A trophy of a cowboy throwing a football.
A trophy of a cowboy throwing a football.
Slim MacGuffin

Everyone, meet Slim MacGuffin.

He might just be the next great piece of Wyoming high school football lore.

Right now, Slim belongs in the trophy case at Sheridan High School.

In addition to winning the Class 4A championship this year, the Sheridan Broncs also held onto an important honor they didn’t even know they were playing for — the Wyoming football MacGuffin.

Some of you may have heard of the MacGuffin, which has built a following on Twitter by tracking college football’s most interesting theoretical traveling trophy.

The concept is simple: All you have to do to get the trophy is beat the team that has it.

In this case, we start with the first Wyoming high school football game ever played, and the winner gets a trophy — Slim, in this case. They get to hold onto that trophy until they lose; the team that beats them gets the trophy. That team then holds onto it until they lose. And so on, and so on, and so on.

In the college ranks, there have been more than 1,500 MacGuffin games; the trophy has traded hands 317 times since the first intercollegiate game in 1869, and 93 teams have had the trophy, including the University of Wyoming for a bit, including the entire 1994 offseason.

If we had a Wyoming high school football MacGuffin, though, Sheridan would be the rightful owners of that trophy, at least for now.

Starting with the first game between two Wyoming high schools in 1908 — played on Nov. 3 of that year between crosstown rivals Laramie and University Prep — there have been 907 Wyoming football MacGuffin games, as of the end of the 2022 season. In all, 24 different teams will have held the trophy, and 38 programs will have played in MacGuffin games.

Since 1908, the trophy would have logged some significant miles in every corner of the state. Every Class 4A team except Cheyenne South would have had it at least once. And, oddly enough, it would have been up for grabs in every 4A/5A championship game since 1987.

Here’s a breakdown of the teams who would have had the trophy in their possession, with tallies of how many times they defended the trophy and how many times they beat teams with the MacGuffin to steal it for themselves:

SchoolGames defendedTimes won
Sheridan17628
Natrona11529
Laramie9520
Cheyenne Central8016
Worland724
Campbell County5013
Rock Springs469
Cheyenne East3515
Kelly Walsh196
Thermopolis154
Lander114
Cody103
Powell101
Lovell83
Thunder Basin72
Douglas61
Evanston53
Cowley51
Rawlins42
Torrington21
Green River12
Riverton02
Kemmerer01

For the Wyoming high school version, I limited the potential transfer of the trophy to in-state, varsity teams; we can’t have some out-of-state team taking Wyoming’s MacGuffin with them, and we can’t be giving it to a town team, JV team or college team, either. So it’s only up for grabs in varsity vs. varsity, in-state games.

And here’s a look at how those games have gone, and who’s played in those games:

TeamMacG WinsMacG LossesMacG GamesLast MacGameLast held
Sheridan1727224420222022
Natrona1458022520222019
Laramie1158119620222000
Cheyenne Central918117120222020
Rock Springs557513020222021
Campbell County636412720222016
Cheyenne East507112120222021
Worland76138919771959
Kelly Walsh25487320222005
Cody13304320041977
Thermopolis19214019741947
Rawlins6333919881974
Evanston8253320162007
Lander15163119881974
Riverton2293120081972
Green River3242720102007
Powell11162719771958
Lovell11142519591947
Buffalo018181984never
Torrington3151819661952
Thunder Basin971620222021
Douglas761319841952
Cowley671319351934
Cheyenne South011112022never
Greybull011111959never
Basin0771934never
Newcastle0661932never
Kemmerer14519401932
Star Valley0441998never
Midwest0441952never
Lusk0331969never
St. Mary's0221952never
Superior0221936never
University Prep0221909never
Jackson0111974never
Ten Sleep0111933never
Manderson0111928never
Sundance0111935never

One of the challenges of a traveling trophy like this is that it needs to travel. Due to Class 4A’s round-robin schedule, the MacGuffin has been, and will continue to be unless the schedule changes, the exclusive domain of Wyoming’s big schools. The last interclass game where the MacGuffin was up for grabs was in 1998, when Evanston held onto the trophy by nudging Star Valley 13-7.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of all 907 Wyoming football MacGuffin games.

Even though Slim’s presence in any school’s trophy case is still just theoretical, it’s still fun to look at where Slim may have gone on his travels around the state and which schools, even if only for a week, got to have him in their possession.

–patrick

See part 1 of this series here.

Last week, five teams — Sheridan, Cody, Lovell, Pine Bluffs and Snake River — entered the playoffs as the No. 1 ranked team in their classification.

By default, that means they’re the favorites to win the state championships.

And while the chances of the top-ranked team entering the playoffs actually winning the championship is barely above half, the chances that the eventual champion will come from one of the teams ranked either first or second is extremely high.

Since 1984, the start of the “one poll” era, teams ranked No. 1 entering the playoffs have won the state championship 52% of the time.

If it’s not No. 1 winning it all, it’s usually No. 2. Together, teams ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 entering the playoffs win a title 83% of the time. (Do the math, and the No. 2 ranked team wins the state title 31% of the time.)

The No. 3 team wins the title 10% of the time; teams ranked fourth, almost 4% of the time.

The remaining 3% of championships is evenly divided between teams ranked fifth and teams not ranked at all. A team entering the playoffs ranked fifth or unranked and winning a state championship hasn’t happened since 2011.

The six teams to win championships ranked either fifth (three titles) or not at all (three titles) entering the playoffs?

First, the three teams ranked No. 5 all entered the playoffs on a low but were at some time during their championship season ranked in the top two:

  • Powell, Class 3A 2011 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)
  • Cheyenne Central, Class 5A 2005 (Highest rank during the season: No. 2)
  • Glenrock, Class 3A 2003 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)

Meanwhile, of the three teams that won titles after entering the playoffs unranked, two were previously No. 1 during the season:

  • Big Piney, Class 3A 2006 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)
  • Powell, Class 3A 1987 (Highest rank during the season: No. 5)
  • Jackson, Class 3A 1986 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)

The seven teams to win titles that went into the playoffs as the No. 4 ranked team are dominated by 3A teams, including Cody in 2017, Worland in 2001, Star Valley in 1995 and Riverton in 1994. Other No. 4-ranked champs are Cheyenne East (4A, 2013), Glenrock (3A, 2002) and Cokeville (1A, 1986).

