Here’s a quick look at broad playoff scenarios entering Week 7 of the 2019 Wyoming high school football season:

Class 4A
In: Thunder Basin, Sheridan, Cheyenne East, Natrona, Cheyenne Central, Rock Springs.
Neither in nor out: Cheyenne South, Gillette, Kelly Walsh, Laramie.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yep. Thunder Basin can earn the No. 1 seed with a victory against Kelly Walsh.
Break it down for me: The bottom four teams in 4A are all 1-6, chasing the final two playoff seeds. Gillette is probably in the best position to control its own destiny, as the Camels face South and Kelly Walsh while the other three schools play at least one team from the top six (and Laramie plays a pair) in the final two weeks.

Class 3A East
In: Lander.
Neither in nor out: Douglas, Riverton, Worland, Rawlins, Torrington.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Only if Lander beats Douglas and Torrington upsets Worland; if so, then Lander will be the top seed.
Break it down for me: Rawlins and Torrington are both 0-3 and play each other in Week 8. They both need victories in Week 7 to stay alive. Meanwhile, Douglas, Riverton and Worland are all fighting it out at 2-1.

Class 3A West
In: Star Valley, Cody.
Neither in nor out: Jackson, Powell, Green River, Evanston.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It WILL be decided this week; the winner of Friday’s game between Star Valley and Cody will be the West’s No. 1 seed.
Break it down for me: After the top seed, a lot is up in the air with Jackson, Powell and Green River all 1-2 and Evanston still in it at 0-3 but needing some help. Powell and Green River play each other this week, and that will kickstart the sorting process.

Class 2A East
In: Buffalo.
Neither in nor out: Thermopolis, Burns, Wheatland, Glenrock, Moorcroft, Newcastle.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It’s already decided; Buffalo is the East’s top seed.
Break it down for me: I’ve already talked about how crazy the 2A East is. Thermopolis, Burns and Wheatland are in the best shape to reach the postseason, and Glenrock, Moorcroft and Newcastle (all 1-3) will need some victories and some help to sneak in.

Class 2A West
In: Mountain View, Big Piney.
Neither in nor out: Lovell, Lyman, Pinedale, Greybull, Kemmerer.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Sure can be; Mountain View earns the top seed by beating winless Kemmerer this week.
Break it down for me: Kemmerer has the most difficult climb; at 0-4, the Rangers need to beat No. 1 Mountain View this week and get some help to tie the right teams to force a tiebreaker. Beyond that, the rest of the conference is a big, muddled mess right now as four other teams chase two spots.

Class 1A 11-man East
In: Big Horn, Upton-Sundance.
Neither in nor out: Southeast, Wright, Lusk, Pine Bluffs.
Out: Tongue River.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Big Horn would win the top seed by defeating Lusk paired with a Southeast loss to Wright; otherwise, it’ll be decided in Week 8.
Break it down for me: In the chase for the final two playoff spots, Southeast and Wright are most comfortable, at 3-1 and 2-2, respectively. That leaves Lusk and Pine Bluffs, both at 1-3, trying to leap ahead of Wright for the fourth spot. Lusk and Pine Bluffs play each other in Week 8, and they’ll both need upsets in Week 7 (Lusk over Big Horn, Pine Bluffs over Upton-Sundance) to keep pace with the Panthers. And Wright holds the tiebreaker over both of them.

Class 1A 11-man West
In: No one.
Neither in nor out: Everyone.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Simply, no.
Break it down for me: This conference is a bit tricky, as Cokeville and Wyoming Indian don’t play each other this season. But Shoshoni is in position to be the No. 2 seed behind the Panthers, and Rocky Mountain and Wind River are potentially Nos. 3 and 4… unless upsets happen, like they did last year.

Class 1A six-man East
In: Hanna, Hulett.
Neither in nor out: Lingle, Kaycee, Guernsey, NSI.
Out: Midwest.
Ineligible: Saratoga.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Sure can; Hanna will be the top seed with a victory against Kaycee in Week 7.
Break it down for me: The chase for the final two spots really boils down to Lingle, Kaycee and Guernsey. Lingle is in a better spot, being 3-2 to Kaycee and Guernsey’s 2-3. This week’s Lingle-Guernsey game will be crucial. Meanwhile, NSI is the longest long shot, needing victories in the final two weeks and a LOT of help just to force a tiebreaker.

Class 1A six-man West
In: Snake River.
Neither in nor out: Farson, Burlington, Meeteetse, St. Stephens, Dubois.
Out: No one.
Ineligible: Riverside.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It’s already been decided — Snake River will be the top seed out of the West.
Break it down for me: Farson at 3-1 needs only one win to secure a playoff spot. After that, Burlington at 2-2 and Meeteetse at 2-3 are in the best positions for the postseason. St. Stephens at 1-3 needs an upset or two, while Dubois at 0-4 REALLY needs some victories and some help, although the Rams still mathematically alive.

–patrick

Some big changes were coming to the Wyoming football landscape in 2020, with or without shifts due to reclassification.

But reclassification in and of itself will bring some changes, as well.

With Class 1A 11-man football changing to nine-man next fall, several schools have petitioned to opt up to Class 2A to keep the 11-man version of the sport going at their school. Between petitions and enrollment changes, as many as 12 schools could play football in a different classification next fall.

With the reclassification numbers released to schools by the Wyoming High School Activities Association during the organization’s district meetings this month, some schools will have easier decisions than others.

Before we dive into the breakdowns for each sport, let’s take a look at the “Average Daily Membership” numbers — projected grade 9-12 enrollment numbers — that the WHSAA will use for enrollment-based classification:

