The official brackets for the playoffs were released today by the WHSAA. No surprises; every game was matched up as projected. Game times have started to filter in oh-so-slightly; look for all the game times to be posted by Monday or Tuesday.
Now that we know the matchups for sure, here’s a brief overview:
In 3A, 2A and 1A 11-man, we get to see something the playoffs can tout as an equalizer: the unfamiliarity factor. In fact, in the first round of this year’s playoffs, we get five matchups of schools who have never played against each other before (Wheatland-Cody; Big Piney-Big Horn; Burns-Lovell; Burlington-Lusk; Rocky Mountain-Southeast). Also, Lingle and Dubois have only met once before, that being the 1990 1A 9-man championship game. That unfamiliarity generally makes for more unpredictable play and tighter games.
Conversely, because of the round-robin schedules used in 4A and 1A six-man, those brackets are all rematches from the regular season. In both brackets, the team that won the regular-season meeting is hosting the other team in the first round.
The 1A six-man bracket looks unique this year in that it appears as though the WHSAA went back to geographical convenience scheduling for the first round of the playoffs (remember that?). Those first-round matchups are about as geographically convenient as you can get: Meeteetse-Ten Sleep, Midwest-Kaycee, Farson-Snake River and Guernsey-Hanna. The semis won’t be that convenient, though — that’s a guarantee.
Anyway, more thoughts on the playoffs as the week progresses. Feel free to start the chat now, if you choose…
Perfection, as an abstract, is unattainable.
We can come close. We, as humans, have the inherent ability to produce excellence and beauty. Paintings, sculptures, poems, or even blog posts can be beautiful and amazing and breathtaking. But perfection, due to and restrained by its definition, is unreachable. But that’s as an abstract.
Football rarely concerns itself with abstracts. Because of that, in football perfection is not only attainable, it is measurable. As long as the number of losses a team has is zero, it can be “perfect.” The abstract symbolism that artists strive and fret and go mad over, knowing they’ll never reach it, is concretely symbolized by one solitary number in football, the number that shows the number of losses a team possesses on the season.
The concrete finality of a football score is unforgiving and unsympathetic. One team wins and one team loses. We can’t even call ourselves equals if we finish the game with the same number of points. Not enough American finality in a tie. That’s why we have overtime.
We throw around terms like perfection all too often in the football world. I’m sure one of the thoughts that went through your head when you heard the final score of the Sheridan-Natrona game — 18-17, Sheridan — was like one of the first that went through mine: “Well, there goes Natrona’s perfect season.”
In a purely American sporting sense, that’s true. Natrona doesn’t have a perfect record anymore.
In an artistic sense, though, Natrona was never perfect to begin with.
And, really, Friday’s final score doesn’t tell us anything we did not already know: Both Natrona and Sheridan have excellent football teams. The inherent inflexibility of the interpretation of a final score doesn’t change how we can look at the teams abstractly. We can’t measure adversity or guts or pressure or confidence the way we can measure a final score or a season record. The final score, in a way, is the concrete manifestation of all these abstract, emotional factors that go into a football game.
So what comes out of 18-17? Well, I give the Broncs some abstract “mad props” for a concrete victory and for “ruining” Natrona’s “perfect” season. I talk about how it was Sheridan’s “special” teams and a “gutty” two-point conversion that “saved” the game late in the fourth quarter for Sheridan. I mention playoff seedings — Natrona still “No. 1,” Sheridan now “No. 2” — and the possibility of a rematch.
Maybe what goes unmentioned is how “perfect” the game was in an abstract sense. Two great teams play a game decided by one point. Forget David. That right there is the upper reaches of perfection in my little abstract world.
Second mad props to Greybull, which secured a tie for first in the 2A West by dominating Lyman from start to finish in a 24-0 shutout victory. It jumbled up the 2A West standings up top — Greybull, Lyman and Lovell all finished with 6-1 conference records — but the Buffs’ victory on Friday proved to be the deciding factor in deciding who got to stay home in the first round of the playoffs. Now, Greybull gets to stay at home and host Newcastle, while Lyman has to hit the road to play at defending 2A champ Thermopolis. In a 2A bracket full of parity, that is is a huge deal.
Speaking of home playoff games, third mad props to Southeast for beating Lingle 27-22. I’ll admit that after Southeast’s loss to Sundance back in Week 2 (a loss that was followed up by a 40-point loss to Lusk), I lowered my hopes for the Cyclones. But Southeast has come back like gangbusters, winning its final four games to secure a home playoff game in the first round for — get this — the 14th consecutive year. Now they’re a team with high hopes and a great chance to make it back to Laramie.
