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

It’s a tradition ’round these parts to live in a fantasy world — one with reliable transportation, unlimited money and lots of free time.

How I would spend that time and money, come August/September/October/November, is on attending high school football games.

With a 2020 schedule in hand (and with an optimistic view that the season will still happen on schedule), here’s where I’d go to catch as many games, and as many good games, as I possibly could:

Week 0 (Friday, Aug. 28): East-West Jamboree, Casper, 11 a.m. Friday; Cheyenne East at Thunder Basin, 6 p.m. Friday; Big Horn-Buffalo scrimmage, 1 p.m. Saturday. The showdown in Gillette between the Thunderbirds and the ‘Bolts is the marquee matchup of the opening weekend. However, the East-West Jamboree, featuring nine of the teams in six-man nine-man facing off in Casper, will be a great opportunity to see how the classification might come together. Another scrimmage on Saturday between two teams that played in Laramie last year is a nice bonus.

Week 1 (Friday, Sept. 4): Rawlins at Lyman, 5 p.m. Thursday; Guernsey-Sunrise at Farson, 1 p.m. Friday; Mountain View at Evanston, 7 p.m. Friday; Snake River at Hanna, noon Saturday. The first two games are nice appetizers before the meal. The Mountain View-Evanston game is one of the most intriguing interclass games on the schedule in 2020, and then Saturday’s Carbon County duel between Snake River and Hanna is a reprise of last year’s six-man title game.

Week 2 (Friday, Sept. 11): Farson at Burlington, 2 p.m. Friday; Lander at Powell, 7 p.m. Friday; Ten Sleep at Meeteetse, 2 p.m. Saturday. The Northwest corner has some intriguing games in Week 2, including the Lander-Powell matchup that could be 3A’s most interesting early-season matchup. Both squads impressed last year, and I’d be curious to see how they stack up. Throw in a couple six-man games, and it’s a full weekend.

Week 3 (Friday, Sept. 18): Shoshoni at St. Stephens, 5 p.m. Thursday; Encampment at Farson, 2 p.m. Friday; Sheridan at Rock Springs, 6 p.m. Friday; Burlington at Snake River, 2 p.m. Saturday. Lots of options existed in Week 3, including the Oil Bowl, but I decided that seeing a pair of what should be awesome 1A six-man West games was too good to pass up. In between is a showdown between Sheridan and Rock Springs that should be better than people anticipate, and a Thursday nine-man Fremont County game is a nice bonus (but not the only one we’ll get this year).

Week 4 (Friday, Sept. 25): Shoshoni at Wind River, 7 p.m. Thursday; Hulett at Kaycee, 2 p.m. Friday; Rock Springs at Natrona, 6 p.m. Friday; NSI at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday. More six-man and nine-man fun at non-Friday night times is always cool, and the Rock Springs-Natrona game last year was a doozy. Several games with great potential dot the schedule for Week 4, so really, you can’t go wrong.

Week 5 (Friday, Oct. 2): Sheridan JV at NSI, 1 p.m. Thursday; Farson at Kaycee, 2 p.m. Friday; Torrington at Big Horn, 6 p.m. Friday; Guernsey at Hulett, 1 p.m. Saturday. We’re staying Northeast for this weekend of football, mostly because I want to see this Torrington-Big Horn matchup. Who knows? By Week 5, it may have lost some luster, but right now it looks like a really fun game. A bunch of six-man around it fills out the weekend.

Week 6 (Friday, Oct. 9): St. Stephens at Wind River, 7 p.m. Thursday; Cody at Star Valley, 4 p.m. Friday; Cokeville at Kemmerer, 6 p.m. Friday; Thermopolis at Lyman, 11 a.m. Saturday. Yes, I know, I can’t get to BOTH the Star Valley and Kemmerer fields in time to watch both games… but I can’t resist that Cody-Star Valley game, which always seems to be a good one. Everything else is gravy, even if it’s just the second half (or fourth quarter?) in Kemmerer.

Week 7 (Friday, Oct. 16): St. Stephens at Wyoming Indian, 7 p.m. Thursday; Lusk at Southeast, 2 p.m. Friday; Wheatland at Torrington, 7 p.m. Friday; Hulett vs. Hanna (at Midwest), noon Saturday. On paper, the Lusk-Southeast, Wheatland-Torrington and Hulett-Hanna games could all be huge in deciding conference championships and playoff seeding. Meanwhile, Thursday’s game is the renewal of a reservation rivalry that may not have the title stakes but might be the most meaningful game of the week.

