It didn’t take long for Thermopolis to become the new old guard of Class 2A.
The defending state champion Bobcats have won 13 games in a row dating back to last season and have won every game this season by at least 15 points. They boast a talented offense and an overlooked defense and the momentum any coach would envy.
But being the top team in 2A means constantly defending yourself. That’s where the Bobcats are this year. They aren’t surprising or shocking underdogs anymore. This is a team that is expected to win. And, for 13 straight, that’s what Thermopolis has done.
“This year’s” Thermopolis — the team that comes in without the expectations but with just as much talent as anyone it faces — is Big Horn.
The Rams have not-so-quietly built a 4-0 record, winning each game by at least 23 points, including a 46-0 whitewash of perennial power Glenrock last week.
The two teams meet up at 1 p.m. Friday Homer Scott Field in Sheridan. The old guard against the new challenger. Expectation vs. anticipation.
Either way, no matter which team wins, you can’t ask for a much better setup. I can’t think of a place in Wyoming that will produce more tummy butterflies — or more confident thoughts — than on that field in Sheridan at about 12:59 p.m.
But, in the end, we have to remember that high school football is still a game played by children, where reckless abandon has its place and where you have to expect the unexpected.
So I’ll pick Big Horn.
Either way, I don’t think anyone will leave the field after Friday’s game feeling like the story didn’t unfold sufficiently — like the old guard didn’t honorably defend its winning streak, nor that the challenger didn’t do its best to take down the pacesetter. It sure makes for a fun story to watch unfold.
Of note: Also, I quickly want to point out that Friday’s Trona Bowl between Rock Springs and Green River, scheduled for a 7 p.m. start in Green River, will probably be the last Trona Bowl for awhile, based on how all the questions around reclassification played out this week. This is one of the most storied rivalries in Wyoming — the two squads have played each other 76 times since 1933 — but it’s also important to note that the series has had two big gaps in it, as well. The Tigers and the Wolves didn’t play each other at all in the seven-year span from 1960-66 or in the four seasons from 1971-74. So, even though Green River and Rock Springs probably will not play each other in 2011, there may be a bit of solace in knowing that the rivalry has survived such problems in the past — and likely will again. Oh, and I pick the Tigers.
Here are the rest of this week’s picks. You know how it works by now: projected winners in bold, but I don’t love the non-bold teams any less.
Evanston at Kelly Walsh: KW’s victory last week could be a springboard that propels the Trojans to some amazing things. The Red Devils better be ready. I think they will be, but even so…. 7 p.m.
Cheyenne Central at Gillette: Central took an entire quarter to get going against East last week. They can’t have the same thing happen against the Camels, because Gillette is much less likely to allow a comeback like the one the Indians had a week ago. 7 p.m.
Natrona at Cheyenne East: The orange and black wrecking crew will be tested a bit more than last week, but NC still gets the win on the road. 7 p.m.
Sheridan at Laramie: Laramie is showing signs of improvement, but the Broncs just have too much talent to lose this one. 6 p.m.
Buffalo at Riverton: The Bison rebound — although they will be tested by the improving Wolverines. 7 p.m.
Douglas at Wheatland: Wheatland is good, but Douglas is Douglas. Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs keep it within two touchdowns, but keeping it within two touchdowns doesn’t equal a W. 7 p.m.
Jackson at Cody: In case you’re counting — and, let’s face it, I always am — that is now three consecutive shutout victories for Cody. I’ll bet the blue-and-gold Broncs would love to see that streak continue. 7 p.m.
Lander at Worland: The Warriors’ depth issues keep showing up at the wrong time — late in the game. So even if Worland takes an early lead, the Tigers may rally late in this one. 6 p.m.
Star Valley at Powell: I’m curious to see how this one plays out, because both teams have shown potential. However, both have shown that they have some improvement to make, too. 6 p.m.
