Each Friday, wyoming-football.com is taking a look at the teams, players and trends to watch in each classification this fall. Today, we look at Class 1A 11-man, the second preview in a series of five.
Four questions to answer
Is Cokeville building a new dynasty? The Panthers had gone a very un-Cokeville-like six years without a championship before winning the 1A 11-man title last fall. As usual, it was a small Cokeville team that took the field (in both weight and number), but eight of the Panthers’ 18 players were all-state picks last fall and four of those all-state choices are back this season.
Is Southeast ready to bounce back? Few teams have had the success the Cyclones have had in the past few years. With three consecutive state titles from 1999-2001 and four straight from 2006-09, as well as 14 consecutive years in which they have earned the right to host a first-round playoff game, the Cyclones have made it clear that the state title road will almost always go through Yoder. After a “down” year in which the Cyclones lost to eventual state champion Cokeville in the semifinals, Southeast returns all-staters Zac Zimmerer and Zach Eisenbarth and may again be the team to beat in the East Conference.
Who will challenge the two favorites? Cokeville and Southeast top the discussion of 1A 11-man title favorites, but after that, a whole bunch of uncertainty takes over. Parity appears to be the name of the game in 1A’s second tier, as numerous schools — Burlington, Rocky Mountain, Riverside and Wind River in the West and Pine Bluffs, Lingle and Lusk in the East — try to assert themselves as top-tier schools. But the problem might not be beating Cokeville and Southeast; it might be surviving the parity in the middle long enough to have the chance to move forward.
Is this the year Shoshoni ends the streak? Shoshoni’s losing streak is now at 19 games. The last time Shoshoni beat a current 1A 11-man team (without forfeiting it later) was 2006. It’s been quite a dry spell for the boys in blue, but the young Wranglers could be better this fall and should be more competitive; the only problem is that they play in the West, where every team is tough to beat week in and week out.
Four players to watch
Jordan Johnson, Cokeville. The Panther lineman was an all-state choice last fall, and with his play on both offense and defense, it’s easy to see why. He was second on the stout Panther defense last year with 137 defensive points and notched 17 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Brigham Teichert, Cokeville. The only Panther who had more defensive points than Johnson was Teichert. The junior led Cokeville with 198 team points last year, racking up 23 solo tackles, 16 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries. The top defense in 1A 11-man returning its top two tacklers from an undefeated team? Doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Zac Zimmerer, Southeast. Zimmerer carried 152 times for 1,025 yards and 13 touchdowns last year and comes into 2011 as the classification’s top returning rusher. He also led the Cyclones with four interceptions on defense last year.
Anson George, Burlington. All George did last year was lead Burlington in receiving, punt returns, kick returns, scoring, kicking, defensive points, solo tackles and assisted tackles. Oh, and he was second on the team in rushing, too.
Four key games
Lusk at Southeast, Week 3. While Lingle and Pine Bluffs will have a say in who finishes atop the East Conference when it’s all said and done, this early-season showdown should help give everyone a good idea of where the top teams stand.
Rocky Mountain at Wind River, Week 4. The winner of this game probably has the best chance of challenging Cokeville for West Conference supremacy.
Cokeville at Rocky Mountain, Week 5. The Panthers’ toughest road trip this season may be the one to Cowley at the season’s midpoint.
Lingle at Southeast, Week 8. This game has had huge conference title and playoff seeding impacts the past two years. Look for this game in the regular-season finale to be just as important this year. (By the way, note that Southeast gets both Lusk and Lingle at home this year…)
Predicted order of finish
East: Southeast; Lingle; Lusk; Pine Bluffs; Sundance; Upton; Normative Services.
West: Cokeville; Rocky Mountain; Burlington; Wind River; Riverside; Saratoga; Wyoming Indian; Shoshoni.
All-time, Cokeville is an incredible 100-19 (number corrected from original post) against current 1A 11-man programs. The Panthers are at least .500 against each of the other 14 schools in the classification. Two current 1A 11-man schools, though, have beaten the Panthers a classification high of five times apiece, combining to give Cokeville 10 of those 19 losses. Which two schools can claim this? Comment below if you have a guess, or if you want to talk about the 1A 11-man expectations you have for 2011.