Week 8 (Friday, Oct. 23): Glenrock at Tongue River, noon Friday; Thunder Basin at Sheridan, 6 p.m. Friday; Dubois at Ten Sleep, 2 p.m. Saturday. You’d be out of your mind to think I’d miss the ‘Bolts and the Broncs in the regular-season closer. The other two games are nice and close, and they’d bring a solid end to the regular season.

With this plan, I’d get to see 41 of Wyoming’s 65 programs play football. Thanks to the non-Friday-night scheduling, I’d see Farson four times and Hulett and St. Stephens three times each; I’d also see Thunder Basin, Sheridan, Rock Springs, Big Horn, Lyman, Torrington, Shoshoni, Wind River, Guernsey, Snake River, Hanna, Burlington, Ten Sleep, Kaycee and NSI twice each. I’d see every team in six-man thanks to its less consistent scheduling. And I’d put an extra 2,618 miles on my car, eat lots of sodium-filled gas station snacks and temporarily alienate my wife in the process. Worth it.

–patrick

Updated 9:15 a.m. May 28 to fix an error in the Week 0 listing.

Since the start of Wyoming high school football back in 1894, a total of 233 teams have gone undefeated — defined as playing at least four games in a season and not losing a single one of them.

But which team is the best of the bunch?

Since we can’t exactly put two teams from different eras on the same field at the same time, I think the best way to decide the answer to that question is one big bracket and a bunch of simulations.

Welcome to the Wyoming Football Ultimate Playoff: three single-elimination brackets set up to help decide which team truly was Wyoming’s best.

The three brackets are set up for each level of play — one for 11-man, one for six-man and one combined bracket for eight- and nine-man. Teams will face each other in simulation games staged on League Simulator. As the tournament progresses into later rounds, I’ll set up pre-game polls on the Wyoming-football.com Twitter account, so you can chime in with your thoughts on who you think will win the games closer to the championships.

Brackets are available here for each of the three divisions.

+++

I know you have questions. Let me try to address them before you ask them:

How did you seed the teams?

With way more time and care than I probably should have. For the 11-man bracket, I separated teams into three tiers based on the level at which they completed their undefeated season — what I called Tier 1, the big-school level (modern 4A); Tier 2, the medium-school level (modern 3A); and Tier 3, the smaller-school level (modern 2A and 1A). I subjectively ranked teams in each tier and then seeded each tier from there. That means the 64 teams in Tier 1 were seeded 1-64, then the 40 Tier 2 schools were seeded 65-104, and the remaining 75 Tier 3 schools were seeded 105-180.

Within each tier, I tried to separate the bracket so teams from the same school wouldn’t meet each other any sooner than the bracket’s quarterfinals. That means I didn’t seed the bracket 1-180 based on the rankings I would have given them; I got teams close, and then adjusted seeds to avoid same-school pairings until that quarterfinal round.

For the eight-man and six-man brackets, I didn’t have tiers — I just seeded them, also looking to avoid same-school matchups until as late as possible.

When seeding teams, I looked season records at whether the teams had any ties; any team with a tie was automatically sent to the bottom of the tier; for example, an 8-0-1 team was never going to be seeded higher than a 8-0 team from the same tier. From there, I used a combination of season scoring, an analyzation of teams’ closest victories, reputation, era, and intuition to rank them as well as I could. After seeds were in place, I started to do the math…

What effect do seeds have on the simulation?

Not a whole lot. After I was done seeding, I used a big Excel sheet to give each team’s offense and each team’s defense a single ranking from 1-9 (one being the worst, nine the best), as those are the ranking levels used for teams on League Simulator, the simulator I’m using for this project. It’s those rankings, NOT the seeds, that will have the biggest effect on the results of the simulated games.

I ran through a few dry runs on League Simulator, and I noted that the lower-ranked teams do occasionally still win — a fact I like a lot, which hopefully will make the bracket more realistic and give us a chance for a couple Cinderellas.

In determining a team’s rankings for offense and defense, I used a combination of points scored, points allowed, tier of play, and era. As I looked at the data, I noticed there were huge differences in teams that gave up, say, nine points per game in 2012 against a team that gave up the same amount of points in 1925. The 2012 team was, by all measures, a better defensive team; we can’t compare their defensive efforts head-to-head, point-to-point, without accounting for what era they played in. So I tried to “curve” scoring over each era to allow for more realistic comparisons between them. For era, I separated teams into pre-1945, 1946-1985 and 1986-present — the three eras when scoring between teams was relatively similar.

