After 77 seasons without a state championship, Pine Bluffs won its first in 2016.

The Hornets liked winning state titles so much, they did it again in 2017.

Now poised on the edge of a three-peat, Pine Bluffs may face its toughest challenge yet — and it won’t have to leave its conference to do so.

Both Big Horn and Upton-Sundance are trying to challenge Pine Bluffs for the Class 1A 11-man title in what might be the toughest conference in the state to win this fall. And, as always, Cokeville lurks out west.

Four questions to answer

Where’s the strength of Class 1A 11-man? The East Conference. With Big Horn, Upton-Sundance and Pine Bluffs, the three best teams (on paper) in the classification are all in the East Conference. After that, the talent level drops off pretty significantly, so it will be a pretty big surprise if one of these three teams doesn’t come away from 2018 with the first-place trophy in their possession.

Of those three, which one is most likely to win it all? Big Horn. By far. The Rams return all six of their all-state selections and almost the entirety of the rest of their squad. That will make the transition to new head coach Kirk McLaughlin — previously an assistant with the Rams — smoother than usual. While Upton-Sundance and Pine Bluffs return enough players to be favorites in pretty much any other year, this year everyone’s starting the season chasing the Rams.

No love for the West Conference this year? Nope. Cokeville graduated 10 seniors. Wind River is resurgent but may still be a year away from state title contention. Rocky Mountain lost a bunch of key players and has a long history of quarterfinal playoff exits. Don’t be surprised if the East sweeps the West in the first round of the playoffs.

Wait, what? A sweep??? The West Conference may field only four teams this fall, as Saratoga has forfeited its varsity season and Wyoming Indian has question marks about whether it can gather enough players (and many conference foes are playing the Chiefs with their JVs anyway). If that’s the case, the remaining four teams in the West are guaranteed playoff spots… and the seven teams in the East are left fighting for the remaining four. Competition will breed success.

Four players to watch

Kade Eisele, Big Horn. Eisele was a huge part of Big Horn’s success last year, running for 1,768 yards and 25 touchdowns. The workhorse of the Rams’ offense could put up even bigger numbers this year thanks to an experienced offensive line and another year of physical development.

Seth Mullinax, Big Horn. One of the guys blocking for Eisele is Mullinax — and he’s hard to miss. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, Mullinax is a nimble and powerful offensive guard. He’s also got the potential to be a terror on defense, but most of the time opposing defensive lines double-team him. Sometimes that doesn’t even work.

Hunter Jeffres, Pine Bluffs. As a junior, Jeffres led Pine Bluffs in defensive points. He was the Hornets’ leader in both solo and assisted tackles. He might draw more attention from opposing offenses this year, which may affect his stats, but he’ll still be a key piece of the Hornets’ three-peat run.

Clayton Louderback, Upton-Sundance. On a senior-laden Patriot team, Louderback the quarterback has the job of keeping the offense chugging. He’s a dual threat, running for 586 yards and throwing for 1,114 more while combining for 24 touchdowns last year. With a veteran line in front of him, he could be even more dangerous this fall.

Four key games

Upton-Sundance at Big Horn, Sept. 21. Big Horn smacked Upton-Sundance 53-13 last year, so you know the Patriots have been looking forward to proving that one was an anomaly. They get their chance early in the season, and if they can somehow upset the Rams in Sheridan County, the Patriots could prove to be the team to beat in the East.

Big Horn at Pine Bluffs, Sept. 28. Obviously, this is a rematch of last year’s Class 1A 11-man title game. But more than that, this game is likely to be a key piece of the East Conference championship race this fall. This game is just as much present as it is past.

Wind River at Rocky Mountain, Oct. 12. If either the Cougars or Grizzlies want to challenge Cokeville for West Conference supremacy, they’ve got to get past each other first. For Wind River, this could be huge, with the Cougars’ game with Cokeville looming in Week 8 — if they can get past this one first.

Pine Bluffs at Upton-Sundance, Oct. 12. When the preseason top three are all in the same conference, it makes sense that each one of their meetings will be huge. This Week 7 contest is likely to play a huge part in determining the East Conference champion, playoff hosting duties and more.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Big Horn; Upton-Sundance; Pine Bluffs; Wright; Tongue River; Lusk; Southeast.