1. Kelly Walsh, 1,996.72
2. Natrona, 1,943.63
3. Rock Springs, 1,642.46
4. Cheyenne East, 1,513.53
5. Cheyenne South, 1,492.05
6. Cheyenne Central, 1,410.04
7. Campbell County, 1,289.55
8. Thunder Basin, 1,238.04
9. Laramie, 1,159.28
10. Sheridan, 1,093.16
11. Jackson, 869.91
12. Evanston, 846.25
13. Star Valley, 816.05
14. Green River, 764.81
15. Riverton, 748.15
16. Cody, 619.23
17. Powell, 586.88
18. Lander, 559.10
19. Douglas, 543.84
20. Rawlins, 473.09
21. Worland, 442.94
22. Buffalo, 356.91
23. Torrington, 352.13
24. Pinedale, 341.15
25. Wheatland, 282.30
26. Mountain View, 275.54
27. Newcastle, 262.35
28. Lyman, 237.37
29. Burns, 229.00
30. Lovell, 226.03
31. Thermopolis, 213.29
32. Kemmerer, 188.70
33. Moorcroft, 188.08
34. Glenrock, 182.35
35. Tongue River, 174.00
36. Big Piney, 160.72
37. Greybull, 147.59
38. Wyoming Indian, 146.95
39. Rocky Mountain, 129.86
40. Big Horn, 127.86
41. Wind River, 127.01
42. Wright, 126.78
43. Sundance, 123.11
44. Shoshoni, 122.63
45. Pine Bluffs, 112.46
46. Lusk, 90.67
47. Riverside, 87.27
48. St. Stephens, 82.74
49. Saratoga, 82.62
50. Lingle, 78.54
51. Cokeville, 77.41
52. Southeast, 76.77
53. Burlington, 76.41
54. Guernsey-Sunrise, 69.39
55. Upton, 66.68
56. Normative Services, 65.00
57. Hanna, 62.87
58. Midwest, 61.00
59. Farson, 57.90
60. Hulett, 56.57
61. Kaycee, 52.82
62. Snake River, 51.40
63. Fort Washakie, 49.93
64. Encampment, 43.44
65. Dubois, 42.79
66. Arapaho Charter, 40.01
67. Meeteetse, 34.50
68. Arvada-Clearmont, 31.06
69. Ten Sleep, 31.04
70. Rock River, 27.67
71. Glendo, 16.42
72. Chugwater, 7.65

Here’s a quick look at how reclassification will likely affect each sport (with football’s changes noted at the end of this post):

BASKETBALL, VOLLEYBALL, TRACK (16-16-16-rest): The only likely change in 3A comes in the Southwest. Kemmerer and Big Piney will switch places, with Kemmerer moving up to Class 3A and Big Piney down to Class 2A.

The only other anticipated change comes with St. Stephens and Southeast, as St. Stephens jumps to 2A and Southeast moves down to 1A.

In 2A, it’s probable (and at this point, my conjecture) that Wright will move to the SE District to take Southeast’s place, Tongue River will move to the NE District to take Wright’s place, and St. Stephens will slide into the NW to fill Tongue River’s spot.

No changes are anticipated for 4A in these sports.

CROSS COUNTRY, GOLF, SWIMMING, WRESTLING (12-16-rest): These three-class (cross country, golf, wrestling) and two-class (swimming) sports will likely see only one change. Jackson and Green River will swap spots in Class 4A, with Jackson moving up and Green River moving down.

SOCCER (14-rest): Soccer will see no classification changes prompted by enrollment.

OTHER SPORTS: Wyoming’s remaining sports have only one classification, which makes this discussion moot to them.

Laird said no other schools or programs in any sports except for football have put forth opt-up or opt-down requests to the WHSAA. However, football has prompted plenty of such requests. … And that brings us to…

FOOTBALL (10-12-14-14-rest): Purely by enrollment differences, several schools will change classifications for 2020.

  • Buffalo and Torrington will flip-flop their spots, with Buffalo moving back to 3A and Torrington to 2A.
  • Tongue River and Greybull will also trade, with Tongue River moving to 2A and Greybull to 1A.
  • Lingle and St. Stephens will be classified as nine-man programs by enrollment and move up.
  • Riverside and Saratoga, currently opting down to play six-man schedules, are scheduled to move to the nine-man division.
  • Southeast will be classified as a six-man school by enrollment (but has requested to opt up).

Then it gets messy, as teams opt up from nine-man (or six-man) classifications to remain 11-man programs.

Five schools — Big Horn, Cokeville, Upton-Sundance, Southeast and Moorcroft — have submitted opt-up or opt-down requests to the WHSAA, WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird said via email to wyoming-football.com on Tuesday.

With nine-man’s start at the 1A level, two programs — Big Horn and Cokeville — have asked the WHSAA to opt up from nine-man to 2A, with Upton-Sundance also joining 2A per its co-op. Additionally, Southeast has requested to opt up from six-man to nine-man.

Meanwhile, Moorcroft has asked to opt down from Class 2A to Class 1A nine-man. Laird said officials from Moorcroft are scheduled to address the WHSAA board next week to ask for playoff eligibility.

If all opt-up and opt-down requests are approved — which won’t be official until passed twice by the WHSAA board of directors in meetings in both September and November — a total of 12 schools could play in different classifications in 2020, not including the schools staying in 1A and making the change from 11-man to nine-man.

No changes are slated for Class 4A football.

WHSAA Associate Commissioner Trevor Wilson provided a tentative conference alignment via email on Tuesday. However, all conference alignments must be approved by the schools and won’t be finalized until the WHSAA’s second board meeting of the school year in November.

TENTATIVE conference alignments include:

4A: No changes.

3A: Buffalo replaces Torrington in the East; no other changes.

2A East: Big Horn, Burns, Glenrock, Newcastle, Tongue River, Torrington, Upton-Sundance, Wheatland.

2A West: Big Piney, Cokeville, Kemmerer, Lovell, Lyman, Mountain View, Pinedale, Thermopolis.

1A nine-man East: Lingle, Lusk, Moorcroft, Pine Bluffs, Saratoga, Southeast, Wright.

1A nine-man West: Greybull, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens, Shoshoni, Wind River, Wyoming Indian.

1A six-man East: Guernsey, Kaycee, Hulett, Hanna, NSI, Midwest.

1A six-man West: Burlington, Encampment, Dubois, Farson, Meeteetse, Snake River, Ten Sleep.

–patrick

It’s not hard to find articles addressing recent dips in high school football participation and in high school sports participation in general.

Here’s the Washington Post addressing the numbers. Here’s a piece from Forbes expounding on meaning. And here’s The Atlantic trying to address the roots in a very Atlantic kind of way.

Every state faces its own unique circumstances.

In Illinois, football participation is at a 26-year low (Chicago Tribune). In California, numbers are down again, following a consistent trend (L.A. Times). Numbers are also down in New Mexico as several schools are playing as independents (Associated Press).

The same problems are happening in North Carolina (football participation down 23% over 10 years), Connecticut (big drops in participation), Minnesota (flat now but down over five years), Kentucky, Maine, and, yes, Wyoming… You name the state, and it’s probably seeing drops in high school football participation.

As noted, Wyoming is not immune. Figures from the National Federation of High Schools — the same figures used in every single story linked above — show Wyoming’s football participation numbers dropping, but the Equality State has a different picture than most other states.

In all, Wyoming had 2,654 high school football players in the 2018 season, combining totals of 11-man, six-man and girls, which the NFHS tallies separately. In 2017, Wyoming had 2,847 high school football players — meaning the state had a drop of about 6.8 percent from year to year, typical of the kind of drops that made headlines across the country.

