In late October, 1999, my senior year of high school, I was sitting in Mr. Balfour’s class when one of my friends came into class and told me: “Patrick, you made all-conference.”

Surprised wasn’t the right word. Confused was more like it. The only thing I could think was to wonder why my friend would play this joke on me.

It wasn’t a joke. In 1999, the four head coaches in the Class 1A-Division II Powder River Conference awarded me a spot on the all-conference football team.

I didn’t deserve that spot.

And I knew it.

Even on the worst team in one of the worst conferences in the classification made up of the the smallest schools in the smallest state in the country, I shouldn’t have been all-conference. I was (and am) 5-foot-7, maybe 150 pounds (bigger now). I made up for being slow by being weak, too.

My stats reflected that reality. I started at tight end/wide receiver and safety; I had maybe six catches all season (no touchdowns) and roughly 50 defensive points (no interceptions).

But I showed up to practice every day. I played hard. I was coachable. I didn’t cause any problems off the field. And I appreciate that my coaches deemed me worthy to nominate and other coaches agreed.

That was enough to make me a quota filler.

My all-conference selection is emblematic of all-conference football in Wyoming as a whole. Certainly, it’s not a new problem, but 2020’s selections revealed just how easy all-conference honors are to earn.

Consider the number of players who were recognized as first-team all-conference selections this year: 359. Yes, 359 different Wyoming players were named first-team all-conference selections after the 2020 season.

Of those, 76 came in Class 4A, 79 in Class 3A, 93 in Class 2A, 71 in Class 1A nine-man and 40 in Class 1A six-man.

But the number 359 barely scratches the surface.

Class 4A’s numbers game

The most absurd recognitions come in the classification with the biggest schools. In Class 4A, some level of all-conference recognition is barely above that of a participation award.

The problem in 4A is that there are three levels of all-conference recognition: first team, second team and honorable mention. The 76 players I mentioned before were first team, on which there are 92 available spots across the two all-conference teams (4A gives all-conference and all-state honors by position). There were another combined 66 second-team spots, and this year there were 93 combined honorable mention selections.

That’s 251 possible all-conference choices. In one classification. For 10 teams. Quick math: That averages out to 25 selections per team reaching some level of all-conference recognition.

Basically, all you have to do to get an all-conference selection in Class 4A, all things being equal, is start. With 11 positions on offense, 11 positions on defense, kicker, punter, returner, and there’s 25 positions to nominate for the roughly 25 positions per school available for all-conference.

This year, 174 individuals filled those 251 spots in 4A. And as you dig in, you begin to see some of the absurdities.

Thunder Basin had 40 all-conference choices — almost double the number of available starting spots on Thunder Basin’s team. In all, 25 different ‘Bolts players were named all-conference to those 40 spots. Of those Thunder Basin choices, 16 were on offense and 19 were on defense, with the remainder falling into special teams or “at-large” selections.

Now, pay attention, because this is where the absurdity starts to show: at the position breakdown. Thunder Basin had eight defensive linemen, seven defensive backs and five wide receivers make all-conference.

At least for Thunder Basin, it was easier to get all-conference recognition than it was to earn a starting position in 2020.

For as fine of a team as Thunder Basin had this year, even that is pushing it. This isn’t just a Thunder Basin problem, though.

Natrona and Sheridan had 22 individuals named all-conference — Sheridan’s players to 31 spots and Natrona’s to 28. That’s not all that far behind Thunder Basin.

Also, it’s not just an issue of the top teams soaking up all the spots: Nine of the 10 Class 4A teams had at least 11 all-conference selections on offense. Thunder Basin, as noted, had 16; Campbell County had 14; Natrona and Sheridan had 13; Central and Laramie had 12; East, Rock Springs and Kelly Walsh had 11 apiece.

Then again, when you have that quota of 251 spaces to fill, you’ve gotta get a little creative.

That’s how guys become quota fillers.

All-state is problematic, too

All-state awards are much more selective. More spots are available on all-state, though, than ever before, as well — this year, 186 players were named first-team all-state across Wyoming’s five classifications.

A look at the all-state teams of the past shows how much the teams have been expanded, with numbers creeping up bit by bit, year by year.

The 186 players named all-staters in 2020 is the highest number in Wyoming history. This year’s total breaks a record set in 2019, 2018 and 2016 of 182.

Here’s a chart that shows the incremental creep of all-state awards. (Note that the dip in 1994 is due to incomplete data; the 1A nine-man all-state team from that year still has yet to be found.)

Historically, the biggest jumps are when Wyoming adds a classification of football — from 89 selections to 110 between 1982 and 1983 with the move from three to four classes, and the jump from 109 to 140 selections between 1989 and 1990 with the move from four to five.

Even so, the 140 players on Wyoming’s first five-class all-state teams in 1990 collectively total 46 fewer players than the 186 players recognized in 2020.

(If you really want to dig deep on this, click here to see a breakdown of the number of all-state players by classification and year.)

The solution?

What coaches and administrators across the state need to decide is if all-conference awards are exclusive.

Right now, they’re not.

In another 20 years, how many of the 359 first-team players across the state who were given all-conference recognition will say the same? How many of those 174 individuals across the gamut of 251 first-team, second-team and honorable mention selections in 4A? How many of those eight Thunder Basin defensive linemen?

Heck, how many will say it now?

I think one answer is to change all-conference (and all-state) teams to true team selections. By position, choose 11 players for offense, 11 for defense, three for special teams for an even 25 players per conference; adjust accordingly for nine-man (9-9-3 for 21) and six-man (6-6-2 for 14). Across Wyoming’s five classifications and 10 conferences, that’s 220 players: 50 in 4A, 3A and 2A, 42 in nine-man and 28 in 1A.

