When Tongue River and Big Horn met on the field on Sept. 2, 1977, in Big Horn, neither team may have realized the game they were about to play would decide the Powder River Conference championship.
As it turns out, it did — Tongue River beat Big Horn 21-0, the first of six consecutive conference victories as the Eagles finished their conference schedule unbeaten. Big Horn went on a similar run, winning its five final conference games to go 5-1, one game short of a playoff berth that Tongue River eventually used to reach the Class B championship game.
That 1977 season was the last time the Eagles and Rams finished next to each other, first and second, in conference play, meaning that early September game in 1977 was the last time the two teams played each other with a conference title on the line.
Well, until 2022. Until this week.
The game the longtime Sheridan County rivals will play on Friday will ultimately decide the top seed in this year’s Class 2A East race. Whoever wins will be the top seed, no matter what happens in Week 8, as every other team in the conference has at least two league losses.
Tongue River and Big Horn haven’t had the problems other conference opponents have had this season.
The Eagles come in unbeaten, starting 7-0 for the first time since 2006, when Tongue River finished the regular season unbeaten. Last week’s 13-7 victory against Burns was the first time this season Tongue River won by a one-possession margin of victory.
Meanwhile, Big Horn is 5-1, but the only loss in that stretch came courtesy of top-ranked Lovell in a 14-7 thriller. Since then, the Rams have rolled through 2A East foes with margins of victory of 34, 49, 35, 35 and 33.
For the first time in 45 years, the rivals meet with a championship on the line.
At least this time, they know what’s at stake.
Other games I’m sneaking a peek at this week:
Shoshoni and Wind River have a history that’s similar to Big Horn and Tongue River, which I wrote about last season. For the second year in a row, it looks like the Fremont County rivals will play a game that decides the conference champion. With as tough as the top of the 1A nine-man West has been this year, I can only imagine the hype that’s going to play out Thursday night in Pavillion. …
In August 2021, I made a bold, albeit private, proclamation in conversation with some other Wyoming media types. I said the team that might have the best chance of going undefeated in 2022 was Natrona. Although the Mustangs haven’t met that lofty expectation, losing to East in the second game of the season, Natrona still enters its game this week against undefeated Sheridan on a roll of its own, a 6-1 record buoyed by its current five-game winning streak. This is Sheridan’s only road game of the year against a team with a winning record, so the Broncs might be tested in ways they haven’t been all season. Should be interesting. …
The middle of the 2A East was always going to be messy. It’ll get even messier if Upton-Sundance can go on the road and beat Torrington, keeping the Patriots’ playoff hopes alive after an 0-4 start to conference play. …
Lingle’s loss to Southeast last week took a bit of a shine of this week’s game between the Doggers and Pine Bluffs. The Hornets have been a rampaging beast of a team all season, but I’m more curious to see how Lingle responds to some adversity after a fast start to its season. …
The 3A slate is underwhelming at first glance, but two games — Jackson visiting Powell and Worland stopping by Lander — have huge playoff implications for the West and East conferences, respectively. I can’t get a read on any of these four teams, but maybe Week 7, and the results of these two games, will help with that? …
News came to me this week that St. Stephens has canceled the rest of its season. Rocky Mountain picked up a game with Natrona’s JV on Thursday in Buffalo, while Greybull will keep its Week 8 slate open. Here’s hoping that whatever is happening with the Eagles gets resolved in time for next season.
Picking potential winners never gets old, just like upsets never get old. Bold means I think that team will win.
Class 1A nine-man
Shoshoni at Wind River
Rocky Mountain vs. Natrona sophs (at Buffalo)
Cheyenne Central at Campbell County
Cheyenne East at Cheyenne South
Laramie at Rock Springs
Sheridan at Natrona
Thunder Basin at Kelly Walsh
Evanston at Cody
Green River at Star Valley
Jackson at Powell
Rawlins at Douglas
Riverton at Buffalo
Worland at Lander
Burns at Wheatland
Cokeville at Thermopolis
Lovell at Kemmerer
Mountain View at Pinedale
Newcastle at Glenrock
Tongue River at Big Horn
Upton-Sundance at Torrington
Class 1A nine-man
Big Piney at Wyoming Indian
Greybull at Riverside
Guernsey at Lusk
Moorcroft at Wright
Pine Bluffs at Lingle
Southeast at Saratoga
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Hanna
Midwest at Meeteetse
Lyman at Rich County, Utah
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at Ten Sleep
Farson at Snake River
Hulett at Kaycee
For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 7” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.
Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:
Last week: 29-4 (88 percent). This season: 180-33 (85 percent).
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