With the new year approaching, I got to thinking about the past decade of Wyoming high school football games and all of the great ones we’ve been privileged to watch, hear about, or (in my case) write about. With 2,948 games played since 2001, there are plenty of great games from which to choose. I started a mental checklist and kept coming up with games I had forgotten; there were probably 60 games on my original list. From that, I pared my list down to about 40, then to the top 20 games of the past 10 years.

The list is probably a little heavy on later-decade games, as I didn’t start my work at the Star-Tribune until 2005, and is also heavy on playoff games, but that makes sense considering that playoff games have more riding on them, better teams playing, and can end seasons — all heightening the drama and the memorable aspects involved.

I tried to pick the best games, where both teams were at full strength, where the stakes were high, where the outcome was in doubt until late. You won’t see any games decided by more than seven points on this list.

Obviously, this list is the work of one person. If you came up with your own list, you would probably include some games that I did not. And that’s encouraged. Take a look at this list, then let me know which games you think I forgot.

These games are in chronological order. It was hard enough for me to pick 20; rank-ordering those 20 would take me until the start of next season. (But check out the bottom of this post for my “game of the decade.”)

Without further ado, the top 20 games of Wyoming high school football in the past 10 years:

Big Piney 34, Glenrock 33, OT, 2001 Class 3A semifinals — Herders rally from 27-0 deficit, but miss extra point in overtime

Southeast 14, Lusk 7, 2001 Class 2A championship — Two two-time defending champs stage a classic

Worland 17, Star Valley 14, OT, 2002 Class 4A championship — 18-yard field goal by Casey Lass in OT wins it for Warriors

Cokeville 14, Southeast 13, 2003 Class 1A championship — Cyclones go for two, come up short with 2:14 to go

Green River 24, Riverton 21, 2004 Class 5A semifinals — Wolves nearly upset by Wolverines on their way to a perfect season

Guernsey-Sunrise 20, Cokeville 18, 2004 Class 1A championship — Nigel Bristow scores winning TD with 2 minutes to go

Cheyenne Central 23, Natrona 20, OT, 2005 Class 5A semifinals — Central drives late in fourth quarter for TD to tie it, wins in OT

Guernsey-Sunrise 26, Burlington 23, 2005 Class 1A semifinals — Vikings win with TD on final play

Big Piney 12, Newcastle 6, 2006 Class 3A quarterfinals — Punchers make the long trip, win with Seth Linn’s TD catch in final three seconds

Cheyenne East 5, Natrona 3, 2006 Class 4A semifinals — East scores five points in final three minutes, then holds off NC’s last drive

Guernsey-Sunrise 14, Cokeville 12, 2006 Class 1A championship — Panthers miss short field goal on season’s final play

Cheyenne East 35, Gillette 34, 2 OT, 2007 Class 5A semifinals — Blocked extra point in second OT helps to give T-Birds the victory

Jackson 10, Buffalo 6, 2007 Class 4A championship — Jackson produces epic goal-line stand in final 2 minutes

Riverside 21, Big Horn 20, 2007 Class 2A championship — Rebels go 99 yards on game-winning drive, convert 2-point try for championship

Glenrock 16, Buffalo 14, 2008 regular season — Herders’ biggest test during unbeaten season comes down to conversion try in final moments

Douglas 28, Powell 27, 2 OT, 2008 Class 4A semifinals — Cody Bohlander’s three-TD day is capped with winning conversion run

Kelly Walsh 28, Natrona 27, 2 OT, 2009 regular season — Trojans rally from 21-0 deficit, stop Mustangs on 2-point conversion in second OT

Kaycee 58, Midwest 56, 2009 Class 1A-six man semifinals — Buckaroos’ Shawn Straub scores long TD in final 15 seconds

Buffalo 24, Cody 21, OT, 2010 Class 3A semifinals — Bison rally from 14-0 deficit, come up with big defensive stand in overtime

Thermopolis 13, Big Horn 9, 2010 Class 2A championship — Bobcats repeat as champion with late TD by Mitch Syverson

