Class 3A
(2W) Jackson at (1E) Douglas: Douglas looked strong in its quarterfinal victory against Powell. The problem is that so did Jackson in wiping the floor with Buffalo. Any other year, 3A is Douglas’ to claim. But this isn’t any other year in 3A.
(3W) Star Valley at (1W) Cody: The Braves are the wild-card pick in 3A’s semifinal round; after starting 3-5, they’ve won three in a row and are playing as well as anyone. Cody, though, has been at that level all season.
Class 2A
(2E) Wheatland at (1W) Lyman: The annoying thing about Lyman is that the Eagles don’t do anything that stands out. Decent offense, decent defense, decent special teams. But darn if their TEAM isn’t the strongest all-around thing we’ve seen in 2A this year, and darn if they don’t know how to win.
(2W) Lovell at (1E) Torrington: Lovell’s six-game winning streak meets Torrington’s eight-game streak in the “something’s got to give” game. And after the way Cokeville put the fear of the ghosteses into the Trailblazers last week, Lovell could come down to Goshen County and win this one. Torrington’s still the fave, though.
Class 1A nine-man
(3W) Wind River at (1W) Shoshoni: I’ll admit it now: Wind River’s turnaround has been my absolute favorite story of 2021, regardless of classification. They’ve been so much fun. The Wranglers, meanwhile, don’t have time for those shenanigans.
(2W) Rocky Mountain at (1E) Pine Bluffs: If the undefeated Hornets are going to find a bugaboo, it might just be the we’ve-won-seven-in-a-row-but-somehow-we’re-still-under-the-radar Grizzlies who present it to them. In Cowley, it might be a different story, but in the air where you can smell the Nebraska corn, I like Pine.
Class 1A six-man
(4W) Dubois at (2W) Encampment: Dubois will be back — next year, and the following year — to this level. Encampment may be, too. For now, though, Encampment’s first semifinal home game in program history is theirs to take.
(3W) Meeteetse at (1W) Snake River: This scenario is exactly what the Rattlers wanted to avoid. Meeteetse was the only six-man team to actually hang with Snake River this season, eventually falling 29-23. I’ll take unbeaten Snake, but don’t overlook a Longhorn team that knows it can play, and beat, the best six-man has to offer.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Semifinals on the top of the page for this week’s schedule. Click here for a playoff bracket.

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

Last week: 17-3 (85 percent). This season: 249-47 (84 percent).

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Did you make it this far? Prove it. Leave an angry emoji on this week’s Facebook post. As always, you can leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

Now that the regular season has come to an end and the 40 teams are set in their brackets, let’s take a quick look back at the regular season and highlight some teams that surprised, frustrated and grew this season:

Three biggest surprises: Wind River, Wright, Midwest. Zero expectations followed these teams into the 2021 season. Together, they combined for four victories in 2020, and entering 2021 didn’t give much of an indication of how much better each would be. Wind River jumped from 2-5 to 6-2; Wright went from 2-6 to 4-4; Midwest went from 0-8 to 4-4 and hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2013, the longest such streak broken in the first round this year. It’s not so much the leaps forward as how unexpected they were — Wind River had good numbers but a small senior class and a decade of losing seasons, Wright lost every all-conference player from a tough season in 2020, and Midwest was set to rely on a bunch of freshmen. Yet here they are, not only in the playoffs but solid contenders.

Three biggest frustrations: Cheyenne Central, Mountain View, Kaycee. Cheyenne Central and Kaycee, despite being worlds apart, have similar 2021 stories — high expectations after a solid season in 2020 that ended with a frustrating playoff loss, a slow start to the 2021 season, a Week 8 fight just to make it to the playoffs. Neither one expected to be in that kind of situation in August. Mountain View, meanwhile, is out of the playoffs for the first time in a decade after an injury-plagued 1-7 season that just snowballed. Hopefully for each program, 2022 brings brighter days.

