I’m watching the Midwest basketball teams with special interest this season — and not just because I’m an MHS alumnus.

So far this season, the Midwest teams are a combined 1-33 — 1-15 for the girls and 0-18 for the boys. Right now, the only thing keeping the Midwest teams from being officially 0-fer is the girls’ forfeit victory against Guernsey back in December, a victory that was retroactively added within the last couple weeks for reasons beyond me.

That one forfeit victory could keep the Midwest teams from joining a short list — when both the boys and girls basketball teams from the same school go winless in the same year.

The only verified instance I can find of both the boys and girls basketball teams from the same school going winless in the same season happened 21 years ago, in 1999.

That year, Hulett’s boys and girls basketball teams both went 0-15.

(If that game total seems low to you, it is. Back in the day, Crook County schools played fewer than the maximum allowed by the WHSAA due to budget restrictions.)

Hulett’s struggles in 1999 were a combination of two factors — a classification change and a dip in momentum for both programs.

The Hulett boys notched a state title game appearance in 1995, and the Red Devils also had state qualifications at 1A in 1996 and 1997, but the move to 2A was tough to handle. In 1998, the 2A Red Devils only had two victories, both against 1A Midwest. (And, yes, I played for Midwest that season.) The following year, the Red Devils had that winless 0-15 campaign, and after moving back to 1A in 2000, Hulett finished 1-15.

The Hulett girls, meanwhile, had only been to the state tournament once before they moved to 2A in 1998. They also struggled moving up a class, finishing 1-16 in 1998 before their 0-15 season in 1999.

The troubles didn’t last.

In 2002, the Red Devil girls took home their first state basketball trophy with a 1A consolation championship, and they finished third at state in 2003. And in 2005, the Red Devil boys played in the 1A state championship game.

So, Midwest, take heart.

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Is Hulett alone?

Maybe. But I don’t have all the data I need to know for sure.

I’ve found five other instances of teams finishing with winless seasons where I don’t know the record of the opposite gender at the same school, but I know the opposite gender didn’t qualify for state. Those are Greybull in 1980 (boys 0-18, girls unknown), Greybull in 1984 (boys winless, girls unknown), Green River in 1980 (girls 0-20, boys unknown), Hanna in 1995 (girls winless, boys unknown) and Medicine Bow in 1980 (boys 0-17, girls unknown).

By the way, this is also an opportunity to let you know that I could use your help in tracking down records to plug into wyoming-basketball.com’s annual season records lists. If you know any information that’s missing from these lists, email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

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Postscript: You want to know the other one, too, don’t you? Where both the boys and girls teams went unbeaten in the same season? That list is double the length of the winless list: Mountain View, 1977, and Snake River, 2012. And it’s not being added to in 2020.

–patrick

Both leading up to and after Sunday’s Super Bowl, I saw several stories about Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid being the NFL coach with the most victories who had never won a Super Bowl.

As with most things I see, I took this bit of information and applied it to Wyoming high school football — who’s the coach in Wyoming who has the most victories without a state championship?

After thumbing through the numbers, I realized it was Pete Petranovich. The coach in Douglas from 1943-68, Petranovich had 115 career victories, right now good for 20th in state history. His teams finished with two runner-up finishes (in 1952 and 1959) but no titles.

Second on the list is Tony Gamble, who was the head coach at Guernsey-Sunrise from 1967-81 and at Wright from 1985-86. His 93 victories ranks 33rd. Like Petranovich, Gamble’s teams finished as state runners-up twice, in 1976 and 1985.

The coach with the most victories without a state title or championship game appearance is the victim of bad timing. Andy Johnson was one of Wyoming’s best coaches in the 1960s and 1970s, notching 82 victories while leading Hanna (1962-65) and Basin (1966-76). But his teams never finished higher than third in final statewide poll; the only time he led his team to a playoff appearance was in 1975. However, playoffs didn’t exist for Class B schools until 1975, so making a championship game was impossible for the bulk of Johnson’s coaching career in Wyoming.