Also on my short list: Lovell 18, Rocky Mountain 15, 2002 Class 3A quarterfinals; Gillette 40, Kelly Walsh 37, OT, 2005 regular season; Powell 33, Lander 31, 2005 Class 4A quarterfinals; Wright 13, Big Horn 7, 2005 Class 2A semifinals; Upton 7, Cokeville 3, 2005 Class 1A semifinals; Buffalo 17, Star Valley 14, 2005 Class 4A championship; Douglas 30, Jackson 26, 2006 Class 4A quarterfinals; Evanston 36, Kelly Walsh 31, 2007 Class 5A quarterfinals; Jackson 16, Douglas 14, 2007 Class 4A semifinals; Lander 6, Jackson 0, 2008 regular season; Douglas 21, Buffalo 14, OT, 2008 regular season; Pine Bluffs 22, Hulett 20, 2009 regular season; Sheridan 9, Kelly Walsh 7, 2009 Class 4A semifinals; Gillette 27, Sheridan 24, OT, 2010 regular season; Southeast 15, Rocky Mountain 14, 2010 Class 1A 11-man quarterfinals.

Of these games, though, one stands out as my choice for “game of the decade”…. and I’m going with the 2007 2A title game, Riverside over Big Horn. This game was etched into memory by Riverside’s game-winning 99-yard drive — and by the Rebels’ successful 2-point conversion late in the game. But this game was more than that. Riverside was avenging a home loss to Big Horn earlier in the season that had ended in similar fashion, with the Rebels having missed a two-point conversion in overtime; Riverside was coming off a two-point loss to Southeast in the 2006 title game; the Rebels had won their other two playoff games by a combined three points, while Big Horn had won its playoff games by eight and five points in one of the most even playoff brackets in recent memory; Big Horn was playing in its fourth state championship game in six years, having won in 2003 and 2004, while Riverside was playing for the town of Basin’s first state football championship…. all that drama, all that intrigue, all that background, and all you need to know is “Rebels convert.”

So what do you think? What games did I forget about? Which game would be your choice for top game of the decade? Post a comment below. Then let’s get set for another decade of high school football!

Happy New Year!


School: Torrington
Nickname: Trailblazers
Colors: maroon and white
Stadium: Wiseman Field
State championships: 1988 and 1990
Times worth remembering: Three distinct stretches of success mark Torrington’s program. The first came from 1953-58, when Torrington appeared in six consecutive state championship games — but lost all six. The second came in six seasons from 1969-74, where Torrington went 48-5 and piled up three undefeated seasons (9-0 in ’69, ’71 and ’74). The third was highlighted by a 10-0 season and the school’s first official state title in 1988, followed soon after by a 9-0 season and a 3A title in 1990.
Times worth forgetting: Since its last state championship game appearance in 1996, the Trailblazers have struggled to find consistency. From 1997-2010, the Trailblazers haven’t had a winning season and have had just one playoff victory. Twice in that span, in 2000 and again in 2006, Torrington went winless — the only two times that has happened in program history.
Best team: That depends on what you’re looking for. Want offense? The 1969 team is your choice — the Blazers ran up an amazing 46 points per game, including the modern record for single-game scoring in a 93-6 win over St. Mary’s, on their way to a 9-0 record and a third-place finish in the final AA-A poll. Want defense? The 1974 team is your choice — those Blazers gave up only six points the entire season, shutting out eight of their nine foes in a 9-0 season and a tie for the mythical Class A title. Only Glenrock, in a 19-6 loss, pierced Torrington’s goal line.
Biggest win: Before 1988, Torrington never had a title to call its own. After losing six consecutive championship games in the 1950s, and after not being able to claim an outright mythical state title despite three undefeated seasons in the 1960s and ‘70s, the 1988 3A championship game victory finally gave Torrington that long-awaited title no one else could claim. The 6-0 victory over Worland in Torrington was won by Jason Nickal’s 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and by a stout defense that allowed the Warriors only hints of offensive success.
Heartbreaker: All six of Torrington’s consecutive championship-game losses from 1953-58 stung, but none more than the 1955 loss to Worland. The two teams finished regulation tied at 14, and under the rules of the day the two teams had an odd way to break the tie. The ball was placed on the 50-yard line, and each team had five offensive plays apiece, alternating. After nine plays, Torrington had a one-yard advantage, but the Trailblazers couldn’t hold — Worland’s Terry Smothermon plunged across the 50 on the final play as Worland won the title by just a few feet. It was the third of Torrington’s four consecutive championship game losses to Worland; Torrington lost to Powell in 1957 and Cody in 1958.