For all-state, that would be 25 for 4A, 3A and 2A, 21 for nine-man and 14 for six-man; in all, that’s 110 all-state picks.

If coaches want to recognize their players, they can continue to do so with team-specific awards. That would truly be more meaningful than a recognition so watered down that it might be mistaken for a joke.

The legacy of a quota filler

I never framed my all-conference award, and I never hung it on my wall. I’m not even sure where it is, to be honest. It’s probably buried among perfect attendance honors and report cards, but I’ve never felt compelled to go look for it.

This is totally antithetical to who I am, though. I’m a nostalgic dude. I love keeping the past alive. I think often about my experiences in high school sports. I’ve been known to watch the occasional game tape on YouTube. And I run this website. My wife has called me Uncle Rico, and sometimes I wonder if she’s not joking.

But the all-conference honor I got as a senior?

I didn’t deserve it, and I know it.

It means so little to me because it meant so little to the ones who bestowed it on me.

–patrick

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A few weeks ago, I broached this topic on Twitter, asking if the number of players selected for all-conference honors was too many, too few or just right. Here’s what you all said:

What do you think? Be sure to leave a comment.

Seven Wyoming high school football champs had weird spikes of success — going from losing record to state championship back to losing record over the span of three years.

The most recent such team was Guernsey-Sunrise’s 2009 team. The year before its title, the Vikings went 2-6; after moving to six-man in 2009, they went 9-0 and won the state’s first six-man championship in more than 60 years. Then, in 2010, the Vikings went 1-8.

The Vikings’ unexpected title was the third time that happened in three consecutive years. The same thing happened to Burns in 2008 (4-5, to 11-0, to 3-5) and to Jackson in 2007 (4-5, to 11-0, to 2-6).

But it hasn’t happened since 2009, and it rarely happened prior to 2007.

Prior to that, four other teams — Midwest in 1991, Green River in 1976, Natrona in 1957 and Cheyenne Central in 1941 — won state championships in between two losing seasons.

Midwest’s 1991 10-1 season was sandwiched between seasons of 4-5 and 0-8. Green River won the 1976 Class A title in between years of 2-7 and 1-8.

Natrona, meanwhile, won the 1957 championship with a 6-1-1 record in between identical 2-6-1 seasons.

Central’s 1941 team was the first to accomplish the feat, going 7-1-1 to win it all in 1941 despite going 4-5 the year before and 3-4 the year after.

For the 33 Wyoming teams who had losing records in 2020, hope is out there — for both winning a championship and avoiding a place on this short list by making winning a habit, not a flare-up.

–patrick

The 2020 season ended up not being as weird as we thought it could be.

At the end of it all, we saw five champions crowned on the second weekend of November, which is about as normal as we can get this year.

Cheyenne East, Cody, Lyman, Southeast and Farson finished as state champions, each coming about it in their own way but all five finishing at the same spot.

Southeast (1A nine-man) and Farson (1A six-man) both finished undefeated, wrapping up 11-0 campaigns.

Cheyenne East will also enter 2021 riding an 11-game winning streak, the longest in school history, after avenging a season-opening loss to Thunder Basin in the 4A title game.

Cody and Lyman both overcame midseason losses to teams that didn’t make it all that far — Cody lost to Star Valley, which didn’t make it out of the first round, while Lyman lost to Big Piney, which didn’t even qualify for the playoffs.

One trend that showed this weekend was the importance of the fourth quarter.

As I noted on Twitter, East, Lyman and Southeast were all behind starting the fourth quarter; they won by 14, 11 and 19, respectively.

Trailing 15-7 starting the final quarter, East ran off 22 consecutive fourth-quarter points to win 29-15. Lyman trailed 3-0 starting the fourth but scored twice to win 14-3. And Southeast was behind 28-27 to start the final quarter but outscored Lusk 20-0 over the final 12 minutes for a 47-28 victory.

Farson did the opposite. The Pronghorns led Meeteetse 42-8 entering the fourth quarter but gave up 22 points — enough to make a late onside kick a bit interesting, but not enough to keep Farson from winning 42-30.

The other game of the weekend, the 3A matchup between Jackson and Cody, didn’t have that late drama. Cody jumped out to a 26-0 halftime lead, and although Jackson climbed back to within 26-13, Cody chewed up clock late and emerged 34-13.

And the 2020 season ended as it should, on the field in the second week of November.

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The 2020 season is now part of the site, with results, champions, all-time standings, and everything else on wyoming-football.com now updated to be current through the end of the season. If anything looks weird, incorrect, or out of place, let me know.

My next project is publishing a second edition of my book, “A Century of Fridays,” as soon as I possibly can. Keep reading the blog for more on the book.

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

Last week: 5-0 (100 percent). This season: 240-62 (79 percent). 16-year overall mark: 3,824-949 (80 percent).

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

–patrick

Pine Bluffs’ 42-point loss to Shoshoni in the first round of the Class 1A nine-man playoffs was not the way the Hornets wanted to end their season.

However, the loss — and specifically, the margin by which Pine Bluffs lost — puts the team in unique company.

For the 2020 season, the Hornets scored 258 points; they also gave up 258.

This statistical anomaly has only happened 28 times in Wyoming high school football history (to teams with a minimum of four games played in a season). It’s an anomaly nobody tries for and nobody plans for, which is what makes it so interesting to me.

It last happened in 2013, to Riverton. And, oddly enough, it’s happened twice to Pine Bluffs, which also had an even tally for the season occur in 2002.

