About four years ago, I wrote this story for the Casper Star-Tribune about home-field advantage in high school football. It was more interesting to research than to write, and all the cool numbers that went with that story are not on the online version, but I found it fascinating — although not surprising — that every high school football team in Wyoming had a better winning percentage at home than on the road in the 50-year span of games from 1956-2005.
Of course, the teams that were traditionally best on the road were also best at home. What was most interesting to me was the list of teams who had either the largest or smallest disparities between their home and road play.
Of active programs, these 10, in order, had the biggest disparity between their winning percentage at home and their winning percentage on the road (awesome at home, not good on the road): Normative Services, Burns, Hanna, Ten Sleep, Shoshoni, Big Piney, Rocky Mountain, Guernsey-Sunrise, Wind River and Kemmerer.
The reverse of that is the ones who played the most consistently, with the smallest disparity between winning percentages of home and road games (in order): Wyoming Indian, Rawlins, Mountain View and Wheatland (tie), Douglas, Evanston, Meeteetse, Kelly Walsh, Lander and Worland.
Out of curiosity, I ran a quick formula on my master Excel sheet (17,000-some games) and came up with some VERY rough numbers: Since 1946, home teams have won 9,169 games, lost 7,308 and tied 269, for a winning percentage of .556. (By the way, this number of about 56 percent matches up almost perfectly to the all-time home win-loss percentage in the NFL, which is 56 percent.)
If my math is correct (and math whizzes, feel free to help me out right here), this means that over the course of 100 games, about six are won because of where the game is played. That averages out to about two games per week, or about 20 games per season. When you think about it, that’s pretty significant; chances are better than not that, at least once a season, your team will either win or lose a game because of the home-field edge.
Lots of high-tech studies have been done on the effect home-field advantage has on people mentally and physically. This article will give you a taste of it. And then a couple years ago there was a big to-do about a study that came out saying officiating favors home teams.
Whatever the reason, home-field advantage does exist, at least statistically, for Wyoming high school football. Even though the advantage is small (remember, we’re only talking about a five or six percent of games where the winner and loser are affected), it’s still there.
What do you think? Are there certain teams that enjoy home-field advantage more? Do Cokeville, Star Valley and Jackson benefit at home because of their remoteness, and do they have to work harder on the road because of that, too? Do crowds sound different in different stadiums? Are there noticeable changes to a team when it sits for three hours, one-way, on a bus before a game? Or is it all just mental?
Colors: orange and black
Stadium: Bronc Stadium
State championships: 1983 and 2008
Times worth remembering: After languishing for most of the mid-1980s, the Broncs came into their own in the 1989, going 9-1 on their way to a runner-up finish in Class 2A. The next year, the Broncs went 7-2 and made the playoffs in 1A. Together, those two years were part of five consecutive non-losing seasons, the longest such streak in the program’s history.
Times worth forgetting: It took a while for Burns to get the hang of this football thing. It wasn’t until the Broncs’ third full season in 1970 that they earned their first victory — Burns lost 21 times and tied once before beating Goshen Hole on Oct. 9, 1970. It took another four years for Burns to earn its first winning season.
Best team: The 2008 team did something no other team in Burns’ history has done: go undefeated. The Broncs were favorites from August, and after beating Southeast by nine in the season opener, didn’t win another game by fewer than 20 points for the rest of the season.
Biggest win: Burns was filled with seniors in its championship season of 1983 — four of them were all-staters, including Milward Simpson Award finalist David Petsch — so the Broncs were going for broke. Anything less than the championship would have been a disappointment for the Broncs. That’s why the 19-15 victory over Greybull in the 2A title game that year was so important. The team cashed in on its potential and earned the program’s first championship on its home field.
Heartbreaker: Heading into the 2A championship in 1989, the Broncs were rolling. They had won nine in a row and had earned home-field advantage for the title game against Cokeville. But the optimism barely lasted past the opening kickoff, as the Panthers throttled the Broncs 46-0 in the title game. It took Burns 16 years after that loss to win another playoff game.