Either the No. 1 or No. 2 team entering the playoffs has won every title in each of the past four seasons. It’s the longest such streak since playoffs restarted in 1975.

And it just so happens that the five No. 1 teams all won last week.

See each week’s poll by clicking on each year’s set of rankings here.

–patrick

Evanston and Green River played the 100th game in their series on Friday, becoming just the seventh series in Wyoming to reach that milestone.

Other series with more than 100 games played are:

  • Cheyenne Central-Laramie: 138 games
  • Lander-Riverton: 126 games
  • Cody-Powell: 125 games
  • Natrona-Sheridan: 116 games
  • Central-Natrona: 109 games
  • Big Piney-Pinedale: 107 games

Of those rivalries, only Big Piney-Pinedale won’t be played or has not been played this season. Other series close to the 100 milestone are:

  • Torrington-Wheatland: 99 games
  • Worland-Thermopolis: 97 games
  • Douglas-Wheatland: 96 games
  • Green River-Rock Springs: 96 games
  • Evanston-Star Valley: 95 games
  • Douglas-Torrington: 94 games
  • Lovell-Greybull: 92 games
  • Laramie-Natrona: 92 games

In the Evanston-Green River series, Green River leads 59-35-6. Of all series with at least 100 games played, it’s the most lopsided.

–patrick

Here are the playoff scenarios for all classifications of Wyoming high school football entering Week 8 of the 2022 season:

Class 4A
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Cheyenne South at Laramie; Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne East; Rock Springs at Cheyenne Central; Thunder Basin at Natrona.
Sheridan: In. No. 1 seed.
Cheyenne East: In. No. 2 seed.
Natrona: In. No. 3 seed with victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Rock Springs victory. No. 5 seed with loss and Central victory.
Cheyenne Central: In. No. 3 seed with victory and Thunder Basin victory. No. 4 seed with Natrona victory, win or lose. No. 5 seed with loss and Thunder Basin victory.
Thunder Basin: In. No. 3 seed with victory and Rock Springs victory. No. 4 seed with victory and Central victory. No. 5 seed with loss.
Campbell County: In. No. 6 seed.
Rock Springs: In. No. 7 seed.
Laramie: Neither in nor out. No. 8 seed with victory. Tie for No. 8 seed (score differential to break) with loss and East victory. Out with loss and Kelly Walsh victory.
Kelly Walsh: Neither in nor out. No. 8 seed with victory and South victory. Tie for No. 8 seed (score differential to break) with loss and South victory. Out with loss and Laramie victory.
Cheyenne South: Out.
Tiebreaker possibility 1: In a case where Natrona, Central and Thunder Basin tie for the 3-4-5 seeds, Central wins the tiebreaker and the No. 3 seed; even if Thunder Basin wins by 12 or more, the ‘Bolts can’t overtake the Indians (current differential is Central +8, Natrona +4, Thunder Basin -12). Thunder Basin would then be the No. 4 seed due to a head-to-head victory against Natrona.
Tiebreaker possibility 2: In a case where Central, Thunder Basin and Campbell County tie for the 4-5-6 seeds, Central wins the tiebreaker with head-to-head victories over both. Thunder Basin would be No. 5 with the head-to-head victory against Campbell County.
Tiebreaker possibility 3: In a case where Laramie, Kelly Walsh and South tie for the 8 seed, score differential would be the tiebreaker. Laramie wins a tiebreaker if it loses by four or fewer points; KW wins a tiebreaker if Laramie loses by five or more points. Currently, the differences are Laramie +7, Kelly Walsh +3 and South -10. If South wins by three points or fewer, Laramie would win the tiebreaker and advance. If South wins by four, Laramie and Kelly Walsh would tie in the score differential, Laramie then advancing on head-to-head over KW. If South wins by five or more points, Kelly Walsh would win the tiebreaker. Even if South wins by 12 or more, the Bison can’t win a score differential tiebreaker.

Class 3A East
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Buffalo at Rawlins; Lander at Douglas; Riverton at Worland.
Douglas: In. No. 1 seed with victory. Tie for 1-2-3 seeds (score differential to break) with loss and Buffalo victory. No. 2 seed with loss and Rawlins victory.
Buffalo: In. Tie for 1-2-3 seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Lander victory. No. 2 seed with Douglas victory, win or lose. No. 3 seed with loss and Lander victory.
Lander: In. No. 1 seed with victory and Rawlins victory. Tie for 1-2-3 seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Buffalo victory. No. 3 seed with loss.
Riverton, Worland: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory. Out with loss.
Rawlins: Out.
In a scenario where Buffalo, Lander and Douglas tie for the 1-2-3 seeds, score differentials will be used. All three teams have a chance to be the No. 1 seed in this scenario depending on margin of victory in the Lander-Douglas game. Current differentials are Douglas +7, Buffalo +1, Lander -8. In this scenario, if Lander beats Douglas by six or fewer points, Douglas wins the tiebreaker. If Lander beats Douglas by seven or eight points, Buffalo wins the tiebreaker. If Lander wins by nine or more points, it wins the tiebreaker. The head-to-head winner of the two remaining teams takes the No. 2 seed, the remaining team the No. 3.