Moreover, 2018’s total of 2,654 players was Wyoming’s lowest since 2004, when 2,621 high schoolers played football.

But there’s no reason to panic in Wyoming. Yet.

For now, the 2018 drop in football participation looks to be an anomaly, totally within range of normal participation figures over the past 30-plus years.

Since 1987, Wyoming has had somewhere between 2,618 and 2,924 players come out, with the lowest total coming in 2003 and the highest in 1987. The 2018 total of 2,847 was the state’s fifth-highest total since 1987. In the four seasons between 2014 and 2017, Wyoming was above 2,800 every season, something that had NEVER happened over four consecutive years since NFHS data became more consistent starting in 1979.

If we looked at this data a year ago, we could have said Wyoming was seeing unprecedented growth and consistency.

Also, within the past 30 years, Wyoming has seen drops in participation like this before and has always rebounded. This chart compares Wyoming’s football participation trends to the country:

Here’s a table showing Wyoming’s high school football participation tallies, as provided by the NFHS since 1987 (click on the column headers to sort):

YearTotal Football Players
20182,654
20172,847
20162,819
20152,808
20142,825
20132,793
20122,892
20112,843
20102,874
20092,781
20082,778
20072,822
20062,727
20052,756
20042,621
20032,618
20022,787
20012,825
20002,845
19992,843
19982,635
19972,667
19962,762
19952,892
19942,832
19932,691
19922,748
19912,776
19902,778
19892,783
19882,829
19872,924

(NFHS data prior to 1987 looks really inconsistent when compared to previous seasons — for example, in 1981, Wyoming’s NFHS numbers come in at 1,432, sandwiched between seasons of more than 2,100. So I made the decision to start this analysis at 1987. Numbers include totals of 11-, 9-, 8- and 6-man, both boys and girls.)

Yes, Wyoming high school football participation fell off by almost 7 percent from 2017 to 2018. And yes, drops in participation are affecting programs.

And yes, nationwide, participation in high school sports in aggregate is down, as is participation in football specifically.

For now, last year’s dip in Wyoming looks like an anomaly, not the start of a trend that mirrors what’s happening nationwide.

–patrick

Unlimited money. Unlimited time. A schedule full of Wyoming high school football games.

Two of these, I don’t have.

But if I had all three, and I could spend my Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays parading around the state catching as many of the best games in the state as I could, I’d need a plan.

This is that plan — the games I would watch if I had the time and money to spend the fall the best way I know how.

Week 0: Rock Springs at Sheridan, 6 p.m. Friday; Natrona JV at Lovell, 2 p.m. Saturday. Call this one the week of introductions. With this swing up northern Wyoming, I’m able to see new Rock Springs coach Mark Lenhardt in his 4A debut against the perennially tough Broncs. Then a quick trip over the Bighorn Mountains will give me a chance to see new Lovell coach Nicc Crosby in his debut with the Bulldogs.

Week 1: Riverton JV at Kemmerer, 7 p.m. Thursday; Pinedale at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday; Laramie at Rock Springs, 6 p.m. Friday; Guernsey-Sunrise at Farson, 1 p.m. Saturday. Southwestern Wyoming has a ton of great games on the docket in Week 1, and I didn’t even get to what might be the best one (Cokeville-Mountain View, inconveniently scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday). I like seeing a Week 1 conference game with Pinedale-Lyman, and I’d be curious to see how Farson stacks up as it starts its title defense.

Week 2: Lingle at NSI, 1 p.m. Friday; Natrona at Sheridan, 7 p.m. Friday; Midwest at Hanna, 2 p.m. Saturday. The Mustangs-Broncs 4A title game rematch is the clear winner on the schedule for Week 2. Before and after, I’d sneak in a pair of six-man games, even though the jaunt from Sheridan to Hanna isn’t a short one.

Week 3: Riverton JV at Shoshoni, 6 p.m. Thursday; St. Stephens at Burlington, 2 p.m. Friday; Douglas at Powell, 6 p.m. Friday; Ten Sleep at Riverside, 2 p.m. Saturday. I’d be curious to see how Douglas looks… and Powell, too, for that matter. Seeing them together is a great option. Around that are a bunch of interesting games that make for easy travel.

Week 4: Natrona JV at Rocky Mountain, 5 p.m. Thursday; Meeteetse at Burlington, 2 p.m. Friday; Jackson at Cody, 6 p.m. Friday; Dubois at Ten Sleep, 2 p.m. Saturday. The Northwest corner gets two straight weeks of attention because, well, that Jackson-Cody game is the most intriguing game on the 3A schedule this year. Everything else is just gravy.

Week 5: Hulett at Kaycee, 2 p.m. Friday; Natrona at Thunder Basin, 7 p.m. Friday. Scenarios exist where I could catch more games, but there’s no way I’d miss Natrona-Thunder Basin, which could be the biggest 4A game of the season.

Week 6: Mountain View at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday; Jackson at Star Valley, 6 p.m. Friday; Farson at Snake River, 2 p.m. Saturday. Mountain View-Lyman is always good; Jackson-Star Valley could be the most intense 3A game of the year; Farson-Snake River has playoff implications all over it. The drive from Afton to Baggs is a long one, but it’ll be worth it here.

Week 7: Star Valley JV at Cokeville, 4 p.m. Thursday; Riverside at St. Stephens, 2 p.m. Friday; Rocky Mountain at Wind River, 6 p.m. Friday; Hanna at Kaycee, noon Saturday. The Rocky Mountain-Wind River rivalry has taken on a new dynamic now that they play each other twice a year, and it’d be fun to see that play out. And the Hanna-Kaycee game on Saturday could be a fun one in the six-man East Conference.

Week 8: NSI at Kaycee, 1 p.m. Friday; Cheyenne East at Sheridan, 6 p.m. Friday; Lingle at Hulett, 1 p.m. Saturday. The Northeast corner gets some love this week, as the East-Sheridan game is always good and the others are six-man afternoon showdowns that could be just as fun.

What game is your can’t-miss game of the year? Leave a comment below and let’s hash out our road trip plans.

–patrick

As always, Phil Steele’s annual college football preview magazine is a source of inspiration for looking at football, and football stats, in new ways.

Last year, I broke down the Yards Per Point stat that’s highlighted in the Phil Steele preview. This year, though, I wanted to look at something else — the yards per game differential in conference games.

Using last year’s final stats, I broke out the game-by-game statistics and looked at how the yards gained compared to the yards allowed in conference games — and then simply subtracted to find the difference.

Of course, yards aren’t the be-all, end-all statistic to track team strength. No stat is, really, although the closest is obviously a team’s win-loss record. But even wins and losses can sometimes be deceiving, so breaking out yards as a measure of a team’s relative strength can be useful to identify teams that either under- or over-performed based on what we might expect based on how many yards a team gained and gave up.