West Conference: Cokeville; Wind River; Rocky Mountain; Shoshoni; Wyoming Indian. (Saratoga will not field a varsity-level team this season.)

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Big Horn 34, Upton-Sundance 26. The Rams start the season head and shoulders above the rest of the 1A 11-man field. Whether U-S, or Pine Bluffs, or Cokeville, does enough to catch the Rams this season will be the huge question of the season.

What do you think? Whose turn is it to finish atop the 1A 11-man mountain? Leave a comment with your thoughts on the 1A 11-man scene this fall and let’s figure it out together.

Next Thursday: Class 2A.


Some small but notable updates to the site:

Updated a score from the St. Mary’s-Saratoga game on Oct. 18, 1980; Saratoga won 33-0. I mistakenly had St. Mary’s winning by that score.

Noted that the Oct. 18, 1980, game between Bow-Basin and the Laramie JV was canceled.

Removed a notation on Greybull’s 51-0 loss to Billings, Montana, on Oct. 6, 1923, about the uncertainty of the score; the score was indeed 51-0 as originally posted.

Added that Superior’s coach in 1930 was Louis Telk.

Updated Rawlins’ playoff record; the Outlaws are 3-11 all time in the playoffs, not 4-11.

All the updates have been made on all the relevant pages.


At the beginning of the season in Class 1A six-man, the talk will be about Kaycee — and rightly so.

The Buckaroos have won three consecutive Class 1A six-man championships and 30 games in a row, tied for second-longest in state history and just five shy of the overall mark of 34 set by Laramie from 1959-63.

However, whether Kaycee even has the opportunity to break that streak, much less win a fourth consecutive six-man championship, is very much in question.

Graduation decimated the Buckaroos’ lineup, and several other teams (Farson, Burlington, Snake River, Meeteetse, Hanna) think this year might be their year. For once, the competition will be strong in six-man.

Four questions to answer

Will Kaycee win a fourth consecutive six-man championship? Probably not. The Buckaroos lost half its team to graduation — yes, half — and will rely on a ton of younger players to stay competitive. That turnover opens the door for Farson, the six-man runners-up the past two years, to come into the season as favorites for the title.

If Farson’s the favorite, who else is in the title chase? Snake River and Burlington. The three teams split the West Conference title last season, and all three return enough firepower to be state title contenders. Farson’s individual talent — always a bigger deal at six-man than 11-man — gives the Pronghorns the upper hand on paper in the preseason, but both the Rattlers and Huskies could be problematic for Farson this season.

Is anyone from the East a contender? Not really. As noted, Kaycee lost a lot of talent, but pretty much every other team in the East did to. Hanna is the lone exception, but most of the Miners’ key players this year are juniors — setting the team up well for a 2019 push but likely making a run at a championship this year more difficult than usual.

Who’s got the best chance to be a surprise contender? Meeteetse. The Longhorns will have six seniors — a ton for six-man — and could compete for the West Conference crown if everything lines up well. We’ll know Meeteetse’s fate early: The Longhorns play Snake River, Burlington and Farson consecutively in Weeks 3-5.

Four (OK, five) players to watch

Lain Mitchelson, Farson. Mitchelson is arguably the best athlete in Class 1A. Also an accomplished basketball player and track athlete, Mitchelson ran for 944 yards, threw for 412 and received for 276, combining for 24 touchdowns. He also led the Pronghorns with almost 20 defensive points per game.

Clancy Gines, Farson. Gines helps give the Pronghorns the physicality they need to be both respected and a little bit feared by opponents. His 954 rushing yards was tops for Farson last year, and he was second (behind Mitchelson) in defensive points per game.

Hunter Rouse, Kaycee. Somehow, these Kaycee quarterbacks just keep getting the job done. Rouse threw for 18 touchdowns last year and had only two interceptions. His ability to control the pace of the game — and protect the ball — will be huge keys as the Buckaroos’ only returning all-state player tries to push his team toward a fourth consecutive six-man championship.

Conor McGraw and Shane McGraw, Hanna. The twin juniors come from good stock; they’re the sons of NFL player Mike McGraw and grandchildren of NFL player “Fum” McGraw. They’re starting to make their own names, too. Conor was all over the field last year and led Hanna in receiving and defensive points, while Shane led the Miners in rushing yards and also split time throwing the ball, too.