–patrick

When I wrote my way-too-early top 5s last year, I correctly picked three of the five eventual state champions, while another was ranked second and the other fourth. So who’s got the best chance to win Wyoming state titles in 2020? Well, here’s my January guesses for November successes:

Class 4A
Classification: For once, some parity? We finally saw some cracks in the Big Four last year, and even though East, Sheridan, Thunder Basin and Natrona will all be in the running again, it’s no guarantee those four will be the semifinalists — or that one of those four will win it all.
1. Cheyenne East
: The Thunderbirds return five all-staters, more than any other team in 4A, including 4A’s offensive player of the year in QB Graedyn Buell. I’m not sure anyone will be able to match East’s offensive firepower.
2. Cheyenne Central: A program on the move up, the Indians return four all-state picks and a 4A-high seven all-conference selections. However, most of those players are on the outside, leaving a line that will need to fill a couple holes.
3. Sheridan: The defending state champs return six all-conference selections and a ton of program momentum — the kind of stuff that winning four titles in five years can bring you.
4. Thunder Basin: The ‘Bolts graduated numerous key contributors but still return five all-conference players, including RB Jaxon Pikula, who might be one of Wyoming’s best individual playmakers in 2020.
5. Natrona: The Mustangs dipped out of the playoffs earlier than they would have liked last year but still return QB Harrison Taubert, whose experience under center will be a steadying force for NC.
Dark horse: Rock Springs. The Tigers under coach Mark Lenhardt proved they can play with anyone. Now they just need a couple victories against top-tier programs to build their confidence.

Class 3A
Classification: The West is still the stronger conference, and it’s likely the state champ will come from there. But the East will challenge more consistently and, with several West teams needing to replace key contributors, 2020 could be more unpredictable.
1. Star Valley
: As the Braves shoot for their fifth 3A title in six years, it starts up front with two returning all-state linemen, Gabe Nield and Lucas Chappel. More spots than usual need filling, but Star Valley has shown it knows how to reload.
2. Cody: The Broncs, too, have holes to fill, but they return a pair of all-staters in Nic Talich and Keaton Stone and should be a tough team to beat in the West.
3. Jackson: The Broncs will shade young, as both returning all-staters (Sadler Smith and Colter Dawson) are juniors. But Jackson’s program continues to develop and has turned from nice surprise to perennial contender.
4. Riverton: With six returning all-conference players, more than any other 3A program, the talent is there to do big things. Even with a coaching change upcoming, the Wolverines could start the season as the favorites in the East.
5. Lander: The Tigers had a nice breakthrough in 2019 and have four returning all-conference players and all-state linebacker Jack Sweeney on which to keep the momentum rolling.
Dark horse: Powell. Even with only one returning all-conference or all-state player on the roster (lineman Geordan Weimer), the Panthers did play in the title game last year, and that’ll help the program momentum grow.

Class 2A
Classification: Wyoming’s biggest classification (16 teams) will be instantly competitive thanks to the newbies in the ranks. As senior-heavy teams had the most success in last year’s playoffs, anything is possible.
1. Big Horn
: The Rams should have no problems with the shift from 1A to 2A. With two consecutive state titles behind them and six returning all-state players — more than any other team in the state regardless of classification — the Rams will be one of the teams to beat to start 2020.
2. Mountain View: The Buffalos’ dominance from 2019 should carry over to 2020 thanks to returning all-state picks Hunter Meeks and Ashton Schofield, but the squad has a bunch of holes to fill due to graduation.
3. Upton-Sundance: The Patriots get back three all-state players from last year’s 1A-11 semifinal team and should handle the shift to 2A easily.
4. Big Piney: Don’t overlook the Punchers. They return five all-conference players, most in the West Conference, and QB Kaden Raza was an all-state pick last year.
5. Thermopolis: The Bobcats keep steadily improving and should be solid again in 2020 as all-staters Logan Cole and Remington Ferree lead a squad that will be young but will have potential.
Dark horse: Pick ’em. Class 2A should be extremely competitive this year, as Wheatland, Cokeville, Lovell, Lyman and Pinedale all return at least three all-conference players. Any one of those teams could be a surprise championship contender, as could Torrington as it moves down from 3A.

Class 1A nine-man
Classification: As three of the four semifinalists from 1A 11-man last year make the move to 2A, the new 1A nine-man is wide, wide, wide open. Even so, the classification will be competitive and even at the top.
1. Southeast
: From 0-8 in 2018 to potential championship contender in 2020, Southeast could be one of the strongest teams in the new nine-man division thanks to returning all-staters Harrison Hall and Ryan Clapper and three other returning all-conference choices.
2. Rocky Mountain: Rocky has been building to this 2020 season for a long time. The Grizzlies return all six of their all-conference selections, and Tyler Banks and Trace Moss were both all-state picks.
3. Lusk: The Tigers, too, return a pair of all-staters with Drake Lamp and Dylan Molzahn and have four total all-conference players coming back — behind only to Rocky Mountain and Southeast.
4. Lingle: With — what a coincidence — two returning all-staters from six-man in Cordell Forkner and Cooper Hill, the Doggers should transition to nine-man smoothly and be immediate contenders.
5. Shoshoni: Tryston Truempler was an all-state choice last year, and with three all-conference players back, the Wranglers should be in the thick of the race in the West.
Dark horse: Riverside. The Rebels were extremely young the past couple seasons but should be ready to transition to nine-man with an experienced senior class ready to keep the program competitive.