Torrington team page.

After some time, scores of championship games take on a life of their own.

The score gives us a definitive marking of which team is superior — and by what sort of margin.

Of course, from 1962-68 for every classification and from 1969-74 in the smaller school divisions, we didn’t have championship games in Wyoming. Instead, we had polls decide champions. Those are just as definitive, but much less legendary — most are forgotten.

That’s why I’m posting these today. These are the final statewide polls for the championship “dead era” from 1962-74. Most are UPI or AP polls, although I have also included the Casper Star-Tribune’s final polls when they have conducted them as well, for added reference.

Take a look and take a trip back to remember some of the state’s most anonymous champions.

1974 UPI polls
Class AA

1. Cheyenne East, 9-1, 50 points
2. Rawlins, 9-1, 38 points
3. Natrona, 7-2, 32 points
4. Worland, 7-1, 20 points
5. Riverton, 5-3, 10 points
Class A
1. Torrington, 9-0, 48 points
2. Kemmerer, 8-0, 40 points
3. Lovell, 7-1, 26 points
4. Jackson, 5-4, 10 points
5. Glenrock, 5-3, 8 points
Class B
1. Tongue River, 9-0, 48 points
2. Saratoga, 8-0, 40 points
3. Cokeville, 7-0-1, 18 points
4. Basin, 6-1-1, 10 points
5. Deaver-Frannie, 8-0, 8 points

1974 Casper Star-Tribune polls
Class A

1t. Torrington, 9-0-0, 54 points
1t. Kemmerer, 9-0-0, 54 points
3. Lovell, 7-1-0, 43 points
4. Glenrock, 5-3-0, 35 points
5t. Newcastle, 5-4-0, 33 points
5t. Star Valley, 4-4-0, 33 points
Class B
1t. Saratoga, 8-0-0, 61 points
1t. Tongue River, 9-0-0, 61 points
3. Cokeville, 9-0-1, 57 points
4. Basin, 7-1-1, 55 points
5. Guernsey-Sunrise, 7-2-0, 49 points
1. Deaver-Frannie, 9-0-0, 39 points
2. Cowley, 8-1-0, 34 points

1973 UPI polls
Class AA

1. Laramie, 9-1, 50 points
2. Riverton, 7-3, 35 points
3. Natrona, 6-3, 22 points
4. Cheyenne East, 6-2-1, 14 points
5. Worland, 6-2-1, 12 points
Class A
1. Green River, 8-1, 56 points
2. Buffalo, 8-1, 46 points
3. Kemmerer, 8-2, 42 points
4. Torrington, 7-2, 16 points
5. Lovell, 6-2, 14 points
Class B-C
1. Tongue River, 9-0, 50 points
2. Byron, 9-0, 46 points
3. Cowley, 9-0, 40 points
4. Pinedale, 7-2, 25 points
5. Upton, 7-1-1, 14 points

1973 Casper Star-Tribune polls
Class A

1t. Buffalo (3), 8-1, 78 points
1t. Green River (3), 8-1, 78 points
3. Kemmerer (1), 8-2, 74 points
4. Torrington, 7-2, 59 points
5. Lovell, 5-2, 58 points
Class B-C
1. Tongue River (4), 9-0, 87 points
2. Cowley (2), 9-0, 85 points
3. Byron (1), 9-0, 84 points
4. Guernsey-Sunrise, 7-2, 70 points
5. Pinedale, 7-2, 68 points

1972 UPI polls
Class A

1. Star Valley (8-1-1)
2. Torrington (8-1)
3. Kemmerer (6-2-1)
4. Buffalo (5-2-2)
5. Thermopolis (5-4)
Class B-C
1. St. Mary’s (10-0)
2. Glenrock (9-0)
3. Tongue River (8-1)
4. Basin (9-0)
5. Cokeville (8-1)

1972 Casper Star-Tribune polls
Class AA

1. Torrington (7-1)
2. Star Valley (8-1-1)
3t. Kemmerer (6-2-1)
3t. Buffalo (5-2-2)
5. Thermopolis (5-4)
6. Green River (7-3)
7t. Wheatland (4-4)
7t. Douglas (4-5)
9. Lovell (3-5)
10. Evanston (2-7)
Class B-C
1. Glenrock (9-0)
2. St. Mary’s (10-0)
3. Tongue River (8-1)
4t. Pinedale (8-1)
4t. Cokeville (8-1)
6. Basin (9-0)
7. Upton (7-2)
8. Cowley (8-1)
9t. Lingle (6-3)
9t. Dubois (7-2)

