In my dream world, football season would last 12 months of the year, I’d have unlimited gas money and unlimited time, and I’d spend my days driving to games all over the state.
In reality, football season — at least the part with games — lasts barely three months, I’m on a budget, I work full time (and not in Wyoming) and I probably won’t catch a single Wyoming high school game in person this season.
But I can dream.
If I had the chance, the time and the money, I’d love to spend the 2013 season driving all over the state, watching high school football games. Such epic dreams need a plan, and that’s what I’ve outlined below — what games I’d watch each week, given the chance. In short, I’m going for both quantity and quality. I want to see as many games as possible, but I want to try to see the best ones, too, or at least the ones I think will be the best.
My 2013 dream trek:
Week 0: Granted, I have the benefit of hindsight here, but I’ll stick with what I figured I’d do before the season started last week. Admittedly, the season started with a somewhat lackluster 4A schedule, but the best game on the slate appeared to be Gillette at Kelly Walsh; it ended up being a dud, but that wouldn’t have stopped me from wanting to go watch it. From there, I would have taken in the drive through the Wind River Canyon on my way to watch defending 3A champ Powell in its out-of-state Zero Week contest, as the Panthers faced traditionally strong Miles City, Mont., in a game that ended up being a blowout. So I would have caught two games: Gillette at Kelly Walsh (7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30) and Miles City, Mont., at Powell (6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31).
Week 1: I’ll pick up the lone Thursday game, Pine Bluffs at Cheyenne East’s sophomores, before hitting the road on Friday. I can’t resist a good storyline, so I’ll make the short jaunt from Cheyenne to Guernsey to watch St. Stephens’ first varsity game since 1965. That choice limits my ability to travel, so I’ll stay in the southeast corner and catch one of the more intriguing games on the 2A schedule this year: defending champ Lyman making the long trek to face what should be an improved Wheatland squad in Wheatland. On Saturday, it’s an early morning wake-up call, but it’s worth it to drive to Dubois to check out the defending champ Rams as they open their season against six-man newcomer — and always mystery team — Normative Services. I’ll watch four games in Week 1: Pine Bluffs at Cheyenne East sophs (6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5), St. Stephens at Guernsey-Sunrise (2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6), Lyman at Wheatland (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6) and Normative Services at Dubois (11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7).
Week 2: Again, with only one Thursday game, I’ll be there, as the Natrona JV heads to Wind River.
On Friday, all we have is the BIGGEST NON-CONFERENCE GAME OF THE SEASON, so I’ll be there in Cokeville to watch the Panthers play defending 1A-11 champ Southeast. That means I’m stuck on the southwest corner of the state for my evening game, and because I may not get another chance (and because it’s beautiful), I’ll take in a game in Star Valley and watch the Braves face Lander. Saturday brings another drive for a six-man game — shorter than Week 1, though — and I’ll hit what might be one of the best games of the year as Meeteetse travels to Baggs to face Snake River. The four games for Week 2: Natrona JV at Wind River (6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12), Southeast at Cokeville (2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13), Lander at Star Valley (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13) and Meeteetse at Snake River (2 p.m. Saturday). So apparently the Southeast-Cokeville game got moved to Saturday. Screwed with my world. No idea what I’ll do now.
Week 3: No Thursday games this week, so my adventure will start with the Friday afternoon games. It’s a thin afternoon slate, but I can’t resist one of the biggest new rivalries of the new six-man setup: Wyoming Indian vs. St. Stephens. For both teams, this is the one they’ve had circled all year. From there, it’s an unexciting drive to Casper, where I’ll watch a game between a couple programs that you might have heard of: Gillette and Natrona. Saturday’s slate only has one game, Dubois at Hulett, so I’ll go watch it because it’s more than just the only game in town — it’s the only game in the state. Week 3′s three games: Wyoming Indian at St. Stephens (2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20), Gillette at Natrona (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20) and Dubois at Hulett (11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 21).