Mathematical instinct tells us an even tally should mean an average record. This season, Pine Bluffs finished 5-4, one of just seven teams to finish with a winning record in this scenario. Green River also did so in 2009 at 6-4, but the Wolves were the first team to put up a winning record with an even season score since Deaver-Frannie went 5-3 in 1967. Of the remaining teams, 15 finished with losing records, while six finished exactly at the .500 mark.

The best team to finish with an even scoring tally was probably Laramie’s 1954 team, which shared a state championship with Cheyenne Central despite allowing and scoring 147 points during a 6-3 season.

Pine Bluffs is one of five programs to have hit the even tally twice, joining Douglas (1930 and 1940), Gillette (1936 and 2007), Powell (1962 and 1977) and Star Valley (1938 and 1956).

Only three times has it happened in the same season to two different teams: in 1938 (Lingle and Star Valley), 1967 (Deaver-Frannie and Evanston) and 2002 (Dubois and Pine Bluffs). Although the season isn’t officially over, it’s probably pretty safe to say the Hornets will be the only team to accomplish this feat in 2020.

Here’s the full list of teams who have scored exactly as many points as they allowed in a season (minimum four games played):

Douglas 1930 (3-3): 65 points
Cowley 1931 (3-4): 78 points
Gillette 1936 (4-2): 85 points
Lingle 1938 (3-3-1): 83 points
Star Valley 1938 (2-2-1): 45 points
Douglas 1940 (5-2): 63 points
Upton 1947 (2-3-1): 40 points
Sheridan 1951 (2-3-1): 98 points
Laramie 1954 (6-3, state champs): 147 points
Star Valley 1956 (3-3-1): 145 points
Natrona 1959 (3-4-2): 116 points
Powell 1962 (5-4): 137 points
Shoshoni 1963 (3-3-1): 64 points
Deaver-Frannie 1967 (5-3): 187 points
Evanston 1967 (4-6): 177 points
Powell 1977 (4-5): 119 points
Lyman 1980 (3-5): 113 points
Burlington 1987 (3-5): 152 points
Pinedale 1989 (3-5): 141 points
Moorcroft 1992 (3-5): 120 points
Big Horn 1993 (3-5): 202 points
Dubois 2002 (4-5): 233 points
Pine Bluffs 2002 (4-5): 176 points
Gillette 2007 (5-6): 233 points
Green River 2009 (6-4): 281 points
Hulett 2012 (3-6): 320 points
Riverton 2013 (5-5): 270 points
Pine Bluffs 2020 (5-4): 258 points

–patrick

With myriad playoff seeding possibilities still waiting to be played out, here’s a quick glance at what’s come together so far, and what’s possible for the teams chasing those postseason spots:

Class 4A
In: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Thunder Basin, Natrona, Rock Springs, Sheridan.
Neither in nor out: Kelly Walsh, Campbell County, Laramie, Cheyenne South.
Out: None.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Quite simply: nope.
Break it down for me: East, Central and Thunder Basin are at the top at 6-1; Natrona, Rock Springs and Sheridan are tied at 4-3. After that, Kelly Walsh (3-4) is in best position to secure a playoff spot; South will be out if they lose this week.

Class 3A East
In: No one.
Neither in nor out: Everyone.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes; if Douglas beats Buffalo and Riverton beats Worland, then Douglas will be the top seed.
Break it down for me: Douglas controls its destiny, and Lander and Worland are right behind and will fight it out for the No. 2 seed. Riverton and Buffalo are scrambling for the fourth seed, while Rawlins needs a victory in the worst way to keep pace.

Class 3A West
In: Jackson.
Neither in nor out: Cody, Powell, Green River, Star Valley, Evanston.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes; if Jackson beat Powell and Green River beats Cody, Jackson will be the top seed.
Break it down for me: After Jackson, it’s a fight for the final three seeds, with Cody and Powell (2-1) having the inside track and Green River and Star Valley (1-2) scrapping for a spot, too. The Week 8 game between Green River and Star Valley looms large.

Class 2A East
In: No one, technically.
Neither in nor out: Wheatland, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Big Horn, Glenrock.
Out: Burns, Tongue River, Newcastle.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Pffft… no.
Break it down for me: Wheatland, Upton-Sundance, Torrington and Big Horn, all 4-1 in conference, are all but guaranteed the East’s four spots; the question now is order. Glenrock needs to win both of its remaining games, including on Friday against Upton-Sundance, and hope for some tiebreaker magic to break up that four-team mishmash at the top.

Class 2A West
In: Mountain View.
Neither in nor out: Lyman, Big Piney, Cokeville, Lovell.
Out: Thermopolis, Pinedale, Kemmerer.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Potentially. A Mountain View victory against Thermopolis paired with a Lyman loss to Pinedale would give Mountain View the top spot.
Break it down for me: Mountain View is in the catbird’s seat, with Lyman next up with just one loss. Big Piney, Cokeville and Lovell all have 3-2 records in conference play. That’s a problem because there’s only four playoff spots…. One of these four will be out of it.

Class 1A nine-man East
In: Lusk, Southeast.
Neither in nor out: Pine Bluffs, Saratoga, Wright, Lingle.
Out: No one.
Ineligible: Moorcroft.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It WILL be, as the winner of Lusk vs. Southeast this week will be the conference’s top seed in the playoffs.
Break it down for me: Lusk and Southeast will be the top two seeds; after that, though, it’s a mess. Pine Bluffs is in the best spot for the postseason. Saratoga, Wright and Lingle are all at one conference victory and two of them (Saratoga and Wright) play this week.

