Torrington has waited a long time for this season.
Actually, 21 years.
When the Trailblazers take to Wiseman Field on Friday, they will play for their first conference title since 1996, when the Trailblazers tied with Riverton and Douglas for the 3A East title. If everything falls right, Torrington could also win its first outright conference title since winning the 3A East in 1994.
If the Blazers can get past Buffalo, struggling Rawlins awaits in Week 8. Although that game is no guarantee, a sweep of the Bison and the Outlaws will give Torrington the outright conference title and will keep the Trailblazers undefeated.
No one in the 3A East, least of all the Trailblazers, wants to crown Torrington as the conference champ just yet. If you asked a Magic 8 Ball, though, if Torrington was going to win the conference, the ball would probably respond with a “Signs point to yes.”
For the last two decades, the answer was more likely to be an “Outlook not so good.”
Lander, which last shared a conference title in 1995, is the only 3A team with a longer streak without a conference title than Torrington. Of the 12 teams in the classification, nine of them have won outright or shared a conference championship in the past seven seasons. Rawlins — which won an outright conference crown in 2000 — Torrington and Lander are the holdouts. (This always comes with the explanation that, from 2001-04, Wyoming schools below the big-school classification did not have conferences.)
But the Blazers are on track to break that streak. Fifth-year coach Mark Lenhardt has seen his team improve its record every season, from 1-8 to 1-7 to 3-6 to 7-3 to, this year so far, 6-0. Last year’s 41-14 victory against Jackson was the team’s first playoff win since 2005; Torrington’s 7-3 finish was the program’s first winning record since 1995.
Now, for the first time in two decades, Torrington’s conference championship goals are more than just dreams.
Or, as the Magic 8 Ball would say: “It is decidedly so.”
Here’s a quick look at who’s playing for conference championships this week — and, consequently, teams that are playing in absolutely huge games this week:
Gillette can wrap home field and the top seed in 4A by beating Laramie.
Torrington can clinch the 3A East Conference’s top seed by beating Buffalo.
Wheatland could win the 2A East if the Bulldogs beat Burns and if Newcastle beats Big Horn.
Lingle can secure first in the 1A 11-man East by beating Tongue River.
Kaycee, despite playing a nonconference game this week, could win the 1A six-man East if Midwest and Rock River beat their respective opponents (Hulett and Guernsey-Sunrise) this week.
The other conferences — the 3A West, the 2A West and the 1A 11-man West — can’t be decided just yet. Meanwhile, Meeteetse won the 1A six-man West after Week 5.
Cheyenne South, Rawlins, Burns, Wright, Kemmerer, Burlington, Saratoga, Wyoming Indian and Rock River have already been eliminated from postseason contention.
Other games that have me looking around and wondering if anyone else realizes that, you know, week 7 is, like, a big deal:
Natrona-Sheridan. For realsies. The winner here likely gets home-field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. (And, maybe, gets to host the rematch in the 4A semifinals.) If you’re anywhere near Homer Scott Field on Friday, get on up to the field and watch this one. …
Yes, I played for Midwest, but I’m not just saying this as an Oiler alum: The Hulett-Midwest game might be closer than you think. …
Week 8 looms large with potential conference title games in the 3A, 2A and 1A 11-man West conferences, but only if Star Valley and Jackson (3A), Lovell and Greybull (2A) and Riverside (1A-11) win this week. That said, the biggest challenges might come to Greybull and Riverside. …
Riverside-Rocky Mountain is absolutely huge. If the Rebels win this one, they’ll notch home field for the first round of the playoffs at least; if the Grizzlies can pull the upset, they’ll set up a potential three-way tie for the second, third and fourth spots in the conference between themselves, Riverside and Cokeville — that is if they all win in Week 8, too. …
And Greybull, meanwhile, faces Lyman, a team that’s been easy to overlook this year but is all too capable of pulling off an upset of this magnitude. The Eagles are 3-1 after dropping their first two games, the only loss coming to conference co-leader Lovell. …
Hardest games to pick this week? Big Piney-Mountain View, Newcastle-Big Horn, Kaycee-Snake River, NSI-Hanna. Big Piney’s underrated; Big Horn’s unpredictable; Snake River’s untested; NSI’s uncertain. Lots of uns this week. I tried the best I could to sort through it and pick some winners, who I’ve noted here in bold:
Evanston at Cheyenne East
Cokeville at Star Valley JV
Natrona sophomores at Shoshoni
Cheyenne Central at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Gillette
Natrona at Sheridan
Rock Springs at Cheyenne South
Buffalo at Torrington
Cody at Green River
Powell at Jackson
Rawlins at Lander
Riverton at Douglas
Worland at Star Valley
Big Piney at Mountain View
Glenrock at Thermopolis
Greybull at Lyman
Kemmerer at Lovell
Newcastle at Big Horn
Wheatland at Burns
Wright at Pinedale
Class 1A 11-man
Lingle at Tongue River
Lusk at Southeast
Pine Bluffs at Moorcroft
Riverside at Rocky Mountain
Saratoga at Wind River
Class 1A six-man
Farson at St. Stephens
Hulett at Midwest
Kaycee at Snake River
NSI at Hanna
Upton-Sundance at Lead-Deadwood, S.D.
