In a rural state like Wyoming, finding suitable opponents for high school sports teams can sometimes be a challenge.
Schools are often stuck with a difficult conundrum — they have to schedule a team that’s significantly worse (or better) but nearby, or schedule a team of nearly equal talent that’s hours and hours away.
Neither option is preferable. In Wyoming, though, they may be the only options available.
But this isn’t anything new to those born and raised in the Equality State. Long road trips are normal. The average this year was 192 miles, one way, per road trip.
For many years, Wyoming schools opted to stay close to home, even if that meant playing in the occasional 50-0 slaughter.
In the mid-1980s, though, a few far-flung but equally talented schools hit on an idea: Why not just meet halfway?
The idea of a neutral-site game wasn’t new. They were a staple of playoff games, either because schools decided to meet halfway or a host team decided to shift to a larger nearby stadium for a the larger crowd anticipated at a postseason game. And some rivalries got moved to neutral sites — like the Thunder Bowl between Big Horn and Tongue River, which was played at Sheridan off and on for years. And every once in a while, a couple of schools that weren’t too far apart just decided to meet in the middle, like Green River and Superior playing in Rock Springs (which happened in 1936).
But two teams deciding to meet “halfway” to fill a hole in both squads’ regular-season schedules? In the 1980s, this was almost completely new.
And in 1986, it took off. Two of the five neutral-site games that season involved Pine Bluffs, which in back-to-back games played Pinedale and Cokeville at Hanna.
The fad peaked in 1990, when seven neutral-site games were played. However, several schools embraced the neutral-site games and made them nearly annual events.
- Hulett and Ten Sleep played each other in Buffalo seven times between 1988 and 1999 (and they played in 2000 in Big Horn). Ten Sleep, in fact, played four neutral-site games in just two seasons, 1988 and 1989.
- Wright also hit the neutral-site bandwagon hard, playing four games in 1990 and 1991 and a fifth in 1992.
- Gillette played some big out-of-state schools via the neutral site in the 1980s and 1990s: Montrose, Colorado; Hastings, Nebraska; and Oakdale Tartan, Minnesota. Sheridan got neutral-site games against Overland, Colorado, and Lincoln Pius X, Nebraska.
Although neutral-site meetings faded a bit when the WHSAA took over varsity scheduling in 2001, a few schools have revived the trend. Last year, six-man schools Hanna and Hulett met in Midwest in the state’s first true neutral-site football game — the first one where both teams traveled more than an hour to play and was pre-scheduled — since 2010.
The list below is of the neutral-site midpoint games played since the first in 1923; this list does not include conference or state playoff games, including triangular playoffs; games played at temporary home sites (like Burns had this year while its stadium was under construction); neutral-site games in the same city as one of the teams (like Natrona and East had this year playing at South); or traditional rivalry games at neutral sites (like the Thunder Bowl in Sheridan).
S28/1923 Cheyenne Central 21 Chappell (NE) 3 at Pine Bluffs
O14/1925 Rawlins 0 Lander 13 at Casper
S30/1933 Gebo 12 Ten Sleep 21 at Worland
O3/1936 Green River 6 Superior 27 at Rock Springs
O8/1936 Ten Sleep 63 Fort Washakie 0 at Riverton
O14/1938 Lingle 19 Manville 14 at Lusk
N18/1939 Douglas 0 Midwest 46 at Casper
O4/1940 Jackson 6 Reliance 32 at Rock Springs
O16/1940 Manville 26 Upton 13 at Newcastle
O22/1947 Pine Bluffs 8 Harrisburg (NE) 6 at Albin
O13/1955 Huntley 6 Lingle 35 at Torrington
S25/1964 Guernsey-Sunrise 0 Huntley 34 at Torrington