Class 1A nine-man West
In: Rocky Mountain.
Neither in nor out: Shoshoni, Riverside, Wind River, Greybull.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It was already decided; Rocky Mountain had the top seed wrapped up after Week 5.
Break it down for me: This one got weird quick, as all four teams beneath Rocky Mountain have one conference victory apiece. The kicker is that Shoshoni is the only team in the group to have two conference games remaining; everyone else only has one. Get your tiebreakers ready.

Class 1A six-man East
In: Kaycee.
Neither in nor out: Hulett, Hanna, NSI, Guernsey, Midwest.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It’s possible; if Kaycee beats Midwest and Hulett beats Hanna, then Kaycee will earn the top seed.
Break it down for me: Kaycee is in the best spot, and Hulett and Hanna (who play each other next week) are also in good shape. The winner between NSI and Guernsey is in line for a spot, too. Midwest has the toughest road to the postseason and needs victories and help.

Class 1A six-man West
In: Meeteetse, Farson.
Neither in nor out: Snake River, Encampment, Dubois, Burlington, Ten Sleep.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It can’t help but be, as the Farson-Meeteetse winner this week will be the top seed in the playoffs.
Break it down for me: Farson and Meeteetse are 1-2 in some order, and everyone else is fighting for the final two spots. Encampment and Snake River are in the best positions with two conference victories each, while Dubois and Burlington (one conference W each) and Ten Sleep (zero) need victories and help to make it to the postseason.

–patrick

My obsession with Wyoming high school football scoreboards began a few weeks ago when I caught a livestream of a Worland football game.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Worland’s scoreboard is on a unique position on its field, nearly behind the visiting bench. Here’s a screenshot from the NFHS Network broadcast of Worland’s game with Green River a couple weeks ago:

Worland plays Green River, 2020. The scoreboard is in a unique spot.

I had never seen a placement like that before. I thought about it and realized the scoreboard placement could actually be an advantage to the Worland team and coaches, who can do a quick glance up to the scoreboard to see what’s going on, while the road team coaches have to turn their heads all the way around to see the score and time.

I know, I know, I know… small, small, small advantage, likely one that isn’t going to affect a single outcome of any game. I don’t know of any Wyoming high school football coaches with neck impairments — or, if any do, any who aren’t smart enough to hire an assistant without one. (And the press box usually houses coaches from both schools, further negating my theory.) For the players, it’s absolutely no advantage whatsoever.

But it got me wondering about scoreboard placements in Wyoming high school football stadiums. How unique was Worland’s? How unique is anyone’s?

So, I did what I usually do with my free time: I got on Google Maps. Then I started tracing — drawing lines on a computer screen to match the lines of the scoreboards on the map.

This is what I came up with:

Wyoming high school football scoreboard alignments, based on where the home team stands and benches are. Each line represents a scoreboard; the circle vaguely represents a track.

Keep in mind here that I used Google Maps, which is often a couple years behind, so any scoreboards put up in the past year or two aren’t accounted for here (looking at you, Natrona and Rock Springs). For a few stadiums where I couldn’t determine from Google Maps where the scoreboards were, I looked at photos online to try to pinpoint my best estimate.

And as it turns out, Worland was — as I had anticipated — a pretty severe outlier, one of only two scoreboards in what I’d call the “chaotic evil” of scoreboard placements.

In Wyoming, the placement of the scoreboards around fields statewide fall into six distinct categories.

Working counter-clockwise from the home stands, they are:

1. Straight on, right side: Cokeville, Kaycee, Burns, Natrona, Glenrock, Kemmerer, Jackson, Thermopolis, Cody, Saratoga, Torrington, Upton, Evanston, Cheyenne East, Laramie, Lusk, Thunder Basin, Star Valley, Lander, Rawlins, Campbell County, Lovell, Sheridan, NSI, St. Stephens, Kelly Walsh, Wyoming Indian.

Of these, NSI, St. Stephens, Kelly Walsh and Wyoming Indian have scoreboard alignments that appear to be slightly angled to the home side, but not all that severely. Cokeville and Kaycee have scoreboards that are much closer to the home bench than the road bench, which is less common than the opposite.

2. Home-team benefitted, right side: Riverton, Lyman, Powell, Pinedale, Rocky Mountain, Green River, Burlington, Newcastle, Mountain View, Big Horn, Moorcroft, Snake River, Greybull, Encampment, Midwest, Southeast, Lingle, Riverside.

All of these scoreboards, except Riverside, are closer to the visitor bench than the home bench but angled to face toward the home bench — making it easier for the home team coaches to see the scoreboard than the road team. Riverside varies by being closer to the visitor bench but still perpendicular to the field.

3. VERY home-team benefitted, right side: Hulett, Worland.

4. Home-team benefitted, left side: Cheyenne Central, Wind River, Tongue River, Farson, Rock Springs.

5. Straight on, left side: Hanna, Pine Bluffs, Buffalo, Meeteetse, Cheyenne South, Douglas, Sundance, Big Piney, Wheatland, Shoshoni, Wright, Guernsey-Sunrise.

Hanna and Pine Bluffs, like Riverside, are perpendicular to the field but closer to the visitor bench.

6. Road-team benefitted, left side: Ten Sleep.

Ten Sleep has the only scoreboard in the state that is purposely skewed AGAINST the home team; the Pioneers’ scoreboard is built at almost a 45-degree angle facing the visitor’s bench. Maybe the Pioneers are trying to overcompensate for their Washakie County neighbors in Worland.

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As I looked at all the little lines I drew, a pattern I didn’t anticipate when I started became clear fast.