Class 1A six-man
Classification: We could see a bit more parity in 2020 — at least in conference play. The West will once again be the stronger conference, and there’s a chance no one will emerge from that rigmarole unscathed.
1. Farson
: The 2018 six-man champs could be back again in 2020 thanks to three returning all-conference players, tied for the most in six-man, and all-stater Parker Clawson leading the way.
2. Snake River: Last year’s champs lost a ton to graduation, with junior Zander Risner the only returning all-state or all-conference selection. But last year’s backups saw plenty of time on the field and should be prepared for varsity speed in 2020.
3. Hanna: The Miners return two all-state selections, more than any other team in six-man, in senior Devon Grosstick and junior Jase Smith. Plus, they’ve got the confidence that comes from playing in War Memorial.
4. Encampment: Last year’s Tiger team went 5-2 playing a patchwork schedule but proved their mettle by beating the varsities from Meeteetse and Dubois. In their first full year at the varsity level, they should be ready to compete immediately.
5. Burlington: The Huskies return three all-conference players and will have enough playmakers on offense to keep opposing defenses off-balance.
Dark horse: Kaycee. The Buckaroos return a pair of all-conference selections in Dylan Fauber and Rhys Stafford and should compete with Hanna for the top spot in the East.

Who’s being overlooked here? Leave a comment and let’s start talking 2020, because it’s never too soon to talk football.

–patrick

Before we dive headlong into the 2020s and prepare for another decade of Wyoming high school football, here’s a quick glance back at the eight things that I think made football in the 2010s particularly memorable. In no particular order, they are:

1. Six new programs start football: From 2010 to 2019, six new programs entered the fray — five new programs in Cheyenne South, Thunder Basin, St. Stephens, Encampment and Rock River and one new co-op with Upton-Sundance. The start-up programs had mixed success levels, with Thunder Basin’s trip to the 4A title game in 2019 the best of the bunch, but Upton-Sundance’s co-op has been a consistent contender and won the 1A 11-man championship in 2015. Encampment revived its program in 2019 and played a hodgepodge of schools at six-man; the Tigers will make the jump to varsity in 2020. Meanwhile, Cheyenne South has just one playoff berth since 2011; St. Stephens has yet to make the postseason; and Rock River only completed three seasons at the varsity level before folding the program, apparently for good.

2. Nine-man football returns to Wyoming: In April of this year, the Wyoming High School Activities Association approved a nine-man football division for Class 1A, with the first season scheduled for 2020. The state will remain with five classifications, as 1A 11-man changes to 1A nine-man. The decision prompted some tough choices, and after the dust settled, 16 schools were in Class 2A, 14 in 1A nine-man and 13 in 1A six-man.

3. Six-man sees big growth: When six-man football was re-introduced in 2009, no one was quite sure how long it would last, or if it would last at all. With only eight teams in the first two seasons in 2009 and 2010, those concerns were justified. However, six-man proved a steady, solid choice for many small schools, and the classification eventually grew to as many as 16 teams as new programs started and other small schools made the choice to play the 80×40 version of the game. Also, the Six-Man Shootout between Nebraska and Wyoming all-stars started in 2012, a nice boost to the game for both states.

4. Class 4A’s Big Four sustain dominant status: From 2010-15, the same four programs (Cheyenne East, Gillette, Natrona and Sheridan) reached the Class 4A semifinals, an unprecedented run of success. Although Rock Springs, Kelly Walsh and Cheyenne Central (and eventually Thunder Basin, which usurped Gillette’s role in the Big Four) all made their way into the 4A semifinals once this decade, it wasn’t enough. Sheridan had the most success of the Big Four, winning five 4A championships in the decade to improve their state-best overall mark to 27 championships, while Natrona won four and East one.

5. Laramie claims role of title-game host: Yes, Laramie and the University of Wyoming hosted the title games for the first time in 2009, but in the 2010s, the city and university gained a much stronger hold on the championships. In case you don’t remember, the decision to move the title games was divisive. However, over the course of this decade, the War has become the spot for title games — an experience like none other for Wyoming’s high school players fortunate enough to make it there.