In the 11-man bracket, only two teams ended up with rankings of 9 on both offense and defense: Laramie 1964 (seeded #4 overall) and Natrona 2014 (seeded #13 overall). No teams are “perfect 18s” in either my six-man or eight/nine-man brackets.

Rankings for every team are available at the bottom of the brackets page.

I think my favorite team is seeded too low, or has rankings that I think are too low. Can I appeal the seed and/or the ranking?

No.

Can I complain?

Sure. Go nuts.

What if a really good team loses to a significantly lower-rated team really early in the bracket? I mean, come on, that would never happen in real life.

Right. But I guess that’s the fun (and frustration) of a single-elimination bracket, isn’t it? If we ran this simulation 10 different times, we’d probably get 10 different champs. I hope the brackets stimulate conversation, not end it.

What inspired this?

I’ve been thinking about doing this for years. I actually drew up a preliminary bracket in 2015, but I never felt like I had the right approach until the past few weeks when I started playing around with online simulators, looking for one that would give me the closest thing to what I was looking for. That, plus a bizarre start to 2020 (a safer-at-home order from my governor, a shutdown at my employer, and some free time) made now the right time to do this. Oh, and the fact that Wyoming high school football is nearing its unofficial 100th birthday next year helps, too!

Games start Friday, April 10.

That’s it for now. Watch for game results on the Wyoming-football.com Twitter account, and follow the brackets here.

Even better, set up an office pool. We haven’t had enough of those in 2020.

–patrick

The Wyoming high school football makeup will see a huge shift in 2020, as reclassification introduces a nine-man classification and sends 12 schools into different classifications.

But what if reclassification had hit in 2019 instead of 2020? What if next year’s conferences were in place this year? How different would the 2019 season have turned out?

Here’s a quick hypothetical look at how 2019 may have developed if we were using the 2020 conference alignments:

Class 4A: No differences. Class 4A is untouched by reclassification. Sheridan still wins it all.

Class 3A: The only difference in 3A is Buffalo taking Torrington’s spot. And the Bison had a pretty salty team last year, finishing second in 2A. So where would Buffalo have finished in a parity-filled 3A East? Good question… but my guess is just above the three-way tie for second, just behind Lander. Maybe a final order of Lander, Buffalo, (tied teams Riverton, Douglas, Worland,) Rawlins. But Star Valley still wins it all.

Class 2A: Ready for this simulation to get weird? With Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Tongue River and Cokeville in (and Buffalo, Moorcroft and Greybull out), the dynamics in 2A take on a much different look. Based on interclass games and score comparisons, this is the best I could come up with in terms of what the conference standings might have looked like in 2019:

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

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

That means the first-round playoff matchups would have looked like this: (4W) Lyman at (1E) Big Horn; (3W) Cokeville at (2E) Burns; (3E) Upton-Sundance at (2W) Thermopolis; and (4E) Torrington at (1W) Mountain View. Those 2-3 matchups are doozies, and I’d pay good money to watch them. But ultimately, I think Big Horn and Mountain View end up in the title game, and I think Mountain View still takes it all.

Class 1A nine-man: You thought 2A was weird? Let’s try 1A nine-man, a classification that barely resembles the 1A 11-man class from 2019. It’s hard to compare across classifications here, but this is what I think the standings might have ended up looking like in 2019 with the teams in the conferences for 2020:

1A-9 East: Southeast, Wright, Lusk, Lingle, Moorcroft, Saratoga, Pine Bluffs.

1A-9 West: Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Greybull, Riverside, Wind River, St. Stephens, Wyoming Indian.

That leads to some interesting playoff pairings: Riverside at Southeast; Greybull at Wright; Lusk at Rocky Mountain; Lingle at Shoshoni. And from there, honestly, anything could happen. The East was the stronger conference, so it would have been entirely likely to see something like a Southeast-Wright championship game.

Class 1A six-man: A return to normalcy comes with six-man, as the two state title game opponents, Snake River and Hanna, remain in the classification. But with Lingle and St. Stephens gone, and Encampment in, a few teams would have finished higher in the standings than they did, and some of the first-round playoff pairings would have been a bit different.

1A-6 East: Hanna, Hulett, Kaycee, Guernsey, Midwest, NSI.

