I want you to go through a little mental exercise right now. Think about the last time your favorite Wyoming high school football team won an outright conference championship.
For half of the state’s football programs, this doesn’t require you to think back too far — 32 programs have won an outright conference title this decade. Another 13 have won an outright conference title in the past 20 years; 13 more than that have won one in the past 40.
Now, a handful of programs (newer programs like Thunder Basin, Cheyenne South and NSI, as well as Wyoming Indian) have never won an outright conference title. And St. Stephens took a long break before bringing back football, so the Eagles haven’t won one since 1963.
That leaves one program.
The Tigers’ last outright conference championship came 71 years ago, in 1948. Players on that team are now likely in their late 80s.
The actual conference title drought isn’t that long — Lander last shared a conference title in 1995. And the Tigers played in state title games in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2004, so it’s not like the Tigers have been pushovers.
So why does it matter now? Well… take a look at the 3A East standings. Lander is the last remaining undefeated team in conference play. The Tigers are 3-0; Douglas, Riverton and Worland are all at 2-1, chasing a Lander team that, for the first time in a long time, controls its own destiny.
Destiny, meet Douglas.
Lander and Douglas have been in the same conference since 2011. In that time, Douglas has won all eight games between the programs, winning by an average score of 39-7. In fact, Douglas has won 12 in a row against Lander.
On Friday night, Douglas comes to Lander, where the Tigers have a chance to undo a decade’s worth of frustration against the Bearcats and come one step closer to ending more than seven decades’ worth conference shortfalls.
With the right set of circumstances — a Lander victory paired with a Torrington upset of Worland — the Tigers would be conference champs by the end of the night on Friday, although we wouldn’t know until after Week 8 if the title would be outright or shared.
Either way, 48 good minutes for Lander could help undo 71 years of delayed gratification.
Other games that have me wondering if we broke the simulation:
The obvious answer for “Game of the Week” is Star Valley-Cody in the 3A West championship game. I’m not sure how anyone can doubt Star Valley’s cred after the way the Braves held down Jackson last week, but Cody presents a significant challenge (and potential Laramie lookahead). …
The week is chock full of games that will affect playoff seeding and qualification, and I absolutely love the fact that Cheyenne South-Gillette is in that conversation. Both the Bison and Camels beat Laramie this year, and for the first time in a couple years this game is for something more than just pride. If 4A is going to develop parity, it starts with these two programs, and their jumps forward this year, however small, are worth noting. …
I’m not sure when or where or how this happened, but I think Riverton might be the most improved team in the state over the past month. The Wolverines host Rawlins this week, and I’m really interested to see if Riverton keeps building on the momentum it has in its favor. …
Speaking of scary teams, Wright notched a huge victory last week against Lusk that put the Panthers in prime playoff position. Now, Wright has what might even be a bigger game against Southeast — and both these teams are aware of how critical the difference is in the 1A 11-man East to be the No. 3 seed going into the playoffs as opposed to the No. 4 seed. This could be the state’s best game this week regardless of classification. …
Burlington and Farson are meeting in a rematch of last year’s six-man title game. Funny how that means a heck of a lot less this deep into the season. Still, it’s cool to see happen. …
On to some picks, where I pick ’em. But I don’t establish lines. Nah, this ain’t Vegas. So I just pick a team, put ’em in bold, and then watch the fun unfold.
Star Valley JV at Cokeville
Cheyenne South at Gillette
Kelly Walsh at Thunder Basin
Natrona at Cheyenne Central
Rock Springs at Cheyenne East
Sheridan at Laramie
Douglas at Lander
Green River at Powell
Jackson at Evanston
Rawlins at Riverton
Star Valley at Cody
Worland at Torrington
Big Piney at Buffalo
Burns at Newcastle
Lovell at Pinedale
Moorcroft at Wheatland
Mountain View at Kemmerer
Thermopolis at Glenrock
Class 1A 11-man
Big Horn at Lusk
Rocky Mountain at Wind River
Shoshoni at Wyoming Indian
Southeast at Wright
Upton-Sundance at Pine Bluffs
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at Farson
Dubois at Meeteetse
Lingle at Guernsey-Sunrise
Riverside at St. Stephens
Lyman at Greybull
Class 1A six-man
Hanna at Kaycee
Saratoga at NSI
Natrona sophs at Encampment
Tongue River at Sheridan JV
Open: Snake River. Hulett has a forfeit victory against Midwest already notched this week and won’t play this week.
For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, go here. Click on “Week 7” 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: 25-6 (81 percent). This season: 166-45 (79 percent).
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