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Ten Sleep
Guernsey-Sunrise at Rock River
Worland JV at Meeteetse
Shoshoni (against Burlington) and Cokeville (against Wyoming Indian) have already notched forfeit victories this week.
For a full schedule including start times, click here.
The week wouldn’t be complete without Tad and Homer, who have their picks, as well. They both had it rough last week, which led to some bickering at the dinner table, which led to some hurt feelings, which didn’t affect their picks at all this week.
Tad: Natrona over Sheridan; Rock Springs over Cheyenne South; Buffalo over Torrington; Cody over Green River; Riverton over Douglas; Big Piney over Mountain View; Lingle over Tongue River; Lusk over Southeast; Guernsey-Sunrise over Rock River.
Homer: Sheridan over Natrona; Cheyenne South over Rock Springs; Torrington over Buffalo; Green River over Cody; Douglas over Riverton; Mountain View over Big Piney; Tongue River over Lingle; Southeast over Lusk; Rock River over Guernsey-Sunrise.
Both: Cokeville over Star Valley JV; Shoshoni over Natrona JV; Cheyenne Central over Kelly Walsh; Cheyenne East over Evanston; Gillette over Laramie; Powell over Jackson; Lander over Rawlins; Star Valley over Worland; Glenrock over Thermopolis; Lyman over Greybull; Lovell over Kemmerer; Big Horn over Newcastle; Burns over Wheatland; Pinedale over Wright; Pine Bluffs over Moorcroft; Riverside over Rocky Mountain; Wind River over Saratoga; Dubois over Ten Sleep; Farson over St. Stephens; Midwest over Hulett; Snake River over Kaycee; Hanna over Normative Services; Meeteetse over Worland JV.
Cheyenne Central at Kelly Walsh (Central 25-16 overall, Central 12-9 at this location)
Evanston at Cheyenne East (East 19-9 overall, East 11-4 at this location)
Laramie at Gillette (tie 18-18 overall, Gillette 10-8 at this location)
Natrona at Sheridan (Natrona 56-41-6 overall, Sheridan 26-20-3 at this location)
Rock Springs at Cheyenne South (Rock Springs 3-1 overall, tie 1-1 at this location)
Buffalo at Torrington (Buffalo 21-17 overall, tie 9-9 at this location)
Cody at Green River (Cody 14-8 overall, Green River 6-4 at this location)
Powell at Jackson (Powell 19-12 overall, Powell 8-6 at this location)
Rawlins at Lander (Lander 29-27-1 overall, Lander 16-8 at this location)
Riverton at Douglas (Riverton 21-12-1 overall, tie 7-7-1 at this location)
Worland at Star Valley (Star Valley 25-14 overall, Star Valley 13-7 at this location)
Big Piney at Mountain View (Big Piney 39-36 overall, Mountain View 20-17 at this location)
Glenrock at Thermopolis (Glenrock 19-13 overall, Glenrock 10-5 at this location)
Greybull at Lyman (Lyman 9-5 overall, Lyman 4-2 at this location)
Kemmerer at Lovell (Lovell 15-14 overall, Lovell 7-5 at this location)
Newcastle at Big Horn (Big Horn 5-1 overall, Big Horn 2-0 at this location)
Wheatland at Burns (tie 3-3 overall, Burns 3-0 at this location)
Wright at Pinedale (Pinedale 3-0 overall, Pinedale 2-0 at this location)
Class 1A 11-man
Burlington at Shoshoni (Shoshoni 17-16 overall, Shoshoni 9-5 at this location) (Shoshoni has already won this by forfeit, but here’s the records because why not)
Cokeville at Wyoming Indian (Cokeville 5-0 overall, Cokeville 2-0 at this location) (again, this one has already been forfeited to Cokeville, but the records are still interesting)
Lingle at Tongue River (Lingle 1-0 overall, first at this location)
Lusk at Southeast (Lusk 24-15 overall, tie 10-10 at this location)
Pine Bluffs at Moorcroft (Pine Bluffs 3-1 overall, Pine Bluffs 3-0 at this location)
Riverside at Rocky Mountain (Rocky Mountain 19-5 overall, Rocky Mountain 11-1 at this location)
Saratoga at Wind River (Wind River 8-3 overall, Wind River 5-0 at this location)
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Ten Sleep (Dubois 15-4 overall, Dubois 8-1 at this location)
Farson at St. Stephens (Farson 2-0 overall, Farson 1-0 at this location)
Guernsey-Sunrise at Rock River (Guernsey-Sunrise 1-0 overall, first at this location)
Hulett at Midwest (Midwest 30-18-1 overall, Midwest 14-8 at this location)
Kaycee at Snake River (Snake River 6-1 overall, Snake River 5-0 at this location)
NSI at Hanna (Hanna 2-0 overall, first at this location)
Weekly reminder: Tad picks the series leader; Homer picks the location leader; when a series is tied, both Tad and Homer pick the home team.
Last week’s records: Patrick, 23-7 (77 percent); Tad, 14-16 (47 percent); Homer, 11-19 (37 percent).
Season records: Patrick, 157-41 (79 percent); Tad, 126-72 (64 percent); Homer, 104-94 (53 percent).
What strikes you as interesting as you look at the Week 7 slate? Post your thoughts and let’s talk through the fun together.