Biggest building seasons: Evanston, Newcastle, Kemmerer. These three teams did not make the playoffs, but each made big steps forward as programs from where they were in 2020. Evanston was the feel-good story of the first half of the 3A season before stumbling down the stretch in West Conference play, but the Red Devils still finished 5-4. Newcastle was scrappy and tough and darn near earned a playoff berth before losing by two to Wheatland in Week 8. And Kemmerer, long dormant, got a couple solid victories and played tough otherwise, big steps for a program that exorcised the weight of two consecutive winless seasons during 2021.

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Now, the third season begins.

The 2021 playoff brackets have some familiar faces: Natrona is in the playoffs for the 30th consecutive season, Cokeville the 29th, Big Horn the 23rd, Douglas the 20th. But Dubois is in for the first time in five years, the longest playoff drought broken by any team in any of the five brackets this year.

Some usual suspects aren’t around, though: In addition to Mountain View missing out for the first time in 10 years, Farson is out for the first time in eight years.

Probably the best feel-good story of the first round is in Encampment, where the Tigers are hosting a playoff game for the first time in program history. Encampment has won five in a row and is 6-1 entering the postseason. For a team that’s only three years old, you can’t ask for much more than that — except for maybe the program’s first postseason home victory?

Speaking of which: 20 teams will win this weekend, while 20 other teams will see their seasons come to a close. Which ones will it be? Well, here are some thoughts, with teams I think will win in bold:

Class 4A
(8) Cheyenne Central at (1) Sheridan: The Indians stayed close to the Broncs in the regular season and could make this one interesting, but it’s tough to go against the Broncs at home in a playoff game.
(5) Thunder Basin at (4) Natrona: Natrona did the thing two weeks ago. I don’t know if the ‘Bolts will allow such dominance this time around, but NC’s was an impressive victory, one I can’t ignore.
(7) Kelly Walsh at (2) Rock Springs: The only 4A playoff rematch that wasn’t a close game in the regular season wasn’t close for a reason. The Tigers definitely have the upper hand here.
(6) Campbell County at (3) Cheyenne East: The Camels are a program on the rise, and East knows they will be problematic (see their regular-season matchup for proof). But I still like the defending champs here.
Class 3A
(4W) Powell at (1E) Douglas: It’s too easy to forget just how completely Powell handled Douglas in Week 3 when the Panthers won 17-0. This one might be closer, but Powell should be really confident here.
(3E) Buffalo at (2W) Jackson: Buffalo has had a nice season and will be competitive. But Jackson is thinking bigger than a date with the Bison.
(4E) Worland at (1W) Cody: When these two teams played in the regular season, Worland hung around and lost 35-21. But it wasn’t really that close, and Cody will show that.
(3W) Star Valley at (2E) Lander: The Tigers closed the season strong and won three in a row to earn hosting duties. And a home playoff game will be a nice consolation prize for the third year in a row.
Class 2A
(4E) Big Horn at (1W) Lyman: I’ll be honest: I did not see a repeat of 2020’s success coming for the Eagles in 2021. To the credit of the defending champs, they haven’t repeated 2020 — they’ve been even better.
(3W) Big Piney at (2E) Wheatland: Will the real Wheatland please stand up? If the Bulldogs do, they’ll be fine. If they don’t, the Punchers absolutely have the capability of winning on the road.
(4W) Cokeville at (1E) Torrington: No one likes to see themselves opposite Cokeville in their playoff bracket, especially as the Panthers try to send coach Todd Dayton off right in his final season. Watch for an inspired Panther group to make this a heck of a game.
(3E) Upton-Sundance at (2W) Lovell: Both these teams have been tough, darn tough, all season long. I think neither will go down without a fight. And I still like the Bulldogs at home.
Class 1A nine-man
(4E) Wright at (1W) Shoshoni: The Panthers come into the playoffs having lost three of their last four. A 7-1 Shoshoni team will be ready for whatever Wright tries to throw at them.
(3W) Wind River at (2E) Lusk: Wind River was the team I least expected to see at 6-2, yet here they are. And they may very well pull off this upset. The Tigers are the favorites, though… but only if they bring their “A” game.
(4W) Riverside at (1E) Pine Bluffs: Sorry, but this undefeated train ain’t stopping for the Rebels.
(3E) Southeast at (2W) Rocky Mountain: Game of the week? Quite possibly, as the defending champion Cyclones won’t fall easy and the Grizzlies know it.
Class 1A six-man
(4W) Dubois at (1E) Hulett: Playing the same team in Week 8 as you do in the postseason is always an awkward situation, especially when you know prior to Week 8 that you’re going to play a week later. Who learned what? Rams could be a spoiler…
(3E) Guernsey at (2W) Encampment: This week’s game against Guernsey is the first time the Tigers and Vikings have faced each other, the only such game in any bracket. As noted already, the Tigers have put together an impressive run so far. Encampment should keep rolling.
(4E) Kaycee at (1W) Snake River: The undefeated Rattlers figured out the winning formula early, and they’ve kept with it all season. No reason to think it will stop now.
(3W) Meeteetse at (2E) Midwest: I did not figure the Oilers as playoff hosts this year, and this will be a great boost to their program and their young guns. But Meeteetse is the better team this year.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 8” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule. Click here for a playoff bracket.