Almost three-quarters of scoreboards are on the right side in relation to the home stands and bench. In all, only 18 of the 65 Wyoming high school football fields (28%) have the scoreboards on the left side from the home bleachers, while 47 (72%) are on the right side from the home bleachers.

For a solid day, I couldn’t figure out why.

And then I had an epiphany: track.

Track straightaways tend to go in front of the “home” stands from left to right. Scoreboards tend to be on the same side as the finish lines.

That blew my mind; I’m 39 years old, and I had never critically thought about why scoreboards are where they are. Of course, scoreboard placement has nothing to do with trying to gain a home-field advantage.

The bigger epiphany: Scoreboards aren’t just about football. Most fields have multiple purposes, including track and often soccer, too. That got me thinking about scoreboard placement in general. Why do we put scoreboards where we do? Why do we put stadiums where we do? Why do we put anything where we do? Why do we do anything?

Then I came back down from my mania, refocused on scoreboards, and thought about who really uses scoreboards the most. Aren’t they really there for the fans? Isn’t that why so many of them are oriented to face the home stands — because that’s where most of the people sit? And… in some cases, like (get this) Worland, all the fans are on one side, because there are no road-side bleachers?

Maybe Worland’s scoreboard placement isn’t as odd, or as sinister, as I thought. Maybe it’s perfect: perfect for the fans, the group of people who will look at it the most. Maybe that should be the goal behind the design of a good stadium — one that creates an enjoyable time, something you want to repeat as often as possible. Maybe Worland’s weird scoreboard shouldn’t be so weird. Maybe it should be a trendsetter.

Maybe I’m reading too much into every single bit of this. If you made it this far, maybe you are, too. But the journey is a fun one, innit?

–patrick

Only the most astute Wyoming high school football fans noticed the peculiarity of Cheyenne Central’s 62-15 victory against Cheyenne South last week.

Yes, certainly, the GAME itself had significance. Central stayed unbeaten, South stayed winless, the Indians moved a step closer to the Capital City title… but I think I’m the only person who realized the significance of the SCORE.

Since Wyoming high schools started playing football in 1894, Friday’s game was the first time a game had ended with a final score of 62-15.

More than 25,000 games, and Indians-Bison was the first 62-15.

That blows my mind.

The amazing thing is that this happens nearly every week, usually more than once.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Scorigami, I recommend taking 20 minutes and watching this video. If you’re into sports, and into breaking down sports until the amazing appears, it’ll be the best 20 minutes of your day:

And then check out this website that tracks NFL scorigami. It’s pretty cool.

The difference between scorigami in the NFL and scorigami in Wyoming high school football is that scorigami for Wyoming high school football has many more opportunities. With six-man in particular, scores of games often go high enough to necessitate more squares on the board — hence more empty squares to fill.

This season alone, we’ve had 14 instances of Wyoming high school football scorigami. In addition to Central’s victory Friday, we’ve also seen our first instances of games ending with final scores of:

  • 43-33 (in Week 3, Meeteetse over Dubois)
  • 44-23 (in Week 1, Cody over Riverton)
  • 52-4 (in Week 2, Kaycee over NSI)
  • 57-30 (in Week 1, Burlington over Hulett)
  • 57-32 (in Week 3, Ten Sleep over NSI)
  • 58-33 (in Week 3, Natrona sophs over Midwest)
  • 58-35 (in Week 2, Lusk over Pine Bluffs)
  • 60-19 (in Week 2, Natrona sophs over Hanna)
  • 64-8 (in Week 1, Lusk over the Kelly Walsh sophs)
  • 67-7 (in Week 1, Farson over Guernsey)
  • 74-32 (in Week 3, Farson over Encampment)
  • 78-52 (in Week 3, Kaycee over the Sheridan sophs)
  • 85-6 (in Week 1, Dubois over Midwest)

While most of these involved six-man or nine-man teams, two 11-man games this season (the aforementioned Central-South and Cody-Riverton) produced scorigami.

And the pace of 14 scorigami games through four weeks is pretty close to the pace we’ve come to expect. In 2019, 28 games were scorigami; in 2018, 31; in 2017, 27; and in 2016, 43.

Slowly but surely, though, the spaces are filling. As that happens, scorigami will become less and less common.

A chart showing scorigami in Wyoming high school football.
Wyoming high school football scorigami chart. Gray squares represent games prior to 2016; red is 2016, green is 2017, yellow is 2018, blue is 2019 and purple is 2020. Click to see a bigger version.

When I initially did this research after the 2015 season, I used it to detail the state’s most common final scores. Now I’m finding the less common scores drawing my interest more often.

Even with all the scores that have been “filled in” on the chart above, some scores are still out there to be obtained. NSI’s four-point final against Kaycee two weeks ago may become more common, as six-man field goals are worth four points. (Final scores of 4 points, as well as 5, are already ridiculously uncommon, as I’ve detailed in a previous post.) The losing scores of 9 and 11 also have bunches of empty squares.

Then there are the really random empty spots, like 23-15, 25-17, 36-19, 31-23 or 56-18, that have never been filled. Up until last Friday, 62-15 was one of those, too.

And even though a 4-2 game sounds like a boring defensive slugfest, it would be a scorigami dream.

As long as there are still squares to be filled, scorigami will exist.

