When Buffalo moved from Class 3A to Class 2A this season, everyone in 2A mentally made a note — Buffalo and Glenrock will be in the same conference.

That note included an automatic asterisk: When they face each other, it’ll be huge.

Even though the showdown between the Bison and Herders comes fairly early in the season, they’re already the only two teams who remain undefeated in the 2A East standings.

They both notched important victories last week, as Buffalo bopped Burns and Glenrock wore down Wheatland, to set up this matchup of teams both 2-0 in conference play and looking for that opportunity to take the lead for a conference title and home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Glenrock and Buffalo have a bit of an odd series history — they haven’t been in the same classification, let alone the same conference, since 2000. But between 2001 and 2008, they played each other six times, with Buffalo winning four of those six. The last meeting in 2008 was a classic, with Glenrock holding on late to beat Buffalo 16-14; that season, Buffalo finished as the 3A runners-up and Glenrock won the 2A championship.

In the intervening 10 years since that game, Glenrock has made three trips to the 2A championship game, finishing 0-3 in those contests. Buffalo has struggled more in those years, but the move to 2A this year came at a time when the Bison were showing signs of a turnaround, including a 6-3 season last year.

You could argue the anticipation for this game is actually more than two years in the making. For the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Buffalo had the enrollment of a Class 2A school but opted up to play at the Class 3A level.

Thus, everyone knew as soon as Buffalo’s move to 2A for 2018 became final that this one against the Herders would mean more than usual. It’s more than just a big conference game; it’s the renewal of a competitive rivalry.

And, after 10 years since the last one and two years later than expected, that game will be played on Friday.

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Some other games that have me looking over my shoulders as if anyone else recognizes what kind of awesome quality we have developing for Week 4:

A huge game is brewing between Upton-Sundance and Big Horn. Right now, the 1A 11-man East is a three-team race between these two and Pine Bluffs. The difference between first place and third place in that conference really hasn’t meant that much in terms of the first round of the playoffs — the third-place team from the East has won on the road in the first round of the playoffs each of the past five years — but in terms of who gets to host in the semifinals, this one is absolutely critical. I’d be more excited for this game if last year’s game was in any way close, but the Rams lambasted the Patriots 53-13 last year in Sundance. …

Cody will likely top Jackson in the meeting of 3A West Broncs. Still, Jackson’s turnaround continues, and if the black-and-orange Broncs can pull off an upset of the defending 3A champs at home, watch the heads turn statewide like owls spotting a field mouse. …

The Gillette Camels will head across town to Thunder Basin to face the ‘Bolts in the Coal Bowl (sorry, Wright and Upton… Gillette’s stealing this rivalry name). It won’t be much of a game, as the Camels are 0-4 and the ‘Bolts 4-0, but rivalries like this are fun regardless, especially young rivalries still developing their own character. …

The loser of the Sheridan-Kelly Walsh game will be 2-3 after Friday. Not too many people saw that coming at the start of 2018; Sheridan has lost two in a row in the same season for the first time since 2007, while Kelly Walsh hasn’t yet capitalized on the momentum of its semifinal appearance last year and lost 14-7 on the road last week to a younger Rock Springs team. …

For some reason, Pinedale-Greybull is a REALLY intriguing game. …

The 1A six-man West is now officially crazy at the top. We’ll see if Meeteetse can keep things rolling against Burlington — a tall order, but doable for the Longhorns after soundly taking down Snake River last week. …

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Here are this week’s picks. Bolded names mean teams I think will win. But life is more complex than that, and we would do well to recognize this inescapable fact.

Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne Central at Laramie
Cheyenne South at Rock Springs
Gillette at Thunder Basin
Natrona at Cheyenne East
Sheridan at Kelly Walsh
Class 3A
Cody at Jackson
Green River at Star Valley
Powell at Evanston
Rawlins at Douglas
Riverton at Worland
Torrington at Lander
Class 2A
Buffalo at Glenrock
Kemmerer at Big Piney
Lovell at Lyman
Newcastle at Moorcroft
Pinedale at Greybull
Thermopolis at Mountain View
Wheatland at Burns
Class 1A 11-man
Pine Bluffs at Tongue River
Shoshoni at Cokeville
Southeast at Lusk
Upton-Sundance at Big Horn
Wright at Wind River (at Ethete)
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at Meeteetse
Farson at Riverside
Hanna at Lingle
Midwest at Kaycee
Saturday
Class 1A six-man

Guernsey-Sunrise at NSI
St. Stephens at Snake River
Interclass
Saratoga at Dubois
Open: Hulett, Rocky Mountain.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 4” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

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Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 20-10 (67 percent). This season: 82-31 (73 percent). I meant to pick Mountain View over Lovell last week, but the bold button slipped on me. However, the bold has the power, and I abide by its choice.