Torrington at Rawlins: The Trailblazers need a bounce-back game; the Outlaws still have a ways to go to prove themselves. 7 p.m.
Big Piney at Kemmerer: The Punchers have a right to be frustrated about last week’s come-from-ahead loss. The Rangers are the only thing between that frustrated feeling and Big Piney getting back on track. 4 p.m.
Glenrock at Newcastle: How will Glenrock respond after its first mercy-rule loss since 2004? Well, back in 2004, the week after Buffalo beat Glenrock by 45, Glenrock beat Newcastle by four. Sounds about right in 2010, too. 7 p.m.
Greybull at Lovell: Big game for playoff seeding. It’s the type of game Greybull has won before; I’m banking on that experience to pay off in what should be a close game. 7 p.m.
Lyman at Wyoming Indian: The Eagles are flat out rolling right now. 6 p.m.
Moorcroft at Burns: The Broncs got the win they needed to get back on track last week. At home, it should be more of the same. 7 p.m.
Pinedale at Mountain View: After several “almost”s, the Buffaloes finally broke through last week. Now that they have a bit of momentum, watch out. 3 p.m.
Tongue River at Wright: Was Tongue River’s loss last week a fluke? Was Wright’s win? I’m banking on no and no, but we’ll see for sure once this one is over. 7 p.m.
Class 1A 11-man
Burlington at Dubois: The games in the 1A West won’t get much bigger than this one this year, where the winner gains the inside edge for a home playoff game and the loser has to fight simply to stay afloat in a crowded playoff race. 2 p.m.
Hulett at Upton (six-man): This one is little more than a chance for the Bobcats to see what they’re missing by staying in 11-man. Hulett already has the experience edge, so I’ll go with the Red Devils. 7 p.m.
Pine Bluffs at Lusk: The results from last week involving these two teams surprised me a bit — I didn’t expect Pine Bluffs to lose and I didn’t expect Lusk to win by 40. 7:30 p.m.
Rocky Mountain at Cokeville: Finally, Cokeville has a true test in 1A West play. Well, maybe…. 1 p.m.
Saratoga at Wind River: The Cougars need to win — and in bunches — to keep pace out west. This game against the Panthers should help Wind River stay in that playoff race. 6 p.m.
Shoshoni at Riverside: Riverside is in a similar situation as Wind River — winnable game, but dire consequences with an upset loss. 7 p.m.
Sundance at Lingle: The Doggers got quite the shock last week against Lusk, so look for them to learn some lessons from that game, lessons they can apply against the Bulldogs. 7:30 p.m.
Class 1A six-man
Meeteetse at Kaycee: Three teams near the bottom of the six-man standings (Meeteetse, Farson and Guernsey) line Kaycee’s schedule for the next three weeks. Complacency is a bit of a worry when you stare down a schedule like that. But since when is Kaycee complacent? 4 p.m.
Midwest at Hanna: You sort of get the feeling that the top four teams in six-man have started to pull away from the pack. Midwest can make it the top five if they can somehow find a way to upset the Miners… but I’ll count on Hanna at home. 4:30 p.m.
Class 1A 11-man
Normative Services vs. Southeast: The Cyclones jumped right back into the playoff race with their big victory last week. They’ll want to keep that momentum going against the struggling Wolves. At Casper (NCHS), 3 p.m.
Class 1A six-man
Farson at Guernsey-Sunrise: Somebody will get off the winless roll in this one. I’m just going with the home team for a game that feels like I should buy four oxen and a spare wagon tongue to attend. 2 p.m.
Ten Sleep at Snake River: Game of the week in six-man. Can the Rattlers keep up their blistering pace against the up-and-coming Pioneers? 1 p.m.
Yep, there it is. Week 5. Another biggie for several teams; another chance for playoff races to become a bit clearer (or a ton more confusing). What games are you watching this week? Post a comment below and let me know how you think the week might play out, or where you think my view of how the week might play out looks like it’s written by a clueless Bolivian.