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Now let’s actually talk about what’s going on this week. Here are some Week 5 games that butter my bread:

Natrona hosts Sheridan in the 4A game of the week, and I’m not sure what to expect. Both teams are coming off losses, and while it’s not desperation time yet for either team, a loss here might make it that way. …

Lander-Douglas could end up being for the 3A East championship when it’s all said and done. Buffalo was the only other team to win its conference opener last week, so…. you do the math. …

After Star Valley and Powell finish their game on Friday, one of them will be 0-2 in 3A West play. Didn’t see that one coming. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the loser isn’t still a threat. …

Another great round of 2A West games awaits with Cokeville traveling to Thermopolis and Lovell going to Big Piney. Count on games decided by single digits, and count on unpredictability of who’s actually going to be ahead by the time it’s all finished. …

Farson and Kaycee meet in a showdown of six-man undefeated teams. Farson will be the favorite in a game that will tell us a ton about the relative strengths of the East and West conferences. …

Don’t look now, but Meeteetse’s 4-0, the only other six-man undefeated team behind Farson and Kaycee. Beat Encampment this week, and we’ll have to start taking the Longhorns seriously. …

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Now, for everyone’s favorite part of their Thursday, picks! Did you know I bold teams who I think will win? Well now you do, because I just told you.

Thursday
Interclass
Greybull at Worland JV
Sheridan JV at NSI
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Campbell County
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne East
Laramie at Rock Springs
Sheridan at Natrona
Thunder Basin at Kelly Walsh
Class 3A
Evanston at Cody
Jackson at Green River
Lander at Douglas
Riverton at Buffalo
Star Valley at Powell
Worland at Rawlins
Class 2A
Burns at Wheatland
Cokeville at Thermopolis
Kemmerer at Lyman
Lovell at Big Piney
Mountain View at Pinedale
Newcastle at Glenrock
Tongue River at Upton-Sundance
Torrington at Big Horn
Class 1A nine-man
Lusk at Wright
Moorcroft at Southeast
Saratoga at Lingle
Wind River at Riverside
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Burlington
Farson at Kaycee
Saturday
Class 1A nine-man
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni
Class 1A six-man
Guernsey-Sunrise at Hulett
Meeteetse at Encampment
Midwest at Hanna
Ten Sleep at Snake River
Open: Rocky Mountain.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 5” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

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

Last week: 19-10 (66 percent). This season: 108-36 (75 percent). Does not include forfeits from last week.

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–patrick

Sheridan's football team from the fall of 1951, which had three games canceled due to polio. Photo courtesy of the Sheridan High yearbook.
Sheridan’s football team from the fall of 1951, which had three games canceled due to a polio outbreak. Photo courtesy of the Sheridan High yearbook.

It’s been more than 60 years since a pandemic has legitimately threatened high school football the way COVID-19 has done in 2020.

Already, two Wyoming schools — St. Stephens and Wyoming Indian — have canceled 2020 fall sports, including football.

High schools across the country are coming up with their own solutions, with many states choosing to wait until the new year for sports of any kind.

College teams across the country are scrambling as conferences postpone, cancel or reschedule games; the NFL’s direction is uncertain, too. Last week, the Mountain West — including the University of Wyoming — postponed its fall sports.

In Wyoming, COVID-19 will be the fourth wave of illness to threaten high school football. In 1918 and 1957, the culprit was influenza; in 1951, polio.

Every time, games were canceled. Every time, school leaders made hard decisions. Every time, players, coaches and teams had to sacrifice football for something bigger.

And once, a pandemic changed a team and community irreversibly, putting in perspective what it means to try to do normal things in times that are anything but.

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1918’s influenza outbreak

By far, the most severe of the previous football-delaying outbreaks came with the 1918 influenza epidemic.

That fall, Wyoming high school football teams didn’t play a single game.

In early October, schools across the state started shutting down due to the epidemic. Many did not reopen until January.

The sports affect was limited almost solely to football. Even then, only a small selection of high schools in the state had the sport. Only Sheridan, Buffalo, Cheyenne Central and Laramie fielded football teams in 1917; those same teams, plus Natrona, were the only schools to field football teams in 1919. The University of Wyoming football team also canceled its 1918 schedule.

By the late winter of 1919, the epidemic had cleared up, and the second annual state basketball tournament was played in Laramie that March.

About 675,000 people in the U.S. died from that influenza epidemic, and about 750 of those died in Wyoming between October 1918 and January 1919.

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1957’s (lighter) influenza concerns

In 1957, another influenza epidemic struck Wyoming. Although not as severe as the 1918 flu that wiped out the entire season, 18 Wyoming high school football games were lost to the flu in 1957.

The cancellations started on Sept. 27, when a game between Rock Springs and Green River was canceled. Rawlins and Evanston canceled their game the following week. Three more games were canceled the week of Oct. 11; the week of Oct. 18, the peak of the flu wave, nine games were canceled. Flu wiped out five more games after that.

The 1957 flu pandemic killed 116,000 people in the U.S. Of those, the number of flu deaths in Wyoming was quite low — reports from November 1957 indicated fewer than five.

But the caution of 1957 was informed by the tragedy of 1951.

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1951 brings polio and perspective

In 1951, the worry wasn’t the flu. It was polio.

In the 1951 calendar year, the United States had 28,386 cases and 1,551 deaths due to polio; in 1952, at the outbreak’s peak, the U.S. had 57,879 cases and 3,145 deaths.

Unofficially, eight Wyoming high school football games in 1951 were canceled due to polio. Another 11 games were canceled beyond that, although some were canceled during the first week in November, which brought a big snowstorm to Wyoming.

Sheridan was the first hotspot where multiple games were canceled. The Broncs had to give up three midseason games — games against Lead, S.D., Cheyenne Central and Riverton were all canceled after Sheridan’s schools were closed on Oct. 4. Sheridan’s schools re-opened on Oct. 22; by then, 25 people had contracted polio in the area and two people had died. The schools reopened only after no new cases were reported for a week. The Broncs finished their season, losing their final two games to finish 2-3-1. (Two other Sheridan County six-man games involving Ranchester were also canceled because of polio.)