Week 4 is the halfway point of the regular season. So who’s halfway to a championship, and who’s already full-way to thinking about 2019? Leave a comment and we can talk a bit about it.

–patrick

I always take note when I recognize a name for a new high school coach.

Generally, when I recognize a name of a new coach, it’s because I remember that coach as a player. That’s what happened a bunch this summer, with new coaches like Cody Bohlander, Clayton McSpadden and Eli Moody among others sparking memories of their playing days.

Those memories got me thinking — how many of Wyoming’s head football coaches graduated from a Wyoming high school? Or a Wyoming college?

So, as part of the Wyoming High School Football Preview Magazine, I asked every coach about their alma maters, both high school and college. And here’s what I found:

Of the 64 Wyoming high school football coaches entering the 2018 season, 34 went to Wyoming high schools, while 30 did not. Wyoming coaches also graduated from high schools in Montana (6), Colorado (4), Idaho and Nebraska (3 each), California, Utah and Washington (2 each) and Alaska, Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Texas and the District of Columbia (1 each).

The only bordering state not to have at least one head coach in Wyoming is South Dakota.

In all, 27 different Wyoming high schools were represented on the alma mater list of Wyoming coaches. Nine coaches (Burlington’s Trent Aagard, Cheyenne Central’s Mike Apodaca, Cokeville’s Todd Dayton, Evanston’s Pat Fackrell, Farson’s Trip Applequist, Hulett’s Boz Backen, Lusk’s Ryan Nelson, Rawlins’ Clayton McSpadden and Snake River’s Jack Cobb) are the head coach at the high school from which they graduated. Similarly, Hanna’s Zack Scott is an alumnus of nearby and now closed Medicine Bow, while Thunder Basin coach Trent Pikula graduated from Gillette in the days before TBHS existed.

Eight high schools graduated more than one Wyoming high school coach; Cheyenne Central, Douglas, Hulett, Lander, Lovell, Lusk, Midwest and Chadron (Nebraska) each have two alumni as head football coaches in Wyoming. The city of Cheyenne leads all cities with three coaches from that city claiming alumni status from one of that city’s high schools.

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For college, the most popular undergraduate alma mater was the University of Wyoming, from which 19 Wyoming coaches graduated. Even so, 42 of the remaining 43 coaches went to out-of-state locales to finish their bachelor’s degrees.

Next was Black Hills State with eight alumni and Chadron State with four. After that, coaches graduated from Sioux Falls and Montana State (3 each), Colorado Mesa, Montana-Western, MSU-Billings and Weber State (2 each), and Arkansas, Augustana, Colorado State, CSU-Sacramento, Dakota Wesleyan, Dickinson State, Kansas State, MSU-Northern, Northern Michigan, South Dakota Mines, Southern Utah, Sterling (Kansas), Southwest Minnesota State, Tabor (Kansas), Texas, UNLV and Utah State (1 each). (Two coaches have not finished their undergraduate degrees.)


–patrick

Last year, the football programs at Jackson, Burns, Kemmerer and NSI combined to finish with a win-loss record of 2-31.

This year, those same four teams are a combined 7-1. In fact, as I noted on Twitter last week, Kemmerer and Burns are the last two undefeated teams in Class 2A.

If you’re looking for early turnaround success, look here — to a pair of programs with first-year head coaches who have found early success and another pair with second-year coaches moving the needles in their programs the way they’d like.

Jackson‘s struggles have been well-documented. From 9-2 and 3A semifinalists in 2015, the Broncs crashed to 1-8 in 2016; in 2017, under new coach David Joyce, the Broncs went 0-9. Eventually, they lost 16 in a row, including this year’s season opener against across-the-mountains rival Teton, Idaho.

