The Gillette Camels started playing football in 1921. They didn’t win their first state championship until 1998 — the team’s 78th season of football.
The Camels’ new crosstown rivals, the Thunder Basin ‘Bolts, probably won’t have to wait that long.
In fact, if the ‘Bolts keep rolling this season, they could end up being one of the fastest teams to a state championship.
Sheridan and Thunder Basin are the only remaining undefeated teams in 4A. They play this week in Gillette in what’s (in my mind) the best game anywhere in the state this week.
Beating Sheridan — a team with 26 state championships to its name, including titles in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a runner-up finish last year — would put Thunder Basin in control of 4A. And the ‘Bolts could exact some revenge on the team that eliminated them from last year’s 4A playoffs one game short of a trip to the War.
And if Thunder Basin beats Sheridan, keeps rolling and eventually wins the 4A championship in Laramie in its third season of existence, the ‘Bolts still wouldn’t be the fastest new team to win a title.
That distinction goes to Tongue River, which won the Class B six-man title in its first season as “Tongue River,” 1956. However, both Ranchester and Dayton had extensive football histories prior to combining and winning a title.
Snake River also deserves consideration in the title of “fastest to a title.” The Rattlers won the 2010 1A six-man title in their second year back from a 50-year football hiatus; technically, though, the program was in its 10th season, counting times the Rattlers fielded teams in the 1950s.
A couple other teams have needed less than half a decade to win their first titles — but they both come with asterisks. Southeast won a title in its fourth year of existence as “Southeast” — but again, only after the football histories of Goshen Hole and Huntley stretched back for decades prior. Similarly, Upton-Sundance won its first title in its fourth year as a co-op, but both towns had their own titles and teams to celebrate prior to that.
If you go deep into the state’s history, another team whose trajectory closely mirrors Thunder Basin is Worland, which started its program in 1921 (like many other schools) and won its first state title in its fourth season, 1924.
However, the team that most closely parallels Thunder Basin is Kelly Walsh. KW started as Casper’s second high school in 1965. By 1972 — the Trojans’ eighth season — KW had its first state football title.
Similarly, the second new school in Cheyenne, Cheyenne East, opened in 1960 and polished off its first title in 1970, its 11th season.
History shows us the ‘Bolts, as the second team in a two-school city, probably aren’t far off from a championship run. And if they can make it happen this year, in their third season as a program, it will be unprecedented at the big-school ranks.
The first step, though, is to find a way past a team with 26 state championships to its credit and no losses on its tally this season.
Here’s a way-too-quick look at the rest of the big, small, and medium-sized games on the schedule this week:
Gillette’s 21-game losing streak ended last week with an overtime victory against Laramie. This week, the Camels head south to play Cheyenne Central, which earned an impressive victory against Rock Springs in Week 2. I’m curious to see how both teams react to success. …
Riding the unwanted emotion provided by an injured teammate, Powell is off to a 3-0 start. If the Panthers can gain another victory on Friday at home against Douglas in the final nonconference game of the season, it could be a sign that Powell’s more than just emotional — it could be the Panthers are actually a threat. …
Rawlins is 3-0, Cody 2-0. When they play Friday in Cody, anything could happen. I’ve been slow to warm on the Outlaws, but if they can knock off the Broncs, they might just become the favorites in the 3A East. …
Lovell has had two easy victories the past two weeks. Now the Bulldogs will face a huge step up to play against… oh yeah, a Mountain View team that’s rolling along just like Lovell is. …
Was Moorcroft’s victory against a solid Burns team last week a warning shot to the rest of the 2A East? Or was it an anomaly? The Wolves have to go to Thermopolis this week in a game that could define the direction of a season. …
Saturday action has Hanna meeting Hulett in Midwest for a neutral-site game. Hanna’s 2-0 start was expected. Hulett’s 2-0 start isn’t all that surprising, either, but the ease with which the Red Devils handled Guernsey last week makes this game a potential upset special if the Miners aren’t on their game. …
Picks. Bold means winners. Non-bold means spoilers. Invisible text means the game is only in your mind.
Encampment at Natrona frosh
Riverton JV at Shoshoni
Cheyenne East at Cheyenne South
Gillette at Cheyenne Central
Natrona at Laramie
Rock Springs at Kelly Walsh
Sheridan at Thunder Basin
Douglas at Powell
Lander at Evanston
Rawlins at Cody
Riverton at Star Valley
Torrington at Green River
Worland at Jackson
Big Piney at Greybull
Buffalo at Burns
Lovell at Mountain View
Moorcroft at Thermopolis
Pinedale at Kemmerer
Wheatland at Glenrock
Class 1A 11-man
Lusk at Wind River
Southeast at Pine Bluffs
Upton-Sundance at Tongue River
Wright at Big Horn
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Farson
Guernsey-Sunrise at Kaycee
NSI at Midwest
Saratoga at Lingle
St. Stephens at Burlington
Snake River at Meeteetse
Lyman at Cokeville
Rocky Mountain at Newcastle
Class 1A six-man
Hanna vs. Hulett (at Midwest)
Worland JV at Riverside
Open: Wyoming Indian.
For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 3” 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: 23-12 (66 percent). This season: 58-25 (70 percent).
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