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.