Rather than making one game my game of the week, I want to pose to you, my readers, a few questions that will help spark some debate as we enter the second season.
Playoff games present the opportunities for which players and coaches dream. The ultimate hope is to play in The War, but only 10 of the remaining 40 teams will have that chance.
Which 10, is the question I ask now? But more than that, how about these brain teasers:
1. Which road team do you think is most likely to win on Friday? (My answer: Riverton. Remember, the Wolverines played Powell to a 13-10 score early in the season and won’t be fazed by going on the road.)
2. Which road team in the first round has the best chance of hosting a game in the second round — or, in simpler terms, which bracket half is most likely to see BOTH road teams win? (My answer: Lyman. Coming off a tough loss, I think the Eagles will be extremely focused and have a true shot to take down defending champ Thermopolis. On that same side of the bracket, Burns looks tough and will give Lovell a tussle in the first round; remember, Burns beat Wright last week just to make it to the postseason, and Lovell barely beat Wright 21-20 in Week 1.)
3. Which top seed is likely to have the toughest time winning on Friday? (My answer: Cody. Wheatland is one of those annoying teams that hangs around and makes things interesting. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs might just pull off the upset of the week.)
4. Which regular-season rematch is the most intriguing game of the postseason? (My answer: Central-Gillette. Remember what happened when they met in the regular season? The Camels needed a humongous fourth-quarter comeback to hold off the Indians. Neither team wants a repeat of that game; Gillette doesn’t want to be scared like that and Central doesn’t want to lose like that.)
5. If you could attend any of these 20 games, which one would you go to? (My answer: Midwest at Kaycee. Come on now, you didn’t think I’d bypass the chance to watch the Oilers and the Buckaroos in postseason ANYTHING, would you? Not only that, but it should be a great game, too. However, I’ll be in Sheridan on Friday and will have to miss this one. Darn it.)
So, take a stab at answering those questions, then check out my picks. Remember, projected winners are in bold, but projected losers have the added motivation of proving me wrong:
(all games Friday)
(8) Green River at (1) Natrona: Even coming off a loss, and even a bit banged up, I still like the Mustangs. 7 p.m.
(5) Cheyenne Central at (4) Gillette: I really want to pick the Indians. But I really want to pick the Camels, too. In the end, I think home field and psychology swing this one Gillette’s way. 7 p.m.
(7) Kelly Walsh at (2) Sheridan: Does anyone remember two weeks ago when Sheridan supposedly blew their chances at hosting past the first round? Nope, me neither. 7 p.m.
(6) Cheyenne East at (3) Evanston: East finally broke that losing streak and will play Evanston closer than they did a couple weeks ago, but the Red Devils are still too much. 7 p.m.
(4W) Star Valley at (1E) Douglas: Douglas took care of Star Valley back a few weeks ago pretty handily. I’m banking on a little more of the same from the streaking Bearcats. 7 p.m.
(3E) Riverton at (2W) Powell: Riverton is scrappy and I like what they’re doing. But Powell beat Riverton in the regular season and has the home field, so don’t take this one for granted — maybe a blocked extra point to decide it. 7 p.m.
(3W) Lander at (2E) Buffalo: The Bison just look better and better with every passing week. 6 p.m.
(4E) Wheatland at (1W) Cody: Cody will get pushed a bit, but I think the Broncs will show why they’ve won eight in a row. 6 p.m.
(4W) Big Piney at (1E) Big Horn: Is there a hotter team in the state right now than the Rams? Maybe not. The Punchers will find out. Noon.
(3E) Newcastle at (2W) Greybull: The Dogies could give the Buffs a run in this one, especially if their passing game gets going, but the Buffs’ run game is probably too much to stop. 6 p.m.
(3W) Lyman at (2E) Thermopolis: Of all the ways the final weekend could have gone for the Eagles, it went this way. A date on the road with the defending champs is not the way any team wants to start a playoff run. Nevertheless, I think it’ll be close. 7 p.m.
(4E) Burns at (1W) Lovell: Comparing scores is dangerous (see above). When I do that, I think Burns could win this one. But the Bulldogs are the top seed from the West for a reason and will be motivated to prove that on Friday. 7 p.m.
Class 1A 11-man
(4W) Burlington at (1E) Lusk: The Tigers’ momentum has yet to be stopped. 6 p.m.
(3E) Lingle at (2W) Dubois: The only thing I think that separates the Doggers from the Rams is postseason experience. The Doggers have it, and I think that’s what gives them the advantage in this long-distance showdown. 1 p.m.
(3W) Rocky Mountain at (2E) Southeast: I love, love, LOVE this matchup. Two schools with fantastic traditions and solid but unspectacular 2010 seasons, both eager to prove themselves on the postseason stage… awesome. Cyclones, with home field, have the slight advantage. 6 p.m.
(4E) Pine Bluffs at (1W) Cokeville: It’s weird to think, but I just realized both of these teams had last week off. Let’s see how that affects the play on both sides in a game that’s a rematch from last year’s 1A quarterfinals. 1 p.m.
Class 1A six-man
(8) Farson at (1) Snake River: Rattlers. Unbeaten and, according to the scores from this fall, maybe unstoppable. 2 p.m.
(5) Midwest at (4) Kaycee: My alma mater will try its best to reverse the Kaycee hex from last year’s playoffs, but for now I think it’s still in play. 2 p.m.
(6) Meeteetse at (3) Ten Sleep: The Longhorns’ trade-off for a short drive is having to face the Pioneers, who all of a sudden are an offensive juggernaut. 2 p.m.
(7) Guernsey at (2) Hanna: Remember last year’s playoffs? Confident home team vs. upstart road team… only this time the roles are reversed. Careful, there, Miners. 2 p.m.
Looking over these picks, I realize I was fairly conservative: only two road teams. Nevertheless, I am anticipating some fantastic football on Friday.
So what are you waiting for? I know you have some thoughts. Post ’em below!