1971 UPI polls
Class AA-A

1. Natrona, 90 points
2. Laramie, 88 points
3. Rock Springs, 82 points
4. Cheyenne East, 63 points
5. Sheridan
6. Torrington, 43 points (unbeaten)
7. Cheyenne Central, 37 points
8. Star Valley, 27 points
9. Powell, 22 points
10t. Buffalo, 18 points
10t. Riverton, 18 points
Class B-C
1. Glenrock, 90 points (unbeaten)
2. Upton, 78 points (unbeaten)
3. Deaver-Frannie, 72 points (unbeaten)
4. Mountain View, 54 points (unbeaten)
5. Midwest, 51 points
6. Pine Bluffs, 48 points
7. Tongue River, 34 points
8. Byron, 32 points
9. Dubois, 24 points
10. Guernsey-Sunrise, 7 points

1970 UPI polls
Class AA-A (taken before state title game)

1. Cheyenne East, 7-2, 96 points
2. Thermopolis, 9-0, 90 points
3. Natrona County, 7-2, 79 points
4. Buffalo, 8-0, 72 points
5. Star Valley, 8-1, 64 points
6. Laramie, 8-1, 62 points
7. Cheyenne Central, 4-5, 53 points
8. Sheridan, 6-3, 48 points
9. Kelly Walsh, 5-3-1, 38 points
10. Gillette, 6-3, 35 points
Class B
1. Pinedale, 8-0-1, 96 points
2. Byron, 9-0, 93 points
3. Glenrock, 8-1, 85 points
4. Upton, 7-1-1, 73 points
5. Lingle, 7-2, 64 points
6. Mountain View, 7-1-1, 51 points
7. Pine Bluffs, 6-2, 47 points
8. Deaver, 7-1-1, 40 points
9. Moorcroft, 6-3, 38 points
10. Cowley, 5-3-1, 36 points

1969 UPI polls
Class AA-A (taken before state title game)

1. Laramie, 8-0-1, 80 points
2. Worland, 9-0-1, 73 points
3. Torrington, 8-0, 61 points
4. Sheridan, 6-2-1, 53 points
5. Cheyenne East, 6-2-1, 49 points
6. Cheyenne Central, 6-2-1, 42 points
7. Star Valley, 8-1, 41 points
8. Powell, 6-3, 33 points
9. Kelly Walsh, 6-3-1, 31 points
10. Thermopolis, 5-4, 20 points
Class B
1. Cokeville, 8-0, 80 points
2. Lingle, 9-0-1, 73 points
3. Basin, 7-0-1, 64 points
4. Upton, 7-2, 54 points
5. Glenrock, 7-1-1, 52 points
6. Sundance, 8-1, 37 points
7. Pinedale, 5-2-1, 31 points
8. Byron, 7-2, 30 points
9. Pine Bluffs, 8-2, 29 points
10. Glendo, 6-3, 23 points

1968 UPI polls
Class AA-A (taken before state title game)

1. Laramie, 9-1, 36 points
2. Worland, 8-1, 31 points
3. Riverton, 8-1, 30 points
4. Cheyenne Central, 8-1, 23 points
5. Lusk, 6-3, 17 points
6. Powell, 7-1, 14 points
7. Gillette, 9-2, 10 points
8t. Evanston, 7-2, 9 points
8t. Sheridan, 7-3, 9 points
Class B-C
1t. Byron, 9-0, 36 points
1t. Glenrock, 9-0, 36 points
3. Cokeville, 7-1, 34 points
4. Basin, 7-2, 23 points
5. Big Piney 8-1, 20 points
6. Lingle, 8-1, 15 points
7. Sundance, 8-1, 14 points
8t. Goshen Hole, 7-2, 13 points
8t. Burlington, 7-2, 13 points
10. Midwest, 6-2, 8 points

1968 Casper Star-Tribune rankings
Class AA
: 1. Laramie; 2. Worland; 3. Riverton; 4. Cheyenne Central; 5. Natrona County.
Class A: 1t. Gillette, Lusk; 3. Evanston; 4. Star Valley; 5. Torrington.
Class B: 1. Glenrock; 2. Sundance; 3t. Goshen Hole, Lingle; 5. Midwest.
Eight-man: 1. Byron; 2. Cokeville; 3. Basin; 4. Burlington; 5t. Big Piney, Pinedale.