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

Last week: 28-4 (88 percent). This season: 232-44 (84 percent).

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Who’s ready to pull a big first-round upset, and who’s read to leave a goose egg on the opponents’ scoreboard as they cruise on to the semifinals? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

The final week of the regular season goes by different names.

Around these parts, though, I call it Spreadsheet Week.

I spend more time on spreadsheets in Week 8 than I do in any other. The myriad playoff scenarios are dizzying, and I need the spreadsheets to make sense of it all.

But honestly, with only 46 teams alive for 40 playoff spots, it’s a little simpler than it seems on the surface.

The simplest scenarios exist for Cheyenne Central, Laramie, Powell, Evanston, Kaycee and Hanna: Win and they’re in. Lose and they’re out. It’s like a bonus playoff game, pigtail games for brackets that we know will already be filled with excitement.

However, only 12 teams — Star Valley, Torrington, Lyman, Pine Bluffs, Lusk, Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Hulett, Snake River, Encampment, Meeteetse and Dubois — know their seeds. That includes the entire 1A six-man West, the only place where certainty has much of a foothold. The other 28 seeds are all in question entering Week 8, and only one first-round playoff matchup (Dubois at Hulett) is certain. In Class 4A, not a single team’s seed is set for sure entering the final week of the regular season (except Cheyenne South, which has been eliminated).

With 20 games this week affecting seeding, that means there are almost 400 ways the brackets could look by the time Saturday’s three games are finished.

That’s where the spreadsheets come in. Week 8 — the one week we can mix jockdom and nerddom and it’s not only OK, it’s encouraged.

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Other games that I’ll be watching a little bit closer than usual:

The biggest game with the lowest stakes is the rematch of last year’s 3A championship between Cody and Jackson, this time in Teton County. I say low stakes because the two top-ranked teams in 3A are both playing some great football right now, and even though the winner gets a conference championship and home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see both of these teams in Laramie, rematching the rematch, in three weeks. A loss here wouldn’t interrupt that. …

Class 4A’s elites meet this week with Rock Springs traveling to Cheyenne East and Sheridan traveling to Thunder Basin. East, Rock Springs and Sheridan are all alive for the No. 1 seed, and Thunder Basin is still dangerous and in the hunt for the No. 2 seed. There’s a lot to sort out at the top, and these two games will do a lot of the shaking. …

For as messy as the 2A East could be (with the potential for an unprecedented four-way tie), the most intriguing game is still Upton-Sundance playing at Big Horn. Both teams have been playing well this season, and no one wants to see them on their side of the bracket in the playoffs. …

Dubois playing Hulett at Ten Sleep was a bonus game added to the schedule when Ten Sleep and NSI gave up the ghost — Ten Sleep for football, NSI for everything. Now, it also serves as a first-round playoff preview, when Dubois will travel to Hulett for the six-man quarterfinals. Safe to say that both teams will probably be holding back on the playbook this week in anticipation for saving the best stuff for next week. But I’m still interested to see who wins this week.