Class 3A West
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Cody at Powell; Green River at Evanston; Star Valley at Jackson.
Cody: In. No. 1 seed.
Star Valley: In. No. 2 seed with victory. No. 3 seed with loss and Cody victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Powell victory.
Powell: In. No. 2 seed with victory and Jackson victory. No. 3 seed with victory and Star Valley victory. No. 3 seed with loss, Star Valley victory and Green River victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Evanston victory. No. 4 seed with loss, Jackson victory and Green River victory.
Jackson: Neither in nor out. No. 2 seed with victory and Cody victory. No. 3 seed with victory and Powell victory. No. 3 seed with loss, Cody victory and Evanston victory. No. 4 seed with loss, Powell victory and Evanston victory. Out with loss, Cody victory and Green River victory. Out with loss, Powell victory and Green River victory.
Green River: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory, Star Valley victory and Powell victory. No. 4 seed with victory, Star Valley victory and Cody victory. Out with Jackson victory. Out with loss.
Evanston: Out.
Tiebreaker possibility 1: In a scenario where Star Valley, Jackson and Powell tie for the 2-3-4 seeds, Powell would take the No. 2 seed with the victory against the highest seeded non-tied team, Cody. Jackson takes the No. 3 seed with the head-to-head victory against Star Valley, which would be No. 4.
Tiebreaker possibility 2: In a scenario where Jackson, Powell and Green River tie for the 3-4-out seeds, score differentials would be used (Powell +9, Green River 0, Jackson -9). Powell wins the tiebreaker with a +9 differential and would be the No. 3 seed. Green River then takes the No. 4 seed with the head-to-head victory over Jackson.

Class 2A East
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Big Horn at Burns; Torrington at Newcastle.
Big Horn: In. No. 1 seed.
Tongue River: In. No. 2 seed.
Burns: In. No. 3 seed with victory. No. 3 seed with loss and Newcastle victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Torrington victory.
Newcastle: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory. Out with loss.
Torrington: Neither in nor out. No. 3 seed with victory and Big Horn victory. No. 4 seed with victory and Burns victory. Out with loss.
Glenrock, Upton-Sundance, Wheatland: Out.

Class 2A West
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Kemmerer at Mountain View; Lyman at Cokeville.
Lovell: In. No. 1 seed.
Cokeville, Lyman: In. No. 2 seed with victory. No. 3 seed with loss.
Kemmerer, Mountain View: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory. Out with loss.
Pinedale, Thermopolis: Out.

Class 1A nine-man East
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Lusk at Wright; Saratoga at Lingle; Southeast at Pine Bluffs.
Pine Bluffs, Southeast: In. No. 1 seed with victory. No. 2 seed with loss.
Lingle: Neither in nor out. No. 3 seed with victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Wright victory. Tie for 3-4-out seeds (score differential to break) with loss and Lusk victory.
Lusk: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory and Lingle victory. Tie for 3-4-out seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Saratoga victory. Tie for No. 4 seed (score differential to break) with loss and Lingle victory. Out with loss and Saratoga victory.
Saratoga: Neither in nor out. No. 3 seed with victory and Wright victory. Tie for 3-4-out seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Lusk victory. Out with loss.
Wright: Neither in nor out. Tie for No. 4 seed (score differential to break) with victory and Lingle victory. Out with Saratoga victory. Out with loss.
Guernsey: Out.
Moorcroft: Ineligible for playoffs.
Tiebreaker possibility 1: In a scenario where Lingle, Saratoga and Lusk tie for the 3-4-out seeds, score differentials would be used. Currently, Lingle has the advantage, as current differentials are Lingle +12, Lusk 0, Saratoga -12. Saratoga would have to win by 12 or more to force a tie and a coin flip to decide the seeds. If Saratoga wins by 11 or less in this scenario, then Lingle wins the score differential tiebreaker and the No. 3 seed and Lusk takes the No. 4 seed with the head-to-head victory against Saratoga.
Tiebreaker possibility 2: In a scenario where Saratoga, Lusk and Wright tie for the No. 4 seed, score differentials would be used. Current differentials are Lusk +12, Wright -4 and Saratoga -8. If Wright wins by eight or more, it would win this tiebreaker. A loss by seven or fewer would give Lusk the tiebreaker victory. Saratoga is out in this scenario.

Class 1A nine-man West
Week 8 games affecting playoff seeding: Riverside at Big Piney (Thursday); Rocky Mountain at Wind River (Thursday).
Shoshoni: In. No. 1 seed.
Wind River: In. No. 2 seed with victory. No. 3 seed with loss and Riverside victory. Tie for 2-3-4 seeds (score differential to break) with loss and Big Piney victory.
Rocky Mountain: In. No. 2 seed with victory and Riverside victory. Tie for 2-3-4 seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Big Piney victory. No. 3 seed with loss and Riverside victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Big Piney victory.
Big Piney: Neither in nor out. Tie for 2-3-4 seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Rocky Mountain victory. No. 3 seed with victory and Wind River victory. Out with loss.
Riverside: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory. Out with loss.
Greybull, St. Stephens: Out.
Wyoming Indian: Ineligible for playoffs.
Tiebreaker possibility 1: In a scenario where Wind River, Big Piney and Rocky Mountain tie for the 2-3-4 seeds, score differentials would be used. Current differentials are Big Piney +2, Wind River +2 and Rocky Mountain -4. A Rocky Mountain victory by five or less would give Wind River the tiebreaker victory and the No. 2 seed, with Big Piney taking the No. 3 seed due to a head-to-head victory against Rocky Mountain. A Rocky Mountain victory by exactly six points would tie Wind River and Rocky Mountain atop the score differential, giving Rocky Mountain the No. 2 seed due to head-to-head against Wind River and the Cougars the No. 3 seed due to head-to-head against Big Piney. The same thing happens if Rocky wins the score differential by winning by seven or more: Rocky 2, Wind River 3, Big Piney 4.
Tiebreaker possibility 2: In a scenario where Big Piney, Rocky Mountain and Riverside tie for the 3-4-out seeds, score differentials would be used. Current differentials are Rocky Mountain +8, Big Piney +4 and Riverside -12. A Riverside victory by any margin would not be enough to overtake Rocky Mountain, so Rocky would win that tiebreaker and the No. 3 seed. Riverside would the be the No. 4 seed due to a head-to-head victory against Big Piney.