6. Kaycee and Powell make runs at a record: In winning three consecutive Class 3A championships in 2011-13, Powell won 27 consecutive games — within spitting distance of the state record for consecutive victories, Laramie’s 34 set from 1959-63. That march stopped early in the 2014 season; however, Kaycee came even closer, winning 30 straight games from 2015-17 while notching three consecutive Class 1A six-man titles.

7. Lincoln County dynasties keep rolling: Three programs in the 2010s — Sheridan, Star Valley and Cokeville — won four championships in the span of five years. The last two just happen to hang out in Lincoln County together, where football dynasties continue to flourish. The 3A Braves won titles in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019, while the 1A Panthers won theirs in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. Together, they’ve combined for 34 titles (22 for Cokeville, 12 for Star Valley).

8. Multiple dynasties stake their claims: In all, 24 programs won state titles in the 2010s, down slightly from the 26 in the 2000s and the 25 in the 19990s who won it all. In addition to the programs already mentioned (Sheridan, Natrona, Star Valley, Powell, Cokeville and Kaycee), five other programs won at least two state championships. Big Horn won four state titles, Mountain View and Snake River won three apiece and Cody and Pine Bluffs each won a pair.

What was your biggest takeaway from the past 10 years of football in the Equality State? Leave a comment and let’s talk about the ways.

–patrick

When the 2020 and 2021 Wyoming high school football schedules came out at the end of October, we knew they’d be different.

Reclassification, paired with a new nine-man division to replace 11-man in Class 1A, meant changes were bound to happen.

However, from top to bottom, the 2020 and 2021 schedules are significantly different from schedules of past years. Some of those changes are welcome. Some are just different. Some are new. And some are just flat-out mistakes.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’m seeing in the state’s schedules for the next couple years:

Pros

A fuller Zero Week. Many more teams are opting for games in Zero Week as opposed to scrimmages or jamborees, and I’m for it. I know, not all of you agree with my method for recording Zero Week games into the season records for programs, but I do like the tidiness a game provides, and I don’t mind seeing more games on the schedule.

Renewed rivalries. I love seeing some rivalries resurrected for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with Thermopolis and Worland staging a Zero Week game, Greybull and Riverside playing a 1A nine-man West Conference game in Week 6 and Wheatland and Torrington meeting in a 2A East Conference game in Week 7. It’ll also be fun to see St. Stephens get Fremont County rivalries started with Wind River, Wyoming Indian and Shoshoni in the 1A nine-man West.

Travel is reduced — slightly. In the 2019 schedule, teams averaged 176.8 miles per away game, one-way, including 183.3 miles per conference game and 162 miles per nonconference game. In 2020, teams will average 171.7 miles per game, with conference games at 170.7 and nonconference at 175 — although those numbers may fluctuate slightly as teams add sub-varsity nonconference games in open weeks, especially in six-man.

Meh?

Rivalry Week in 4A is dead. I kind of liked having all the big 4A rivalry games on one week, but those opportunities are now spread out across the season. The big ones in 4A are all in different weeks, with the Oil Bowl (Natrona-Kelly Walsh) in Week 3, the Coal Bowl (Campbell County-Thunder Basin) in Week 4, the Capital Bowl (Cheyenne Central-Cheyenne East) in Week 6 and the Energy Bowl (Sheridan-Campbell County) in Week 7. Although I liked rivalry week, it might also be nice to have that rivalry energy spread out in a variety of weeks — it might give each rivalry its own moment in the spotlight.

Cons

The 1A six-man East got shafted. In what was probably the most avoidable problem, most of the 1A six-man East Conference ended up with open weeks in both Week 2 and Week 3. That’s due to the unbalanced conferences in six-man, with six teams in the East and seven in the West. However, this imbalance could have been fixed by giving BOTH conferences eight-team round-robin schedules for conference play in the final seven weeks of the season; at least then, only one East team per week has an open week in weeks 2-7 rather than having five teams from the same conference all have an open week at the same time, which is pretty much what’s happening in Weeks 2-3. The scramble for JV games is on.

The geography of the 2A West. With the 2A West next year, there will be two pretty clear geographic divisions — north (Lovell and Thermopolis) and south (the other six teams: Kemmerer, Cokeville, Pinedale, Big Piney, Mountain View, Lyman). Therefore, it makes a lot of sense for the south teams to get one north team at home and the other on the road, right? Well… that didn’t happen. Cokeville and Mountain View get both north teams on the road, while Kemmerer and Lyman get both north teams at home. That flips next year… but no one should be put into an altogether avoidable situation.