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Picks are here. Can you dig it? Bold means I think that team will win. Because I like to live on the edge, thinking that anything teenagers do is predictable.

Tuesday
Class 2A
Thermopolis at Big Piney (picked on Twitter before Tuesday’s game)
Thursday
Class 2A
Mountain View at Lyman
Class 1A nine-man
St. Stephens at Rocky Mountain
Shoshoni at Riverside
Wind River at Wyoming Indian
Friday
Class 4A

Campbell County at Kelly Walsh
Cheyenne South at Natrona
Laramie at Cheyenne Central
Rock Springs at Cheyenne East
Sheridan at Thunder Basin
Class 3A
Douglas at Worland
Evanston at Powell
Jackson at Cody
Lander at Buffalo
Rawlins at Riverton
Star Valley at Green River
Class 2A
Big Piney at Kemmerer
Burns at Torrington
Lovell at Cokeville
Pinedale at Thermopolis
Tongue River at Glenrock
Upton-Sundance at Big Horn
Wheatland at Newcastle
Class 1A nine-man
Greybull at Lingle
Lusk at Saratoga
Moorcroft at Pine Bluffs
Wright at Southeast
Class 1A six-man
Encampment at Burlington
Midwest at Guernsey-Sunrise
Saturday
Class 1A six-man

Dubois vs. Hulett (at Ten Sleep)
Kaycee at Hanna
Snake River at Farson
Open: Meeteetse.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 8” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

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

Last week: 27-5 (84 percent). This season: 194-40 (83 percent).

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Who do you think is ready to rise up in the final season of the week and surprise us all? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship

–patrick

Of all the games Wheatland could have lost, the Bulldogs sure picked a good one.

Thanks to the schedule, Wheatland’s surprising 18-14 loss to Burns two weeks ago doesn’t stop the ‘Dogs from controlling their own destiny.

That destiny, though, includes this week’s rivalry game with Torrington, a game that will likely decide the top seed from the Class 2A East Conference.

While the loss to Burns ended Wheatland’s unbeaten season, it didn’t end their chances at a conference or state title. Recent history both inside and outside Wheatland’s 2021 experience demonstrates that.

Last year’s 2A champions, Lyman, suffered a similarly surprising midseason loss. The Eagles’ loss came at the hands of Big Piney, which ended up missing the playoffs entirely. But Lyman still earned the West’s top seed and toppled Torrington in the championship game.

Moreover, the last time Wheatland won a state championship — in 2015 — the Bulldogs stumbled to its first loss in Week 8, 28-14 to Big Horn.

Three weeks later, Wheatland was hoisting a state championship trophy, while Big Horn’s season ended in the quarterfinals.

This week’s game against Torrington, which has rebounded from an 0-2 start to win five consecutive games, will go a long way in saying just how much of an aberration the Burns loss was for Wheatland.

The Bulldogs rebounded last week with a closer-than-it-should-have-been 20-14 nail-biter against Tongue River, a team that’s 1-4 in 2A East play. The Trailblazers, meanwhile, have had their share of nervous moments too, beating Upton-Sundance by 10, Newcastle by 13 and Big Horn in double overtime (the same week Wheatland was losing to Burns).

Torrington has dominated this regional rivalry for the better part of a century, and the Trailblazers will be the favorites. They will also have the added incentive of knowing that if they win, they’ll be the top seed from the East, a benefit Wheatland doesn’t automatically get with a victory this week.

What the Bulldogs do have, though, is the same opportunity Torrington has: the chance to have a say in how their season ends.