Week 4: Thursday’s lone game — Billings Senior’s JV at Rocky Mountain — is interesting enough to hit up, so I’ll be there. From there, I’ll hop over the hill to watch the Wright-Big Horn game, one that might end up being critical in a parity-filled 2A East. Plenty of options exist for the night game, but I can’t resist seeing the annual Douglas-Buffalo showdown, a game that has often decided the conference champ out of the 3A East. That’s worth my time. On Saturday, I have two choices: Drive like crazy or take it easy. I’ll go slow, stay in Johnson County and watch Hulett-Kaycee. The northerly route for Week 4: Billings Senior JV, Mont., at Rocky Mountain (7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26), Wright at Big Horn (1 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27), Douglas at Buffalo (7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27) and Hulett at Kaycee (3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28).
Week 5: Two Thursday games dot the schedule, but I’ll take the one involving two varsity teams: Shoshoni and Wind River. Could be quite interesting. On Friday, I can either make the journey to Star Valley to watch the Braves and Powell in what could be the game of the year, or I try to do a double-up somewhere else…. Dang. As much as I hate to miss Braves-Panthers, I’ll go for a pair of games instead. It’s Rivalry Week in Class 4A, and the one that might have the biggest influence on the standings is the Energy Bowl in Gillette between the Camels and Sheridan. I’ll stay local and catch Wheatland at Moorcroft before that. Saturday’s schedule will keep me in the northeast and I’ll watch Hulett for the third time as the Red Devils face Midwest. Week 5′s tough choices: Shoshoni at Wind River (7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3), Wheatland at Moorcroft (3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4), Sheridan at Gillette (7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4) and Midwest at Hulett (3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5).
Week 6: Everything this week is on Friday and Saturday, and admittedly in the preseason the schedule is full of a bunch of potential but no games that scream “WATCH ME!!!” So I’ll wander Southwest again, taking in the Bridger Valley Bowl between Lyman and Mountain View (not just for the rivalry, though; this could be a big one in the 2A West playoff race) before heading to Evanston to watch the Red Devils play Kelly Walsh. On Saturday, we have a rare non-six-man game, so I’ll hit up Kemmerer as the Rangers face Greybull. Week 6 is a “light” three games: Lyman at Mountain View (3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11), Kelly Walsh at Evanston (6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11) and Greybull at Kemmerer (2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12).
Week 7: In the waning moments of the season, we still have a lot to see. Unfortunately, the best afternoon games don’t pair well with the evening games, and the so-so afternoon matchups pair with so-so evening matchups. So I’m just going to choose one Friday game and call it good. Fortunately, one of the best regular-season matchups is scheduled for this week: Lusk-Southeast, a rematch of last year’s 1A-11 title game. Saturday, I’ll drive to Baggs and watch the rematch of last year’s 1A-6 title game between Dubois and Snake River. I’d say that’s a full weekend, even with just two games: Lusk at Southeast (7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18) and Dubois at Snake River (3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19).
Week 8: We actually have two varsity contests scheduled for Thursday, and I can’t resist taking in the Fremont County rivalry game between Lander and Riverton as an appetizer to a busy week. With so many key games happening in the final week, making a decision about which one(s) to attend is tough. For me, though, one game keeps jumping to the forefront: Glenrock at Burns. The 2A East is going to be a madhouse this year, and this game could decide the conference title. Unfortunately, that means I can only watch this game, with no afternoon games nearby…. Saturday, though, I’ll catch Guernsey and Kaycee in what could be another key game for playoff qualification and seeding. That, and according to the kickoff times provided by the schools, it’s the final game of the regular season. Everything else will likely be done by the time this one kicks off. So I’ll end my regular season odyssey with a mini-oddyssey of my own on the final three days: Riverton at Lander (7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24), Glenrock at Burns (7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25) and Guernsey-Sunrise at Kaycee (3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26).
In all, through this trip, I’d get to watch 38 of the state’s 63 varsity programs; I’d see several programs twice and a hodgepodge of schools — Gillette, Hulett, Dubois and Snake River — three times apiece. I’d miss a bunch, but hopefully I’d catch more in the playoffs and, of course, I’d get to watch all five title games in Laramie.
If you could attend any game in the state, which one would you hit? Which game is your “can’t miss” game in 2013? Post a comment below and let me know.