Four key games

Snake River at Burlington, Sept. 7. The Rattlers and Huskies are both trying to challenge Farson’s supremacy in the West Conference. However, the team that can’t get this victory in Week 2 to open conference play will be chasing not only Farson but also the team that wins this game — and that’s going to be a tough spot this season.

Meeteetse at Farson, Sept. 28. This is the third game in Meeteetse’s brutal three-game stretch of Snake River, Burlington and Farson. Meanwhile, this will probably be Farson’s first big test of the season. Maybe the Longhorns sneak this one out in Farson thanks to the seasoning they’ll have had by the time this game rolls around.

Farson at Burlington, Oct. 12. This Week 7 showdown might be Farson’s toughest challenge on the season. Overcoming a long trip to Burlington, as well as a formidable Huskies team, will be key for the Pronghorns to prove their mettle in a title chase.

Kaycee at Hanna, Oct. 13. Kaycee’s trek to a fourth consecutive title will be difficult regardless. This trip to Carbon County might be a trap if the quickly maturing Miners continue to improve. Will this game usher in a changing of the guard at the top of the East Conference?

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Kaycee; Hanna; Hulett; Guernsey-Sunrise; Midwest; Lingle; NSI; Rock River.

West Conference: Farson; Burlington; Meeteetse; Snake River; Riverside; St. Stephens; Dubois. (Ten Sleep will not field a program this fall.)

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Farson 48, Burlington 42. After two runner-up finishes, it’s about time for Farson to hoist the first-place trophy. They have the talent and the experience to do just that.

What do you think? Is a four-peat in the cards for Kaycee, or is it time for another program to hoist the trophy and end the Buckaroos’ reign? Leave a comment to talk some six-man.

Next Thursday: Class 1A 11-man preview.


Due to declining participation numbers, Ten Sleep will not field a high school football team this fall.

Ten Sleep activities director Sarah Novak said Wednesday to that the Pioneers wouldn’t have enough players to field a team to play in the Class 1A six-man West Conference. Only four solid commitments came in over the summer and only about five students had expressed any interest in playing this fall.

Novak said school administrators made the decision Tuesday night.

“In talking with our administration, we have kind of struggled… with participation numbers over the last two or three years,” she said. “We’ve had to forfeit games or quit at halftime and we’re just not having a positive experience right now.

” … We can’t continue to play with six kids, and this year I’m not even sure we’d have six.”

Ten Sleep has gone a combined 4-26 the past four seasons, winning one game each year since 2014. The program has had three different head coaches in that span.

Ten Sleep’s middle school program will run as usual this year. Novak said she had double-digit participation numbers for that program, which incorporates grades 5-8.

Novak, who also coaches girls basketball, has seen similar problems with low participation in that sport, as well.

“You hate to give up a program because sometimes it’s hard to get it back,” she said.

Novak said the Pioneers who want to continue to play football can do so by joining the program at Worland.

“We’re sad about not having our program, but we’re pleased to have an alternative for those young men,” Novak said.



Want to know who’s going to win the Wyoming state football champions this year? Here’s how to do so, in decreasing order of necessity, based on how that team finished last year:

1. They had at least two victories last year: Only one team since 1990 has won a title with fewer than two victories the previous year — and even that comes with an asterisk. Lingle won the nine-man state championship in 1990 after going 1-7 in 1989, but that 1989 season was played at the 11-man level. In short, it’s exceedingly rare for a team to win zero games or one game in one season and turn around to win a state championship the next year.

2. They were in the playoffs last year: Pine Bluffs proved to be the exception to this rule in 2016, winning the 1A 11-man state title despite missing the playoffs in 2015. Before the Hornets, the last state champion that missed an eight-team playoff bracket the year before? Cokeville in 1993. (In 1992, Cokeville finished 4-3 but missed out on a playoff spot; the Panthers won it all in 1A the next season.)

3. They have the same coach: Only eight of the past 115 state champions have won titles with a coach in his first year as head coach at the school. But the trend is changing, as it’s happened five times the past six years with Lyman’s Dale Anderson in 2012, Meeteetse’s Matt Jensen in 2013, Kaycee’s Lee Kremers in 2015, Star Valley’s McKay Young in 2016 and Kaycee’s Tony Rouse in 2017.