1A-6 West: Snake River, Burlington, Farson, Encampment, Meeteetse, Dubois, Ten Sleep (Ten Sleep didn’t field a team in 2019).

First-round pairings would have had Guernsey at Snake River, Kaycee at Burlington, Farson at Hulett and Encampment at Hanna. Ultimately, the Rattlers and Miners would have squared off again in Laramie, with Snake River winning it.

As teams, players and communities adjust to the new structure of Wyoming high school football in 2020, it’s interesting to think about what those changes will mean long-term. This little peek behind the curtain of this new structure could reveal some important distinctions about how 2020 might be different beyond just different players, coaches and schedules.

Hopefully, the season can happen.

–patrick

A handful of times in century-plus of Wyoming high school football, teams have scheduled each other one time for a regular-season contest only to never play each other again.

Many times, the one-and-done scenario isn’t played out a second time because the first game was so non-competitive that the schools realized the matchup was a bad idea in the first place.

Occasionally, though, teams scheduled each other one time, played a pretty decent game — and then never played each other again.

I compiled a list of these times — when two current programs played each other once, and only once, in the regular season in their histories. I found 79 such games. The games fell into eight categories:

  1. Teams punching above their weight in games in the 1920s and 1930s, when no one really fully understood the advantage big schools had.
  2. Games scheduled right before a program went away, either temporarily or for good, which disallowed a return game in the process.
  3. Games from 2013. (I’ll explain more on that in a second.)
  4. Games from 2019. Those involve Encampment, which just came back last year and hasn’t had a chance to play return games.
  5. Games that fall into that “mistake” category — blowouts of 40-plus points.
  6. Games that fall into the “too far” category — they weren’t blowouts of 40-plus points, but the trips were more than 250 miles one-way.
  7. Games that were actually decent matchups: within 250 miles, within 40 points.
  8. Games that were scheduled but never played because they were forfeited, and then never put on the schedule again.

I mentioned 2013, which ended up being a bizarre year for scheduling. If you’ll remember, that’s the year the Wyoming High School Activities Association had to put together a schedule that was more temporary than the rest. The WHSAA was deep in some reclassification discussions and put everything on hold for a year but still allowed teams to change classifications in football for the 2013 season before reclass fully hit in 2014, returning then to the normal two-year cycle. Consequently, the 2013 football schedule ended up with a lot of games that couldn’t be returned in 2014 as classifications and conferences changed the following year, including 10 games that were the only regular-season matchups ever between the participating schools.

However, of the 79 games that fall into one of these eight categories, eight 10 are on the schedule for 2020: Encampment’s games with Burlington, Midwest, Dubois, Meeteetse and Snake River; Lingle vs. Wright; Pine Bluffs vs. Riverside; Meeteetse vs. NSI; and St. Stephens vs. Wyoming Indian and Greybull.

Of the 16 games that I actually called decent matchups that might be worth seeing again, only three are probably feasible today due to classification changes since the games were originally played. None of the 16 games involved teams that are now in the same classification, but games involving 2A or 3A programs (where scheduling could actually make it happen) could be Cokeville-Jackson, Evanston-Pinedale and Pinedale-Worland.

Here are the times when current programs played each other one time and then never again, with the score of the game included and a $ mark indicating games we’ll see in 2020:

Punching above their weight in the early days
Gillette-Moorcroft 1922: Gil 58-0
Greybull-Natrona 1922: Nat 52-12
Greybull-Sheridan 1922: She 68-0
Glenrock-Natrona 1924: Nat 52-0
Cheyenne Central-Lingle 1925: CC 59-0
Green River-Saratoga 1926: GR 53-0
Powell-Ten Sleep 1926: Pow 72-0
Rawlins-Saratoga 1926: Raw 32-6
Rock Springs-Saratoga 1926: RS 47-0
Cokeville-Star Valley 1928: Cok 17-3***
Cheyenne Central-Lusk 1929: CC 38-0
Midwest-Rawlins 1930: tie 7-7***
Buffalo-Ten Sleep 1932: Buf 52-0
Hanna-Lander 1932: tie 6-6***
Cody-Ten Sleep 1933: Cod 25-0
Hanna-Natrona 1933: Nat 41-0
Riverton-Shoshoni 1933: Sho 6-0***
Kemmerer-Sheridan 1939: She 24-0
***-the little guy actually won, or tied