Michael McGuire, the football coach in Riverside the past four years, resigned last week. He compiled a 28-13 record in his four seasons leading the Rebel football team, including a 2A state championship in 2007 and a runner-up finish in 2006.
The 2007 championship was the school’s first in football and was also the first state football championship for the community of Basin.
McGuire was also Riverside’s girls basketball coach.
He said the school hasn’t hired a new head coach yet but said a search has started.
McGuire is (to the best of my knowledge) the fourth coach in the state to vacate his post. Rawlins, Jackson and Evanston will also have new coaches in 2010.
Best of luck to coach McGuire in his future endeavors!
Also, this isn’t directly football related, but Wyoming sports fans might be interested to know that girls basketball coach Bob Geiser was not retained by the Lovell school board. It’s somewhat odd timing for such a change, especially considering Geiser’s success….
Colors: red and white
State championships: None
Times worth remembering/best team: The good times were few and far between for the Demons, who had just four winning seasons in 20 years of football — and none consecutively — and no playoff appearances. But if a season sticks out, it’s the 1962 season, when Manderson went 5-2-1. That team had a knack for winning close, low-scoring games and held all of its opponents to 13 or fewer points; a 7-6 loss to Byron and a 13-12 loss to Morton were the team’s only smudge.
Times worth forgetting: Although Manderson was perennially a conference doormat, the Demons typically pulled off a couple victories each season to keep interest going and opponents honest. But from 1965-68, when the Demons went 4-30-1, there wasn’t much to celebrate. The Demons weren’t bad defensively, but rarely got its offense untracked — they averaged only about 9 points per game during the first three years of that stretch.
Biggest win: What made the 1962 season special was how it started. After a 12-0 win over Meeteetse, the Demons beat Cowley 12-6 at Cowley — a game that may not have been recognized at the time as perhaps the biggest win in school history. But after that, Cowley (and the rest of the Bighorn Basin schools) never let Manderson sneak up on them again. Manderson went 0-13-1 in its final 14 games against Cowley before dropping football after 1975.
Heartbreaker: Success was never really Manderson’s calling card, but it had to hurt to go out like this. In the final game in program history, the Demons took a 70-8 beating from Deaver-Frannie. The defeat was made all the more difficult by how Manderson had improved heading into the season finale, beating Burlington 12-6 and losing to Ten Sleep 14-6 in the two previous games. But Deaver showed no mercy on the outgoing Demons, who will never have a chance to avenge the 62-point loss they took in their last outing.
It’s been a serendipitous week in my research. I kind of stumbled into some great information about the Bighorn Basin’s six-man division in 1952. The info I found eliminated three games from my missing games list: I found the location for the Byron-Meeteetse game on Oct. 3 (Byron), the location for the Deaver-Frannie-Meeteetse game on Oct. 8 (Meeteetse) and the date and location for the Byron-Meeteetse game on Oct. 24 (Meeteetse).
I also added four games to the 1952 season: Cowley’s game at Meeteetse on Sept. 26 (also added to missing games because I couldn’t find a result); Cowley’s 44-21 victory over Deaver-Frannie on Oct. 3; Deaver-Frannie’s 43-35 victory over Meeteetse on Oct. 31; and Basin’s 13-12 loss to the Worland JV on Oct. 30.
The opening week of the 1951 season also turned up a few changes. I added two games — Byron’s 28-6 victory over Colstrip, Mont., and Deaver-Frannie’s 48-12 victory over Belfry, Mont. — but added them both to the missing games list because I couldn’t pin down exact dates or locations. Conversely, the game between Cowley and Colstrip scheduled for Sept. 15, 1951, was not played and came off the database completely.
This week, I spent a bunch of time trying to knock as many games as possible off the missing games list as well as opportunistic chip-aways at the Byes Project (trying to account for every open week listed on this site). Here are some other updates I made this week.
Found the location for Guernsey-Sunrise’s game with the Torrington JV on Sept. 4, 1965 (it was in Guernsey).
