Normally, Week 8 provides Wyoming football fans with the most postseason drama.
This year, though, we’ll get a lot more questions answered in Week 7.
We enter the weekend with the possibility that EVERY conference championship could be decided by the end of Friday’s games.
One conference champion has already been decided, as Lovell wrapped up the 2A West title last week with a victory and some help.
Of the remaining eight conferences, six of them can be won on Friday with nothing more than a victory. Two other conference titles can be wrapped up with the right set of circumstances.
Here’s how the conference title races break down:
4A: Gillette can win the conference title with a victory and a Cheyenne East loss.
3A East: Douglas can win the conference title with a victory; Riverton can with the title with a victory and a Lander loss.
3A West: Powell can win the conference title with a victory.
2A East: Burns can win the conference title with a victory.
2A West: Lovell has already won the conference title.
1A 11-man East: Lusk can win the conference title with a victory; Southeast can win the title with a victory and a Lingle loss.
1A 11-man West: Cokeville can with the conference title with a victory and a Shoshoni loss.
1A six-man East: Midwest can win the title with a victory.
1A six-man West: Meeteetse can win the title with a victory.
Of course, all the teams highlighted here play in important games this week. Of these, though, one game keeps drawing my attention: Lusk at Southeast. This should not be a surprise to anyone… These two programs have been among the most consistent, successful programs in the state the past few years, and they played each other for the state title last season.
This year, Lusk is undefeated, coming in 6-0. And Southeast is 3-3, in danger of its first losing season since 1996.
Anyone who claims Southeast is out of the running, though, has a memory that’s much too short for my liking. All we have to do is look back to last year.
Lusk, if you’ll remember, was undefeated until losing to Southeast in the title game, while Southeast struggled to a 5-3 regular season (6-2, but with a forfeit) before catching fire in the playoffs. Remember, Lusk beat Southeast in the regular season last year, too.
Oddly enough, the 2013 season is shaping up a lot like 2012 for these two teams. Lusk’s still unbeaten; Southeast has some losses.
But to doubt Southeast is to reject every historical precedent we’ve seen.
Despite the 3-3 record, I still have the Cyclones ranked third in my Class 1A 11-man poll (behind my No. 1 Cokeville and my No. 2 Lusk). Southeast’s losses are to Burns, Cokeville and the Natrona sophomores; the Cyclones’ victories are against struggling Pine Bluffs and Wind River, but also 21-6 against an Upton-Sundance squad that I think is one of the best in the classification this year.
The Cyclones have made it to the state title game six of the past seven years. Even with the losses, and even with a .500 record — and even if the Cyclones lose to Lusk on Friday — it’s silly to count out the blue and white.
A victory against Lusk would all but give Southeast the conference crown and home-field advantage in the playoffs (although Lingle still has something to say about that).
Lusk, though, is the favorite, and I’m picking the Tigers to win. Lusk has notched five shutouts in a row entering Friday’s game. The Tigers’ demonstrated prowess on both sides of the ball should have them in great position to reach Laramie for the third time in four years.
The easy pick (and, let’s admit it, my pick) for the 1A 11-man title game is Lusk-Cokeville. The only problem with that pick is that Southeast will make the playoffs. And you never count out Southeast.
Best of the rest: All of the games involving potential conference championship clinchers are on my radar, obviously: Cody-Powell, Douglas-Riverton, Wheatland-Burns, Burlington-Cokeville, Kaycee-Midwest, Meeteetse-St. Stephens. On paper, most of them look like lopsided matchups. If more than two of these are close games, I’ll be happy. … The Wheatland-Burns game lost some of its luster when the Bulldogs lost last week, but this one can still be memorable; it means just as much in the conference championship race as we figured it might a week ago at this time. … Cheyenne South’s best chance to break its losing streak may come Friday at home against Rock Springs. The Bison end the season with a road trip to Sheridan, so it may be now or next year for South to finally pull out a victory. … Torrington hasn’t beaten Buffalo since 1992. That streak may end this week, after 21 years and nine games between them. … The messy 2A West gets even messier this week; two of the three teams tied for second (Mountain View and Thermopolis) play each other in what might be the most important game of the season for both teams. I already fear figuring out the playoff scenarios for that conference next week. … Speaking of messy playoff races, a postseason spot may be on the line Saturday when Saratoga hits the road to face Guernsey. That game has been the toughest of the week to pick. The 1A six-man East Conference has been fun to follow this year; it’ll be interesting to see if that regular-season big-game gamut pays off in the postseason for East squads.
Quick look back at last week: Why isn’t Jackson’s 64-48 victory over Green River getting more attention? I mean, 112 combined points? That’s the most in one 11-man game since 1930 (when Cheyenne High combined with University Prep for 119 points, as the Indians unceremoniously dumped the Buckaroos 113-6). And it’s tied for the fifth-most EVER in state history in an 11-man game. Has six-man desensitized us to basketball-worthy scores? Anyway…
On to the Week 7 picks. Teams I think will win are in bold, because if I underlined them you’d try to click on them.
Cheyenne Central at Kelly Walsh
Evanston at Cheyenne East
Laramie at Gillette
Natrona at Sheridan
Rock Springs at Cheyenne South
Cody at Powell
Douglas at Riverton
Green River at Star Valley
Jackson at Worland
Lander at Rawlins
Torrington at Buffalo
Big Piney at Greybull
Glenrock at Wright
Kemmerer at Lovell
Lyman at Pinedale
Moorcroft at Big Horn
Mountain View at Thermopolis
Tongue River at Newcastle
Wheatland at Burns
Class 1A 11-man
Burlington at Cokeville
Lingle at Upton-Sundance (at Upton)
Lusk at Southeast
Rocky Mountain at Shoshoni
Wind River at Riverside
Class 1A six-man
Hulett at Hanna
Kaycee at Midwest
Meeteetse at St. Stephens
Wyoming Indian at Farson
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Snake River
Saratoga at Guernsey-Sunrise
Ten Sleep at Normative Services
Natrona sophs at Pine Bluffs
For a full schedule including kick times, check out the 2013 schedule and results page.
Last week: 24-8 (75 percent). This season: 166-38 (81 percent).
So… You know how we do this by now. You disagree with my picks and tell me why I’m wrong, I soberly nod in agreement, everybody happy! Do your part in this interaction and comment below.