Each Friday, wyoming-football.com is examining a Wyoming high school football classification to preview this fall’s action. Today we’re checking out Class 3A, the fourth preview in the series.
Four questions to answer
How will Green River’s move to 3A affect the classification? Not as much as you might think. The Wolves, who are not playing in the big-school division for the first time since 1977, come into the classification at a brutal time when just about every school in the classification is better than it was last year. Meanwhile, Green River is coming off a 2-8 season that ended with a 45-point loss to eventual champ Natrona in the 4A playoffs and have a new coach in Don Maggi. Nevertheless, the Wolves’ move helps shift the power from the East Conference to the West Conference, where playoff qualifying will be a difficult task for even the best teams.
Can Douglas keep on winning? The short answer is yes. The Bearcats, winners of 30 consecutive games, are closing in on a pair of state records — the consecutive victories streak of 34 held by Laramie (1959-63) and the consecutive unbeaten streak of 36 held by Worland (1953-56). And while the Bearcats lose a bevy of talented seniors to graduation, similar losses the past two years have not yet stopped the team from winning all those games in a row.
Speaking of streaks… Can Rawlins break its losing streak? Hopefully. The Outlaws have lost 23 consecutive games dating back to 2008. A third consecutive 0-8 season would push the streak to 31 and into the territory of record-breaking… but for the sake of everyone involved in the Outlaw program, let’s hope it doesn’t reach that point.
Why does it seem like every team in the classification has a chance at the title? Because basically every team has an all-state player back. In all, 13 players who were all-state selections last fall are back this fall, an unusually high number for Class 3A.
Four players to watch
Vince Sleep, Powell. Sleep was the only sophomore to make the 3A all-state team last year, but it’s pretty easy to see why. He totaled 183 defensive points, and his 20.3 points per game led the classification. He also had 11 tackles for loss, a pair of fumble recoveries and an interception.
Josh Cragoe, Powell. While Sleep piled up the points for the Panthers’ defense, Cragoe piled up the big plays. He had three interceptions, three fumble recoveries and five tackles for loss last fall, all in all totaling 143 defensive points.
Bronson Hernandez, Worland. Hernandez was Worland’s leading rusher and leading tackler last fall. His rush numbers (76 carries, 418 yards, 3 TDs) were decent and could increase this fall, while his defensive numbers (125 points, 33 solo tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 2 fumble recoveries) made him stand out on that side of the ball, too.
Tanner Simpson and Derek Peil, Lander. I’m cheating a bit by taking two players here, but you can’t talk about one without talking about the other. They combined for 44 catches, 800 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns last year; defensively, Peil led team with 102 defensive points and 7 tackles for loss while Simpson led the Tigers with 3 interceptions.
Four key games
Douglas at Green River, Week 1. Really don’t need to explain this one, do I? Green River’s first 3A game… Douglas trying to keep its win streak going on the road… Intriguing.
Douglas at Buffalo, Week 4. If Douglas continues its win streak through nonconference play, the conference opener against the Bison will be to tie Laramie’s 34-game win streak record. But the Bison, last year’s state runners-up, will be no pushover.
Riverton at Buffalo, Week 5. Lost in the shuffle a bit this year is Riverton, which some people tend to forget was one of the four teams in the 3A semifinals last year. This trip to Buffalo could be the one that makes the rest of 3A sit up and take notice.
Cody at Powell, Week 7. My guess is that this game will decide the West Conference title. Both teams are loaded with talent and both want to earn that home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Predicted order of finish
East: Douglas; Buffalo; Lander; Riverton; Torrington; Rawlins.
West: Powell; Cody; Green River; Star Valley; Worland; Jackson.
The last year Green River played in a classification below the big-school class was 1976. Why is that year memorable for Wolves fans?