When the 2020 and 2021 Wyoming high school football schedules came out at the end of October, we knew they’d be different.
Reclassification, paired with a new nine-man division to replace 11-man in Class 1A, meant changes were bound to happen.
However, from top to bottom, the 2020 and 2021 schedules are significantly different from schedules of past years. Some of those changes are welcome. Some are just different. Some are new. And some are just flat-out mistakes.
Here’s a breakdown of what I’m seeing in the state’s schedules for the next couple years:
A fuller Zero Week. Many more teams are opting for games in Zero Week as opposed to scrimmages or jamborees, and I’m for it. I know, not all of you agree with my method for recording Zero Week games into the season records for programs, but I do like the tidiness a game provides, and I don’t mind seeing more games on the schedule.
Renewed rivalries. I love seeing some rivalries resurrected for the 2020 and 2021 seasons, with Thermopolis and Worland staging a Zero Week game, Greybull and Riverside playing a 1A nine-man West Conference game in Week 6 and Wheatland and Torrington meeting in a 2A East Conference game in Week 7. It’ll also be fun to see St. Stephens get Fremont County rivalries started with Wind River, Wyoming Indian and Shoshoni in the 1A nine-man West.
Travel is reduced — slightly. In the 2019 schedule, teams averaged 176.8 miles per away game, one-way, including 183.3 miles per conference game and 162 miles per nonconference game. In 2020, teams will average 171.7 miles per game, with conference games at 170.7 and nonconference at 175 — although those numbers may fluctuate slightly as teams add sub-varsity nonconference games in open weeks, especially in six-man.
Rivalry Week in 4A is dead. I kind of liked having all the big 4A rivalry games on one week, but those opportunities are now spread out across the season. The big ones in 4A are all in different weeks, with the Oil Bowl (Natrona-Kelly Walsh) in Week 3, the Coal Bowl (Campbell County-Thunder Basin) in Week 4, the Capital Bowl (Cheyenne Central-Cheyenne East) in Week 6 and the Energy Bowl (Sheridan-Campbell County) in Week 7. Although I liked rivalry week, it might also be nice to have that rivalry energy spread out in a variety of weeks — it might give each rivalry its own moment in the spotlight.
The 1A six-man East got shafted. In what was probably the most avoidable problem, most of the 1A six-man East Conference ended up with open weeks in both Week 2 and Week 3. That’s due to the unbalanced conferences in six-man, with six teams in the East and seven in the West. However, this imbalance could have been fixed by giving BOTH conferences eight-team round-robin schedules for conference play in the final seven weeks of the season; at least then, only one East team per week has an open week in weeks 2-7 rather than having five teams from the same conference all have an open week at the same time, which is pretty much what’s happening in Weeks 2-3. The scramble for JV games is on.
The geography of the 2A West. With the 2A West next year, there will be two pretty clear geographic divisions — north (Lovell and Thermopolis) and south (the other six teams: Kemmerer, Cokeville, Pinedale, Big Piney, Mountain View, Lyman). Therefore, it makes a lot of sense for the south teams to get one north team at home and the other on the road, right? Well… that didn’t happen. Cokeville and Mountain View get both north teams on the road, while Kemmerer and Lyman get both north teams at home. That flips next year… but no one should be put into an altogether avoidable situation.
Four-in-five scheduling. Three teams (Kelly Walsh, Laramie and Evanston) got scheduled for either four road or four home games in five-week spans. Kelly Walsh got four home games in five weeks in weeks 2-6; Laramie got four road games in five weeks in the same span. The game that’s not? Laramie hosting KW in Week 4. … Evanston also got four road games in five weeks in weeks 2-6. Yes, it’ll flip-flop for these teams next season, but no one should have to do the four-in-five even once.
Three-straight scheduling. Lander and Tongue River both open their seasons with three consecutive road games — although part of that was both schools’ choice to open with a Zero Week game on the road. Riverton, though, has three straight home games in weeks 2-4 next season, and that’ll be three straight road games in 2021.
At least 19 new series will start up in 2020. It’s always fun to see new opponents play each other. The bulk of the new series come from schools in new classifications and conferences, including Torrington, Upton-Sundance, Cokeville, St. Stephens and Encampment, although a couple other new series sneaked onto the schedule, too. The new series are:
Zero Week: Star Valley/South Summit, Utah.
Week 1: Lusk/St. Stephens; Burns/Mitchell, Neb.
Week 2: Wright/Wyoming Indian (scheduled once before but was not played due to forfeit); Snake River/Encampment; Jackson/Hillcrest, Idaho.
Week 3: Torrington/Tongue River.
Week 4: Upton-Sundance/Torrington; St. Stephens/Saratoga.
Week 5: Cokeville/Thermopolis; Torrington/Big Horn.
Week 6: Upton-Sundance/Burns; St. Stephens/Wind River; Encampment/Ten Sleep.
Week 7: Glenrock/Upton-Sundance.
Week 8: Cokeville/Lovell; Torrington/Burns; Lingle/Greybull; Rocky Mountain/St. Stephens.
Zero Week matchups that could be scrimmages and not full games: Big Horn/Buffalo and Lander/Pinedale.
So what do you say? What’s your favorite — or least favorite — part of the schedules for 2020 and 2021? Leave a comment and let’s talk about next season(s) now!