The wyoming-football.com look-ahead at the 2011 season comes to an end today with a look at Class 4A.
Four questions to answer
What can we expect from Cheyenne South in its first year of varsity football? If the past is any indication, not much. The last two new schools to start at the 4A/AA level — Cheyenne East in 1960 and Kelly Walsh in 1965 — were a combined 2-14-1 in their first year of varsity football. Without any seniors, South seems destined for a similar fate, but don’t expect the Bison to use that as an excuse. The squad could pull off a couple upsets, should garner respect from its opponents and may sneak into the playoffs if the young players play up to the level demanded by 4A ball.
Is this the year parity reigns in 4A? Maybe. With defending state champion Natrona decimated by graduation, three new head coaches (see below), only three first-team all-state players returning and a new face in Cheyenne South, no team is the absolute preseason favorite.
What can we expect out of the schools with new head coaches? Actually, don’t expect much change. Kelly Walsh, Rock Springs and Cheyenne South all have new head coaches this fall. However, new coaches Jon Vance at Kelly Walsh and Tom Jassman at Rock Springs were both assistants in their respective programs before taking over as head coach, while Tracy Pugh comes into a much different situation at South (see above).
Did Jordan Roberts really move from Gillette to Sheridan? Sure did. And it changes the dynamic of the entire season. Sheridan, with Roberts’ 1,357 yards anchoring the backfield, will be one of 4A’s top teams. Gillette will still be Gillette, though — eager to prove that, no matter the circumstances (or tailbacks), it is always ready to strap on the helmet and play with the best teams in the state.
Four players to watch
Jeremy Woods, Cheyenne East. Class 4A’s leading rusher last season (225 carries, 1,506 yards, 11 touchdowns), Woods was inexplicably left off the all-state team. He’s even more dangerous as a punt returner, and teams know it; he only had six returns last year, but ran those kicks back for 129 yards — more than 20 yards per return.
Jordan Roberts, Sheridan. Roberts was Gillette’s featured back last year (see above), running for 1,357 yards and, more importantly, 16 touchdowns. On a Sheridan team that lost a ton of offensive talent to graduation, Roberts will be an important boost.
Matt Eddington, Evanston. If you couldn’t already tell, 2011 will be the year of the running back in 4A. Three of the top four yard-gainers from 2010 are back this year, including Eddington, who ran 172 times for 1,229 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Matt Carver, Cheyenne Central. Carver, a starter on the Indians’ defense since his sophomore year, will again fulfill an important role in the middle of Central’s defense. He was Central’s top defender last year and was ninth in 4A with 146 defensive points, notching 32 solo tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Four key games
Evanston at Gillette, Week 0. It’s kind of easy to forget about the Red Devils because of how quickly they left the 2010 postseason race. But two of the three returning first-team all-state players in 4A belong to Evanston — and, don’t forget, the Red Devils smacked Gillette in last year’s season opener.
Sheridan at Natrona, Week 1. Rematch of last year’s state championship game. Need we say more?
Cheyenne Central at Cheyenne East, Week 3. With the Indians and the Thunderbirds both eager to prove themselves this year, winning the Capital Bowl will be crucial to gaining respect and gaining a good seed for the postseason. (By the way, with South in the picture now, is this still the Capital Bowl? Or is the Capital Bowl Series? Maybe the Capital One Bowl, Capital Two Bowl, Capital Three Bowl?)
Sheridan at Gillette, Week 5. The Energy Bowl takes on an interesting twist with Jordan Roberts’ move (see above), but his presence alone won’t decide this game. A ton of other players on both sides will help swing the game one way or the other in a game where there may be as much at stake as deciding home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Predicted order of finish
Sheridan; Evanston; Gillette; Cheyenne East; Natrona; Cheyenne Central; Kelly Walsh; Rock Springs; Laramie; Cheyenne South. (This is BY FAR the most difficult of the five classifications to forecast.)
Cheyenne Central and Laramie have a rivalry that dates back decades — all the way back to the first meeting between the schools in 1909. Between 1909 and today, how many times have the Indians and Plainsmen faced each other? Bonus trivia: What is the all-time series record, and who leads it? And, a legit question, because I don’t know the answer: Is this the most-played series in Wyoming’s high school football history? Comment below with your guesses to the trivia or to comment on any aspect of the upcoming 4A football season.