In case you haven’t heard, the Wyoming High School Activities Association gave preliminary approval to resurrecting six-man football in the state this week.
As you can see, I’m pretty jazzed about it. I think it’s going to be huge.
But just how huge?
Well, it won’t start that way. Six-man will need a few years to truly develop in Wyoming. But my guess is that by 2013, Wyoming’s six-man league could include as many as a dozen teams, or more.
All teams classified as Class 1A have the option to choose between six-man and 11-man. So, with that in mind, here is a team-by-team breakdown of who will go to six-man and who will go to 11-man, based in part on a survey distributed by the WHSAA back in Feburary and in part by my humble, yet somewhat educated, opinion:
THE PIONEERS OF SIX-MAN
Meeteetse and Ten Sleep: Answered in favor of a six-man program. Duh. These guys have been the catalyst for this whole thing. Both programs were struggling simply to put a team together, much less win, in Wyoming. They both ditched Wyoming and 11-man and went to play six-man in Montana. Both have had some success up there, too. Both teams have made the playoffs, and Meeteetse made it as far as the state semifinals two years ago. Thank goodness, too, because if these guys had gone up to Montana and struggled, I don’t think six-man in Wyoming would have ever gotten off the ground.
Fort Washakie: Answered in favor of a six-man program. These guys are psyched. I honestly think Fort Washakie will be THE school to show all the others how to build a program quickly.
Guernsey: Answered in favor of a six-man program. Guernsey’s offense is already eerily similar to some six-man offenses. Coincidence? Also, the Vikings are stinging from swiftly declining enrollment and are in a perfect position to adopt six-man right away.
Hanna: Answered in favor of a six-man program. That kind of surprised me, because Hanna had always been in the “11-man or nothing” camp. But with Hanna’s enrollment dropping as fast as it is, six-man makes a lot of sense, and maybe the folks there finally wised up to that.
Midwest: Answered in favor of a six-man program. From what I understand, the Midwest community is starting to get excited for the change. After 16 consecutive years of missing the playoffs, change can’t hurt.
Kaycee: Answered in favor of a six-man program. Kaycee already has the approval of its school board to move forward. They have a field and they’ve also had a proven track record of sending players to Buffalo. (Personally, as a member of the Midwest High School Class of 2000, I’m still a little bitter that the Kaycee-Midwest co-op team never happened in football. Kaycee always had some great athletes and we really could have been a much better team with them on our side…. That said, six-man makes a ton of sense for Kaycee’s community. I’m glad to see the Kaycee administration take the bull by the horns and run with this.)
Rock River: Answered in favor of a six-man program. Of all the newbies, I’m most worried about the Longhorns. They have the support of their school board and they have the numbers (barely), but I’m not sure about how the community has and/or will react. If the reaction is anything less than 100 percent “Let’s do this!”, Rock River might miss the ’09 season.
Lingle: Answered in favor of an 11-man program. But I don’t think that’ll last, especially if nearby Guernsey finds some early success playing six-man and if Lingle continues to struggle with its numbers for boys in its school. Estimated six-man entry: 2011.
Dubois: Answered in favor of an 11-man program. But the Rams also noted that they could be hurting for numbers within the next few years. It won’t take long. Estimated six-man entry: 2011.
Snake River: No answer to survey, but has voiced tentative support of a six-man team. I’m not sure what the holdup is down there in Baggs. From what I hear, the folks working for the energy companies down there are really excited about this. The school population is as high as it’s ever been, including a core of athletic boys. Come on, Baggs! Unfortunately, I just don’t see a program developing soon enough to be a part of the inaugural class. There’s been too much feet-dragging. I hope Snake River proves me wrong. But…. Estimated six-man entry: 2011.
Farson: No answer to survey, but has voiced tentative support of a six-man team. I learned this week that Farson’s big problem is its field. When Farson gave up football in 1990, it cut the water line to the field. That’s proving to be a problem now, because the damage might be irreparable….. That, plus somewhat mediocre community and school district support (from what I’ve heard) could keep Farson from starting a program right away. Give it time. Farson is a six-man football hotbed waiting to happen. Estimated six-man entry: 2011.
Shoshoni: Answered in favor of an 11-man program. But Shoshoni, like Dubois, has also dropped hints about enrollment problems and hasn’t wholly rejected the idea of six-man. I think as soon as Dubois goes, Shoshoni won’t be far behind. Estimated six-man entry: 2013.
Arapaho Charter: No answer to survey. Arapaho actually has an enrollment that’s quite a bit bigger than six-man torch-carrier Fort Washakie. If Fort Washakie proves it can do it, I don’t think Arapaho will wait long to offer a program, as well. Estimated six-man entry: 2015.
THE 11-MAN STICKLERS
Burlington, Cokeville, Lusk, Pine Bluffs, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, Southeast: This group supports 11-man and they always have the numbers to do so. Unless there’s a nuclear attack or something, these guys will always play 11-man.
Encampment/Saratoga: Encampment answered no interest in football; Saratoga answered in favor of an 11-man program. These two schools have successfully co-opted this team and I see no reason for them to break that, nor for them to go to six-man. I think they’ll stay co-opted, and I think they’ll stay in 11-man. Why mess up a good thing?
Hulett, Sundance, Upton: Answered in favor of 11-man. These three schools, along with Moorcroft, will tend to stick together. I don’t see any one of them breaking away from their neighbors any time soon — even though Upton and Hulett have struggled with numbers lately (Upton ended the 2007 season with 11 players).
Normative Services: No answer to survey. Personally, I think NSI will stick with 11-man. One, NSI always has great numbers. Two, NSI is more about player participation and character development than wins and losses (as it should be). The chance to put five more players on the field will be too powerful to pass up. And more power to them, because NSI does some great work — about 99.9 percent of it away from the football field.
Wind River: Answered in favor of 11-man. Watching Wind River in all this could be interesting, especially if Fremont County rivals like Dubois, Shoshoni and Wyoming Indian all go to six-man and if Wind River’s school enrollment keeps dropping. I think Wind River will hold onto 11-man for as long as it can, and I think they’ll be able to do so for at least the next 10 years.
NO FOOTBALL TO SEE HERE
Arvada-Clearmont: Answered no interest in football. A-C had an extremely successful co-op with Normative Services in the early part of this decade. There are two big factors going against A-C, though: no field and a small population of boys in the school. Unless there is an influx of boys, I don’t think A-C can support a team year in and year out.
Chugwater and Glendo: Answered no interest in football. These schools are having trouble supporting basketball programs right now. I don’t see any way they’ll be able to sponsor football.
St. Stephens: No answer to survey. As long as St. Stephens remains a private school, it will never have sufficient funds to support a football program.
THE WILD CARD
Wyoming Indian: Didn’t get a chance to answer the survey, because, technically, the Chiefs would be a 2A school in the new realignment. But the Chiefs have opted down for the past several years, and I think they’ll do that again if their enrollment dictates that they play 2A ball. And… if you’re going to opt down, why not opt down all the way? Six-man it up! Of course, like previous seasons, the Chiefs won’t be eligible for the playoffs.
So there it is. Meeteetse, Ten Sleep, Fort Washakie, Guernsey, Hanna, Kaycee, Midwest and (maybe) Rock River in the inaugural season, joined by Lingle, Dubois, Snake River, Farson, Shoshoni and (maybe) Arapaho Charter by 2015. More than a dozen schools playing six-man within the next seven years.
It’s an exciting time to be associated with this state and with this sport.