But their past two weeks have produced emphatic victories, as the Broncs thumped Bear Lake, Idaho, 41-13 two weeks ago and Pinedale 35-10 last week. Now, Jackson faces 1-1 Worland to gauge how well they’ll fare in 3A this fall — and it might be the toughest game of the week in the state for me to pick.

Ever since a surprising first-round playoff exit after an undefeated regular season in 2013, Burns has been struggling to find success in the win-loss column. In the four seasons after that, the Broncs went 2-6, 0-8, 2-6 and 1-7. New coach Brad Morrison didn’t inherit a program in disarray, though — most of his players this year were part of those struggles and had the edge in experience at the varsity level.

That edge has shown in the first two weeks, as Burns ripped through Wright to open the season and outscored Moorcroft in a 41-30 shootout last week. Now, the Broncs are 2-0 for the first time since that 2013 season; however, to keep the momentum going, they have to defeat 2A newcomer Buffalo, in Buffalo, on Friday. That’s a tall test for a developing program.

Kemmerer had a unorthodox start to its season, playing in two scrimmages in Weeks 0 and 1, before playing its first game against Lyman in Week 2. Obviously the approach worked, as the Rangers jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead before beating the Eagles 28-6 in the Rangers’ first conference victory since 2012.

Second-year coach Bart Jernigan helped the Rangers start last year 1-1 before they lost seven in a row to finish the season. But this feels different. The Rangers were efficient and enthusiastic in taking out the Eagles and sent a signal that they could be ready for the postseason if the rest of the 2A West doesn’t take them seriously. This will be put to the test this week against another old conference rival, Pinedale, who’s tied atop the conference standings with Kemmerer (and Mountain View) with an early 1-0 record.

NSI has started 2-0 just two other times in program history — its first two seasons in 2000 and 2001. The Wolves have never started a season 3-0. This from a program that went 0-7 last year. With the Wolves, though, last season never matters; none of last year’s players are on this year’s roster, and even the coach, Antoine Proctor, is new.

This week, NSI hosts Midwest, a team the Wolves have beaten just once in their past five meetings since NSI moved to six-man. After that, the Wolves host Guernsey before traveling to Hanna for a Week 5 game that all of a sudden looks way more important than it did in mid-August.

All four teams could win this week.

All four could be playoff contenders.

All four are showing the past is only a small part of the future.

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Some other games that look good on paper:

Thunder Basin has two huge road tests the next three weeks. This week, the ‘Bolts are at Sheridan; in Week 5, they’re at Natrona. In between is the rivalry game with Gillette. After an impressive victory against Cheyenne East last week, though, the ‘Bolts look like a team capable of anything. …

The upset special this week might be Rock Springs — off a huge boost of a double-OT victory — at home against Kelly Walsh, who struggled early last week against winless Cheyenne South. If the Trojans aren’t careful, watch out. …

The luster wore off this week’s game between Green River and Torrington, a rematch of a 3A semifinal from last year, with the Wolves’ loss to Rawlins last week. Was it a surprise that will get the Wolves refocused, or a portent of things to come? …

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Here. I picked some games. Bold means projected winner, but the way things have gone for me this season, I wouldn’t get too worked up over any one pick:

Thursday
Interclass
Shoshoni at Riverton JV
Friday
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Gillette
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne East
Kelly Walsh at Rock Springs
Laramie at Natrona
Thunder Basin at Sheridan
Class 3A
Cody at Rawlins
Evanston at Lander
Green River at Torrington
Jackson at Worland
Powell at Douglas
Star Valley at Riverton
Class 2A
Burns at Buffalo
Glenrock at Wheatland
Greybull at Big Piney
Kemmerer at Pinedale
Mountain View at Lovell
Thermopolis at Moorcroft
Class 1A 11-man
Big Horn at Wright
Pine Bluffs at Southeast
Tongue River at Upton-Sundance (at Upton)
Wind River at Lusk
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at St. Stephens
Farson at Dubois
Kaycee at Guernsey-Sunrise
Interclass
Cokeville at Lyman
Riverside at Saratoga
Saturday
Class 1A six-man
Hulett vs. Hanna (at Midwest)
Meeteetse at Snake River
Midwest at NSI

Lingle is off this week thanks to Rock River’s season cancelation; Newcastle has already defeated Rocky Mountain by forfeit.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 3” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

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Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 25-9 (74 percent). This season: 62-21 (75 percent).