Class 1A six-man playoff pairings (decided in Week 7)
(4S) Farson at (1N) Burlington
(3N) Meeteetse at (2S) Dubois
(4N) Hulett at (1S) Snake River
(3S) Encampment at (2N) Kaycee

–patrick

Updated at 11:24 a.m. Oct. 15 to clarify Powell’s status. Updated at 9:52 p.m. Oct. 15 to reflect the final pairings for six-man.

Whenever Sheridan returns a kickoff for a touchdown, I think the same thing — man, no one does this better than the Broncs.

It happened again on Friday:

But that was never more than just a hunch.

Until now.

In looking at the past four years (2018-21) of kickoff and punt return touchdowns, the only four years where such data is immediately available, the Broncs are indeed Wyoming’s return kings. And it isn’t even close.

With 14 such touchdowns, nine via kickoff and five via punt return, no other team has been able to match Sheridan’s efficiency with special teams touchdowns.

Only two other teams are in double digits, and they both played six-man in that time. Burlington had 11 return touchdowns, nine via kickoff and two via punt, while Guernsey had 10, with nine by kick and one by punt.

Big Horn, Riverside and Douglas are tied for the fourth spot with eight returns apiece; Big Horn and Riverside each had six kickoffs and two punts that they returned for touchdowns, while Douglas flipped that with six punt return and two kick return touchdowns.

Dubois, Mountain View, Snake River and Star Valley have had seven apiece.

Conversely, six programs — Cheyenne Central, Green River, Newcastle, Tongue River, Wyoming Indian and Ten Sleep — haven’t returned a kick or punt for a touchdown in the last four seasons. Ten Sleep, though, sat out three of those seasons, while Wyoming Indian missed one.

Check out the full spectrum of kick and punt return touchdowns over the past four years below. Note that the totals are taken from the official stat sheets, so there is a chance that something might be missing if original stats were off, and that these totals do not include the 2022 season:

TEAMPUNTKICKTOTAL
Sheridan5914
Burlington2911
Guernsey-Sunrise1910
Big Horn268
Riverside268
Douglas628
Dubois077
Mountain View347
Snake River347
Star Valley437
Meeteetse066
Hanna066
Buffalo156
Worland156
Upton-Sundance156
Kaycee156
Wheatland336
Cokeville516
NSI055
Big Piney145
Wright145
Thunder Basin235
Pine Bluffs235
Midwest325
Lingle044
Natrona134
Glenrock134
Encampment134
Rocky Mountain224
Wind River224
Cheyenne South033
Pinedale033
Thermopolis033
Hulett033
Laramie123
Rock Springs123
Jackson123
Lusk123
Burns213
Saratoga213
Kelly Walsh022
Evanston022
Torrington022
St. Stephens022
Lander112
Greybull112
Farson112
Lyman202
Cheyenne East011
Cody011
Powell011
Rawlins011
Riverton011
Kemmerer011
Lovell011
Shoshoni011
Moorcroft011
Southeast011
Campbell County101
Cheyenne Central000
Green River000
Newcastle000
Tongue River000
Wyoming Indian000
Ten Sleep000

Got any statistical hunches you think might be true that you’d like for me to explore? Let me know in the comments!

–patrick

If it feels like home-field advantage isn’t what it used to be, you’re right.

Or you’re completely wrong.

It depends on what your definition of “used to” is.

In looking at the 24,426 games on wyoming-football.com since 1894 where we know the winner, the loser and the location — and where the location was not a neutral site — we can see a consistent pattern in how often home teams win games. In total, home teams have 13,495 victories, 10,392 losses and 539 ties, a baseline winning percentage of .564. (If your math isn’t up to par, or if you’re just skimming, that means home teams have won 56.4 percent of Wyoming high school football games.)

Remember .564. It’s the measuring stick against which all other numbers in this post are measured.

+++

From season to season, home teams deviate subtly, but consistently, away from that baseline.

And those deviations are a factor of time — as long as that time is your great-grandpa’s time.

From 1920 to 1938, for 19 consecutive seasons, the home teams won Wyoming high school football games at above-average rates. Since 1939, though, winning percentages have been much more consistent.

Moreover, since 1939, there has been no consistent pattern. There have been stretches of home-field success and home-field struggle. In fact, since 1939, the winning percentage for Wyoming high school football teams is .557, which almost a full percent lower than our baseline.

For five straight years from 1942-46, home teams won at above-average rates, the longest such stretch in that era. However, in the 18 seasons from 1958-75, home teams won at an above-average rate just twice (1962 and 1968). That includes a seven-year stretch from 1969-75 where home teams won at below-average rates, the longest such streak.

That record was recently challenged; from 2013-18, the home team won at a below-average rate, too. In 2019 (.592) and 2020 (.577), the rate was above average, though; last year’s .563 was almost exactly on the average.

+++

The outliers stretch our expectations of what’s possible.

In 1977, home teams had a winning percentage of .483, the only time in Wyoming’s history that home teams finished below .500. Twice — in 1917 and again in 1984 — home teams went exactly .500, going 140-140 in 1984 and a much more modest 6-6-1 in 1917. The fourth-lowest winning percentage for home teams came recently, in 2015, when home teams had a winning percentage of .507.

Home teams did best in the early years. Since 1939, when numbers began evening out, home team’s best success came in 2002, when home teams had a winning percentage of .613. That was followed by 1989 (.612), 1983 (.612), 1991 (.611) and 2010 (.608).

Between 1921 — when high school football really took off in Wyoming — and 1939, the best home-field winning percentage came in 1923, when home teams went 62-27-4 (.688). In the 18 years between 1921 and 1938, home teams had a winning percentage of .622, almost 6 percent better than the average.

+++

So what happened? Why was home-field advantage so advantageous in the early years and less meaningful since 1939?

The short answer boils down, I think, to two factors: consistency and infrastructure.

In Wyoming’s early days of high school football, referees weren’t always the most neutral parties. The Wyoming High School Activities Association wasn’t even formed until 1931, 10 years after high school football got going. And even then, it took a while before the WHSAA coordinated officiating. Once officiating became more consistent, so did the game results.

