“Cokeville and Torrington are in the same classification.”

If someone would have said this to you 10, or 20, or 50 years ago, no one would have blamed you for doing a double-take.

But that’s Class 2A in 2020 for you.

Big Horn, Upton-Sundance and Cokeville are opting up. Torrington is shifting in due to reclassification. Buffalo, Greybull and Moorcroft are gone. Thermopolis is switching conferences.

Those shifts alone would normally be enough to turn an entire classification into a head-scratcher. On top of that, though, the returning talent in Class 2A is spread out across multiple teams.

Expect upsets, uncertainty and unpredictability.

Four questions to answer

What’s new in 2A? Is “everything” too strong a word? Class 2A’s dynamics shifted completely with the introduction of five new programs (Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Tongue River, Cokeville) and the departure of three others (Buffalo, Greybull, Moorcroft). Those changes may have made 2A the most interesting, and competitive, classification of football in Wyoming.

Which conference will be the most fun to follow? The West. At the top, this was a boring conference in 2019: Mountain View won its six conference games by an average of 49.33 points. But of the six games between the teams that finished in spots 2-5 in the conference standings (Lyman, Big Piney, Lovell and Pinedale), five were decided by eight points or fewer. Those four teams return similar levels of talent. And with Mountain View graduating a bunch, with semifinalist Thermopolis moving from the East to the West Conference, and with 1A power Cokeville opting up, the 2A West could be the most parity-filled conference in the state regardless of classification.

So no love for the East? The West will be fun to follow for its parity. The East will be fun to follow for its uncertainty. With four new teams, including a handful who have never faced each other, the East will be a new adventure every single week. And that’ll be a blast.

So who’s gonna win it all? Lulz. Of course, defending 1A 11-man champ Big Horn is up there, as is last year’s 2A champ Mountain View. But at least four or five other teams are true, legit threats to make it to the 2A championship this season. Watch out for Thermopolis, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Wheatland, Big Piney, Lovell, Cokeville and Lyman; they’re all capable of a title-game run.

Four players to watch

Carson Bates, Big Horn. Bates will likely be a three-time all-state selection by the time the season is done, and with good reason. He’s a dual threat on offense — he ran for 1,169 yards and also had 523 receiving yards last year. But he might be the most prominent big-play threat in 2A this year, and his 12.6 yards per carry helps show that.

Nate Barnes, Cokeville. Barnes was Cokeville’s top player on both offense and defense — and that’s saying something. As a junior, he ran for 996 yards and eight touchdowns, but he also fronted Cokeville’s defense with 151 total tackles, a number topped by only one other player in all of 11-man football in Wyoming last year.

Logan Cole, Thermopolis. A two-time all-state selection, Cole had a smaller piece of the running game last year but was a bigger piece of the Bobcats’ approach in the passing game and, maybe even more critically, on defense, where he comes into 2020 as Thermop’s leading returning tackler. As his game grows, he’ll be even more versatile.

Colby White, Pinedale. What more can he do? White was one of 2A’s top tacklers a year ago, finishing second in the class in defensive points per game while notching 82 total tackles, including 32 solo and seven for loss. He also led the Wranglers’ rushing game with 803 yards.

Four key games

Week 2’s West Conference games, Sept. 11. As noted, the West will be a parity-filled conference this year. Gaining a victory early could be the momentum spark for the rest of the season, so those Week 2 games (Big Piney at Thermopolis, Lyman at Cokeville, Mountain View at Lovell and Pinedale at Kemmerer) will be crucial.

Wheatland at Torrington, Oct. 16. If anyone in the East can hang with the Rams or Patriots, it’ll likely be one of these two. If the Bulldogs or ‘Blazers can knock off either one of the frontrunners, this Week 7 rivalry game could have huge playoff implications.

Mountain View at Thermopolis, Oct. 16. Don’t forget how good of a season the Bobcats had last fall. They proved to be true 2A contenders. Even with all the parity in the West, this Week 7 matchup could decide who the conference’s top seed is in the playoffs.

Big Horn at Upton-Sundance, Oct. 23. The showdown between what might be the top two teams in the East doesn’t come until Week 8. The Rams have historically dominated this series, but both teams could be undefeated in conference play by the time this one rolls around.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Torrington, Wheatland, Glenrock, Newcastle, Burns, Tongue River. West Conference: Mountain View, Thermopolis, Big Piney, Lovell, Cokeville, Lyman, Pinedale, Kemmerer.

Preseason top five: 1. Big Horn; 2. Mountain View; 3. Thermopolis; 4. Upton-Sundance; 5. Torrington.

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Big Horn 35, Mountain View 30. Even with a move up, the Rams are still loaded for a deep playoff run in 2020. Don’t be surprised to see them win their third in a row.

What are your thoughts on an expanded Class 2A field, 16 teams deep? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Next Thursday: Class 3A.

–patrick

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