Fortunately for Wheatland, one loss didn’t stop that.

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Other games that have found a way into my consciousness this week:

Sheridan and Campbell County bring up their old Energy Bowl rivalry this week, which is always fun. But Natrona playing at Thunder Basin promises to be the 4A game of the week. …

Buffalo and Douglas are both 3-0 in the 3A East, and Friday’s winner is likely to be the conference champ (and that’s definitely the case if Buffalo wins). Douglas was the one expected to be here; Buffalo, though, has played the part of a contender well all season long. …

Powell will be a dangerous team in the playoffs. Well, if they can survive long enough to make it there. The Panthers head to Jackson in yet another 3A gamut game, and I’m curious to see how they handle the road trip to the Tetons. …

Both Newcastle and Burns have made tremendous strides this season. But the path to a potential playoff berth goes through the other. The loser of this week’s game between the two programs on the rise will likely signal the end of the postseason dreams for one of them — and that’s too bad. …

Saratoga’s last, best chance to force some chaos into the 1A nine-man East comes in a long road trip to Wright, where the two Panther teams have to go through each other to stay in the race. It’s honestly the hardest game of the week to pick a winner. …

Two other 1A nine-man games will likely decide who gets home playoff games. Southeast/Lusk doesn’t have the luster it had in August (thanks a lot, Pine Bluffs!), but it will still have a lot of intensity. And Wind River/Rocky Mountain is the surprise big game of the year thanks to the Cougars’ shocking 5-1 start — something that looks less flukey by the week. …

It wouldn’t be a Patrick picks post without a mention of the biggest and best rivalry in Wyoming, Kaycee/Midwest, where the Oilers actually have a chance to win in the rivalry for the first time since 2013. Both teams are likely playoff bound, and a home playoff game is still up for grabs in the 1A six-man East. The chase between these two and Guernsey will be fun, if last week’s Guernsey/Kaycee game was any indication. …

This is a make-or-break week in the 1A six-man West, with Encampment hosting Dubois and Meeteetse hosting Farson. One of those four teams won’t be in the postseason, which is hard to believe, because they’ve all proven they can hang with anyone. …

Twelve teams are still winless entering Week 7, and two games (Laramie at Cheyenne South, and Wyoming Indian at St. Stephens) match up winless teams. The 4A matchup is the only one with a possible postseason ramification, but regardless, it gives me a weird sense of satisfaction to know at least two of those 12 teams are getting their first victory this week.

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I pick games every week. This week is no different. Bold means I think they’ll win, but I love a good upset as much as anyone:

Thursday
Class 3A
Evanston at Star Valley
Class 2A
Pinedale at Lyman
Class 1A nine-man
Wyoming Indian at St. Stephens
Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne Central at Rock Springs
Cheyenne East at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Cheyenne South
Natrona at Thunder Basin
Sheridan at Campbell County
Class 3A
Buffalo at Douglas
Cody at Green River
Lander at Rawlins
Powell at Jackson
Worland at Riverton
Class 2A
Big Horn at Tongue River
Cokeville at Big Piney
Kemmerer at Lovell
Newcastle at Burns
Thermopolis at Mountain View
Torrington at Wheatland
Upton-Sundance at Glenrock
Class 1A nine-man
Lingle at Pine Bluffs
Saratoga at Wright
Shoshoni at Greybull
Southeast at Lusk
Rocky Mountain at Wind River
Class 1A six-man
Kaycee
at Midwest
Saturday
Class 1A nine-man
Riverside
at Moorcroft
Class 1A six-man

Burlington at Guernsey-Sunrise
Dubois at Encampment
Farson at Meeteetse
Hanna vs. Hulett (at Midwest)
Interclass
Snake River
at Natrona sophs

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 7” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

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

Last week: 27-3 (90 percent). This season: 167-35 (83 percent).

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We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of the 2021 season. Which teams have been your big surprises this fall, either direction? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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–patrick