1967 UPI polls
Class AA-A

1. Powell (5), 9-0, 68 points
2. Star Valley (3), 10-0, 61 points
3. Cody, 7-2, 53 points
4. Cheyenne Central, 6-4, 42 points
5. Lusk, 8-1, 41 points
6t. Laramie, 7-3, 35 points
6t. Cheyenne East, record unknown, 35 points
8. Natrona County, 6-4, 21 points
9. Sheridan, 6-4, 11 points
10. Gillette, record unknown, 7 points
Class B-C
1. Tongue River (6), 10-0, 60 points
2. Byron, 7-0-1, 47 points
3. Cokeville, 8-0, 42 points
4t. Glenrock, 9-0, 40 points
4t. Basin, 7-2, 40 points
6. Hanna, 8-1, 31 points
7. Mountain View, 7-1, 27 points
8t. Sundance, 6-3, 20 points
8t. Pine Bluffs, 6-3, 20 points
10. Hulett, 5-4, 6 points

1966 UPI polls
Class AA-A
1. Powell, 8-1-1, 94 points
2. Cody, 8-1, 92 points
3. Cheyenne Central, 8-2, 84 points
4. Star Valley, 8-0, 68 points
5. Riverton, 7-1, 56 points
6. Rawlins, 8-2, 54 points
7. Wheatland, 8-1, 36 points
8. Torrington, 7-2, 24 points
9. Kelly Walsh, 6-4, 18 points
10. Worland, 6-3, 10 points
Class B-C
1. Tongue River, 8-1, 98 points
2. Mountain View, 8-0, 88 points
3. Basin, 7-1, 83 points
4. Byron, 7-1, 66 points
5. Glenrock, 8-1, 59 points
6. Big Piney, 5-3, 43 points
7. Cowley, 7-2, 29 points
8. Midwest, 3-4, 18 points
9. Pine Bluffs, 5-4, 16 points
10. Upton, 4-5, 15 points

1965 UPI polls
Class AA-A

1. Cheyenne Central, 9-0-1, 97 points
2. Worland, 9-0, 88 points
3. Laramie, 7-1, 83 points
4. Powell, 8-2, 67 points
5. Star Valley, 8-0-1, 57 points
6. Lander, 5-4, 51 points
7. Cheyenne East, 5-4, 45 points
8. Thermopolis, 5-3-1, 24 points
9. Cody, 4-4-1, 15 points
10t. Riverton, 4-3-2, 10 points
10t. Rock Springs, 4-5, 10 points
Class B
1. Byron, 7-1, 98 points
2. Midwest, 7-1, 84 points
3. Morton, 5-1-1, 73 points
4. Hanna, 51, 70 points
5. Glenrock, 6-2, 54 points
6. Cowley, record unknown, points unknown
7. Mountain View, 6-1, 50 points
8. Saratoga, 52, 24 points
9. Deaver, 6-2, 18 points
10. Tongue River, 7-2, 14 points

1964 UPI poll
Class AA-A (no B-C poll)

1. Laramie, 9-0, 100 points
2. Sheridan, 6-3, 77 points
3. Gillette, 9-0, 75 points
4. Natrona, 8-2, 64 points
5. Evanston, 9-0, 62 points
6. Cody, 7-1, 51 points
7t. Lander, 6-2, 38 points
7t. Cheyenne Central, 6-4, 38 points
9. Cheyenne East, 3-6, 17 points
10. Buffalo, 6-2-1, 14 points

1964 Casper Tribune rankings
Class AA-A

1. Laramie, 9-0
2. Gillette, 9-0
3. Sheridan, 5-3
4. Natrona, 7-2
5. Lander, 6-2
6. Evanston, 9-0
7. Cody, 7-1
8. Cheyenne Central, 5-4
9. Lusk, 5-2
10. Buffalo, 6-2-1
Class B-C
1. Byron, 7-1
2. Glenrock, 7-1-1
3. Huntley, 6-2
4. Morton, 6-2
5. Mountain View, 6-0-1
6. Pavillion, 6-1-1
7. Tongue River, NA
8. Upton, 6-4
9. Deaver, 6-2
10. Lingle, 5-2-2