Removed an extra game scheduled for Nov. 11, 1950, between Rock Springs and Rawlins; the game was not scheduled originally and never played.
Found the score for Douglas’ 25-13 victory over Edgemont, S.D., on Sept. 30, 1949.
Noted that the Oct. 25, 1963, game between Burlington and Morton was canceled. Morton tried to find a last-minute replacement but couldn’t do it.
Found the score for Moorcroft’s 37-12 victory over Hulett on Oct. 14, 1955.
Found the date and location and corrected the score for the Lander JV’s 36-6 victory over Morton on Sept. 25, 1952 (it was in Lander; I originally had 32-6).
Found the location for Newcastle’s game with Pine Ridge, S.D., on Nov. 11, 1952 (it was in Newcastle).
Removed an extra game between Buffalo and Riverton on Sept. 8, 1950; it was never on Riverton’s schedule to begin with.
Removed an extra game between Sunrise and Albin on Sept. 26, 1950; they played a week later than that.
Found the date for the game between Burlington and Cowley on Sept. 29, 1950.
Found the location for the game between Hanna and Saratoga on Sept. 29, 1950 (it was in Hanna).
Noted that the Oct. 20, 1950, game between Thermopolis and Basin was canceled.
Added Douglas’ 34-0 victory over the Natrona JV on Oct. 1, 1955.
Added Deaver-Frannie’s 20-8 victory over Meeteetse on Oct. 12, 1951.
Coaches Project: Updates for Albin, Byron, Cowley, Deaver-Frannie, Hanna, Powell, Saratoga, St. Mary’s, Superior and Thermopolis. I also made the decision to accept two initials as sufficient in place of a first name for identification; many newspapers in the 1940s and prior did not identify many people, especially high school football coaches, by their first names. Whenever possible, I’ve used the first name in place of the two initials, but in several cases I’ve decided to let the two initials be enough (despite a ton of searching).
Colors: black and orange
Stadium: Panther Field
State championships: 1978, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2003
Times worth remembering: Pick ‘em. Cokeville’s success — 16 state championships in a 21-year span from 1983-2003 and 17 titles overall — makes the Panthers the pinnacle of consistent success. But perhaps the Panthers’ best stretch came from 1986-91, when the program put together six consecutive state championships and won 26 consecutive games at one point.
Times worth forgetting: Cokeville has had its struggles, too. The program’s toughest times came in 1964 and 1965, as the Panthers went a combined 0-12-1. Every loss the Panthers suffered was by at least 12 points.
Best team: Again, pick ‘em. Cokeville has had 12 undefeated teams in school history, but the team that stands out more than any is the team from 1989. That year, Class 1A became exclusively a 9-man division, and Cokeville opted up to Class 2A play to stick with its 11-man program. The change did nothing to stop Cokeville’s run of championships, as they went 10-0 and blasted the two best teams 2A had to offer in the playoffs, both on the road — Greybull 35-11 in the semis and Burns 46-0 in the championship.
Biggest win: Again, pick ‘em. All 17 championship-game victories have added a little bit more to Cokeville’s mystique. If any one stands out, it’s No. 17, a 14-13 win over Southeast in 2003 secured only after Nathan Fiscus made an open-field tackle on Alan Moore on the Cyclones’ two-point conversion try in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
Heartbreaker: The Panthers were one yard away from the 2006 1A championship, but the 19-yard field goal attempt Cokeville tried on the final play of the game went wide. Cokeville lost 14-12 to Guernsey after losing a 12-0 lead; the Panthers gave up a safety in the fourth quarter for the final margin and also had a touchdown negated on a holding penalty in the final quarter.
A couple quick updates to post here. New additions for the Coaches Project for Big Piney, Cokeville, Hanna, Pinedale, Reliance, Snake River and Superior; check out those individual team pages to see those updates.
I also made a couple updates. I noted the Oct. 17, 1952, game between Pinedale and Baggs (Snake River) was canceled. I also corrected the location for Star Valley’s game with Bear Lake, Idaho, on Sept. 9, 1983; it was in Montpelier, not Afton.
