Of all the games Wheatland could have lost, the Bulldogs sure picked a good one.

Thanks to the schedule, Wheatland’s surprising 18-14 loss to Burns two weeks ago doesn’t stop the ‘Dogs from controlling their own destiny.

That destiny, though, includes this week’s rivalry game with Torrington, a game that will likely decide the top seed from the Class 2A East Conference.

While the loss to Burns ended Wheatland’s unbeaten season, it didn’t end their chances at a conference or state title. Recent history both inside and outside Wheatland’s 2021 experience demonstrates that.

Last year’s 2A champions, Lyman, suffered a similarly surprising midseason loss. The Eagles’ loss came at the hands of Big Piney, which ended up missing the playoffs entirely. But Lyman still earned the West’s top seed and toppled Torrington in the championship game.

Moreover, the last time Wheatland won a state championship — in 2015 — the Bulldogs stumbled to its first loss in Week 8, 28-14 to Big Horn.

Three weeks later, Wheatland was hoisting a state championship trophy, while Big Horn’s season ended in the quarterfinals.

This week’s game against Torrington, which has rebounded from an 0-2 start to win five consecutive games, will go a long way in saying just how much of an aberration the Burns loss was for Wheatland.

The Bulldogs rebounded last week with a closer-than-it-should-have-been 20-14 nail-biter against Tongue River, a team that’s 1-4 in 2A East play. The Trailblazers, meanwhile, have had their share of nervous moments too, beating Upton-Sundance by 10, Newcastle by 13 and Big Horn in double overtime (the same week Wheatland was losing to Burns).

Torrington has dominated this regional rivalry for the better part of a century, and the Trailblazers will be the favorites. They will also have the added incentive of knowing that if they win, they’ll be the top seed from the East, a benefit Wheatland doesn’t automatically get with a victory this week.

What the Bulldogs do have, though, is the same opportunity Torrington has: the chance to have a say in how their season ends.

Fortunately for Wheatland, one loss didn’t stop that.

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Other games that have found a way into my consciousness this week:

Sheridan and Campbell County bring up their old Energy Bowl rivalry this week, which is always fun. But Natrona playing at Thunder Basin promises to be the 4A game of the week. …

Buffalo and Douglas are both 3-0 in the 3A East, and Friday’s winner is likely to be the conference champ (and that’s definitely the case if Buffalo wins). Douglas was the one expected to be here; Buffalo, though, has played the part of a contender well all season long. …

Powell will be a dangerous team in the playoffs. Well, if they can survive long enough to make it there. The Panthers head to Jackson in yet another 3A gamut game, and I’m curious to see how they handle the road trip to the Tetons. …

Both Newcastle and Burns have made tremendous strides this season. But the path to a potential playoff berth goes through the other. The loser of this week’s game between the two programs on the rise will likely signal the end of the postseason dreams for one of them — and that’s too bad. …

Saratoga’s last, best chance to force some chaos into the 1A nine-man East comes in a long road trip to Wright, where the two Panther teams have to go through each other to stay in the race. It’s honestly the hardest game of the week to pick a winner. …

Two other 1A nine-man games will likely decide who gets home playoff games. Southeast/Lusk doesn’t have the luster it had in August (thanks a lot, Pine Bluffs!), but it will still have a lot of intensity. And Wind River/Rocky Mountain is the surprise big game of the year thanks to the Cougars’ shocking 5-1 start — something that looks less flukey by the week. …

It wouldn’t be a Patrick picks post without a mention of the biggest and best rivalry in Wyoming, Kaycee/Midwest, where the Oilers actually have a chance to win in the rivalry for the first time since 2013. Both teams are likely playoff bound, and a home playoff game is still up for grabs in the 1A six-man East. The chase between these two and Guernsey will be fun, if last week’s Guernsey/Kaycee game was any indication. …

This is a make-or-break week in the 1A six-man West, with Encampment hosting Dubois and Meeteetse hosting Farson. One of those four teams won’t be in the postseason, which is hard to believe, because they’ve all proven they can hang with anyone. …

Twelve teams are still winless entering Week 7, and two games (Laramie at Cheyenne South, and Wyoming Indian at St. Stephens) match up winless teams. The 4A matchup is the only one with a possible postseason ramification, but regardless, it gives me a weird sense of satisfaction to know at least two of those 12 teams are getting their first victory this week.

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I pick games every week. This week is no different. Bold means I think they’ll win, but I love a good upset as much as anyone:

Thursday
Class 3A
Evanston at Star Valley
Class 2A
Pinedale at Lyman
Class 1A nine-man
Wyoming Indian at St. Stephens
Friday
Class 4A

Cheyenne Central at Rock Springs
Cheyenne East at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Cheyenne South
Natrona at Thunder Basin
Sheridan at Campbell County
Class 3A
Buffalo at Douglas
Cody at Green River
Lander at Rawlins
Powell at Jackson
Worland at Riverton
Class 2A
Big Horn at Tongue River
Cokeville at Big Piney
Kemmerer at Lovell
Newcastle at Burns
Thermopolis at Mountain View
Torrington at Wheatland
Upton-Sundance at Glenrock
Class 1A nine-man
Lingle at Pine Bluffs
Saratoga at Wright
Shoshoni at Greybull
Southeast at Lusk
Rocky Mountain at Wind River
Class 1A six-man
Kaycee
at Midwest
Saturday
Class 1A nine-man
Riverside
at Moorcroft
Class 1A six-man

Burlington at Guernsey-Sunrise
Dubois at Encampment
Farson at Meeteetse
Hanna vs. Hulett (at Midwest)
Interclass
Snake River
at Natrona sophs

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.

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Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 27-3 (90 percent). This season: 167-35 (83 percent).

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We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty of the 2021 season. Which teams have been your big surprises this fall, either direction? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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–patrick

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