The top of Wyoming’s all-time standings chart is littered with the state’s traditional powerhouses.
Ask someone to pick the state’s top five active teams, in terms of winning percentage, and four of the first five might come to mind quickly. Cokeville, Southeast, Natrona, Star Valley. They’re all in the top five.
The team in fourth place among active programs, though — right there between the defending 4A champions from Casper and last year’s 3A runners-up from Afton — is a team whose status as “active” isn’t really official until Friday.
A team that hasn’t played a varsity football game in more than 48 years will return to the field on Friday.
After almost five decades dormant, and after playing the past two years as a junior varsity team, the St. Stephens Eagles — one of the most successful programs in the state in the early 1960s — will take to the field again.
The Eagles boast an all-time record of 41-24, a record forged over nine mostly successful seasons from 1957-65.
St. Stephens’ success didn’t come right away, though. The team didn’t score a point in its first three games of its inaugural season. In its first two seasons, the Eagles only won twice.
Then the Eagles turned the program around.
St. Stephens went 5-1 in its third season, 1959, the first of six consecutive winning seasons under three different coaches.
The peaks came in 1961 and 1962 with coach Chuck Murray. In 1961, the Eagles finished as Class B 11-man runners-up after an 8-0 start, losing to Upton in the championship game; in 1962, the Eagles went 8-0 and won the mythical Class B 11-man title.
After the success of a pair of eight-win seasons, the Eagles slowly transitioned into Class A play, but found the big schools a tougher draw. In 1965, the Eagles’ final season, the squad went 2-4, losing their first four games before beating Greybull and Jackson. For the past 48 years, St. Stephens has been stuck, perpetually on a two-game winning streak.
The Eagles have been playing junior varsity six-man football the past couple years and finally make the step up to varsity play on Friday when they travel to Platte County to face Guernsey-Sunrise.
The game will be difficult for St. Stephens for more reasons than the program’s 48-year gap between varsity contests. The Vikings are a quickly developing six-man contender and the Eagles have to play the Vikings in Guernsey.
But the Eagles’ reappearance as a football program is part of a bigger trend, one that started in 2009 and will continue into next season. St. Stephens is now the fourth program to either start or re-start because of the reintroduction of six-man football in 2009, joining Farson, Snake River and Kaycee; Rock River is scheduled to join the varsity level in 2014 after playing JV schedules in 2012 and 2013.
If not for six-man, it’s a safe bet that most of St. Stephens’ players would not have considered football at all.
Now, the school has a chance to resurrect a short, but proud, tradition started half a century ago.
What else I’m watching this week: Three great interclass games, starting with Burns-Southeast. This could be the best game of the year. Burns is loaded for a title run; Southeast is a defending state champ. … Cokeville-Mountain View. This clash between longtime rivals is another case of two teams that both have a great chance to make it to Laramie. … Lusk-Newcastle. These two schools haven’t played each other since 1978, but based on last week’s and last year’s performances, this could be a doozy.
Here’s this week’s picks. Projected winners in bold:
Pine Bluffs at Cheyenne East sophs
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne South
Cheyenne East at Natrona
Evanston at Gillette
Kelly Walsh at Sheridan
Laramie at Rock Springs
Buffalo at Worland
Douglas at Green River
Lander at Cody
Riverton at Powell
Greybull at Big Horn
Lyman at Wheatland
Class 1A six-man
Hanna at Meeteetse
Kaycee at Wyoming Indian
St. Stephens at Guernsey-Sunrise
Saratoga at Snake River
Big Piney at Riverside
Burlington at Thermopolis
Burns at Southeast
Cokeville at Mountain View
Glenrock at Torrington
Lusk at Newcastle
Moorcroft at Upton-Sundance (at Upton)
Pinedale at Shoshoni
Rawlins at Kemmerer
Rocky Mountain at Tongue River
Wind River at Lovell
Wright at Lingle
Star Valley at Snake River, Idaho
Teton, Idaho, at Jackson
Class 1A six-man
Farson at Midwest
Hulett at Ten Sleep
Normative Services at Dubois
For a full schedule including kick times, check out the 2013 schedule and results page.
Last week: 12-2 (86 percent). This season: 12-2 (86 percent).
With the first full week of football finally here, what are your thoughts? What games or teams are you keeping your eye on this week? Post a comment below.