Fourth mad props to Riverton, which beat Wheatland to secure the No. 3 seed in the 3A East standings. Riverton, for its efforts, earns a rematch with Powell — a team that beat the Wolverines 13-10 all the way back in Week 1. Wheatland, meanwhile, has to go face 3A West champ Cody in the first round. Neither team has it easy in the first round, but Riverton does have the advantage of knowing its opponent a bit better than Wheatland knows its foe. In the playoffs, that might be enough to pull off a victory.
Fifth and sixth mad props to a pair of teams that won for pride on Friday, Moorcroft and Riverside. Moorcroft beat Glenrock 20-14, marking the Wolves’ first victory over the Herders since 1999. Meanwhile, Riverside overcame Wind River’s 25-point second quarter to win 26-25 — proving that you can give up one bad quarter and still win, given the right circumstances. In both cases, playoffs and postseason thoughts were not a concern for either team, so pride and heart and wanting to end on the right note were all the motivation these teams needed to win. And it worked.
And I’m spent. Whew. The regular season is done. How about that? Any playoff games you can’t wait to watch? Any games in Week 8 catch YOU by surprise? Any random thoughts about perfection? Post below and let’s chat.
This week: 21-6 (78 percent). This season: 209-51 (80 percent).
Here they are. Official pairings, along with dates and times, should be released in the next couple days.
(8) Green River at (1) Natrona
(5) Cheyenne Central at (4) Gillette
(7) Kelly Walsh at (2) Sheridan
(6) Cheyenne East at (3) Evanston
(4W) Star Valley at (1E) Douglas
(3E) Riverton at (2W) Powell
(3W) Lander at (2E) Buffalo
(4E) Wheatland at (1W) Cody
(4W) Big Piney at (1E) Big Horn
(3E) Newcastle at (2W) Greybull
(3W) Lyman at (2E) Thermopolis
(4E) Burns at (1W) Lovell
Class 1A 11-man
(4W) Burlington at (1E) Lusk
(3E) Lingle at (2W) Dubois
(3W) Rocky Mountain at (2E) Southeast
(4E) Pine Bluffs at (1W) Cokeville
Class 1A six-man
(bracket set last week; all games at 2 p.m. Friday)
(8) Farson at (1) Snake River
(5) Midwest at (4) Kaycee
(6) Meeteetse at (3) Ten Sleep
(7) Guernsey at (2) Hanna
There it is. We’ll have all week to talk about these matchups. For now, it’s just nice for those 40 teams that made it to enjoy the moment.
The WHSAA announced Friday another new tiebreaking procedure for the 4A possible mess that could occur in a four-way tie.
Nevertheless, this is the second set of tiebreaking procedures to come out of the WHSAA office in the past 24 hours. Hopefully it’s the last. Conversely, I’m happy to see the WHSAA try to rectify this mess BEFORE the tie pops up, not after, so that at least we are all aware of the scenarios before the games kick off tonight.
Natrona-Sheridan preview, Kelly Walsh-Cheyenne Central preview/tiebreaking procedures and games of the week (Casper Star-Tribune). … Cheyenne East-Laramie and Cheyenne Central-Kelly Walsh previews (Wyoming Tribune Eagle). … Gillette-Green River preview (Gillette News-Record). … Laramie-Cheyenne East preview (Laramie Boomerang). … Worland-Cody preview (Northern Wyo Daily News, click today). … Lusk-Normative Services recap (Lusk Herald). … Dubois-Riverside recap and Rocky Mountain-Burlington recap (Basin Republican Rustler). … Rocky Mountain-Burlington recap and Lovell-Kemmerer recap (Lovell Chronicle). … Greybull-Big Piney recap (Greybull Standard).
Another story Wyoming fans might find interesting: Mitch Donahue’s son Dylan is tearing it up for Billings West (Billings Gazette).
Also, Wyopreps.com is reporting that Burlington has forfeited its game with Cokeville this week to rest and heal for the playoffs.
For all the confusion and convolution involved with the playoff tiebreakers heading into this week, if nothing else we can be thankful that, now, we can at least outline all the scenarios before they happen on Friday night.
Someone’s gotta say it: Remember power ratings?
Yeah, I remember back in the day when we would break out calculators trying to figure out which teams were in the playoffs and which teams were out. I remember trying to track down scores for out-of-state games that influenced seeding and placement for the Wyoming playoffs. I remember one year where the seedings of one playoff race were dependent on what happened in a Montana game on a Saturday afternoon.
No more. Now, thanks to a system that simplifies rather than complicates, we have only to worry about Equality State scores. And we get situations like the ones Wright at Burns face in their 7 p.m. Friday kickoff down in Burns.
The winner is in. The loser is out.
That’s as simple as it can possibly be. And knowing the stakes ahead of time makes it fun.
These two teams don’t have to watch the final scores roll in from hither, thither and yon to know their playoff fate. All the Panthers and the Broncs need to know is that if they win, they’re in.
Sometimes, that’s all you want to know.