4. They had a winning record last year: Only 14 of the 120 state champions since 1994 had a losing record the previous season; nine of those occurrences were between 2005 and 2010. And it’s happened three time in the past three years. Those teams: Rocky Mountain in 1995, Kemmerer in 2005, Jackson in 2007, Cheyenne East in 2007, Burns in 2008, Gillette in 2008, Guernsey-Sunrise in 2009, Thermopolis in 2009, Snake River in 2010, Natrona in 2010, Star Valley in 2015, Pine Bluffs in 2016 and Cody in 2017.

5. They reached at least the semifinals the previous season: Only 26 of the 120 state champions since 1994 were not in the semifinals of the playoffs the year before. However, two of those 26 were last year: Cody in 3A and Mountain View in 2A.

6. They played in the state title game the year before: Of the past 120 state champs, 53 played in the state title game the previous season. However, just two years ago, this trend was busted up pretty well: None of the 2015 state champs played in the title game in 2014… the first time that’s happened since 1997.

So, to those 13 teams who had one win or fewer: Your title chances are basically zilch, based on historical precedent. Sorry.

To those 24 teams who missed the playoffs last season: Your title chances are basically zilch, based on historical precedent. Even though there’s a Pine Bluffs-in-2016-style chance, it happens rarely. The Hornets may have been the one exception granted by this rule for the next 20 years. Sorry.

To those 30 teams who had losing records: Your title chances are slim, slim, slim (about 1.7 percent) — but not zilch — based on historical precedent. Sorry.

To those 20 teams who reached the semifinals last year: Your title chances are actually pretty good, based on historical precedent! Hurray for you!

To those 10 teams who played in the title games last year: Your title chances are EXCELLENT, based on historical precedent! Hurray for you.

And to those 14 teams with new head coaches: Your title chances, oddly, are better than they’ve ever been. Congratulations?


Saratoga will not play its varsity 11-man football schedule in 2018.

Saratoga activities director Greg Bartlett said Wednesday the program only expected 10 to 12 players to come out this fall, not enough for pursuing a full 11-man season.

With low participation, Bartlett said, “it’s tough to keep a season together.”

Instead, the Panthers will pursue a six-man sub-varsity schedule this season, scheduling as many games as possible against nearby junior varsity squads. Bartlett said he’s already got one game scheduled but would prefer five or six games. He said the team’s schedule should be mostly in place by the end of next week, but some games may be added later depending on how the schedule comes together.

Bartlett said the move is likely temporary.

“In about two to three years, we have some elementary boys coming into the middle school where there might be 20 boys per class,” Bartlett said.

The Panthers play in the Class 1A 11-man West Conference. The program also draws players from nearby Encampment.

Bartlett said about three seniors, a couple juniors, about four sophomores and three freshmen showed interest in playing this fall. He said more may join when the season starts, but the decision to forgo the varsity season had to be made based on the numbers of committed players, not on the number of maybes.

Logan Wright, who previously coached in Rock River and taught in Laramie, will be the Panthers’ new head coach this fall. Wright will also teach PE in Saratoga.

Wright previously was a six-man assistant at Rock River, as part of the middle-school program in 2013 and the high school in 2014 and 2015.

“I’m certainly going into it looking at like were a varsity team and we’re going to put our best foot forward every day,” Wright said via telephone on Wednesday. “Whether the games count or not doesn’t matter to me.”

Saratoga played in the Class 1A six-man East Conference for one season, in 2013. Otherwise, the Panthers have fielded a varsity 11-man program every year since moving up after a two-year stint of nine-man football in 1991. The program has played a varsity schedule every season since 1955.


Ten Sleep is on the hunt for a new football coach.

Former coach Ross Hauptman has resigned after deciding to move to Gillette, he said to on Sunday. The Northern Wyoming Daily News reported his resignation from his teaching position in Ten Sleep in May.

Ten Sleep activities director Russ Budmayr did not immediately respond to an email inquiry about who would fill Hauptman’s spot.

Ten Sleep went 1-7 last year, Hauptman’s only year as head coach.

Other Wyoming schools with new head coaches, or with vacant head coaching spots, include Class 4A Cheyenne Central and Sheridan, Class 3A Green RiverLanderPowell and Rawlins, Class 2A Burns, GreybullLovellMoorcroft and Wheatland and Class 1A 11-man Big Horn. If you know of other coaching hirings or resignations statewide, please email me at