Four-in-five scheduling. Three teams (Kelly Walsh, Laramie and Evanston) got scheduled for either four road or four home games in five-week spans. Kelly Walsh got four home games in five weeks in weeks 2-6; Laramie got four road games in five weeks in the same span. The game that’s not? Laramie hosting KW in Week 4. … Evanston also got four road games in five weeks in weeks 2-6. Yes, it’ll flip-flop for these teams next season, but no one should have to do the four-in-five even once.

Three-straight scheduling. Lander and Tongue River both open their seasons with three consecutive road games — although part of that was both schools’ choice to open with a Zero Week game on the road. Riverton, though, has three straight home games in weeks 2-4 next season, and that’ll be three straight road games in 2021.

New

At least 19 new series will start up in 2020. It’s always fun to see new opponents play each other. The bulk of the new series come from schools in new classifications and conferences, including Torrington, Upton-Sundance, Cokeville, St. Stephens and Encampment, although a couple other new series sneaked onto the schedule, too. The new series are:
Zero Week
: Star Valley/South Summit, Utah.
Week 1: Lusk/St. Stephens; Burns/Mitchell, Neb.
Week 2: Wright/Wyoming Indian (scheduled once before but was not played due to forfeit); Snake River/Encampment; Jackson/Hillcrest, Idaho.
Week 3: Torrington/Tongue River.
Week 4: Upton-Sundance/Torrington; St. Stephens/Saratoga.
Week 5: Cokeville/Thermopolis; Torrington/Big Horn.
Week 6: Upton-Sundance/Burns; St. Stephens/Wind River; Encampment/Ten Sleep.
Week 7: Glenrock/Upton-Sundance.
Week 8: Cokeville/Lovell; Torrington/Burns; Lingle/Greybull; Rocky Mountain/St. Stephens.
Zero Week matchups that could be scrimmages and not full games: Big Horn/Buffalo and Lander/Pinedale.

So what do you say? What’s your favorite — or least favorite — part of the schedules for 2020 and 2021? Leave a comment and let’s talk about next season(s) now!

–patrick

The 2019 season is done, and we have five more champions.

Four went undefeated — Snake River in 1A six-man, Big Horn in 1A 11-man, Mountain View in 2A and Star Valley in 3A. Sheridan, meanwhile, won the 4A title with an 11-1 record after beating previously unbeaten Thunder Basin 35-26.

There are a host of places where you can read about these games, with info from people who were at the games. That wasn’t me — in case you weren’t aware, I live in California these days, and making it to Laramie in mid-November with work is tough — but I watched as much as I could of the championships via the live video streams online. I do miss attending championship weekend in Laramie, but I don’t miss the snow.

Things I noticed from the title games, and the season:

Both Big Horn and Star Valley will carry long winning streaks into next season. Big Horn has won 22 games in a row, including its 55-7 demolition of Cokeville in the Class 1A 11-man title game, while Star Valley has won 21 in a row with its 49-13 thumping of Powell in the Class 3A championship.

Big Horn has also won 15 consecutive home games, as well as 15 consecutive road games. The Rams’ 15 straight road victories is within sniffing distance of the top five such streaks all-time; however, Natrona has won 18 straight home games and Mountain View has won 17 straight at home.

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With its 71-38 victory in the Class 1A six-man title game, Snake River has now scored in 105 consecutive games, the best active streak in the state but still well short of the state record of 175, set by Cokeville. Snake River hasn’t been shut out since resurrecting its program in 2009.

Snake River was scored on in the title game, leaving the Rattlers tied for the state’s longest shutout streak at nine with three other programs. However, the Rattlers are the only team to have ever done so at six-man, and the only one to have ever done so after World War II. It’s an unbelievable run that I don’t know we’ll ever see again.

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Even though they lost the Class 1A 11-man title game, the Cokeville Panthers notched their 32nd consecutive winning season, a total that’s twice as good as any other program in the state. Meanwhile, Laramie finished with its 19th consecutive losing season, the second-longest such streak in state history.

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Despite losing the 1A six-man title game, Hanna finished the season with 795 points, second-best all-time. The Miners also finished with 72.27 points per game, the highest mark in state history.