As for infrastructure, take a look at this map of Wyoming in 1927. Count up the number of paved roads. Not many, are there? As the road system improved — as evidenced by this map from 1951, just 24 years later — teams could travel faster, spend less time on the road and arrive at games more refreshed and ready to play.

Since 1939, the most remarkable thing isn’t the change in home-field advantage. It’s the lack of it.

+++

Here’s a table listing the home-team records and winning percentages by year for Wyoming high school football:

YearWLTHome win %
202116512800.563
202017312700.577
201917712200.592
201815313800.526
201716813200.560
201616313400.549
201514614200.507
201415614100.525
201315214000.521
201216812700.569
201116813000.564
201017411200.608
200916212900.557
200816212300.568
200716711400.594
200616113600.542
200517012700.572
200416912300.579
200316312800.560
200217411000.613
200115312900.543
200013812200.531
199914411300.560
199814610900.573
199714511000.569
199614110800.566
199513811300.550
199414010800.565
199314710000.595
199213911200.554
19911549800.611
199014312700.530
198916410400.612
198814912500.544
198713613210.507
198614911300.569
198514513100.525
198414014000.500
198316710600.612
198214612400.541
198115411400.575
198014112200.536
197915111800.561
197816110700.601
197712913800.483
197615711710.573
197515013400.528
1974153132110.535
197315813480.540
1972158129100.549
1971151116130.563
1970145132100.523
1969148136140.520
196816712540.571
196716013220.548
196615312720.546
1965144114120.556
1964146114120.559
1963137125120.522
196215411250.577
1961145120130.545
1960138133130.509
1959142114120.552
1958136109100.553
195714711370.564
195613710090.575
195513811080.555
195413397120.574
1953137108110.557
195213199120.566
19511229770.555
195013010040.564
19491159380.551
19481108770.556
194710592100.531
194610263190.606
1945967080.575
19441046670.607
19439162100.589
19427852100.593
194113010290.558
194010910070.521
19391128970.555
193810165160.599
19379456140.616
193610051150.648
193510055190.629
19349360100.601
19337851140.594
19328250110.612
1931904680.653
19308847110.640
19296938120.630
19286143130.577
19277745100.621
1926684190.614
1925693690.645
1924643680.630
1923622740.688
1922533120.628
1921352510.582
192017630.712
19196500.545
1918No games
19176610.500
19166240.667
19159700.563
19146500.545
19136210.722
19129420.667
19117210.750
19108120.818
19097510.577
19084310.563
1894-190716750.661
TOTAL13495103925390.564

–patrick

Lovell has had its fair share of football success.

With a pair of championships to its name and a runner-up finish in Class 2A last year, the Bulldogs have a proud gridiron history.

And now, Lovell can also call itself the capital of high school football coaches in Wyoming.

Three Lovell alumni will be head coaches across the state this year — Nicc Crosby for his alma mater, Richard Despain at Rocky Mountain and Eli Moody at Cheyenne South.

With three alumni among Wyoming’s head football coaching ranks, Lovell can claim more than any other program.

While seven other schools (Campbell County, Cheyenne Central, Douglas, Green River, Hulett, Kelly Walsh and Wheatland) have two alumni leading up Wyoming high school football programs, no one can touch Lovell’s trio.

Here’s a quick glimpse of where Wyoming’s high school football coaches went to high school:

Crosby is one of 11 coaches who ply their trade at their alma mater. The others:

  • Andrew Rose, Campbell County
  • Mike Apodaca, Cheyenne Central
  • Kevin Cuthbertson, Green River
  • Patrick Sweeney, Worland
  • Travis Romsa, Burns
  • Jeromy Moffat, Big Piney
  • Trent Aagard, Burlington
  • Boz Backen, Hulett
  • Dave Largent, Kaycee
  • Jack Cobb, Snake River

Most Wyoming head football coaches come from Wyoming high schools, with 42 of the 64 coaches statewide graduating from in-state high schools. The count of 42 is up quite a bit from the total of 34 in 2018. Fifteen others come from bordering states, with Nebraska and Idaho (four each) the most popular. Coaches also hail from Montana and Utah (three apiece) and Colorado (one).

The remaining seven head coaches come from Washington (two) and New York, North Carolina, California, Maryland and Ohio (one each).

On the college level, though, only 19 coaches are graduates of the University of Wyoming. It’s still the most of any college, though, as Black Hills State claims nine alumni, and Chadron State has four.

Schools with two alumni among the ranks of Wyoming high school head football coaches include Sioux Falls, Montana State, Colorado Mesa, Weber State, Utah State, Southern Utah, Dakota Wesleyan and Dickinson State. Schools with a single alumnus are Augustana (South Dakota), Dana (Nebraska), Hiram (Ohio), Idaho State, Marist (New York), MSU-Billings, MSU-Northern, Montana-Western, Northern State, Tabor (Kansas), UNLV and Wayland Baptist (Texas). Four coaches statewide have not finished a bachelor’s degree.

–patrick

I love hopping on Google Maps and planning a trip — whether it’s to British Columbia, Australia, Kazakhstan or somewhere in between — that I will likely never take in my life.

So, once again, it’s time to plan the trip I’ll never take.

This annual version of “what if” always leads me back to Wyoming and the roundabout trip I would take if I had forgotten my job, maxed out my credit card and alienated my wife. This is that trip: the dream Wyoming high school football road trip for 2022:

Week 0 (Aug. 26-27)
Casper nine-man jamboree, noon Friday
Rock Springs at Kelly Walsh, 6 p.m. Friday
Shoshoni nine-man jamboree, 10 a.m. Saturday
Right now, five teams are scheduled to be at the Casper jamboree, including defending 1A nine-man champ Shoshoni, so a stop there will help suss out where the season might be headed. Then, to make it easy, let’s stay in Casper to watch last year’s runner-up Tigers face Kelly Walsh. The Saturday slate is jamboree-heavy, so why not another bunch of nine-man scrimmages in Shoshoni?