When I applied this measure to the 2018 Wyoming high school football season, some interesting revelations emerged:

  • Class 2A champ Buffalo was fourth in its own conference in yardage difference.
  • Class 3A Jackson obliterated the rest of the West Conference in yards gained, yet Star Valley went unbeaten in conference play and won the 3A title.
  • There’s a huge gulf between the top and bottom teams in the 1A 11-man East.
  • The teams that went winless in conference play (Gillette, Riverton, Powell, Newcastle, Lovell and Southeast) all finished last in their respective conferences in YPG differential.

Of course, one of the big things you can try to do with this data is compare it to conference standings and compare differences. Teams that finish higher in the conference standings but lower in YPG might have been more fortunate, or won more close games, or won the turnover battle — things that may not carry over to next season. The teams with the biggest differences were Laramie (fifth in 4A, but eighth in YPG) and previously mentioned Buffalo. Two other teams that might have been more “fortunate” in their win-loss records than the YPG would suggest were Big Piney (finished tied for second in the conference standings but was fifth in YPG) and Lander (finished third in the conference but fifth in YPG).

The team that was the least “fortunate” in its win-loss record may have been Thermopolis. The Bobcats finished fourth in the 2A East but were second in YPG differential.

The full YPG stats for conference play are below. (For Class 4A, total yards in all games, regular season and playoff, are included. No stats are included for Class 1A six-man, where per-game stat-keeping is inconsistent, as well as for Wyoming Indian, which played only one conference game.) And if you need a reminder of how the conference standings actually came together last year, click here.

Class 4AOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Natrona410.2206.4203.8
Thunder Basin403.3212.3191.0
Sheridan318.8242.476.4
Cheyenne East341.0323.917.1
Kelly Walsh308.6346.3-37.7
Cheyenne Central272.2316.7-44.5
Rock Springs224.6272.1-47.5
Laramie225.3302.4-77.1
Cheyenne South223.1378.8-155.7
Gillette147.2389.8-242.6
Class 3A EastOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Torrington448.8190.4258.4
Douglas361.6261.899.8
Worland262.2299.4-37.2
Rawlins220.0313.2-93.2
Lander238.0348.4-110.4
Riverton245.6363.0-117.4
Class 3A WestOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Jackson397.6234.8162.8
Star Valley323.0277.445.6
Cody278.4300.6-22.2
Evanston313.8353.6-39.8
Green River249.8299.8-50.0
Powell197.8294.2-96.4
Class 2A EastOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Glenrock417.5170.0247.5
Thermopolis374.8229.5145.3
Wheatland358.2217.2141.0
Buffalo320.3260.360.0
Burns296.3377.5-81.2
Moorcroft198.8332.0-133.2
Newcastle172.7431.2-258.5
Class 2A WestOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Mountain View324.5165.2159.3
Greybull330.5248.881.7
Kemmerer211.2210.50.7
Pinedale245.0263.7-18.7
Big Piney231.3257.4-26.1
Lyman223.6250.0-26.4
Lovell163.2326.7-163.5
Class 1A 11-man EastOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Big Horn434.8194.0240.8
Pine Bluffs313.7189.0124.7
Upton-Sundance411.5290.8120.7
Lusk236.8330.7-93.8
Tongue River199.7303.2-103.5
Wright212.0328.8-116.8
Southeast193.6364.8-171.2
Class 1A 11-man WestOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Cokeville314.3153.3161.0
Wind River218.3223.7-5.3
Shoshoni307.0326.3-19.3
Rocky Mountain147.0283.3-136.3

Note: Big Piney and Lyman totals do not include yards that Lyman’s offense gained against Big Piney. Similarly, Pine Bluffs and Southeast totals do not include yards that Southeast’s offense gained against Pine Bluffs. Those totals were not available in the end-of-year season statistics.

So… whose win-loss record in conference play doesn’t match their yardage difference? What might that say about who’s ready for a breakthrough in 2019? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

–patrick

It’s pretty easy to figure out which players are among Wyoming’s top returners this year.

Take a look at last year’s all-conference, all-state and Super 25 listings, and just remove the seniors.

Or (shameless plug alert) read the upcoming annual Wyoming high school football preview magazine, which I wrote again this year with previews on every team in the state and will be out in mid- to late August.

Rarely, if ever, do typical season previews and postseason recognition lists indicate the number of the player’s jersey. However, that’s the most common way for fans to figure out who’s who on the field.

So what if we put together a team of returning players and chose the best players based on the number of their jerseys — choosing only one player per number?

Let’s do this for Wyoming high school football’s 2019 returners.

I’m certainly not the first to do this. The specific inspiration for this post, though, came from one of my former students, Sam Herder, who’s doing something similar for players at the FCS level of college football for HeroSports.

The problem with taking something that’s normally reserved for the NFL or college teams and applying it to Wyoming high schools is that, um… how to put it politely?… not every number has a bunch of good players from which to choose.

One of the things that became readily apparent during the production of this list was that Wyoming high schools rarely use numbers in the 90s. In fact, using last year’s final stats as my starting point, I couldn’t find a single returning player in the entire state at any level who wore number 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97 or 98 last year.

Similarly, I couldn’t find a returner who wore 46 or 59, either. A few numbers had only one returner in the state (and, no, I won’t tell you which ones, because I don’t want to embarrass anyone who’s listed below). On the flipside, some numbers — like 1, 2, 5 and 12, among others — were overloaded with talented players who would have easily made this list if they had worn a less-common number.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these returning players will wear the same number this year that they did last year. And there’s a chance that the players listed here may not go out, or may have moved or transferred since the end of last season.