In a way, it’s like a de-facto playoff pigtail game. Win and you keep playing, lose and your season is done. A certain amount of comfort comes with that knowledge. It narrows focus and keeps distractions at bay.
In turn, the fans in Burns should see a fantastic game on Friday night.
In what to me looks like a tight game on paper, I’m going with the Broncs at home. Nevertheless, the stakes, plus the two teams engaging in them, should make for a memorable showdown in Laramie County on Friday, no matter who wins.
Here’s the rest of this week’s picks, the final ones of the regular season. Bold teams are the ones I project winning:
Class 1A 11-man
Shoshoni at Dubois: The Rams’ magical 2010 season continues. Unfortunately, the Wranglers’ struggles — struggles I see ending within the next year or two — continue for one more game. 4 p.m.
Cheyenne Central at Kelly Walsh: Simply put, the Indians are unpredictable. At times I think they can beat anyone. At times I think they can’t. But the playoffs are just around the corner, and they know it’s time to buckle down. 7 p.m.
Evanston at Rock Springs: The Tigers might be playing for their postseason lives, but the Red Devils are playing for momentum and a possible spot at home until a possible trip to Laramie beckons. 7 p.m.
Green River at Gillette: Ditto. 7 p.m.
Laramie at Cheyenne East: I’ve watched both of these teams several times this season, and there is no way East should lose this game. But losing streaks are funny, and the Plainsmen have confidence, so who knows? Not me. 7 p.m.
Natrona at Sheridan: How does nine in a row sound, Mustangs? 7 p.m.
Cody at Worland: Above all the confusion in spots 2-5 of the 3A West, the Broncs continue to piece together a solid season. 7 p.m.
Lander at Powell: I fought with this pick for what seemed like hours. These two teams match up well on paper and have incredibly similar motivations driving them this week. As usual in a case like this, I just pick the home team and then allow myself to enjoy what should be a fantastic game. 7 p.m.
Rawlins at Buffalo: This should be a nice little tune-up for the Bison as they try to enter the postseason with purpose. Should be. 6 p.m.
Star Valley at Jackson: Star Valley needs this game more than Jackson does. That will show on Friday. 7 p.m.
Torrington at Douglas: If you’re a Trailblazer, knowing your season ends with this game, can you think of a better way to end the year than with a huge upset? ‘Blazers will be ready and may keep it close, but the Bearcats are focused. 7 p.m.
Wheatland at Riverton: No. 3 seed on the line here — and I can’t rule out the Bulldogs, who have the passing game to come back if they fall behind. 7 p.m.
Big Piney at Lovell: The Bulldogs have won four in a row and continue to look like a real contender in 2A. 7 p.m.
Glenrock at Moorcroft: The Herders took one on the chin this fall but still have what it takes to finish the season with a “W.” 3 p.m.
Kemmerer at Mountain View: The Buffalos need a convoluted set of games to go their way to make the playoffs. The first, though, is that they have to beat the Rangers. If they don’t do that, they can forget the rest. 3:30 p.m.
Lyman at Greybull: They hardly get any bigger than this in the 2A West. The Eagles need this to win the conference outright; that sort of inspiration will show on the field. 7 p.m.
Newcastle at Big Horn: Can anyone stop the Rams? Anyone? Maybe not. 1 p.m.
Pinedale at Wyoming Indian: The Wranglers have more ups and downs than an elevator this season. The Chiefs are hoping to catch them on the ground floor. 6 p.m.
Tongue River at Thermopolis: The Bobcats might want to coast on in to the playoffs — but if they do that, the Eagles have what it takes to make them pay. 7 p.m.
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville at Burlington: Can’t wait for Cokeville-Lusk on Nov. 13. 1 p.m.
Lusk at Upton: Can’t wait for Cokeville-Lusk on Nov. 13. 7 p.m.
Normative Services at Sundance: The Wolves surprised the Bulldogs in the season finale last year; look for Sundance to dish out a little revenge. 3 p.m.
Rocky Mountain at Saratoga: It’s a long drive and the Panthers have some momentum, but the Grizzlies are looking to grab some momentum before the postseason. 3:30 p.m.
Southeast at Lingle: This is a huge one in the East. It will tell us who stays home in the first round and who has to go on the road. And that, my friends, is a big deal in the playoffs. 6 p.m.
Wind River at Riverside: Coin-flipped it. 7 p.m.
Guernsey-Sunrise at Sioux County, Neb.: Speaking of firsts, this is the first interstate six-man game in a looooong time. Cool to see this new rivalry get started — even though it’ll probably go away after this year. 2 p.m.
Open: Farson, Hanna, Meeteetse, Midwest, Pine Bluffs, Snake River, Ten Sleep.
There they are. The picks for the final week of the regular season. What games have you most intrigued? Who do you think will come up big in the final week? Post your thoughts in a comment below.