Programs be gettin’ canceled out here
St. Stephens 1965 (last season for several decades)
Buffalo-St. Stephens 1965: Buf 43-0
Greybull-St. Stephens 1965: SS 12-7 $
Kemmerer-St. Stephens 1965: Kem 12-0
Encampment and Farson 1990 (last seasons for several decades)
Big Horn-Farson 1990: BH win by forfeit
Burlington-Encampment 1990: Brl 21-0 $
Encampment-Midwest 1990: Mid 49-0 $
Farson-Lingle 1990: Lin win by forfeit
Hulett 2009 (played 2010 as a JV six-man)
Hulett-Lusk 2009: Lus 24-10
Hulett-Pine Bluffs 2009: PB 22-20
Rock River 2016 (hasn’t returned since)
Lingle-Rock River 2016: Lin 92-13

And then 2013 happened
Big Piney-Riverside 2013: BP 19-10
Burlington-Thermopolis 2013: The 40-26
Farson-Wyoming Indian 2013: Far 67-61
Guernsey-Sunrise-St. Stephens 2013: GS 85-0
Kaycee-Wyoming Indian 2013: Kay 77-26
Lingle-Wright 2013: Lin 35-18 $
Midwest-St. Stephens 2013: Mid 63-20
Pine Bluffs-Riverside 2013: Rsd 34-16 $
St. Stephens-Wyoming Indian 2013: WI 86-6 $
Snake River-Wyoming Indian 2013: SR 46-12

Too soon, man
Dubois-Encampment 2019: Enc 60-24 $
Encampment-Meeteetse 2019: Enc 45-15 $

Blowout mistakes (victories by 40-plus)
Lusk-Powell 1944: Pow 47-0
Cokeville-Farson 1988: Cok 48-0
Buffalo-Rocky Mountain 2003: Buf 42-0
Burns-Midwest 2005: Bur 60-0
NSI-Upton-Sundance 2012: US 48-6
NSI-St. Stephens 2014: NSI 59-12
Kaycee-Riverside 2016: Kay 56-0
Kemmerer-Rocky Mountain 2016: RM 47-7
Pine Bluffs-Wind River 2016: PB 41-0
Tongue River-Wyoming Indian 2016: TR 68-0
Rawlins-Wind River 2017: Raw 49-0

Ever look at a map? (victories by 39 or less but more than 250-mile trip one-way)
Jackson-Kelly Walsh 1966: KW 33-0
Lovell-Rawlins 1970: Lov 28-14
Sundance-Wyoming Indian 1986: WI 12-6 OT
Kemmerer-Worland 1988: Wor 12-0
Laramie-Powell 1990: Lar 48-13
Hulett-Wyoming Indian 1994: Hul 38-0
Hanna-Upton 1995: Upt 32-0 (played in Lingle)
Guernsey-Sunrise-Riverside 2002: GS 41-14 (played in Casper)
Glenrock-Jackson 2004: Glk 24-13
Newcastle-Rawlins 2004: Raw 21-13
Kemmerer-Lusk 2017: Lus 22-12

Hey that was actually a decent matchup (victories by 39 or less, fewer than 250-mile trip one-way)
Lingle-Newcastle 1937: Lin 13-12
Lander-Shoshoni 1950: Lan 40-25
Encampment-Snake River 1956: Enc 16-6 $
Moorcroft-Ten Sleep 1962: Mor 12-0
Big Piney-St. Stephens 1964: SS 13-0
Dubois-Mountain View 1968: MV 20-0
Cokeville-Jackson 1974: Cok 31-12
Evanston-Pinedale 1974: Eva 19-2
Gillette-Rawlins 1976: Raw 13-6
Lyman-Wind River 1976: Lym 32-0
Guernsey-Sunrise-Sundance 1978: GS 26-14
Greybull-Meeteetse 1985: Gre 39-6
Riverside-Thermopolis 1990: The 45-14
Greybull-Sundance 1995: Sun 14-13
Moorcroft-NSI 2004: Mor 26-14
Pinedale-Worland 2017: Wor 27-7

Good job, good effort
Meeteetse-NSI 2001: Meeteetse win by forfeit $
Wright-Wyoming Indian 2016: Wright win by forfeit

–patrick

Updated 10:40 a.m. Feb. 25 to add St. Stephens-Wyoming Indian and St. Stephens-Greybull to the list of games that will be played in 2020.

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.

+++

Is Hulett alone?

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

I’ve found five four 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) 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.

+++

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

Post updated 7:44 a.m. Feb. 21 to remove a pairing of teams from the list of possible double 0-fers.

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

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