The list here is subjective; it’s my opinion, and I made it for fun. Hopefully, you have fun with it too… and I’m more than happy if you disagree with me. 🙂

Anyway, here’s Wyoming’s top returning high school football players for 2019 by jersey number:

NumberNameSchool
1Mason HamiltonThunder Basin
2Dax YeradiWright
3Kirby CastagnoJackson
4Chance AumillerCheyenne East
5Garrett CoonSheridan
6Peter GoettlerJackson
7Hunter HaysCody
8Rowen RubyBuffalo
9Andrew JohnsonCheyenne Central
10A.J. YeamanDouglas
11Dawson MaclearyCheyenne Central
12Quinn McCaffertyBig Horn
13Graedyn BuellCheyenne East
14Todd PaisleyWheatland
15Kaden RazaBig Piney
16Seth HymasRock Springs
17Riggen MyersSnake River
18Tristan BlattCody
19Kimball MadsenMountain View
20Devon MercadoWorland
21R.J. CazierStar Valley
22A.J. McCoolJackson
23Favor OkereRock Springs
24Jhett LetellierHulett
25Wyatt DuncanSnake River
26Jeydon CoxJackson
27Hunter KramerGillette
28Jaxon PikulaThunder Basin
29Emory YoosookKelly Walsh
30Rowdy PfeilMoorcroft
31Austin SansoucieMidwest
32David CastilloStar Valley
33Dante WallaceNatrona
34Hyrum HatchBuffalo
35Caden WerbelowRiverton
36Josiah DiversSt. Stephens
37McCaffrey BillingsBig Horn
38Eli DickeyThermopolis
39Carson OlsenPowell
40Drake LampLusk
41James StoneLusk
42Damien MolzahnLusk
43Bryson DavisEvanston
44Logan ColeThermopolis
45Jeremy HarttGuernsey-Sunrise
46No returners identified
47Bryston Jennings*Glenrock
48Luke MullinaxBig Horn
49Nick TalichCody
50Hunter GrossMountain View
51Anthony GravesBuffalo
52Gavin ThomasKelly Walsh
53Cody PinkertonDouglas
54Hansen BradshawLyman
55Nathan SwanstonBuffalo
56Keith ConnorCody
57Riley ShafferThermopolis
58Parker MerrittStar Valley
59No returners identified
60Nate BarnesCokeville
61Brandon Mortenson*Rock Springs
62Brendan Miller*Kemmerer
63Colter Collver*Wind River
64Mitch MillerBurns
65Remington FerreeThermopolis
66Garrett KingCokeville
67Edel Diaz-JaimeDouglas
68Tyler SchaubTorrington
69Parker SchlaterMoorcroft
70Kie FosterRawlins
71Zane TaylorRiverton
72Cam ThomasBig Piney
73Jasper CalderaLusk
74Jeff WilliamsCody
75Corbin HarrisTorrington
76Hunter MeeksMountain View
77Hunter PopeBuffalo
78Jacob KnoblochTongue River
79Reid FosterDouglas
80Brady StoreboCheyenne Central
81Zion GrahamKelly Walsh
82Tyler MoyesCokeville
83Tyson ChristiansenRocky Mountain
84Chase MerrellStar Valley
85Kaden ReddingMeeteetse
86Jaret TaylorCheyenne East
87Johnathon TrueNatrona
88Mason MastellerThunder Basin
89Kaden GautenbeinRiverton
90Hunter BaileyHulett
91No returners identified
92No returners identified
93Garrett OswaldCheyenne East
94No returners identified
95No returners identified
96No returners identified
97No returners identified
98No returners identified
99Rhiley Grubbs*Torrington

*-Jennings wore both 47 and 64 last year; Mortenson wore both 61 and 63 last year; Miller wore both 62 and 77 last year; Collver wore both 63 and 40 last year; Grubbs wore both 55 and 99 last year.

If you have suggestions for folks I should have put in each spot, leave a comment, or consider hitting me up on Twitter or Facebook.

–patrick

To break three-way ties in conference play in 2019, the Wyoming High School Activities Association will use a new step in its tiebreaking procedures, one that incorporates scoring differential in games against the tied teams.

On paper, it’s a small change, one that’s deep down in the WHSAA’s tiebreaking procedures, just a step ahead of flipping a coin.

However, if we retroactively apply the new tiebreaking procedures to past three-way ties, some interesting results emerge.

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PREVIOUS PROCEDURES

Before we dive into that, it’s important to understand that the top two elements of Wyoming’s high school football tiebreaking procedures have remained unchanged for more than a decade.

Since 2009, when power ratings were fully eliminated from playoff seeding, the first two steps of the three-way tiebreaking procedure have been (1) head-to-head results of the tied teams, and (2) records of the tied teams against the highest-ranking non-tied team.

After that, though, the tiebreaking procedures have seen multiple iterations — including the new one to be introduced in 2019.

  • In 2010, after the first two steps, tiebreaker steps included (3) overall record; (4) highest winning percentage in road conference games; (5) triangular playoff; (6) coin flip.
  • From 2011-15, steps after the first two were simplified to include just these: (3) triangular playoff; (4) coin flip (skip 3 if qualifying isn’t involved).
  • From 2016-18, triangulars were eliminated, and the third step was the only step after the first two: (3) coin flip.

In 2019, though, after years of stripping away options, the WHSAA is adding one to its procedures. Starting this season, the third step will be point differential among the tied teams in games between those teams (capped at 12 points per game). After that, the coin flip is the last option.

Although other states have used a similar tiebreaker, Wyoming has never used point differential as a tiebreaker for conference standings.

But what if the Equality State had decided to do this a decade ago?

What if we applied the tiebreaking rules to be used this year to break three-way ties in past seasons? Would the results be any different? Would different teams qualify for the playoffs?

That’s what we’re about to explore here.

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THREE-WAY TIES, EXPLORED

Since 2009, Wyoming high school football has had 29 three-way conference ties that affected seeding or playoff qualifying.

Of those 29 ties, the new tiebreaker rules come into play in 24 cases — the other five were broken by one of the first two tiebreaker criteria, either the head-to-head tiebreaker or the record vs. higher teams in the conference tiebreaker.

However, in 17 of the remaining 24 cases, the playoff seedings would have been different with a point differential tiebreaker than whatever the previous tiebreaker created. And in six *and maybe seven* cases, the teams that would have qualified for the playoffs under the new tiebreaker rules were different from those who actually did qualify under old tiebreaker rules.

Let’s break down each one of these seven ties, looking at who would qualify for the playoffs with the new tiebreaking system and comparing it to who qualified under the systems in place at the time:

2018 1A 11-man East
Who would have qualified: Lusk
Who actually qualified: Wright
The most recent of the ties that would be settled differently happened last year, where Wright, Lusk and Tongue River tied for the final playoff spot out of the 1A 11-man East Conference. Last year, Wright won a coin flip to earn that last spot; if the exact same tie happened this year, Lusk would qualify for the playoffs with scoring differentials of Lusk +5, Wright +1 and Tongue River -6.

2014 1A 11-man West
Who would have qualified: Burlington
Who actually qualified: Riverside
In this case, Riverside, Burlington and Wind River all tied for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the West. In 2014, they played a triangular playoff for that spot, with Riverside topping Wind River after Burlington withdrew from the triangular altogether. Using a score differential system for the final spot, though, Burlington would have actually earned the last spot (Burlington +8, Riverside 0, Wind River -8).