1963 UPI poll
Class AA-A (no B-C poll)

1. Natrona, 9-0, 99 points
2. Riverton, 8-0-1 75 points
3. Laramie, 7-2, 69 points
4. Lander, 7-1-1, 60 points
5. Cheyenne Central, 6-2, 59 points
6. Green River, 10-0, 54 points
7. Cheyenne East, 5-4, 47 points
8. Lusk, 9-0-1, 30 points
9. Rock Springs, 4-3-1, 21 points
10. Torrington, 4-5, 9 points

1963 Casper Tribune rankings
Class AA-A (no B-C rankings)

1. Natrona, 9-0
2. Green River, 10-0
3. Laramie, 7-2
4. Riverton, 8-0-1
5. Lander, 7-1-1
6. Cheyenne Central, 7-2
7. Lusk, 8-0-1
8. Cheyenne East, 5-5
9. Star Valley, 5-4-1
10. Rock Springs, 3-3-2

1962 AP poll
Class AA-A (no B-C poll)

1. Laramie, 9-0, 97 points
2. Greybull, 8-0, 91 points
3. Natrona, 7-1-1, 73 points
4. Star Valley, 9-0, 71 points
5. Lusk, 9-0, 51 points
6. Powell, 5-4, 42 points
7. Sheridan, 5-4-1, 36 points
8. Riverton, 6-3-1, 32 points
9. Thermopolis, 6-3, 20 points
10. Cheyenne East, 4-5, 16 points

School: Wyoming Indian
Nickname: Chiefs
Colors: red and blue
Stadium: Chiefs Intertribal Stadium
State championships: none
Times worth remembering: There hasn’t been much to cheer for in Ethete. The Chiefs have had only three winning seasons (5-2 in 1982, 5-3 in 2007 and 4-3 in 2008) and only one playoff appearance (1996). The back-to-back winning seasons in 2007 and 2008, though, have been Wyoming Indian’s best — even though the Chiefs weren’t eligible for the playoffs because they had made the decision to opt down to Class 1A play rather than play in the 3A division in which it would have fit by enrollment.
Times worth forgetting: At one point, an entire class of students went through WIHS without ever knowing a win on the football field. The Chiefs went winless for four consecutive years from 1976-79, at one point losing 32 consecutive games when including the final four games of the ’75 season. Of those 32 losses, more than half — 17 — were shutout losses.
Best team: The Chiefs were ever so close to turning the program around for good in 1982. That year, the Chiefs finished 5-2, losing only to county rivals Wind River and Shoshoni. The Chiefs had a knack for winning close games, beating Byron 16-13, North Big Horn 16-12, Dubois 12-0 and Basin 18-7; however, the two losses kept the Chiefs home for the postseason.
Biggest win: Wyoming Indian’s first and only playoff berth was secured in 1996. The game the Chiefs knew they needed to win to secure their berth was against Saratoga in Saratoga — and WIHS came through with a thrilling 30-26 victory, outscoring the Panthers 22-0 in the second half to rally from a 26-8 halftime deficit. James St. Clair scored the Chiefs’ winning touchdown on a 3-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Heartbreaker: The 1996 excursion into the playoffs did not end well for the Chiefs. Drawing unbeaten defending state champion Rocky Mountain — a team that had swamped the Chiefs 65-0 in Ethete earlier in the season — didn’t help matters at all. As expected, Wyoming Indian couldn’t keep up with the Grizzlies on either side of the ball and lost 47-6, a difficult ending to one of the best seasons in school history.

Wyoming Indian team page.

Some updates and fixes from the past couple weeks:


Corrected the location of three Lyman games for 1990. The game on Aug. 31 with Cokeville was in Lyman, not Cokeville; the Sept. 14 game with Bear Lake, Idaho, was in Lyman, not Montpelier; and the Oct. 5 game with Greybull was at a neutral field in Lander, not in Greybull. I got suspicious of this season when I saw that Lyman had six consecutive road games to start the season… and that was obviously not the case.

Corrected Evanston’s opponent for its game on Sept. 28, 1990; the Red Devils played Morgan, Utah, NOT Logan, Utah.

Corrected the location for the Rocky Mountain-Wyoming Indian game in 1996 (it was in Byron, not Ethete).