Class 2A champ Mountain View didn’t score a lot in the title game, beating Buffalo 24-14, but the Buffalos finished with 549 points this season, second-best all time for 11-man teams. Their average of 49.91 points per game is third-best all time. Meanwhile, Class 1A 11-man champ Big Horn averaged 49 ppg, fourth-best all time, and had 539 total points, tied for fourth-highest in the state’s 11-man annals.

Several other efforts — some good, some not so good — ended up on the list of scoring records.

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Cokeville coach Todd Dayton will reach a heck of a milestone in the first game of the 2020 season. Right now, Dayton has 399 games to his credit; the first of 2020 will be his 400th as a head coach. Similarly, Natrona coach Steve Harshman needs seven more games to reach No. 300 in his Wyoming career. Dayton and Harshman rank 1-2 in Wyoming history in career victories, with Dayton way out in front with 335 and Harshman second with 207. This season, Harshman passed John E. Deti, who has 205 victories, for the No. 2 spot. They’re the only three coaches in state history with more than 200 career victories.

Meanwhile, Lander coach John Scott now has 102 victories in his Wyoming career; he became the 27th coach to join the 100-victory club. Two more coaches could join that group in 2020, as Upton-Sundance’s Andy Garland finished this season with 93 career victories and Cheyenne East’s Chad Goff emerged with 92.

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Here are the results of my picks from title-game weekend, this season and my “career”:

Last week: 5-0 (100 percent). This season: 250-57 (81 percent). The past 15 years: 3,584-887 (80 percent).

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Just because the 2019 season is done doesn’t mean we’re done here. Be sure to follow wyoming-football.com on Facebook or Twitter, or both. I’ll be sharing all kinds of offseason news, including coaching changes and peeks ahead to 2020, as well as all kinds of nerdy stuff related to Wyoming high school football (and occasionally other stuff I hope you find interesting).

The site has been updated with all the information I have available for 2019. Postseason recognition is yet to come — the all-state, Super 25 and all-America listings will be updated with that info when it becomes available — and I’m planning a couple other small tweaks to what’s here, too. If you see anything that’s incorrect or missing, let me know.

Finally, if you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship. I truly appreciate all the sponsors who have already supported the site, but I also have room for more. I have to pay for my web space, and sponsorships help keep me from having to pay for the site out of my own pocket. For $20 a year, you can sponsor a page. If you like having on-demand results of 25,007 Wyoming high school football games across 5,449 team seasons — and you appreciate the work that went into it — then toss me a Jackson.

–patrick

For first-year head coaches in Wyoming high school football, it’s not uncommon to see a coach find immediate success.

In all, 31 coaches in Wyoming high school football — including current Big Horn coach Kirk McLaughlin — started their coaching careers with an undefeated season (with at least four games in the season).

However, maintaining that success has been tricky.

Of the 31 coaches who went undefeated (four or more games) in their first season, 14 of them didn’t return to coach the next season. Of the remaining 17, six posted losing records the following season.

The only other coach to go undefeated his first two seasons as head coach (minimum four games per season) is Joseph Weller, who led Albin to a 5-0 season in 1942 and a 4-0 season in 1943. Those were Weller’s only two seasons as a head football coach in Wyoming.

That brings us to McLaughlin.

McLaughlin started his head coaching career in Wyoming with an 11-0 season in 2018 followed up by a 2019 campaign that, so far, is 10-0, with the Class 1A 11-man state championship game against Cokeville scheduled for Saturday in Laramie.

The 21 consecutive victories to start a head coaching career in Wyoming is a state record.

Prior to McLaughlin, the coach who started his Wyoming head coaching career with the most consecutive victories was Jim Rooks. Rooks led Jackson to a 9-0 season his first season in 1981 and then won his first six in 1982 before losing to Star Valley in the second-to-last game of the 1982 season — notching 15 straight victories before a loss.

Third on the list is Talbot Rudolph, who posted 11 consecutive victories to start his career in one of the most circuitous paths a coach has ever taken. He started his Wyoming career with a 7-0 season at Pine Bluffs in 1941, then went 1-0 in the only game I can find for Big Piney in 1942. I don’t know where he was in 1943… but in 1944, he was coaching again, this time at the Heart Mountain internment camp, where he went 3-1 (winning the first three games to extend his start to 11 consecutive victories).

Three other coaches posted 10 consecutive victories to start their Wyoming head coaching careers — Lou Maiben (10 straight at Byron in 1954 and 1955), Tony Rouse (10 straight at Kaycee in 2017) and Bill Sollars (10 straight at Shoshoni in 1959).

–patrick

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

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