When the 2017 season started, three schools had a chance to three-peat as state football champions.
Sheridan and Kaycee played up to the challenge, each going undefeated on their way to winning their respective titles — Sheridan in Class 4A, Kaycee in Class 1A six-man.
Star Valley did not. The Braves lost their first game of 2017 in the wrong spot, the Class 3A semifinals, and failed to win their third consecutive championship.
Historically speaking, though, Kaycee and Sheridan are the anomalies in three-peat attempts, not Star Valley.
Of the 46 teams in state history who have been in a position to win three consecutive championships (not including streaks of more than three), 19 succeeded like Kaycee and Sheridan did. But 27, like Star Valley, did not. That means just more than 41 percent of teams trying for a three-peat actually succeeded.
Some of those three-peat attempts came even closer than Star Valley’s did last year.
Of those 27 teams who failed to win their third consecutive championships, four teams reached the title game only to lose (Cheyenne Central in 1990, Star Valley in 1997, Lusk in 2001 and Snake River in 2012). Eight others lost in the semifinals, including three teams — Rocky Mountain in 1999, Cokeville in 2012 and Star Valley last year — who were undefeated until reaching the semis.
Seven of those 27 teams finished with one loss.
Granted, some teams rode a wave of great talent to repeat titles only to fall off quickly once that talent graduated — six teams who were trying to win their third consecutive title actually finished with losing records in their three-peat bid seasons. The steepest of those declines was in Green River, where the Wolves won the 1949 and 1950 Class A championships but went 1-8 in 1951. The most recent team to have this happen to them was Glenrock, which won titles in 2002-03 but had a losing record in 2004.
We know what happened to Sheridan, Kaycee and Star Valley in 2017; Pine Bluffs, the two-time defending Class 1A 11-man champion, will have a chance for a three-peat in 2018.
Meanwhile, going from a three-peat to a four-peat — like Sheridan and Kaycee are trying to do in 2018 — is even more difficult than going from a repeat to a three-peat, with just more than 35 percent of four-peat attempts ending in success.
Of the 17 teams (so far) who have gone for a four-peat, six succeeded — Cokeville in 1989 and 1996, Sheridan in 1993, Southeast in 2009, and Worland in 1927 and 1955. But of the 11 who failed, all 11 finished with records of .500 or better the next season, and three teams (Byron in 1959, Cokeville in 2004 and Douglas in 2011) saw their four-peat attempts end in state title games.
When the 2018 season starts, three schools have a chance to continue the championship streaks they’ve already begun.
While past success definitely helps future success, as we can see, a winning streak comes with no guarantees of continuation.
The challenges Sheridan, Kaycee and Pine Bluffs will face go beyond the history of other programs at other times. Nevertheless, one way or another, their attempts at titles this year will be interesting to see unfold, especially under the context of past successes.