Each Wednesday, we’ll preview a classification of Wyoming high school football. Today, we’ll look at the second of a five-part season preview with Class 1A 11-man.
Four questions to answer
Can Cokeville win it all again? Yep. And it all starts with defense. One of my favorite numbers I discovered this offseason was this one: In the past four seasons, a span of 42 games, only three of Cokeville’s opponents have broken into double digits. Although the Panthers lose four of their top six tacklers from a year ago, they return several key players from the title runs of the past two years and should be the early favorites to win it all in 1A 11-man again.
Who will win the East Conference title? In short, either Southeast or Lusk. The conversation out east the past two seasons has begun and ended with these two programs, who have a combined 19-1 record against the rest of the conference the past two years and have outscored their conference foes in those 20 games 862-113. For what it’s worth, this year’s Lusk-Southeast game is in Lusk, where the Cyclones haven’t won since 2005.
Will the West Conference have just as much parity as it did a year ago? Probably. Last year, every team won at least one conference game, and six of the eight teams entered the final week of the season with playoff berths possible. And it wasn’t just that parity existed — it’s that the scores were unpredictable. It was always hard to tell when a game would be close or when it would be a blowout. That type of unpredictability was the hallmark of the conference a year ago and should help make at least the early parts of the conference schedule this year quite interesting.
How will the new co-op agreement between Upton and Sundance go? Pretty well, probably. They’ve already figured out a nickname (Patriots), a schedule and a coaching staff. However, the biggest problem might be out of both schools’ control — enrollment. If the combined enrollment figure for the two schools (figured on Upton’s total enrollment and Sundance’s male enrollment) tops that of the smallest Class 2A school (Big Horn at 139), the Patriots will be ineligible for the playoffs no matter how well their season goes. Those final tallies may not be available until the first day of school.
Four players to watch
Brigham Teichert, Cokeville. Defense makes the Panther machine go, and Teichert is Cokeville’s best defender. Already a two-time all-state choice, Teichert has led the Panthers in defensive points each of the past two years. His leadership will be critical as Cokeville goes for a three-peat.
Colton Stees, Southeast. Stees, who was the East Conference defensive player of the year as a sophomore in 2011, will again have to play an important part on the Southeast defense for the Cyclones to get back into the championship game. Already bigger and stronger than a year ago, Stees led 1A 11-man with 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks a year ago. If he puts up similar numbers, Southeast should again be in the championship chase.
Clint Getzfreid, Riverside. Getzfreid was by far 1A’s most prolific wide receiver last year. He had 56 catches (26 more than anyone else in 1A) for 737 yards (311 more than anyone else in 1A) and eight receiving touchdowns (more than anyone else in 1A). And he was a junior.
Colter Larson, Lusk. Quite simply, Larson is a tackler. He led the Tigers in defensive points last year, mostly racking up tallies through tackles, as he had more solo tackles (36), assists (54) and tackles for loss (17.5) than any of his teammates. He’ll play a key role again this year as the Tigers try to make it to Laramie.
Four key games
Wind River at Shoshoni, Sept. 7: Remember, it was a come-from-behind victory over Wind River last year that propelled Shoshoni to its best season since 2001 — and sent Wind River into a slide from which it could not recover. Similar fates may await the winners and losers of this game in a parity-filled West Conference.
Southeast at Lusk, Sept. 14: Let’s strip away the facade and call this game what it is: the East Conference championship game. This game has decided the East champ each of the past two years and figures to do so again this year.
Burlington at Riverside, Sept. 21: Both teams had numerous key players lost to graduation. Will either one of them step up as a threat to Cokeville in the West? This game might help determine if either the Huskies or Rebels are up for that challenge — and the loser will have to fight and scrap and claw just to make it into the postseason.
Saratoga at Shoshoni, Oct. 12: There has been very little scuttlebutt about Saratoga this offseason, but don’t forget the Panthers were a tough team to beat last year and gave Lusk a bit of a tussle in the first round of the playoffs before bowing out. This Week 7 game might end up being for a home playoff game.
Predicted order of finish
East: Lusk, Southeast, Lingle, Pine Bluffs, Upton/Sundance, NSI.
West: Cokeville, Saratoga, Riverside, Shoshoni, Burlington, Wind River, Rocky Mountain, Wyoming Indian.
Completely outlandish, way-too-early title game score prediction
Cokeville 20, Lusk 14
Cokeville’s Todd Dayton is entering his 33rd year as the head coach of the Panthers, the longest tenure of any active coach in the state. Of the other schools in Class 1A 11-man, since 1980, every school has changed coaches at least once; most schools have done it many times. Here’s the question: Of the current 1A 11-man schools, which one has changed head coaches the most times? And as a bonus: How many head coaches has that school had since 1980?