Through Week 2, which teams look the best to you? Who are your biggest surprises, either way? Leave a comment and add to the train of thoughts I helped start here.

–patrick

Rock River will not complete its 2018 football season.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported Tuesday that the Longhorns were hit by injuries, leaving the six-man football team unable to fill every spot on the field.

Rock River opened the season by playing scrimmages against Saratoga and the Natrona JV. The Longhorns had previously forfeited their Week 2 game against Kaycee.

This is the second consecutive season in which Rock River has started a season but failed to play a game.

Rock River is the second six-man team to fail to complete its season; Ten Sleep canceled its 2018 season before practice started.

Also Tuesday, Rocky Mountain announced it was forfeiting its Week 3 game against Newcastle.

–patrick

A few weeks ago, before the season officially got going, I was on KNYN radio in Evanston with Jake Hibbard to talk about the 2018 season (the program is here in case you want to listen). We got to talking about programs and coaches and all kinds of fun stuff, and I made the point that, most of the time, it takes about three years for a new coach to really put their mark on a program and win with their approaches.

But then I got to thinking about it and started to wonder — statistically, is that actually the case? Do coaches really do their best, in terms of winning games, in their third season? And did I just lie to a bunch of radio listeners in Uinta County????

To test this hypothesis, I tracked down the results of every Wyoming high school football coach who spent at least four consecutive years in their position since 1980 and looked at which of the first three years was the best. (Why four years? You’ll see soon.) I found 194 coaches who fit this description. Of those 194:

  • 58 (29.9 percent) had their best year in their first year
  • 64 (33 percent) had their best year in their second year
  • 72 (37.1 percent) had their best year in their third year*

So, yes, there is a connection here — teams get better as the coach stays longer, at least through the first three years. My hypothesis was right — but not by the margin I thought. I thought it’d be much higher.

But I wasn’t done thinking about this topic. If it really takes three years to get up to speed, then shouldn’t the fourth year be the best of them all? So I decided to look at the fourth year, trying to answer the question of how many coaches have a season in their fourth year that’s better than any one of their first three years.

The answer: 46 of those 194 coaches (23.7 percent) had that fourth year be better than any of the previous three.

Even at random, a fourth-year coach should have a 25-percent chance of having their best year be their fourth year. Fourth-year coaches are below that. I’m not totally sure what that means, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Finally, some light statistical breakdowns help show the (weak) trend that I inherently believed to be true but had never tested.

The third year really is the best — at least 37.1 percent of the time. That’s 37.1 percent good news for the nine head coaches starting their third year in 2018: Dan Gallas at Cheyenne South, McKay Young at Star Valley, Matt McPhie at Thermopolis, Mitch Espeland at Pinedale, Richard Despain at Rocky Mountain, Curtis Cook at Guernsey-Sunrise, Matthew Cornelius at Lingle, Doug Spriggs at Rock River and Trent Aagard at Burlington.

Answering the question WHY the third year is the best, though, is much more difficult. Still working on that one. 🙂

*-Note that in cases of ties, I went with the first year in which a record was reached. Rankings were by winning percentage.

–patrick

Make 4A Football Great Again

Hat from Donald Trump Hat Generator at http://trumphat.github.io/.

Most weeks, Class 4A football stinks.

And I can prove it.

In the 364 Class 4A games played between 2011 and 2017, 85 finished with a margin of victory of eight points or fewer; 103 finished with a margin of victory of 35 points or more. The average margin of victory in those 364 games was 24.7 points; the median 22.5.

So far in 2018, the 10 4A games have been decided by 7, 7, 13, 15, 44, 47, 52, 59, 59 and 62 points — average MOV of 36.5 points.

Moreover, it’s the same teams that do the winning — and the losing.