2013 1A 11-man West
Who would have qualified: Shoshoni
Who actually qualified: Riverside
This season, Burlington, Riverside and Shoshoni all tied for the final two postseason spots. In real life, Burlington earned the third seed by winning a triangular playoff, and Riverside earned the fourth seed after that by virtue of a head-to-head regular-season win. Using a scoring differential, though, would have given Shoshoni the third spot, Burlington the fourth spot and Riverside a spot on the sidelines (Shoshoni +6, Burlington 0, Riverside -6).

2011 2A West
Who would have qualified: Greybull
Who actually qualified: Kemmerer
Thermopolis, Kemmerer and Greybull tied for the final two spots, and in a triangular playoff, Thermopolis emerged with the No. 3 seed and Kemmerer the No. 4 seed. With a scoring differential tiebreaker, though, Greybull would have been third, Thermopolis fourth and Kemmerer out (Greybull +5, Thermopolis 0, Kemmerer -5).

2011 1A 11-man East
Who would have qualified: Pine Bluffs
Who actually qualified: Lingle
This is perhaps the most famous failure of a tiebreaking system to actually break a tie. Lingle, Pine Bluffs and Sundance tied for the final two seeds from the East. After none of the tiebreakers worked, the teams staged a triangular playoff. After the triangular playoff, though, the teams were still tied. So they flipped coins in the parking lot, and Sundance finished third, Lingle fourth and Pine Bluffs out. However, using a scoring differential system, Pine Bluffs would have been third, Sundance fourth and Lingle out (Pine Bluffs +9, Sundance -3, Lingle -6). (By the way, after the 2011 season, the WHSAA added an overtime system to triangular tiebreaker playoffs in case this ever happened again. It didn’t.)

2010 2A East
Who would have qualified: Wright
Who actually qualified: Newcastle
In this case, Newcastle, Burns and Wright tied for two playoff spots out of the East. Newcastle finished third, Burns fourth and Wright out by virtue of a tiebreaker system that was in its last year — one where the “team with the highest winning percentage of away league games” is the highest seed. In this case, Newcastle’s 2-1 road league record beat Burns’ 2-2 and Wright’s 2-2 to earn the third seed, and Burns’ head-to-head victory over Wright got them the fourth seed. In a score differential system, though, Burns would have finished in the third seed, Wright the fourth seed and Newcastle out (Burns +3, Wright 0, Newcastle -3).

BONUS: 2009 1A 11-man West
Who would have qualified: ???
Who actually qualified: Rocky Mountain and Riverside
In 2009, Rocky Mountain, Riverside and Burlington finished tied for the final two playoff seeds. At the time, one of the tiebreakers was overall record. Burlington’s 4-4 was worse than Rocky’s and Riverside’s duplicate 5-3 marks, bumping them out of the playoffs, and Rocky’s victory against Riverside decided who got the third seed and who got the fourth. However, in a scoring differential system, it’s impossible to know how qualifying would go — the scoring differential for all three teams was 0, as each game between these three programs was decided by more than 12 points. In a case like this, were it to happen again in 2019, the spots would be decided by a coin flip.

+++

In 11 other cases, new tiebreaking procedures in place for 2019 would have generated different seeding than what we saw using old tiebreakers. These changes often affected who was at home and who was on the road for the first round of the playoffs and matchups in the first round. Those ties included:

2018 1A 11-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker
: Wind River 2, Rocky Mountain 3, Shoshoni 4
How seeds actually went: Shoshoni 2, Rocky Mountain 3, Wind River 4

2017 3A East
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker
: Rawlins 2, Buffalo 3, Douglas 4
How seeds actually went: Buffalo 2, Douglas 3, Rawlins 4

2017 1A six-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Burlington 1, Snake River 2, Farson 3
How seeds actually went: Farson 1, Burlington 2, Snake River 3

2016 3A West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Star Valley 1, Green River 2, Powell 3
How seeds actually went: Powell 1, Star Valley 2, Green River 3

2016 1A 11-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Rocky Mountain 1, Cokeville 2, Shoshoni 3
How seeds actually went: Shoshoni 1, Rocky Mountain 2, Cokeville 3

2016 1A six-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Burlington 2, Snake River 3, Meeteetse 4
How seeds actually went: Meeteetse 2, Snake River 3, Burlington 4

2015 1A 11-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Rocky Mountain 2, Riverside 3, Cokeville 4
How seeds actually went: Cokeville 2, Rocky Mountain 3, Riverside 4

2014 4A
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Sheridan 2, Cheyenne East 3, Gillette 4
How seeds actually went: Cheyenne East 2, Gillette 3, Sheridan 4

2010 2A West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Greybull 1, Lovell 2, Lyman 3
How seeds actually went: Lovell 1, Greybull 2, Lyman 3

2010 1A six-man
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Kaycee 2, Ten Sleep 3, Hanna 4
How seeds actually went: Hanna 2, Ten Sleep 3, Kaycee 4

2009 3A West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Worland 1, Star Valley 2, Cody 3
How seeds actually went: Cody 1, Worland 2, Star Valley 3

+++

Six three-way ties unaffected by the new tiebreaking procedures include:

2017 1A six-man East: Hanna, Midwest, Guernsey. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2016 3A East: Lander, Rawlins, Buffalo. Lander won the coin flip in real life and would have won on scoring differential.
2015 4A: Kelly Walsh, Evanston, Laramie. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2015 3A East: Buffalo, Douglas, Riverton. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2015 2A East: Wheatland, Glenrock, Big Horn. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2010 2A West: Big Piney, Mountain View, Pinedale. Big Piney won the overall record tiebreaker in real life and would have won on scoring differential.

And three-way ties that wouldn’t even reach the scoring differential tiebreaker, whether tied in the past or tied in 2019, are:

2018 4A: Cheyenne Central, Kelly Walsh, Rock Springs. Rock Springs beat both head-to-head.
2016 4A: Natrona, Laramie, Cheyenne East. Natrona beat both head-to-head.
2013 1A six-man East: Hulett, Kaycee, Saratoga. Hulett beat the highest-ranking non-tied team.
2011 4A: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Evanston. East beat both head-to-head.
2010 4A: Gillette, Evanston, Sheridan. Sheridan beat the highest-ranking non-tied team.

+++

The WHSAA also includes language in its handbook about breaking a four-way tie. A four-way tie break would not include scoring differential. However, the WHSAA handbook does not have any language about breaking a five-way tie, or breaking a tie involving more than five teams.

A four-way, five-way or more-way tie in football conference standings has never happened in Wyoming. Yet.

–patrick

Torrington will enter the 2019 season having had back-to-back losses in the Class 3A championship game the past two seasons.

So, naturally, the Trailblazers should be an early favorite for the 3A title, ready to avenge the past two seasons of near-titles.

Right?

Ah, if only it were that simple.

