When I first tell people about this website, one of the first questions they ask me is, “Oh, when was the first game?”
Unfortunately, at this point, I have to give the answer I don’t like to give: I simply don’t know.
That’s one of the unfortunate parts of doing a lot of this research — I don’t know where the “start” of this project is supposed to be.
I know Wyoming high school football games go back to at least Feb. 22, 1893, when the University of Wyoming beat a team from Cheyenne High School (the forerunner to today’s Central). Between 1893 and 1920, though, is a whole lot of gray. And prior to 1893 is completely uncertain.
This I can say for sure: Only seven high schools in the state had football programs in 1920.
The seven schools that suited up before the “explosion” of teams in 1921 were Buffalo, Cheyenne Central, Laramie, Natrona County, Newcastle, Sheridan and University Prep.
Prior to 1920, though, there is not much I can say for sure.
What I know about these seven programs is this: University Prep’s first year was 1920. … Sheridan started its program in 1909 and played its first official games in 1910. … Buffalo did not put any teams together prior to 1916. … Newcastle started its program in the late teens or 1920; I don’t know for sure. … Laramie goes back to at least 1898, when the Plainsmen played, and beat, UW. … Accounts at the time said 1919 was Natrona’s first year, but NC games could actually go back as far as 1895. … Central goes back to at least February 1893 but may go back further, although I doubt it.
Throw into the mix the fact that I’ve seen references of Wheatland playing Cheyenne teams in the mid-teens, and it becomes an interesting puzzle to piece together.
The 1921 season, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, was a big one for Wyoming high school. That season, 11 programs (Basin, Cody, Cowley, Douglas, Evanston, Gillette, Greybull, Powell, Thermopolis, Torrington, Worland) started their programs, bringing Wyoming’s total up to 18. By 1924, 38 schools had programs.
That helps me keep going. I know that my research is “done” for all but six schools.
But, even now, I still don’t know where the “start” really is. And I still can’t answer that question about the first game.