Since 2011, Sheridan, Natrona, Cheyenne East and Gillette have combined for 25 winning seasons, one .500 season and two losing seasons (and one of those losing seasons was the Camels’ 0-9 year last year when it played with a bunch of underclassmen due to some unique circumstances). Kelly Walsh, Rock Springs, Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne South, Evanston (now in 3A), Laramie and Thunder Basin have combined for two winning seasons, seven .500 seasons and 33 losing seasons at the 4A level in that same span.

In 2018? Basically, it’s more of the same, with Thunder Basin unsurprisingly taking Gillette’s place in the upper echelon.

Class 4A’s four 0-2 teams (Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne South, Gillette and Rock Springs) have been outscored by a total of 377-32 — and Rock Springs has 20 of those 32. Meanwhile, the four 2-0 teams (Cheyenne East, Natrona, Sheridan and Thunder Basin) have outscored their opponents 384-39.

The idea that the 2-0 teams are all going to face each other this week is a pretty exciting prospect. East journeys north to Thunder Basin while Sheridan heads south to play Natrona.

All kinds of interesting subplots are in play here: Sheridan has won 20 games in a row, now the state’s longest active streak regardless of classification; Thunder Basin hasn’t allowed a point yet this season; Natrona’s 117 points are the most of any 4A school; Cheyenne East is the only one of the four to beat a team with a victory this season.

And then there’s three other 4A games to figure out who’s going to be first-round playoff cannon fodder.

I hope for a time when parity in Class 4A is a thing — when any team can beat any other on any given weekend. This Friday’s 4A games kind of have that feeling, and it’s nice. Don’t we wish every 4A Friday could feel like this?

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Some other Week 2 games are more intriguing than usual:

Burns and Moorcroft are both 1-0, facing off for early control of the 2A East in Week 2. It’s good to see Brad Morrison in Burns and Travis Santistevan in Moorcroft having some early success in their first seasons at their respective posts. …

Big Horn faces a key early test of its attempt to win the 1A 11-man crown when it journeys to face 2A contender Greybull. If the Rams can pull this one off, they could be in position to run the table this season. Just don’t tell them. …

Jackson ended its 16-game losing streak last week with an impressive 41-13 victory against Bear Lake, Idaho. The Broncs could make it two in a row if they can knock off Pinedale at home. …

The most interesting game on the schedule just might be the one between 1A 11-man Upton-Sundance and 2A Wheatland. The Patriots and Bulldogs both have aspirations of postseason success this year, and this interclass matchup could be telling for both teams. …

Snake River and Burlington will meet up in the best six-man game of the week. Burlington bopped three-time defending champ Kaycee by 62 points last week, while Snake River is 2-0 to start the season. This one will help set the pace in the West Conference for the entire season. …

Now, the picks. Bolded teams should win, but un-bolded teams have a chance, too (even in 4A):

Thursday
Class 1A six-man
St. Stephens at Meeteetse
Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne East at Thunder Basin
Cheyenne South at Kelly Walsh
Gillette at Laramie
Rock Springs at Cheyenne Central
Sheridan at Natrona
Class 3A
Evanston at Riverton
Lander at Powell
Rawlins at Green River
Worland at Cody
Class 2A
Big Piney at Mountain View
Buffalo at Thermopolis
Glenrock at Newcastle
Lyman at Kemmerer
Moorcroft at Burns
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville vs. Southeast (at Rawlins)
Lusk at Tongue River
Rocky Mountain at Wind River (nonconference, at Ethete)
Wright at Pine Bluffs
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Riverside
NSI at Lingle
Snake River at Burlington
Interclass
Big Horn at Greybull
Lovell at Shoshoni
Pinedale at Jackson
Saratoga at Farson
Upton-Sundance at Wheatland
Interstate
Douglas at Hot Springs, S.D.
Gering, Neb., at Torrington
Star Valley at Sugar-Salem, Idaho
Saturday
Class 1A six-man

Guernsey-Sunrise at Hulett
Hanna at Midwest
Rock River at Kaycee
Interclass
Natrona JV at Wyoming Indian

For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 2” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.

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Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 24-10 (71 percent). This season: 37-12 (76 percent).

As we enter Week 2, what are the things you’re seeing that are interesting and worthy of attention? Post a comment and let’s make conversation great again.

–patrick