In all, 45 Wyoming high school football teams have lost two championship games in a row. Of those, only six won the title the next year — and two of those instances came in 2018.

So the long-term history is against Torrington, but the fact that this feat was pulled off twice last season is a pretty amazing statistic.

The teams that won championships after back-to-back title-game losses were Natrona and Farson in 2018, Cheyenne East in 2007, Star Valley in 1992, Evanston in 1985 and Hanna in 1952.

In fact, it’s more likely that a team won’t qualify for the playoffs at all than win a title after two consecutive championship losses. That’s happened 13 times, compared to the six title winners. And it’s almost twice as likely that teams who reach the title game again after two consecutive title-game losses will lose on their third try — that’s happened to 11 of the 17 teams who made it back to the championship game for a third chance.

The most heart-wrenching of these instances actually comes from Torrington itself. The Trailblazers had six consecutive runner-up finishes in Class A from 1953 to 1958. Losses in the 1953, 1954, 1955 and 1956 title games were all to Worland; Torrington lost to Powell in 1957’s title game and Cody in 1958.

Losing six consecutive title games is unprecedented in Wyoming. Only one other program in the state — Mountain View from 1999-2002 — has had even four consecutive runner-up finishes.

Here’s a breakdown of the programs who have lost two consecutive title games and how they did in the season immediately after their second title-game loss, with the teams that won titles in bold:

Torrington 2019: ??????
Natrona 2018: Champs
Farson 2018: Champs
Tongue River 2017: Did not qualify for playoffs
Gillette 2016: Semifinals
Douglas 2015: Quarterfinals
Lusk 2015: Did not qualify for playoffs
Lusk 2014: Runners-up again
Buffalo 2009: Semifinals
Big Horn 2009: Quarterfinals
Cheyenne East 2007: Champs
Gillette 2004: Quarterfinals
Gillette 2003: Runners-up again
Star Valley 2003: Semifinals
Mountain View 2003: Semifinals
Mountain View 2002: Runners-up again
Mountain View 2001: Runners-up again
Pinedale 2000: Quarterfinals
Star Valley 1999: Did not qualify for playoffs
Upton 1999: Did not qualify for playoffs
Sheridan 1998: Semifinals
Thermopolis 1998: Semifinals
Lusk 1998: Semifinals
Lusk 1997: Runners-up again
Lander 1996: Did not qualify for playoffs
Lander 1995: Runners-up again
Hulett 1995: Quarterfinals
Buffalo 1994: Quarterfinals
Hulett 1994: Runners-up again
Gillette 1993: Quarterfinals
Star Valley 1992: Champs
Lovell 1992: Quarterfinals
Upton 1989: Did not qualify for playoffs
Cody 1986: Did not qualify for title game
Evanston 1985: Champs
Midwest 1985: Did not qualify for playoffs
Rock Springs 1982: Did not qualify for title game
Riverton 1974: Did not qualify for title game
Worland 1970: Did not qualify for title game
Torrington 1959: Did not qualify for playoffs
Torrington 1958: Runners-up again
Kemmerer 1958: Did not qualify for playoffs
Torrington 1957: Runners-up again
Torrington 1956: Runners-up again
Torrington 1955: Runners-up again
Hanna 1952: Champs

–patrick

Inspired by a previous post outlining the highest-scoring and lowest-scoring playoff teams, this post will look at the opposite — Wyoming high school football teams that won titles with historic defensive efforts or lackluster playoff defense.

Here are the teams that have allowed the fewest points in a three-game title run since the eight-team bracket came into play in 1990, with the number of points allowed per game (quarters, semis, championship) in parentheses:

0 points: Kemmerer (0, 0, 0), 3A 2007 … Wind River (0, 0, 0), 1A DII 1997
2 points: Southeast (0, 2, 0), 1A 2008
6 points: Lusk (6, 0, 0), 2A 2002 … Sundance (0, 6, 0), 2A 2005
7 points: Gillette (0, 0, 7), 4A 2000
8 points: Cokeville (0, 8, 0), 1A 2002 … Glenrock (8, 0, 0), 3A 2008
9 points: Upton (0, 3, 6), 1A 2005
10 points: Natrona (0, 7, 3), 5A 2003
12 points: Glenrock (0, 6, 6), 3A 2003 … Glenrock (0, 12, 0), 3A 2002 … Torrington (6, 0, 6), 3A 1990
13 points: Cokeville (0, 7, 6), 1A 11-man 2014 … Cokeville (0, 7, 6), 1A 11-man 2010 … Cokeville (0, 13, 0), 1A DII 1995 … Lusk (6, 0, 7), 1A DI 2000 … Natrona (0, 13, 0), 4A 1996 … Powell (0, 3, 10), 3A 2012 … Southeast (0, 6, 7), 2A 2001 … Thermopolis (0, 0, 13), 2A 1992 … Worland (0, 0, 13), 4A 2003 … Worland (7, 6, 0), 4A 2001 … Mountain View (14, 0, 0), 2A 1995 … Natrona (7, 0, 7), 4A 2012 … Wheatland (6, 0, 8), 2A 2015

A handful of teams have also won state titles without giving up a single point in a two-game/four-team playoff bracket. Those teams are:

Star Valley, 3A 1996
Midwest, 1A nine-man 1991
Cheyenne Central, 4A 1989
Cokeville, 1A 1988
Lusk, B 1981
Star Valley, A 1961
Sheridan, all-class 1938
Sheridan, all-class 1936

+++

Conversely, the most points given up in a championship playoff run was set by a squad that had little competition for the top spot. Star Valley’s 2016 3A championship team allowed 79 points during its title run, giving up 27 points to Riverton in a 35-27 quarterfinal win, 42 points to Douglas in a 61-42 semifinal shootout and 10 points to Powell in a 27-10 championship-game victory.

Star Valley’s 79 points allowed was 21 points more than any other 11-man championship squad. The 11-man teams that allowed more than 50 points in their championship runs included 10 squads:

79 points: Star Valley (27, 42, 10), 3A 2016
58 points: Cheyenne East (10, 34, 14), 5A 2007
55 points: Star Valley (13, 27, 15), 3A 2015 … Big Horn (14, 19, 22), 2A 2013 … Sheridan (12, 29, 14), 4A 2011 … Big Piney (8, 33, 14), 3A 2001 … Big Piney (7, 20, 28), 2A 2000
54 points: Cheyenne Central (20, 20, 14), 5A 2005 … Rocky Mountain (12, 22, 20), 1A DI 1997
51 points: Sheridan (17, 6, 28), 4A 2016

The most points given up in a two-game bracket is 41 (14, 27), allowed by Riverton in 1994 on its way to the 3A title.