Coaches Project

Thanks to some help from coach Todd Dayton, I have posted several coaching updates for Cokeville. Thanks for the help, coach Dayton! Click here to see what else I need.

All-state teams

I made one small correction in the 2000 1A-DII all-state listings, correcting Harry McNiven’s team from Big Horn to Burlington.


The 2011 Shrine Bowl has its head coaches.

T.J. Claunch, executive director of the annual all-star football game, announced Friday that Pat Fackrell of Evanston and John Cundall of Greybull will lead the teams for the game on June 11 in Casper.

Fackrell will lead the South squad, while Cundall coach the North team. Cundall was the head coach of the North team in 2004 and led the team to a 17-6 victory over the South.

Assistant coaches and players will be announced in the next couple months.


Defining a state champion is so simple nowadays that you tend to forget how complicated it used to be.

Now, you win your bracket, you win the state title. But in the days before playoffs, before classifications, even before a functioning Wyoming High School Activities Association, the state’s high school football teams still managed to put together unofficial state championships.

The titles themselves were never anything more than for bragging rights. Games were scheduled based on team records, travel, available sites, weather, gate guarantees and travel costs. Often, two teams that ended up playing in the “championship” game were self-appointed, either because the travel was the shortest or the guaranteed money the greatest.

All that came to an end on Oct. 9, 1931, when the WHSAA came together to oversee the state football and basketball championships. Although the group existed prior to that year, 1931 is generally recognized as the official beginning of the WHSAA, because that was the first year the group began exercising its authority over state championships. (It may have been the first year that schools had to pay dues to be included in state championships as part of the WHSAA, as well, but I am not sure if that’s actually the case or not.)

The system the WHSAA put forth in 1931 was what many schools and coaches had proposed in the late 1920s: a four-team playoff, with one team from each Wyoming region (northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest) qualifying for the bracket.

Prior to 1931, though, deciding championships was not that simple.

Here are the unofficial champions for the years prior to 1931 that I have researched so far, which is back to 1926:

1930 champion: Sheridan. The Broncs beat Laramie 14-6 in a “semifinal” game on Thanksgiving, then swamped previously undefeated Cody 86-0 the following week. Sheridan went on to play Fort Collins, the Colorado champions, on New Year’s Day in Denver, losing 69-14. The Wyoming-Colorado showdown was a one-year gimmick; it was never played again.

1929 champion: Split title between Thermopolis and Cheyenne Central. Thermopolis finished the season undefeated, while Central had three losses, all to out-of-state foes (Fort Collins and Greeley, Colo., and Kimball, Neb.). Nevertheless, the two teams tried to arrange a championship game in Casper for the first week of December, but Cheyenne officials balked at the last moment and instead requested the game be played in Cheyenne. Thermopolis said no, insisting on either a neutral site or Thermopolis, and the game was never played. The Bobcats were the “popular” champion, according to the hometown Thermopolis Independent Record, but Central’s claim was also recognized, as the Indians were unbeaten in Wyoming play.

1928 champion: Split title between Thermopolis and Natrona. After Thermopolis beat Sheridan in a “semifinal” game, the Bearcats and Mustangs tried to arrange a title game for the first week in December. The game was proposed for Casper, but after Thermopolis requested what Casper officials thought was an exorbitant financial guarantee — $2,500 — the Natrona school backed off the proposal. A few days later, Thermopolis accepted a guarantee of $800 to play in Casper — the original proposal put forth by Natrona — but by then the Mustangs had declared their season finished and said the Bobcats’ acceptance of terms came too late for the game to be played. Both teams claimed the title.

1927 champion: Worland. The Warriors beat Cheyenne Central 19-0 in the unofficial state title game, played in Douglas. This was cited as Worland’s 30th consecutive victory. The Warriors were a dominant team this year and beat the Indians, who had lost a couple games to Colorado schools but were unbeaten in Wyoming. Green River (6-0) and Greybull (4-0-3), despite finishing the regular season undefeated, were left out of the title game discussions.

1926 champion: Worland. This may be the only case of a two-game championship series in state history, although it was not planned that way. After Worland and Cheyenne Central battled to an 0-0 tie in the “title game” on Thanksgiving Day in Cheyenne, the two teams almost immediately decided on a rematch. Casper proposed to host the rematch at a neutral site, and nine days later the two teams played again in the Oil City. This time, Worland won 10-0, sewing up the unofficial state title in the process. The only school that claimed to be left out of the mix was Buffalo, which won the northeast district championship with a record that could barely be considered championship-worthy: 2-0-4.