A second hotspot was Guernsey. There, the toll was much higher — both for the football team and its players.

During the 1951 season, the Guernsey Longhorns (as they were known before combining with Sunrise in the 1960s) were in the middle of an amazing turnaround. After finishing winless in 1950, the Longhorns were a charmed team in 1951. Winning close game after close game — including 20-16 against Manville, 24-16 against Glenrock and 25-24 against archrival Sunrise on Oct. 26 — Guernsey was 7-0.

The day of the victory against Sunrise, though, the Longhorns were understandably distracted. One of their teammates, 16-year-old junior Floyd Stellpflug, had gone into the hospital in Scottsbluff, Neb., the night before. He had polio.

The Longhorns still won. On the field, a district championship and a place in the state playoffs was still nearly in reach. After beating Sunrise, the only conference game that remained was against twice-beaten Huntley on Nov. 2. With a victory, the Longhorns would reach the playoffs for the first time in program history.

The game never happened.

Four days after entering the hospital, and four days before the Huntley game, Stellpflug died.

Within 48 hours of Stellpflug’s death, Guernsey’s school board ordered the school closed for a week to limit the disease’s spread. By then, two of Stellpflug’s teammates (Johnny Hall and Johnny Sudbury) and Stellpflug’s sister-in-law (Mary Stellpflug) were also in various Wyoming hospitals being treated for what was thought to be polio, as well. However, at least one case (Mary Stellpflug’s) was pneumonia, not polio.

The closure of the school also brought about a closure to Guernsey’s football season. The Longhorns canceled their final two games, finishing 7-0 but also finishing without Stellpflug.

Two others Platte County boys — a 9-year-old from Guernsey and an 8-year-old from Wheatland — died later in November. (For perspective, Hall died in 2016 at age 82. His obituary said he struggled with the side effects of his affliction with polio for the rest of his life.)

Wyoming had 211 total polio cases in 1951, and more than 30 people died, including Stellpflug and the two other Platte County children.

Although polio peaked across the country in 1952, its effects were limited in Wyoming that year. In 1952, Wyoming only had five high school football games canceled. None of the cancellations were attributed to polio.

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Now, in 2020, Wyoming’s football players, coaches and administrators are preparing for a fight that they haven’t had to face in more than 60 years.

As of Aug. 17, Wyoming has had 3,286 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 30 attributed deaths statewide.

The disease has already had a massive effect on Wyoming high school sports.

The Class 4A/3A state basketball tournament was canceled on March 12, the morning after Wyoming had its first verified active case of COVID-19. For the first time since 1936 (and a scarlet fever outbreak), the state basketball tournament was canceled.

The 2020 spring sports seasons were canceled on April 7, when the state was averaging 13 to 14 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases per day.

As of Aug. 17, Wyoming is averaging nearly 30 new lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases per day.

Part of why leaders can justify returning to fall sports when the number of lab-confirmed cases per day is nearly triple what it was when spring sports were canceled is that we know much more about COVID-19 now than we did in April. We understand better how it travels. We understand better how to protect ourselves. We understand better how to manage the sickness if we are infected.

But, like polio and influenza, COVID-19 still has the potential to incapacitate and kill.

To think we won’t have cancellations or school closures this fall is naive (but I love the optimism). To think football will go on unaffected is misguided; COVID-19 has already affected sports, as we’ve seen with Wyoming Indian and St. Stephens.

It’s easy to maintain a status quo, to move forward as if nothing’s wrong. As a state, Wyoming and her citizens have to be prepared to make, and abide by, hard decisions, decisions that disrupt that status quo. In fact, some such decisions have already been made.

Teams, coaches, players and fans have to mentally commit now — if they haven’t already — to do the things that will help save the season. Be willing to wear the mask. Be willing to forgo the pregame tailgate. Be willing not to have the pep band. Be willing to give up attending a game due to distancing restrictions. Be willing to have a big rivalry game canceled. Be willing to sacrifice a perfect season or a state championship.

Players, especially, have to commit to speaking up if they exhibit symptoms. No team has any room for selfish players this fall. If symptomatic, players have to speak, and they need to be in homes, in schools and on teams that encourage them to speak — before they get others sick, before the disease ends not just that player’s season but his entire team’s, before schools close, before the curve becomes a spike, before another funeral.

Be willing to do these things, and football can continue. It won’t be “normal” football, but these aren’t normal times.

Be willing, in Floyd Stellpflug’s memory — and his lesson.

–patrick

About this time last year, I posted something fun: Wyoming’s top returning high school football players by uniform number.

You all liked it. Like, a lot. Only one other post got more views all year long than the one I’ve linked above.

I hear you. So we’re back at it again.

The gist of this is that rather than looking by team or position, we’re picking out Wyoming’s best returning players by the number you’ll use to identify them on the field.

For some numbers, that’s exceedingly difficult. For most single-digit numbers, and for some reasons several numbers in the 20s, it was hard to pick just one player. For other numbers, it was easy — because only one returning player in the state wore that number last year.

The result is that this list recognizes a variety of players, from schools large and small, across all kinds of talent spectrums. Of course, a list like this has no right or wrong answers. It just has my answers. If you disagree with my selections, that’s awesome! After all, that’s why we play the game. And I’d love to hear your comments about who you think belongs in the spot belonging to a specific uniform number.