As many frequent readers of this blog might know, I’m putting together a book about Wyoming high school football. With any luck (like finding a publisher and some help) the book will be out in about a year-ish. That said, I’m putting together a crew of the state’s most talented writers to share some of the history of Wyoming football. I’ve got most of the big ideas down pat (keep watching this blog and you might catch hints about what those are), but I’m looking for a range of interesting moments to help fill the book. Here is a short list I put together in about 10 minutes of some interesting moments I want to be SURE to include in the book. In no particular order (roughly by time but not really), they are…
* The Heart Mountain internment camp team in 1944-45. In two years, the Eagles lost just one game. Every win Heart Mountain had came by shutout…
* The introduction of six-man into Wyoming (see this post for more on that).
* The nation’s first lighted high school football game, Midwest, Wyoming, November 1925. Casper beat Midwest 20-0.
* Probably the most messed-up story ever, that of Richard “Dick” Doyle. While working the chains during the Big Piney-Pinedale game on Oct. 21, 1947, the 18-year-old Doyle was killed by 14-year-old George Smith, who stabbed Doyle in the heart with a three-inch pocket knife. Doyle died before he could be taken off the field.
* The Byron Eagles’ long win streak, one that reached more than 40 games in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I’m still digging up the info on this one…
* The final game of the 1955 season between Laramie and Cheyenne Central. Laramie won 18-14 on its home field to claim the Class AA championship, but Cheyenne filed a protest claiming “timing irregularities” gave Laramie an unfair advantage. Two Cheyenne players also punched and tackled an official after he ejected a Cheyenne player. Although the protest was eventually tossed, the timekeeper that day, Edwin Hitchcock, died just days after the game due to a heart attack.
* Polio. The disease wiped out a ton of games in the early 1950s and even took the lives of a few players.
* The 1947 and 1948 Turkey Bowls.
* The “dead era” of champions from 1939-ish to 1947.
* Wyoming’s two games that lasted more than one day. The first came in 1951, when Greybull and Powell played to a 0-0 tie on Oct. 19, then met on Oct. 30 to play the overtime period. The OT had to be played to decide the conference champion, and Greybull officially won 2-0 by gaining more yards on five plays than Powell did on its five plays…. The other came in 1967, when Basin played Byron on Oct. 27, and Basin won 40-34 by scoring in the final minute. But Byron protested the game’s final 2 minutes, 24 seconds, the WHSAA upheld the protest, and the two teams met three days later to play the final 2:24. The game finished as a 34-34 tie, officially.
* Cody’s 41-40 triple overtime victory over Laramie for the Class AA title in 1976. A crazy, tense game that ranks up there with Wyoming’s best ever, made all the more relevant by the fact that it was coaching legend John E. Deti’s last game on the sidelines.
* Wyoming’s last tie game, the 45-45 shootout draw staged between Big Horn and Riverside in the 1987 season opener. The game went three overtimes, and was then called a draw by the officials. This was also Riverside’s first game in its incarnation as Riverside.
* Speaking of Big Horn-Riverside games, how about the 2007 2A championship game when Riverside drove 99 yards for the final touchdown, then went for two (and converted) to pull out the victory?
* Some 21st-century domination in Class 4A: Worland’s three-peat from 2001-03 and Buffalo’s 27-game winning streak from 2004-06.
* The big changes in 2009 — the reintroduction of six-man football and the shift to Laramie for the state championship games.
Of course, the book will touch on some of the state’s great coaches: Deti and his son John R., Carl Selmer, Todd Dayton, Joel Eskelen, Art Hill, Jerry Fullmer and numerous others immediately jump to mind. And, of course, I am stringing together something about the state’s best players, including a list of those who later played in the NFL (sometime soon I’ll get around to posting that list to have y’all double-check it and see if I forgot anyone).
Are there any unique or interesting stories that stick out in your mind? Post a comment below and let’s start this discussion; I’d love to hear what some of your favorite Wyoming high school football memories are.