We have a lot of time between now and Nov. 13-14. And a lot can happen in 10 months — injuries, transfers, coaching changes, offseason training, growth spurts and more will all influence who wins the championship trophy in Laramie this November.
That doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead to see who might win the title next season, though.
With the state championship games still 10 months away, here are my pre-preseason top 5 teams for each classification:
1. Gillette: The Camels always reload well, as the program has great numbers and great tradition. But Gillette also returns talent, with Super 25er Zach Taylor and OL Lane Tucker to anchor each side of the ball.
2. Sheridan: Returning three all-conference players on offense in QB Blake Godwin, RB Evan Coon and OL Davis Alden will help the Broncs transition into 2015 easily.
3. Natrona: One of the best senior classes in state history will be gone. But that doesn’t mean the Mustangs have an empty cupboard. They never do.
4. Cheyenne East: The T-Birds lose a lot, but also have a couple rocks to anchor the defense in lineman Quin Happold and linebacker Jack Danni. They’ll need to find some offensive playmakers, though.
5. Cheyenne South: The Bison should be better than they’ve ever been with three all-conference players back in Nik Seui, Marquez Jefferson and Isaac McHenry. Only Sheridan has more all-conference players back this year than South.
Dark horse: Cheyenne Central. The Indians improved a ton from Week 0 to Week 8 in 2014, but they’ll need to replace some key players.
1. Jackson: Super 25 RB Theo Dawson is the centerpiece, but three other returning all-conference players (Dillon Hartranft, Keegan Bommer and Ryan Johnston) give the Broncs enough depth to improve on last year’s early playoff exit.
2. Cody: Granted, the Broncs lost a ton of star players. But Cameron Myers and Blake Hinze and a host of other underclassmen played key parts on 2014’s title team. And they’re confident now.
3. Torrington: The Trailblazers, with Super 25 RB Skyler Miller, are poised for another breakout season — if they can replace an underrated senior class.
4. Douglas: Every single one of the Bearcats’ nine all-conference selections last year was a senior. However, if anyone can reload in a hurry, it’s Douglas.
5. Rawlins: The Outlaws’ improvement will continue in coach Corey Wheeler’s second year — the second year is always better — as he returns key players in QB Jace Allard and lineman J.D. Smith.
Dark horse: Riverton. Every single all-conference player graduated. Can the Wolverines replace them and stay in the top half of what’s now a competitive East Conference?
1. Wheatland: The Bulldogs return all four of their all-state selections (Justis Borton, Josh Calvert, Daniel Chesser and Nathan Willis), by far the most in 2A. A trip to last year’s semifinals should give Wheatland the experience, and the hunger, to reach Laramie.
2. Mountain View: The defending champs lose a lot to graduation but also retain three all-staters in Dalton Hereford, Dusty Iorg and Kale Iorg. The defense will be stout; the offense remains the question mark.
3. Big Horn: You can’t count out the Rams. Big Horn will rely a lot on their three all-conference returners, seniors Brice Beisher and Collin Powers and junior Nolan McCafferty, to make up for the loss of a deep, and speedy, senior class.
4. Thermopolis: The Bobcats have one of the classification’s most talented running backs in Tyler Cornwell, and he’s surrounded by experienced players who can get the job done.
5. Glenrock: The Herders return all five of their all-conference players and could be a legit contender, but they’ll have to survive a stacked East Conference.
Dark horse: Greybull. Yes, all-everything player Calder Forcella graduated. But the Buffs return a trio of all-conference role players (Lane Nielsen, Dawson McEwan and Elias Ewen) who can keep the program steady.
Class 1A 11-man
1. Cokeville: The Panthers are No. 1 by default, because that’s what consistency earns you. The Panthers’ deep senior class is gone, but Jackson Linford, Ellis Toomer and Trent King were all-conference selections last year (Linford and Toomer were all-state, too), and they will lead the transition year.
2. Lingle: Last year’s East Conference runners-up are stacked for a run at the title game this year, as seniors Dillon Forkner, Colten Wunder and Brice Hill and junior Dallen Fleenor will give the Doggers both depth and experience.
3. Shoshoni: After an 0-3 start, the Wranglers went on a tear last year, and they’ll be tough to stop this year as they return both of their all-state selections (seniors Patrick Forster and Conner Wilkinson) and juniors J.J. Pingetzer and Jason Thoren.
4. Lusk: I feel really scared ranking the Tigers this low, but seven of Lusk’s eight all-conference players are gone. That leaves returning all-stater Logan Lamar to lead a thinner, possibly rebuilding, team.
5. Upton-Sundance: The Patriots have to replace RB Jett Materi, but a pair of senior all-conference returners, Rourke McPeters and Cole Ingrahm, give U-S a good place from which to build.
Dark horses: Rocky Mountain and Tongue River. Both lost some key seniors, but both return a bevy of role players from competitive teams.
Class 1A six-man
1. Meeteetse: In terms of straight-up talent, the Longhorns return more than any other team in six-man. Carter Johnson and Dalton Abarr were both all-state picks and Scott Sessions and Shawn Shepperson also have proven abilities.
2. Kaycee: All-stater Taylor Rouse has been as consistent as a player can be. If his senior classmates surround him and give him some help, the Buckaroos could be in Laramie.
3. Guernsey-Sunrise: An athletic senior class departs, but all-state selections Forest Foos and Seth Frederick played important parts in last year’s title run and will lead the Vikings next season.
4. Farson: The Pronghorns’ only all-state selection, Lynndon Lehmann, graduated, but the team returns every other all-conference player. Seniors Kelton Broadhead, Neale Jones and Isaac Orozco give Farson consistency and athleticism.
5. Dubois: Last year’s state runners-up graduated the bulk of their key players, but the Rams could surprise out west thanks to returning all-stater Zac Rose.
Dark horse: Snake River. Who knows how the Rattlers will handle losing a talented senior class? Returning all-conference selection Braden Duncan gives Snake River a good start.
Who do you think will haul home the first-place trophy from Laramie next November? Post a comment and let’s talk about this, way way way way before it’s logical to do so.