Week 1 (Sept. 1-3)
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni, 4 p.m. Thursday
Kaycee at Hanna, noon Friday
Campbell County at Laramie, 6 p.m. Friday
Ten Sleep at Encampment, 2 p.m. Saturday

There’s no way I’d miss the 1A nine-man title game we missed last year, with Pine Bluffs-Shoshoni at the top of the docket for the week. A little adventuring around the Snowies will give me three games all intriguing in their own right, although none stands out on the can’t-miss list in the preseason (although seeing Ten Sleep in its first game back after missing 2021 is a cool opportunity).

Week 2 (Sept. 8-10)
St. Stephens at Wind River, 5:30 p.m. Thursday
Snake River at Dubois, 3 p.m. Friday
Evanston at Riverton, 6 p.m. Friday
Ten Sleep at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday

This is a big week in Fremont County, so why not hit up as many games in County 10 as I can? The marquee matchup is Snake River-Dubois, pitting two six-man teams that figure to be near the top of the classification this year. And Midwest is the closest Saturday game, so let’s go for it.

Week 3 (Sept. 15-17)
Big Piney at Greybull, 6 p.m. Thursday
Lovell at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday
Sheridan at Rock Springs, 6 p.m. Friday
Lusk at Saratoga, 2 p.m. Saturday

It’s an early wake-up call to get from Greybull to Lyman, but it’s worth it to see rematches, plural, of two of the 2021 state title games on the same day. The 2A game is reprised in the Bridger Valley between Lovell and Lyman, while the 4A game sees a do-over in trona country between Sheridan and Rock Springs. Everything else is gravy.

Week 4 (Sept. 22-24)
Burlington at Meeteetse, 7 p.m. Thursday
Cody at Jackson, 5 p.m. Friday
Farson at Dubois, 2 p.m. Saturday

After two consecutive 3A title game showdowns, there’s no way I’d miss another Cody-Jackson showdown, especially since this one is the 3A West opener for both teams. I could have snuck in another game with some creative planning, but a one-game Friday is worth it if this is the game.

Week 5 (Sept. 29-Oct. 1)
Upton-Sundance at Newcastle, 6 p.m. Thursday
Torrington at Tongue River, 2 p.m. Friday
Campbell County at Thunder Basin, 7 p.m. Friday
Hulett vs. Snake River, at Midwest, 2 p.m. Saturday

I finally get to the northeast corner of the state in Week 5, where I can catch a pair of 2A East games as well as the Coal Bowl. Seems like the right way to spend the week.

Week 6 (Oct. 6-8)
Wright at Guernsey, 7 p.m. Thursday
Tongue River at Burns, 2 p.m. Friday
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne East, 6 p.m. Friday
Snake River at Encampment, 2 p.m. Saturday

The Capital Bowl between Central and East is always worth your attention, and the games around it make for a fun week. A thin Saturday slate is highlighted by the six-man title game rematch, though, and Carbon County is now becoming a frequent stop… not that I’m complaining.

Week 7 (Oct. 13-15)
Shoshoni at Wind River, 7 p.m. Thursday
Cokeville at Thermopolis, 2 p.m. Friday
Worland at Lander, 6 p.m. Friday
Burlington at Ten Sleep, 2 p.m. Saturday

I’m really curious to see how the Fremont County rivals Shoshoni and Wind River stack up against each other this year, so the Thursday game is the one that drove the other choices for the week. That said, everything else is intriguing in its own way — especially as we get closer to the playoffs.

Week 8 (Oct. 20-22)
Riverside at Big Piney, 4 p.m. Thursday
Lyman at Cokeville, 1 p.m. Friday
Star Valley at Jackson, 6 p.m. Friday
Kaycee at Farson, 3 p.m. Saturday

Numbers won out here. There were lots of great games scheduled for Week 8 across the state, but the most intriguing pair of games that was geographically feasible was the Cokeville-Jackson duo, both of which could have some big postseason ramifications hanging on the line.

In this scenario, I end up seeing 46 of Wyoming’s 64 teams, including 15 teams twice — Rock Springs, Campbell County, Jackson, Lyman, Tongue River, Cokeville, Shoshoni, Wind River, Big Piney, Kaycee, Encampment, Dubois, Meeteetse, Burlington and Farson. I’d also see Ten Sleep and Snake River three times apiece. I’d see eight of the 10 4A teams, seven of 12 3A teams, nine of 15 2A teams, 11 of 16 1A nine-man teams and all 11 1A six-man teams.

I’d also make it to 28 locations, including Jackson, Shoshoni, Wind River, Dubois, Encampment and Midwest twice.

And I’d be broke, so I’d probably start a GoFundMe after Week 8 so I could see the playoffs.

If you want to plan your trip, or at least just see when and where your favorite teams are playing, check out the full 2022 season schedule. Bookmark it — it’s where I will post results all season long and any updates to the schedule.

–patrick

Classic rivalries live on forever.

Like, say, cats vs. dogs. Or cats vs. birds.

For these two classic feline rivalries, at least in terms of Wyoming football, the cats are 1-1.

That’s because in games involving cat mascots, the cats lead the series against the dogs but are behind in the series against the birds.

To clarify: 16 Wyoming high schools with football in their history have, or have had, cats as their mascots. This includes Panthers (Arvada-Clearmont, Cokeville, Manville, Powell, Saratoga, Wright); Tigers (Encampment, Lander, Lusk, Rock Springs); Bobcats (Basin, Thermopolis, Upton); Bearcats (Douglas); Cougars (Wind River) and Wildcats (Albin).

When those teams go up against the teams with dog mascots, the cats usually escape with the victory. The dog teams — Wolves (Green River, Moorcroft, NSI), Bulldogs (Lovell, Sundance, Wheatland), Huskies (Burlington) and Coyotes (Carpenter) — trail in their series with the cats 525-369-27.

When the hunted becomes the hunter, though, the cats aren’t quite as fortunate. Against the bird teams — Eagles (Byron, Glendo, Heart Mountain, Lyman, St. Stephens, Tongue River), Thunderbirds (Cheyenne East) and Hawks (Hawk Springs) — the cats trail 172-181-5.

And you have now completed reading what might be the most ridiculous post I’ve ever put on this blog.

