One of the most unique situations we’ve ever seen in Wyoming high school football comes to us Friday in, of all places, Ethete.
Chiefs Intertribal Stadium will host a Class 1A 11-man West doubleheader on Friday, with the host Chiefs playing Rocky Mountain at 2 p.m. for a playoff spot and nearby Wind River taking on Cokeville at 6 p.m. in the game that will decide the conference’s top seed for the playoffs.
It’s bizarre that both games are being played at the same location; a weird set of circumstances that made Wind River’s home field unplayable all season long led to that.
It’s also bizarre that the location for a pair of games with postseason implications is Ethete.
The Wyoming Indian Chiefs haven’t played a game with playoff implications in the final week of the season since 2002, the only time since the program’s only playoff appearance in 1996 that the Chiefs have been a part of any postseason discussions heading into the last week.
In 2002, the Chiefs were one of several teams pursuing a Class 2A playoff spot in the days of power ratings. At 3-4 and in potential position to take the seventh or eighth seed in 2A, they needed to win their game against rival Wind River to keep those postseason hopes alive. But Wind River won 40-12 in Pavillion, as the Chiefs finished 3-5 and tumbled to 11th out of 12 schools in the final 2A power ratings.
Since then, the Chiefs have entered every Week 8 scenario knowing that they weren’t in the postseason hunt.
This year wasn’t supposed to be WIHS’s year, either. The Chiefs have yet to play any varsity opponents this season. They’re 1-3 this season after games against JV teams from Natrona, Wind River, Cody and Shoshoni. They’ve forfeited every conference game so far to make room for sub-varsity matchups that are more conducive to developing a program that’s long struggled for both numbers and relevancy.
When the 2018 schedule finally solidified, only one other 1A 11-man West school — Rocky Mountain — decided to pit its varsity against the Chiefs’ varsity.
Meanwhile, Saratoga’s inability to field an 11-man team this season left the West Conference with five teams. And as things have played out this season, all it will take for the Chiefs to qualify for the playoffs is one conference victory. That’s what they can earn on Friday against Rocky Mountain.
Sure, the Chiefs will be heavy underdogs. But on Friday afternoon, they will meet the Grizzlies on the field as equals, with a chance to extend their season.
That alone will make the day pretty special in Ethete.
Throw in another game on the same field that night that will decide a conference champion, and you’ve got the perfect atmosphere for a fantastic, and unique, day of football in Wyoming.
Ethete isn’t the only place where playoff seedings are in play. In all, 18 games this week — including all five in Class 4A — will have some influence on the playoff seeding. Of those 18, 11 will have direct influence on who qualifies for the playoffs and who doesn’t.
However, only two games — Burns at Thermopolis in the 2A East and the aforementioned Rocky Mountain at Wyoming Indian game in the 1A 11-man West — are direct winner in/loser out scenarios.
Four top seeds still need to be determined, as 4A, the 2A West, the 1A 11-man West and the 1A six-man East will use Week 8 to determine their champions.
In 4A, the most influential game on determining the top seed is Sheridan traveling south to play Cheyenne East, the only game that has two of the top four teams facing each other. On paper, East has the advantage, having won five in a row since an early loss to Thunder Basin. However, Sheridan has won four in a row after early back-to-back stumbles against Natrona and Thunder Basin in consecutive weeks.
Natrona’s game with Rock Springs and Thunder Basin’s game with Laramie will also influence the top half of 4A seeding, but East-Sheridan will be 4A’s marquee game in Week 8. …
Mountain View and Greybull will meet to determine the conference champ in the 2A West. Last year, Greybull beat up on Mountain View pretty handily in Week 8… and Mountain View won the state championship three weeks later. This year’s competitiveness should be a bit different with more on the line. …
The 1A six-man East title is also up for grabs this week as Hanna meets Guernsey to help decide it all. Hanna wins the conference outright if it can continue its unbeaten season. Guernsey wins the conference outright with a victory and some help from NSI, who would need to beat Kaycee to avoid a three-way split for the conference championship. Otherwise, with Guernsey and Kaycee winning, it’ll be coin flip time. Personally, I’d prefer a Ro-Sham-Bo over a coin flip to decide who finishes where. …
Pinedale is in a weird position this week. The Wranglers’ conference season in the 2A West is done; they’ll play Wheatland this week. You can forgive the Wranglers, though, if their focus is more on Kemmerer than on Wheatland. Kemmerer hosts Lovell this week, and the math is simple: If Kemmerer wins, Pinedale is out. If Kemmerer loses, Pinedale is in. Distraction level=high. …
Another team in a weird position is NSI. Just like Lovell last year, there’s a scenario where NSI could be in the playoffs with a loss but out of the playoffs with a victory. The Wolves could coin flip their way into the 1A six-man East’s No. 4 seed with a loss and a Hulett loss to Lingle, but if NSI wins AND Hulett wins, NSI is out. So will NSI forfeit or throw their game this week to gain a shot at a playoff game? Nope… because the Hulett-Lingle game is Friday, NSI will have a lot better understanding of its playoff fate by the time the Wolves play Kaycee on Saturday — and if the Wolves are still in the hunt by then, they’ll have to win Saturday to stay alive. …
On to some picks for Week 8. When I say bold, you say projected winner….
Shoshoni at Natrona sophs
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne South
Kelly Walsh at Gillette
Laramie at Thunder Basin
Natrona at Rock Springs
Sheridan at Cheyenne East
Douglas at Riverton
Green River at Cody
Jackson at Powell
Star Valley at Evanston
Torrington at Rawlins
Worland at Lander
Burns at Thermopolis
Lovell at Kemmerer
Lyman at Big Piney
Moorcroft at Glenrock
Mountain View at Greybull
Newcastle at Buffalo
Pinedale at Wheatland
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville at Wind River (at Ethete)
Lusk at Pine Bluffs
Rocky Mountain at Wyoming Indian
Southeast at Big Horn
Tongue River at Wright
Class 1A six-man
Farson at St. Stephens
Guernsey-Sunrise at Hanna
Hulett at Lingle
Riverside at Burlington
Class 1A six-man
Kaycee at NSI
Snake River at Dubois
Open: Meeteetse, Midwest, Saratoga, Upton-Sundance.
For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 8” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.
Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:
Last week: 29-3 (91 percent). This season: 185-53 (78 percent).
The picks are in for the final week. How do you think it’s all going to shake out? Post a comment, because I’d love to know what you think.