A quick note: I can’t guarantee that the numbers players wore last year will be worn again by them this year. I can’t even guarantee that they’ll go out, or that they haven’t moved since the end of last year. I used last year’s stat listings to determine what jersey number players wore; if your team didn’t compile stats, I didn’t (moreover, couldn’t) include those players. Also, a few of these players wore more than one number last year; they’re noted with asterisks.

All that said: Here it is, Wyoming’s top returning high school football players by jersey number for 2020.

NumberNameSchool
1Carson BatesBig Horn
2Jackson HesfordCheyenne East
3Hyrum HatchBuffalo
4Cooper HillLingle
5Brant NelsonStar Valley
6Tyler NicholsLovell
7Kieser WolfeTorrington
8Sadler SmithJackson
9Andrew JohnsonCheyenne Central
10Nate BarnesCokeville
11Izak AksamitSheridan
12Harrison TaubertNatrona
13Graedyn BuellCheyenne East
14Tryston TruemplerShoshoni
15Collin MadsenRock Springs
16James WoodCheyenne South
17Jake RaylCheyenne East
18Cason JamesLovell
19Preston BrewerLyman
20Carter LobatosCheyenne Central
21Liam HughesBig Piney
22Jess ClaycombUpton-Sundance
23Tyler BanksRocky Mountain
24Dylan TaylorGreen River
25Kade GuentherGlenrock
26Christian WalkerBig Horn
27Hunter KramerGillette
28Jaxon PikulaThunder Basin
29Rylan WehrDouglas
30Dominick BradachNatrona
31Grant MillsWright
32Jack SweeneyLander
33Cord HerringSoutheast
34Tate ClutterRiverside
35Nate LundbergCheyenne Central
36Triston LamorieFarson
37Connor BrownMountain View
38Julien GuinaLander
39Tony PerfettiTongue River
40Drake LampLusk
41Dominic GrayKelly Walsh
42Gabe BormanDouglas
43Dayne LampLusk**
44Colter DawsonJackson
45Tiger BullenNSI
46Bradyn StroufBuffalo
47Kolby BroederlowBurlington
48Kobe BartoCheyenne South
49Nic TalichCody
50Cordell ForknerLingle
51Dylan MolzahnLusk
52Ethan ZancanellaWright
53Noah RimmerSaratoga
54Trey BowerCheyenne East
55Julian VigilCheyenne East**
56Dakota HeckmanCheyenne East
57Ethan WeissBig Horn
58Joey KosteleckyCheyenne Central
59Chris LarsonSheridan
60Jimmy KoenigCheyenne Central
61Derek JohnsonEvanston
62Sawyer AndersonSoutheast
63Aaron OriaDouglas**
64Remington FerreeThermopolis
65Mason WellsLusk
66Quinton MangusSheridan
67Kannon ProchnowKelly Walsh
68Ethan BirdCokeville
69Nick CarlsonKemmerer**
70Gabe NieldStar Valley
71Sam HendersonKelly Walsh
72Mason HutsonLander
73T.J. WilsonCheyenne Central
74Jake MartinezGreen River
75Kale CorleyNewcastle
76Hunter MeeksMountain View
77Trey WrightWorland
78Jacob KnoblochTongue River
79Tim PeckKemmerer
80Jake HicksWheatland
81Jared LucasRiverton
82Rhys StaffordKaycee
83Rodee BrowWheatland
84Brock StoreboCheyenne Central
85Caleb CockrumKelly Walsh
86Jaret TaylorCheyenne East
87Brady StoreboCheyenne Central
88Broden MathesRiverton
89Lucas EngleRiverton
90No returners identified
91No returners identified
92No returners identified
93No returners identified
94No returners identified
95No returners identified
96No returners identified
97No returners identified
98No returners identified
99Kevin GunhammerTorrington**

**-Last year, Lamp also wore #70; Vigil also wore #87; Oria also wore #99; Carlson also wore #54; Gunhammer also wore #74 and #84.

Feedback? Leave a comment, or consider following along with what I do on Twitter or Facebook.

–patrick

Usually, the math is pretty simple: When you win more games than you lose, you go to the playoffs.

Occasionally, though, that simple math doesn’t quite work the way it should.

Since 2000, the number of playoff-eligible teams to finish with a winning record but still miss the playoffs is short: Saratoga in 2013 (5-3), Greybull in 2011 (6-4) and Sheridan in 2007 (5-4). (Riverton finished 6-4 in 2002 and did not make the playoffs, but was 4-4 in the regular season before winning the consolation playoffs. Remember those?)

Prior to 2000, missing the playoffs with a winning record was more common, in part because many classifications still only had four teams reach the postseason. However, some programs still finished with winning records in classifications with eight-team brackets only to miss the playoffs, usually because of a poor conference record but a strong nonconference stretch. That included two programs in 1999, Sundance (6-3) and Meeteetse (4-3), the last time two teams with winning records missed the playoffs in eight-team brackets in the same year.

But 1999 has nothing on 1994, when four teams with winning records in classifications with eight-team brackets — Tongue River, Greybull, Lingle and Guernsey-Sunrise — all missed the playoffs. All four finished 4-3.

The last team to be victimized two years in a row in this way was Ten Sleep, which finished with winning records in 1996 (5-2) and 1997 (4-3) but missed the playoffs both times in eight-team brackets.

The last two-loss team to miss the playoffs was Lyman, which went 6-2 in 1998 but missed the playoffs in the four-team Class 2A bracket. The last one-loss team to miss the playoffs was Wright in 1988; the Panthers were 7-1 but did not make the four-team 2A playoffs.

(Note that Lusk finished 7-0 in 1991 and 8-0 in 1992 but did not qualify for the playoffs, as the Tigers were not eligible for the playoffs those years.)

–patrick

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