–patrick

A preliminary heat of the Class 1A girls 100-meter dash at the 1989 state track and field meet may have been the greatest race ever run in Wyoming track and field history.

If you believe the results.

In one heat, an existing class record for the 100 was broken* by four different runners.

First, some context: Michelle Thompson of Encampment had set the record for the 1A girls 100 in the 1987 state track preliminaries with a 13.00. In more than nine years of Class 1A 100-meter dash races at state before that, no 1A runner had ever been below 13.

Encampment senior Brandy James set a new record* by winning her heat in 12.25 seconds, beating the existing record by three-quarters of a second. And Albin senior Chris Brown was only one-one hundredth off that pace with a 12.26.

Also in the heat were Big Horn freshman Dawn Holder, who ran a 12.50, more than a half second faster than the record, and Hanna junior Kim Bonner, who ran a 12.72, whose fourth-place finish in the heat in and of itself would have chopped off more than a quarter-second off the existing record.

In one heat, four runners not only beat* that record of 13.00, they shattered it.

In the other 1A heat, Big Horn’s Anna Hubbard won — with a 13.51, apparently more a second and a quarter slower than the other heat. Albin’s Becca Brown was second at 13.77, Encampment’s Tami Levandowski was third at 14.01 and Hanna’s Sarah Briggs was fourth at 14.55.

In the finals, though, times from these record-setting* runners increased* precipitously. Chris Brown won, with a time of 13.26 — apparently, exactly one second slower than her preliminary time*. James, the record*-setter, finished second at 13.28. Hubbard, the winner of the “slow” heat, finished third at 13.45. Becca Brown was fourth at 13.65, Holder fifth at 13.78 and Bonner sixth at 13.82.

+++

By now, you’ve figured out that this heat was special. Here are the differences between the times* ran in the preliminaries and the times ran in the finals for the top six finishers.

RunnerPreliminary heatFinal heat (place)Difference
Chris Brown, Albin12.2613.26 (first)+1.00 seconds
Brandy James, Encampment12.2513.28 (second)+1.03 seconds
Anna Hubbard, Big Horn13.5113.45 (third)-0.06 seconds
Becca Brown, Albin13.7713.65 (fourth)-0.12 seconds
Dawn Holder, Big Horn12.5013.78 (fifth)+1.28 seconds
Kim Bonner, Hanna12.7213.82 (sixth)+1.10 seconds
“Fast heat” participants are in bold.

Based on the results above, we can surmise that in this “fast” heat, one of three things happened:

  1. Four runners, all in the same preliminary heat, ran the races of their lives and all broke the existing class record by more than a quarter-second each, only to run times that were all at least one full second slower during the championship heat, AND ran times that were more than a second better than anyone else in the second heat, AND ran times they could not even come close to duplicating in the final (or at any other time in their high school careers), OR…
  2. The timing was off for the first heat, and who knows what the times were? OR…
  3. The times were mis-reported as 12-point-whatever instead of 13-point-whatever.

My guess is No. 3. My guess is the record-setting run that James has had credit for the past 33 years was actually a 13.25, a quarter-second off what was the existing record but exactly in line with what she ended up running in the final. My guess is the wrong person has been credited with a state record this whole time.

The Wyoming High School Activities Association, for 33 years, has implicitly said No. 1 is what happened.

+++

Here’s where it gets crazy — this wasn’t the only time the timing failed on a girls 100-meter dash trial IN THIS MEET.

Something equally suspicious happened in Class 3A girls. And that one was caught.

In that classification, four runners in the second preliminary heat of the 100 all turned in 3A record*-breaking times, led by Torrington’s Robyn Young at 11.83 seconds. Following her were Thermopolis’ Betsy Snook (11.97), Wheatland’s Gina Sorenson (12.18) and Jackson’s Jennifer Goetz (12.30).

The existing Class 3A record at the time was the 12.45 run by Wheatland’s Ronda Munger in 1983. Just like in 1A, four girls, all in the same heat, had just destroyed* it.

And Young’s timed 11.83, as well as Snook’s timed 11.97, beat* the existing all-class state record of 11.99, set by Central’s Betty Jackson in 1982.

The winner of the other 3A girls 100 heat, the “slow” heat, was Jackson’s Heidi Eggers, who ran a 12.84.

So, yeah, these times seemed unusual. Sure, Young was the defending Class 3A girls 100-meter dash champion. Her winning time in 1988, though? 13.13.

Young, despite setting the new record*, did not defend her title. The next day, Eggers won the final in 12.99. Young, the record*-setter the day before, ran a 13.11 to finish third; Snook was fourth at 13.48; Goetz was sixth at 13.56.

Just like in 1A, everyone in the “fast” heat in 3A was more than a second slower in the finals than their preliminary time*.

For the second time in a matter of moments, a girls 100-meter dash preliminary resulted in times that were way off.

But only one got attention.

One fraudulent record disappeared from the records. The other remained.

+++

News coverage in the Casper Star-Tribune hinted at the controversy on the day. Here’s part of the story from the CST’s Sally Ann Shurmur (then Michalov) on May 20, discussing the 3A race specifically:

“Although a heathy wind was blowing and gusting throughout the day, Wyoming High School Activities Association Commissioner Mike Colbrese said all times and distances would stand as set, regardless of possible wind aid, because there are no facilities for measuring that at the stadium.

“Colbrese added that several coaches had objected to that decision.”

In retrospect, the coaches had a point. Just the wrong one.

It wasn’t the wind that was pushing runners to amazing times. If that were the case, times across all classifications would have reflected this, for both boys and girls. This didn’t happen. Instead, something threw off the timing system for those two heats.

Further proof of the sketchiness of the times put up in those two preliminary races were the performances of the runners the week before state.

In addition to James and Young, all the other runners in those two preliminary heats in 1A and 3A — Chris Brown, Holder, Bonner, Snook, Sorenson, Goetz — weren’t close to the times they ran* in their preliminary race in their respective regionals, either. For example, James’ winning time at the Class 1A Southwest regional meet the week prior to state was 13.50 seconds. In the same race, Bonner finished third at 14.09. Moreover, from available records and results, none of those sprinters had ever came close to touching those times before, and they never came close to touching them again.