–patrick

It’s way too early for this. That’s never stopped us before. Let’s take a look at 2019’s top five teams in each class, way too early before it’s practical to do so:

Class 4A
1. Thunder Basin: The state’s most dynamic offensive duo will likely be on Gillette’s south side in 2019, with quarterback Mason Hamilton (4A’s top passer last year) and wideout Blaine Allen (4A’s top receiver last year) ready to lead the ‘Bolts to unprecedented heights in 2019. The lines lost several key players, though.
2. Natrona: Running back Dante Wallace highlights a senior class that’s done a lot of winning, including last year’s state title. The Mustangs will be tough to stop with a balanced group of players coming back.
3. Cheyenne East: Class 4A’s most diverse offense in 2019 may belong to the Thunderbirds. Between seniors Christian Anderton and Chance Aumiller and junior Graedyn Buell, East will present troubles for any opposing defense.
4. Sheridan: The Broncs only return one all-state player, senior Garrett Coon, but few programs rebuild as efficiently as Sheridan does. Count on Sheridan being in the championship chase again.
5. Cheyenne Central: New coach Mike Apodaca took some lumps in his first year at Central, but the Indians showed great potential at times. With three returning all-conference players, the Indians return a solid chunk of contributors that could make Central a threat.
Dark horse: Laramie. The Plainsmen were a solid five seed in 4A last year but need to replace a good group of seniors. If that happens as efficiently as coach Clint Reed hopes, Laramie could be a challenger again.

Class 3A
1. Star Valley: By accident or by design, the Braves’ juniors got a ton of experience last year. Five all-state players will be back this fall, including Super 25 pick Chase Merrell and three starting linemen. That will put Star Valley in perfect position to repeat.
2. Cody: The Broncs get back four all-state selections, second only to Star Valley, as well as six total all-conference picks. RB Charlie Beaudrie will be tough to stop, and lineman Keith Conner was a Super 25 pick.
3. Jackson: Jeydon Cox — who broke the 2,000-yard barrier last season — will probably be the most exciting running back in the state next year. But he can’t do it alone. The Broncs lose a big chunk of contributors but should have enough back to prove last year was no fluke.
4. Douglas: I like what the Bearcats have coming back next fall, and it starts with an experienced all-state quarterback in A.J. Yeaman. There are some other holes to fill, but the Bearcats should be competitive.
5. Torrington: The Trailblazers lost a huge senior class, so staying in the title hunt will be challenging. However, they do return a pair of all-conference linemen in seniors Corbin Harris and Tyler Schaub, and that’s a good place to start.
Dark horse: Lander. In a sentence: Don’t discount coach John Scott’s ability to quickly build a competitive program.

Class 2A
1. Mountain View: Almost all of the Buffalos’ key contributors are back in 2019. This includes four two-time all-state choices (Briggin Bluemel, Hunter Gross, Kimball Madsen and Braeden Walk). No team in 2A can match that.
2. Buffalo: The defending 2A champs aren’t going anywhere. The Bison have five returning all-state choices, tied with Mountain View for the most in the class — and those returners aren’t concentrated in any one specific area.
3. Thermopolis: After a couple years of building, the Bobcats may be ready for a breakthrough in 2019. Junior Logan Cole has proven to be a dependable running back, and he’s got a good number of key contributors surrounding him.
4. Greybull: At a glance, the 2A West seems like it doesn’t have the depth it did in 2018. However, the Buffaloes should remain competitive, with all-conference picks Ben Kraft and Felipe Gaytan leading the way.
5. Burns: The Broncs have been leading up to a breakthrough in 2019. Boe Clayson is a dynamic running back, and an experienced group of seniors will help Burns into the playoff chase.
Dark horse: Glenrock. Yeah, it seems weird to see the Herders outside the top five. But with a new head coach and a new set of leaders needing to emerge on both offense and defense, Glenrock is on the outside for now. If the program can preserve its momentum under a new coach, Glenrock should continue to be a winner.

Class 1A 11-man
1. Big Horn: Yes, the Rams lose one of the best senior classes to ever play at this level. At the same time, they return six all-state choices, more than any other program in 1A, and they’ve got momentum and confidence. A repeat will be tough, but this group has that ability.
2. Cokeville: The Panthers do lose eight all-state choices, but they also return five all-conference picks. They absolutely obliterated every other team in the West last year. And no one — no one — reloads like Cokeville reloads.
3. Upton-Sundance: All-stater Jayden Caylor and all-conference pick Kye Taylor have to lead the task of carrying on the Patriots’ tradition. There’s work to do, but U-S has depth and has shown throughout the history of its co-op that it can get players to step up when needed.
4. Pine Bluffs: Brian Steger, an all-state pick, and Donte Jacobsen, an all-conference selection, will be the leaders on a less-experienced but still dangerous Hornet team. They’ll need to build some depth, but if that can happen quickly, they’ll be in the hunt come November.
5. Lusk: The Tigers return four all-conference choices, second to Big Horn in the East, and junior Drake Lamp and senior Damien Molzahn will create a backfield duo most 1A teams would envy.
Dark horse: Rocky Mountain. The Grizzlies had seven all-conference choices in 2018: one senior, five sophomores and a freshman. If Rocky’s youth can prove itself against tougher competition, it could be the team to challenge Cokeville in the West.

Class 1A six-man
1. Hanna: Twins Connor and Shane McGraw are just the starting point for the Miners, who return five all-conference choices and are poised to build on last year’s unbeaten regular season with some postseason victories this time.
2. Snake River: The Rattlers were really competitive last season despite having a senior class small enough to fit on a motorcycle. Riggen Myers provides dynamism, and a host of others from what will be a deep senior class will make Snake River a title threat.
3. Meeteetse: This year’s deep senior class will be gone, but the Longhorns still return enough depth to stay competitive. That charge will be led by a pair of all-conference picks, Asa Eldredge and Kaden Redding.
4. Farson: Ready to play a game of “Who’s that”? The Pronghorns’ senior class will be pretty thin in 2019, but its upcoming junior class is deep and ready to fill the spots vacated by this year’s graduating class.
5. Burlington: Senior Jarom Davidson will be the lone all-conference holdover from last year’s runner-up squad, so the Huskies have some clear rebuilding to do. But the 2018 season should give the program momentum.
Dark horse: Guernsey. The Vikings return three all-conference choices (seniors Alex Delgado, Jeremy Hartt and Justin Malcolm), and all three were key contributors on defense. If the defense can hold up early, the offense could come around late and help the Vikings win in the postseason.

What do you think? Who’s ready for a breakout season in 2019? Which teams are too low? Leave a comment and let’s discuss what might be on the way by the time the 2019 season starts.

–patrick

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