I will post more of these mini-recaps as I continue my research into the 1920s. I just found these ways of deciding a champion quite interesting and wanted to share a bit of what I had found. Research is complete through 1926 and continues back until I run out of microfilm or sanity, whichever comes first…


School: Hanna
Nickname: Miners
Colors: blue and orange
Stadium: Miner Stadium
State championships: 1952, 1954 and 1989
Times worth remembering: The Miners were one of the best teams in Wyoming during the early 1950s, winning titles in 1952 and 1954 and finishing as state runners-up in both 1950 and 1951. And in 1951, the team interspersed 11-man games into its six-man schedule just to stay active and fill out its schedule, and finished 7-2. The Miners had eight straight winning seasons from 1950-57.
Times worth forgetting: Losing is one thing; not playing is another. Twice in school history, the Miners have been forced to postpone entire seasons due to a lack of players — in 1986 and again in 1993. The loss of the 1993 season had deeper repercussions, though, as the Miners went 0-7 in 1994, 1995 and 1996; the squad lost 22 consecutive games after the 1993 cancellation, then beat the Laramie sophomores 12-6 in overtime in the second game of the 1997 season to break the streak.
Best team: By default, the 1952 squad gets the nod as Hanna’s best. The Miners went 8-0 that season — the school’s only undefeated season — and beat Cowley 18-12 in the six-man championship game that season. The Miners were rarely challenged in the regular season, winning by an average score of 43-8 in their first seven games, before taking down the Jags in Hanna for the school’s first championship.
Biggest win: The 1954 Hanna team was solid, finishing with only one loss in the regular season. However, the team that handed them that 50-24 loss less than a month before the playoffs, Glenrock, was the team Hanna met in the Class B playoff semifinals. Nevertheless, the Miners, off the momentum of a pair of touchdown passes by Bill Klemola and a fourth-quarter goal-line stand, pulled off the 21-20 upset victory. The next week, Hanna beat Cowley 33-19 in the Class B championship to claim the school’s second championship in three years.
Heartbreaker: In the world of the mythical state championships of the 1960s and ‘70s, one loss could doom a season. Such was the case for Hanna in 1965, when a 20-19 season-opening loss to Mountain View probably kept the Miners from winning a state championship. No Class B-C schools went undefeated that year, and Hanna — which went 5-1 that year and finished fourth in the final UPI balloting — probably could have claimed the mythical title with a 6-0 record if not for that one-point loss in the season opener.

Hanna team page.

Before I forgot, I wanted to recognize something that I kind of slipped in under the radar with my last update: the addition of a new team page.

The Valley school, also known as Valley Prep or the Valley Ranch, is unlike most schools in state history. The school, located about 50 miles southwest of Cody, was in short a college prep academy tucked away in the furthest reaches of the western Wyoming mountains, along the south fork of the Shoshone River.

Valley Ranch was a boy’s preparatory school and dude ranch owned and operated by Irving H. Larom, and in 1929 the Cody Enterprise said the school “more than likely is the only one of its kind in the United States. The masters are the very best and come from some of the most well known universities in the country. The graduates do not have to take an examination to enter any university or college.”

In addition to their normal school work, Valley Ranch students had to participate in outdoor activities — including football. Horseback riding, mountain climbing, track and field and polo were also among the options for the “Cowboys.”

The book “Welcome to my West, I.H. Larom: Dude Rancher, Conservationist, Collector” explained the school in depth. Larom, a Princeton graduate who first came to Wyoming, opened the Valley Ranch in 1915 and first opened the prep school in 1922 after recruiting numerous instructors from back east. Each student paid $1,550 per semester (almost $20,000 per year in today’s money), a fee that included tuition, housing, books, food, supplies and the use of a horse and saddle — but did not cover the students’ .22-caliber rifle.

But even the Valley Ranch program wasn’t immune to the Great Depression of the 1930s. The football team ended after the 1931 season and the school ceased operation in 1934.

Some of the buildings from the Valley Ranch school still stand, as does the ranch itself — the physical remnants of an interesting part of this state’s educational history.


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