In fact, in the week before the 1989 regional track meets, Cheyenne East’s Shanelle Porter was listed by the Casper Star-Tribune as the leader in the state for girls in the 100-meter dash. Her top time was listed as 12.42. Then at regionals, she ran a meet record 11.99; only Tongue River’s Lacey Cooper (12.45), Kelly Walsh’s Ann-Marie Gosar (12.46), and Young (12.8) were at or below 12.8 in regional finals. The fastest 1A time at a regional was Hubbard’s 13.28 at the Northeast Regional.

So, either four runners obliterating* a 1A record of 13.00 was either a timing mistake, or it was the greatest race in state meet history.

+++

For one heat at state, the mistake was rectified.

The 3A and overall record that Young had broken* did not last. Her record* time was eventually stricken from the WHSAA’s records; when, exactly, is unsure, but it happened sometime between the end of the 1989 meet and the 1990 state meet, where Jackson’s 11.99 was again listed as the overall record. The current Class 3A record time is held by Rawlins’ Kereston Thomas, who ran a 12.12 in 2011. Munger’s 12.45, retroactively reinstated as the 3A record, stood until 2008.

As it turns out, four people really didn’t break the Class 3A record in one preliminary heat, all by healthy margins.

Here’s the thing: Despite what the existing records say, it didn’t happen in Class 1A, either.

James’ time, and the times of the others in her preliminary heat, didn’t get the same scrutiny as Young, for two big reasons. First, Young’s time was for an overall state meet record and James’ record was only for the 1A classification record. The prestige of the overall record drew more scrutiny to it. Second, James’ time came in a preliminary race — it didn’t affect who actually won the individual state championship or any team scores.

Regardless, James’ record still stands.

And we are mistakenly left to believe that this preliminary heat from 1989 is the greatest race in state track and field history — a race where three (and almost four) sprinters put up times that only one Class 1A sprinter, before or since, was ever able to come close to matching.

Here are the 10 fastest* Class 1A girls 100-meter dash times ever run at the Wyoming state track and field meet:

RunnerSchoolTimeType of heatYear
Brandy JamesEncampment12.25*Preliminary1989
Chris BrownAlbin12.26*Preliminary1989
Maggie OchsnerLingle12.32Final2007
Maggie OchsnerLingle12.46Preliminary2006
Dawn HolderBig Horn12.50*Preliminary1989
Sydney HolidayTen Sleep12.50Final2017
Kaelyn RileyLingle12.51Preliminary2019
Trae PatchLingle12.55Preliminary2007
Maggie OchsnerLingle12.61Final2006
Sydney HolidayTen Sleep12.62Preliminary2017

In all 1A heats, the 13-second barrier in the 100 meters has been broken 43 times by 23 runners, and the 12.50 mark has been reached or broken* six times by four runners, as noted above.

Ochsner’s slowest time across two 1A meets was 12.64. She went on to become a Division I sprinter and hurdler, running at both Wyoming and Weber State.

Holiday transferred to Broomfield High School in Colorado for her junior and senior seasons. She’s currently on the track and field team at the University of Oregon, one of the top track programs in the country.

Patch and Riley both ran track at Chadron State.

By all indications, James, Brown and Holder never participated in track and field in college.

+++

The rightful record-holder of the Class 1A 100-meter dash state meet record is Lingle’s Maggie Ochsner.

Ochsner’s winning time of 12.32 seconds in 2007 is the best the state has ever seen at the Class 1A level. A four-time champion in the 100, Ochsner’s 12.32 as a junior broke the record she had set the year before of 12.46, run in the preliminaries; that race broke what should have been the existing record, the 12.70 that Lingle’s Hilary Larson ran in 1996.

Kaycee’s Heather Perry should have gotten credit in 1994 for a state record with her 12.82. That beat the mark set the year before by Pine Bluffs’ Becca Christensen, who had a 12.90 in the preliminaries in 1993 and should have been recognized as the first 1A runner to break 13-flat.

And Thompson’s 13.00 from 1987 should have stood until then.

One kink is that the current iteration of record-keepers has never had anyone question this record and would have a tough time overturning a record that’s been on the books for 33 years. In the 18 years that Ron Laird has been the commissioner of the Wyoming High School Activities Association, he said no one has asked him about the validity of this record (until now).

“We have never had anyone question it, and would have no way of knowing, at this time, if it is not accurate,” Laird said via email this summer.

+++

The 3A and 1A mis-times overshadowed someone who was actually running some record-setting times in 1989: East’s Porter.

A junior at the time, she won the 100, 200 and 400 for Cheyenne East at the 1989 meet, setting state meet records in the 200 (24.86) and 400 (55.86). (By the way, the state championship meet mark Porter set as a senior in 1990 (54.78) still stands as the all-class state meet record.) Her 100-winning time of 12.18 seconds actually was legit.

I wonder: If the “Best of the Best” award were around in 1989 — it didn’t start until 1994 — what would have happened? Would the debate over that award (Young’s sketchy 11.83 or Porter’s legit 12.18) have shined more light on James’ 1A time*?

When reached via Facebook and later contacted via email, James, now Brandy Spinda, did not respond to questions about her performance at the 1989 state track meet.

Regardless, one of the beauties of time, whether it’s 12.25 seconds or 33 years, is perspective. As time passes, we learn, and we gain wisdom from that new perspective.

That perspective is only meaningful, though, if acted upon.

Although the evidence will forever be no more than circumstantial, it’s also hard to overlook because it all points to one critical conclusion — that James’ time, like Young’s, was clearly inaccurate.

Yet, for 33 years on and counting, it still stands as the benchmark for all Class 1A sprinters to try to hit.

Young’s stricken 11.83 is a footnote in the state’s track and field history. James’ 12.25* should be, too.

–patrick

This post was updated at 5:04 p.m. July 28 to fix an incorrect first name.

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