Now that the 2017 Wyoming high school football schedule is (mostly) put together, we can start to see some clear patterns emerge. Some schools won. Some schools lost. Some schools just changed. And two games in particular are just plain baffling.
Thunder Basin might have the best schedule of any 4A team, and the ‘Bolts had nothing to do with it. With the WHSAA setting the full schedule for 4A teams, Thunder Basin benefited. First — Thunder Basin only has four road games. Second — one of those four road games is just down South Douglas Highway at in-town foe Gillette. Third — of the three out-of-town road trips Thunder Basin has, two come in the last three weeks, meaning the ‘Bolts only leave Campbell County once in the first six weeks of the season. Clearly, the WHSAA learned from experience; the last new 4A school, Cheyenne South in 2011, was forced to open its program by playing at defending 4A champ Natrona in Casper for its first game.
Four teams also finagled the schedule to score five home games against only three road games: Farson, Meeteetse, Southeast and Moorcroft. Southeast and Moorcroft scored their fifth home game via sub-varsity opponents; Farson and Meeteetse, meanwhile, have full varsity schedules but managed to score five home games. Also, Farson scheduled a couple of its home games for darkness hours. Is a new football facility — with lights — in the works for the 1A six-man runners-up? (Let me know if it is!)
Douglas and Riverton ended up being the odd teams out of the Week 1 nonconference bonanza. While everyone else scored an opponent, these 3A East Conference foes were left with only each other. The answer, for now, will be a jamboree in Riverton involving the Wolverines, Bearcats, Bear Lake (Idaho) and JV teams from Gillette and Natrona — a schedule that is subject to change. It’s not perfect, but given the circumstances, it might be the best either team can do.
Rocky Mountain scheduled Big Horn for its season opener but still has open weeks for Weeks 2 and 3. The kicker is everyone else has filled their schedules for those weeks, so the Grizzlies will likely have to go the sub-varsity route to fill those weeks.
Both NSI and St. Stephens got put in a poke by ending up with only three home games this season; each team has five games on the road.
Newcastle also got five road games in weeks 1-8 but augmented that with a home game against traditional Zero Week foe Custer, S.D., so the Dogies aren’t in the dire straits that NSI and St. Stephens are.
Glenrock went up, big time. The 2A Herders went out and scheduled last year’s 2A runner-up and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in last year’s semis, Greybull, for Week 1 before hosting 3A Lander in Week 2 and going to 3A Riverton in Week 3. Last year, Glenrock had Pinedale and Lyman in its nonconference slate — no slouches, but not the caliber of foe the Herders will see in 2017.
Conference rival Wheatland did Glenrock one better. The 2A Bulldogs scheduled three 3A teams — Torrington, Rawlins and Douglas — before its 2A East schedule starts.
Traditional 1A 11-man power Cokeville also upgraded its nonconference slate, picking up games against three 2A foes — Mountain View, Pinedale and Lyman — in Weeks 1-3.
Kemmerer, which enters 2017 on a state-record 36-game losing streak, had the chance to pick up a couple winnable games in its schedule. The 2A Rangers scheduled a pair of 1A 11-man teams that failed to qualify for last year’s playoffs — Saratoga in Week 1 and Lusk in Week 6 — in an attempt to get off the schneid.
Wyoming Indian scheduled three sub-varsity teams (JVs from Lander, Wind River and Riverton) for its nonconference games; however, if the Chiefs decide to play Lander in Lander, they won’t have a home game until Week 6.
At a glance, travel does seem to be reduced, although maybe not as significantly as hoped due to the dominance of conference games on the schedule. Moorcroft, Lyman, Southeast, Wind River and Wyoming Indian had chances to fill their schedules with nearby sub-varsity opponents, while several teams have open weeks that may be filled with similar opponents prior to the start of the season. That’s fortunate — after all, that was one of the goals in giving nonconference scheduling abilities back to the schools.
Also, conference rearranging means we get to see a few rivalries come back — the Thunder Bowl between Big Horn and Tongue River is back for the first time since 2012, while is the rivalries between Burns and Pine Bluffs and the one between Upton-Sundance and Moorcroft are back after one-year hiatuses.
Two games on the 2017 schedule make absolutely no sense to me. Anyone out there want to try to explain these matchups to me logically? Because I can’t figure them out:
Rawlins at Wind River. In Week 3, the 3A Outlaws will make the trip to Pavillion to play the 1A 11-man Cougars. In some fantasy worlds, a 3A vs. 1A 11-man game would be cool to see, especially if the 1A 11-man team was wildly successful and the 3A school was among the smaller ones. (For example, wouldn’t it be fun to see Upton-Sundance or Big Horn take on Buffalo?) Instead, the Outlaws — who were 4-5 last year and a coin flip away from the playoffs — are playing a Wind River team that went 1-7 and beat only winless Wyoming Indian in the state’s smallest 11-man division. I don’t see how this game will be good for either team.
Torrington at Star Valley. I thought this Week 2 meeting between 3A rivals was the exact kind of nonconference game schools were trying to avoid. Instead, the Trailblazers will go 490 miles, one way, to Afton for this contest. FYI: Torrington is closer to Iowa and to Texas than it is to Afton.
What are your thoughts on the 2017 schedule? Leave a comment and let me know who you think did the best — and the worst — with their 2017 options.