On Nov. 11, 1921, the Cowley Jaguars blasted the Basin Bobcats 69-0 in a game that was typical of most meetings in the first full season of Wyoming high school football in every way but one — the location.
The two teams played that game in Lovell, making it the first neutral-site game in Wyoming’s football history. Since then, about 200 neutral-site games have been played, including every state football championship game since 2009.
Some schools made an annual habit of playing at a neutral site, most out of geographic convenience — like Hulett and Ten Sleep playing in Buffalo, or Wright and Burns playing in Lusk. Sometimes, schools moved playoff games to bigger venues nearby to accommodate larger crowds. And in the case of tiebreaker playoffs, a neutral site is a necessity. But even close schools made neutral sites habit, like Big Horn and Tongue River often staging the annual Thunder Bowl in Sheridan.
With the neutral-site college football bowl season in full swing, here are 11 of the most memorable neutral-site games in Wyoming high school football’s history, excluding the Laramie title games:
1. Dec. 4, 1926: Worland 10, Cheyenne Central 0, at Casper: This game was the second of a two-game championship series. The game was quickly scheduled after the Warriors and Indians played the first championship game to a 7-7 tie in Cheyenne. One week later, the two schools met again, and this time the Warriors notched the shutout to win the title.
2. Dec. 3, 1927: Worland 19, Cheyenne Central 0, at Douglas: After playing in Cheyenne the previous year, the Warriors wanted the Indians to come to Worland for the state championship the following year when both schools won their semifinal games. The Indians balked at that idea, and after some haggling, the two schools agreed to meet in Douglas. And once again, the Warriors won the state title by shutout.
3. Jan. 1, 1931: Fort Collins, Colo., 69, Sheridan 14, at Denver: For the first — and last — time, the state champions from Wyoming and Colorado met at season’s end to determine the regional champion. The Broncs were blown out in Denver, putting a quick end to a tradition that never had the chance to actually be a tradition.
4. Nov. 20, 1941: Glenrock 22, Big Horn 20, at Sheridan: This game, which pitted the Southeast District champion against the Northeast District champion, was the first six-man “state championship” game. The large crowd helped give legitimacy to the game, and although it took seven more years for Wyoming to develop statewide playoffs, when it did, six-man was in the mix.
5. Nov. 28, 1946: Sheridan 20, Cody 19, at Casper: The first “Turkey Bowl” game went the way of Sheridan, which scored the winning touchdown in the third quarter and then held off Cody in the fourth in a cold day in Casper. The game was one of the most important in state history, helping pave the way for statewide playoffs two years later.
6. Nov. 14, 1953: Dayton 63, Glenrock 38, at Sheridan: This six-man state championship game is still the highest-scoring championship game in state history, 60 years later.
7. Nov. 12, 1957: Glendo 24, Glenrock 13, at Douglas: Glendo and Glenrock tied for the eight-man southeast district championship, prompting this tiebreaker game on the Monday before the state championship game. Glendo won, and then beat Tongue River 20-0 four days later to win its only state football championship
8. Sept. 9, 1972: Bow-Basin 36, Wyoming Indian 0, at Hanna: I’m still not sure if this was coincidence, or if the schedule-makers purposefully scheduled this game. Either way, this game was the first game for both programs. The twist of the neutral site came about because Bow-Basin’s field wasn’t ready; all of the Wranglers’ “home” games their first season were played 20 miles away in Hanna.
9. Oct. 31, 1992: Hulett 23, Dubois 21, at Riverton: Speaking of entire seasons spent on the road, Dubois didn’t have any home games in 1992. (I don’t remember specifically why, but I think the field/track were under construction.) So when the conference champion Rams made the playoffs, they had to find a place to play. Riverton’s field ended up being the place where Dubois’ dream ended; the next week, Hulett lost to Burlington, a team Dubois had beaten in the regular season, in the championship game.
10. Sept. 9, 1995: Lincoln Pius X, Neb., 27, Sheridan 20, at North Platte, Neb.: This was not the first such interstate mid-point game between large, powerful programs, and it wasn’t the last. But this one may have been the most memorable, as it was one of only a handful of losses for the Broncs in the early 1990s. Sheridan later won the 4A title this season.
11. Aug. 31, 2002: Guernsey-Sunrise 41, Riverside 14, at Casper: As a midpoint in the state, Casper has hosted many neutral-site games. This one between the Vikings and Rebels stands out, though, because it was the first time two Wyoming varsity teams played each other on a turf field — they broke in the new surface at Cheney Alumni Field even before the hometown Mustangs had the chance.
What was your favorite neutral-site game? Do you like the regular-season midpoint meetings? Have you ever participated in one? Feel free to add your thoughts below.