S5/1969 Shoshoni 20 Dubois 8 at Morton
S24/1982 Byron 0 Cokeville 21 at Lander
A29/1986 Pine Bluffs 14 Pinedale 34 at Hanna
S5/1986 Natrona 7 SLC Highland (UT) 24 at Evanston
S5/1986 Pine Bluffs 20 Cokeville 40 at Hanna
S12/1986 Cody 24 Torrington 6 at Casper
S12/1986 Pinedale 13 Rocky Mountain 24 at Lander
S19/1987 Farson 0 Burlington 46 at Riverton
S25/1987 Pinedale 41 Rocky Mountain 0 at Lander
S3/1988 Kelly Walsh 15 Dickinson (ND) 47 at Spearfish (SD)
S3/1988 Hulett 12 Ten Sleep 46 at Buffalo
S10/1988 Burlington 0 Farson 42 at Shoshoni
S17/1988 Douglas 29 Rock Springs JV 12 at Laramie
O22/1988 Ten Sleep 42 Farson 8 at Shoshoni
S2/1989 Kelly Walsh 22 Dickinson (ND) 28 at Spearfish (SD)
S2/1989 Hulett 0 Ten Sleep 46 at Buffalo
S9/1989 Sheridan 0 Overland (CO) 20 at Douglas
S15/1989 Cokeville 49 Riverside 0 at Shoshoni
S16/1989 Gillette 13 Montrose (CO) 12 at Craig (CO)
21/1989 Farson 32 Ten Sleep 20 at Shoshoni
A31/1990 Wright 6 Tongue River 7 at Gillette
S7/1990 Rocky Mountain 0 Pinedale 6 at Riverton
S7/1990 Lingle 50 Hulett 0 at Lusk
S15/1990 Greybull 22 Wright 6 at Buffalo
S29/1990 Encampment 0 Burlington 21 at Shoshoni
O5/1990 Lyman 26 Greybull 7 at Lander
O13/1990 Wheatland 8 Jackson 25 at Shoshoni
S7/1991 Gillette 36 Hastings (NE) 3 at Sidney, NE
S20/1991 Burns 20 Wright 6 at Lusk
O24/1991 Hulett 32 Ten Sleep 6 at Buffalo
O25/1991 Wind River 41 Wright 24 at Casper
S4/1992 Sundance 6 Rocky Mountain 39 at Dayton
S18/1992 Wright 19 Burns 44 at Guernsey-Sunrise
S3/1993 Wheatland 28 Mountain View 12 at Rawlins
S3/1993 Pine Bluffs 24 Sundance 14 at Lusk
S18/1993 Ten Sleep 6 Hulett 54 at Buffalo
O2/1993 Moorcroft 38 Greybull 12 at Buffalo
O14/1993 Lovell 20 Kemmerer 15 at Shoshoni
S2/1994 Big Piney 18 Greybull 6 at Lander
S3/1994 Sundance 12 Pine Bluffs 42 at Lusk
S9/1994 Kelly Walsh 14 Evanston 42 at Rawlins
O1/1994 Moorcroft 0 Greybull 31 at Buffalo
O14/1994 Kemmerer 28 Lovell 6 at Riverton
S8/1995 Kelly Walsh 7 Evanston 21 at Rawlins
S9/1995 Lincoln Pius X (NE) 27 Sheridan 20 at North Platte (NE)
S15/1995 Rocky Mountain 48 Saratoga 19 at Riverton
O6/1995 Hanna 0 Upton 32 at Lingle
S14/1996 Hulett 18 Ten Sleep 32 at Buffalo
S20/1996 Wheatland 13 Kemmerer 54 at Rawlins
S20/1996 Rocky Mountain 43 Saratoga 12 at Riverton
S6/1997 Big Piney 18 Moorcroft 6 at Casper
S26/1997 Burns 6 Wright 38 at Lusk
O9/1997 Wind River 53 Custer JV (SD) 8 at Wright
S5/1998 Big Piney 34 Moorcroft 0 at Kelly Walsh
S12/1998 Gillette 24 Oakdale Tartan (MN) 7 at Mitchell, SD
S12/1998 Hulett 12 Ten Sleep 8 at Buffalo
S25/1998 Wright 20 Burns 13 at Guernsey
S11/1999 Hulett 46 Ten Sleep 0 at Buffalo
S9/2000 Hulett 20 Ten Sleep 6 at Big Horn
A31/2002 Guernsey-Sunrise 41 Riverside 14 at Casper
O20/2006 Dubois 14 Upton 28 At Casper, NCHS
A25/2007 Gillette 6 Logan (UT) 36 At Ogden UT
A25/2007 Mountain View 12 Logan JV (UT) 39 At Ogden UT
A25/2007 Star Valley 0 Park City (UT) 46 At Ogden UT
A31/2007 Upton 13 Dubois 28 At Casper, NCHS
A30/2008 Gillette 21 Sky View (UT) 55 At Green River
A30/2008 Kelly Walsh 17 Rock Springs 13 At Riverton
S19/2008 Hanna 0 Hulett 63 At Casper (NCHS)
O3/2008 Dubois 7 Upton 38 At Casper (NCHS)
O10/2008 Burns 47 Sundance 6 At Newcastle
S4/2009 Dubois 0 Upton 25 at Casper, NCHS
O3/2009 Southeast 67 Normative Services 8 at Casper, NCHS
S3/2010 Dubois 48 Upton 0 at Casper, NCHS
S17/2010 Douglas 40 Star Valley 6 at Riverton
O2/2010 Normative Services 0 Southeast 56 at Casper, NCHS
S7/2013 Wright 18 Lingle 35 at Douglas
O7/2013 Midwest 50 Hulett 40 at Moorcroft
S12/2014 Moorcroft 8 Tongue River 28 at Sheridan
S13/2014 Hulett 18 Hanna 62 at Midwest
Which of these games seems the most bizarre to you? Which ones would you like to see on the schedule again? Or should all regular-season games be played either as true home/road games? Leave a comment and we can chat about it!