Wyoming football fans have the chance to see something somewhat rare at 7 p.m. Friday — the introduction of a new varsity football program.
On that night, for the first time as a varsity team, the Cheyenne South Bison will take the field.
That field? Cheney Alumni Field, home of the defending Class 4A state champion Natrona.
It will be a difficult but exhilarating challenge for the Bison and new head coach Tracy Pugh, who will be trying to win the school’s first varsity football game and will also try to do so with a roster completely lacking of 12th-graders.
The Bison will also be fighting against history. Traditionally, schools unveiling their programs have not done well in their first varsity game. Here is a quick rundown of the results of new programs’ first games since 1960 (first game in program history OR first game after an absence of 5+ years; new program in bold):
1960: Buffalo JV 34, Arvada-Clearmont 32
1960: Cheyenne East 27, Torrington 6
1963: Hanna 0, Guernsey-Sunrise 0, tie
1965: Gillette 20, Kelly Walsh 0
1966: Hanna 41, Goshen Hole 0
1967: Goshen Hole 54, Burns 0
1968: Jackson JV 31, Dubois 6
1969: Moorcroft JV 20, Arvada-Clearmont 6
1969: Burlington 18, Wind River 6
1972: Bow-Basin 36, Wyoming Indian 0
1972: Dubois 1, Ten Sleep 0, Dubois win by forfeit
1977: Shoshoni 14, North Big Horn 0
1977: Saratoga 20, Southeast 18
1983: Lovell 19, Rocky Mountain 0
1984: Wright 44, Moorcroft JV 0
1987: Big Piney 40, Farson 14
1987: Big Horn 45, Riverside 45, tie, 3OT
1988: Hanna 18, Encampment 0
2000: Normative Services 8, Upton 0, OT
2009: Hanna 56, Farson 14
2009: Kaycee 56, Snake River 36
Since 1960, Wyoming programs in their first games have gone 5-16-2. Two of those five victories — Bow-Basin’s victory over Wyoming Indian in 1972 and Kaycee’s victory over Snake River in 2009, came in games where two newly minted programs faced each other.
Of course, this has absolutely no bearing on Cheyenne South’s chances on Friday in Casper. The game will be won the old-fashioned way, by the team that has the best players executing the best game plan.
It doesn’t seem fair that South drew Natrona on the road to start the season. But to their credit, the Bison have not complained about the draw, or about being asked (or forced, depending on your opinion) to play 4A football despite not yet having the ability to draw from a full school.
Every step of the way, the Bison have looked at these not as problems, but as opportunities. And they have the opportunity to pull off an eye-popping upset on Friday.
Will it happen? Probably not. My pick is Natrona.
But the opportunity is there. That is all the Bison need. Or want.
Here is a quick rundown of the remaining Zero Week contests. Projected winners are in bold. All-time series records, something new to the picks process this year, are in parentheses:
Cheyenne Central at Sheridan: The past few seasons, both the Broncs and the Indians have been perennial contenders. After tonight, both teams will have a great idea of how they might fare in 4A this year. 6 p.m. (She 34-27-1)
Cheyenne East at Kelly Walsh: The Thunderbirds return some solid talent, but role players will need to find their niche for East to KO what should be a hyped-up Trojan team in new coach Jon Vance’s debut. 7 p.m. (KW 24-19)
Evanston at Gillette: Evanston embarrassed Gillette in the season opener last year. The Camels, at home, will be eager to return the favor — although this one may come down to a last-minute score to win. 7 p.m. (Gil 3-2)
Rock Springs at Laramie: Last year’s two non-playoff qualifiers need to win this one out of the gate to establish some confidence. 7 p.m. (Lar 45-31)
Worland at Riverton: The Wolverines are ready to start turning heads. The improving Warriors will be the first challenge to Riverton’s plans. 7 p.m. (Riv 42-35-1)
Big Horn at Thermopolis: How big of an influence will Tongue River’s combo with Big Horn have? I’m guessing significant. We will see on Friday. 7 p.m. (The 2-1)
Riverside at Greybull: New Greybull coach Josh Heinemeyer makes his debut with the Buffs against the traditional rivals from the south. Emotion may carry the blue and gold. 7:30 p.m. (Rsd 13-11)
Altamont, Utah, at Lyman: Even though Altamont has won the past two years against the Eagles, this may be Lyman’s year to break the streak. 4 p.m. (Altamont 2-0)
Big Piney at Wind River: The Punchers might surprise some people (namely me) in the 2A West this year. Also, in five previous meetings with Wind River, not only has Big Piney won all of them, but they have yet to give up a point to the Cougars. Odd statistical anomaly or trend? 1 p.m. (BP 5-0)
Natrona sophs at Midwest: The Oilers have the experience in six-man, but the young Mustangs will be a fun test in the opener. 10 a.m. (NA)
Riverside JV at Ten Sleep: This game will be of the six-man variety, and the Pioneers have a bit more experience in that game. Noon. (NA)
Torrington at Wheatland: I’m SOOOOO glad to see this series continue! I had a fear that the two teams, who have played each other every year since 1934, may part ways due to the classification changes, but fortunately both schools wanted to keep the series going. Glad to see it! 6 p.m. (Tor 73-18-1)
Custer, S.D., at Newcastle: The past two games between these teams have been decided by a combined four points. Bank on another close one here. 7 p.m. (Custer 24-16-3)
Laurel, Mont., at Cody: Laurel has had the upper hand in this series for a little while now. Beware the Broncs at home, though. 7 p.m. (Laurel 8-4)
Miles City, Mont., at Powell: Powell’s trip to Miles City got cut short by lightning last year. A complete four quarters is the goal in this one in what may be the best game of the week, as Montana’s defending Class A champions venture south. 6 p.m. (tied 2-2)
The rest of the Zero Week schedule is as follows:
Scrimmages and Jamborees
Rocky Mountain at Cody JV, 7 p.m.
Snake River at SoRoCo, Colo., 7 p.m.
Glenrock at Kelly Walsh JV, 11 a.m.
Green River at Littleton, Colo./Erie, Colo., jamboree, TBA
Jackson at Pinedale, 1 p.m.
Lander at Kemmerer, 1 p.m.
Lovell at Douglas, 6 p.m.
Pine Bluffs/Southeast at Burns jamboree, 9 a.m.
Rawlins at Mountain View, 11 a.m.
Wright at Lusk, 10:30 a.m.
Wyoming Indian at Shoshoni, 10 a.m.
If you see any errors with the Zero Week schedule, please email me at email@example.com or post the info below.
As always, I make these picks all in good fun. I absolutely love it when teams prove me wrong — and I absolutely love it when my picks are right. No matter who wins each game, I end up having fun! Please have fun along with me this season.