The 2011 state title games. I’m picking the winners, you’re reading about it:
Cheyenne East (7-4) vs. Sheridan (10-1)
Any previous meetings? Sheridan beat East 44-14 on Oct. 21 in Cheyenne. Sheridan leads the series 20-11.
Any common opponents? Oh, a bunch. Cheyenne Central (Sheridan beat 31-12; East beat 21-14); Evanston (Sheridan beat 42-35; East beat 21-13 and 28-27 in overtime); Gillette (Sheridan beat 38-14 and 45-29; East lost 30-21); Kelly Walsh (Sheridan beat 55-14; East beat 52-7); Laramie (Sheridan beat 35-19; East beat 29-6); Natrona (Sheridan lost 20-6; East lost 26-3 and beat 24-19); Rock Springs (Sheridan beat 28-0 and 42-12; East lost 27-6); Cheyenne South (Sheridan beat 62-6; East beat 49-6).
Recently? Sheridan had its last “scare” five weeks ago, a 35-19 victory over Laramie in the Gem City; since then, the Broncs have won every game by at least 16 points, including the 44-14 victory over East in the regular-season finale. East finished the regular season a pedestrian 5-4 but has shown incredible gusto to beat both Evanston and Natrona in the playoffs.
The pick? Sheridan. The Broncs have been really consistent all season long, including with their two big victories in the playoffs. Oh, and the Broncs have Jordan Roberts, the most consistent running back in the state.
Could I be wrong? Definitely. East is no fluke. The Thunderbirds have momentum and confidence, two ingredients that have created champions in the 4A classification in years past. Oh, and the Thunderbirds have Jeremy Woods, the most explosive running back in the state. And didn’t East just beat Natrona?
Kickoff? 4 p.m. Saturday. Bring a coat; it’ll be dark after the first quarter.
Powell (8-3) vs. Douglas (9-1)
Any previous meetings? None since the 2008 semifinals, when Douglas beat Powell 28-27 in double overtime. Powell leads the series 4-2.
Any common opponents? Seven. Buffalo (Douglas beat 27-21 and 20-14; Powell beat 20-17); Cody (Douglas beat 34-7 and 29-0; Powell beat 42-23); Green River (Douglas lost 32-15; Powell lost 38-14 and beat 23-21); Lander (Douglas beat 45-7; Powell beat 45-6); Riverton (Douglas beat 44-0; Powell beat 34-6); Star Valley (Douglas beat 27-7; Powell lost 19-13); Torrington (Douglas beat 52-8; Powell beat 49-0).
Recently? Douglas has won nine games in a row since losing the season opener to Green River; the run has included a pair of close victories over Buffalo, including last week’s 20-14 semifinal victory, and a bunch of blowouts. Powell has been on a roller coaster all season long, but is finally cashing in on the potential most observers thought they had entering the season by notching road playoff victories over Lander (45-6) and Green River (23-21).
The pick? Powell. The smart money is on Douglas and its consistency, but I have seen too many games won by emotion and momentum to know not to discount what the Panthers have been building the past couple weeks. After winning in the fashion they did last week, the Panthers have to feel like they’re the team of destiny.
Could I be wrong? Most people would say yes. Douglas is the more consistent team, the one riding that nine-game winning streak, the one more familiar with War Memorial, the one that comes in as the three-time defending 3A champion. If the Bearcats match the Panthers emotionally, the game is probably theirs to lose.
Kickoff? 3 p.m. Friday. If you’re wavering about whether to come down to Laramie early, this game should be enough to persuade you to hit the road before Saturday morning.
Lyman (10-1) vs. Lovell (10-0)
Any previous meetings? Lovell beat Lyman 21-7 on Sept. 16 in Lovell. Lovell leads the series 5-4.
Any common opponents? Six, seeing as they play in the same eight-team conference. Big Piney (Lovell beat 55-6; Lyman beat 47-0); Greybull (Lovell beat 24-13; Lyman beat 40-7); Kemmerer (Lovell beat 42-13; Lyman beat 41-0); Mountain View (Lovell beat 21-19; Lyman beat 27-0); Pinedale (Lovell beat 54-0; Lyman beat 48-6); Thermopolis (Lovell beat 32-13; Lyman beat 21-7).
Recently? The Bulldogs have been tested several times, but none greater than last week’s 23-20 skin-of-the-teeth victory over Newcastle in the state semifinals. Lyman, meanwhile, had won four straight games by at least 27 points before eking out a 22-14 victory against Glenrock in the semis.
The pick? Lovell. I think this one will be closer than the 21-7 victory Lovell had in the regular season, but you can’t overlook the fact that these two teams have already played each other and the Bulldogs won that game.
Could I be wrong? Maybe. Lyman is playing well right now — maybe even better than Lovell, if you just look at last week — and come in as the underdog with nothing to lose. That is a powerful position.
Kickoff? Noon Friday. We start the weekend with a great matchup.
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville (9-1) vs. Southeast (10-0)
Any previous meetings? None since last year’s semifinals, when Cokeville beat Southeast 24-7. Series tied 4-4.
Any common opponents? Four. Lingle (Cokeville beat 33-6; Southeast beat 28-0); Lusk (Cokeville beat 28-7; Southeast beat 18-12); Riverside (Cokeville beat 48-0; Southeast beat 35-7); Shoshoni (Cokeville beat 49-0; Southeast beat 60-0).
Recently? Cokeville has won nine in a row since losing to Mountain View 6-3 in overtime in the season opener; the Panthers’ two playoff victories were their closest games in that stretch (33-6 over Lingle and 28-7 over Lusk). Southeast has won all 10 of its games this year; since back-to-back close ones against Lusk (18-12) and Pine Bluffs (26-6), the Cyclones have won every game by at least 28 points.
The pick? Cokeville. This game shapes up eerily similar to last year’s 1A 11-man championship game, and Cokeville took Lusk to task in its 26-6 victory. I don’t think either team will win by that much this time around, but Cokeville won a similar showdown last year.
Could I be wrong? Definitely. Southeast has been just as stingy on defense as Cokeville — the Cyclones have allowed 45 points all season, the Panthers 39. If anyone can stand up to the Panthers’ offense, it’s the Cyclones’ defense. I’ll go out on a limb and say the key stat in this game could be third-down conversions. The team that can put together two or three drives may be the one that wins, and that will require some big conversions.
Kickoff? 1 p.m. Saturday. The traditional Championship Saturday kick time goes to the small 11-man schools this year.
Class 1A six-man
Snake River (10-0) vs. Dubois (9-1)
Any previous meetings? Snake River beat Dubois 66-24 on Sept. 10 in Dubois.
Any common opponents? Of course; this is six-man. Farson (Snake River beat 63-30; Dubois beat 84-18); Hanna (Snake River beat 52-0; Dubois beat 66-6); Hulett (Snake River beat 72-15; Dubois beat 54-12); Kaycee (Snake River beat 66-6 and 66-15; Dubois beat 50-34); Meeteetse (Snake River beat 79-24; Dubois beat 65-0); Midwest (Snake River beat 68-52; Dubois beat 49-20 and 75-47); Ten Sleep (Snake River beat 45-6; Dubois beat 72-34).
Recently? The Rattlers were challenged sparingly in the regular season and have won their two playoff games by a combined 108 points. The Rams have won eight in a row with little trouble, as well, with a 16-point victory over Kaycee and last week’s 28-point victory over Midwest the closest calls.
The pick? Snake River. The Rattlers have been the class of six-man all season. They’re the defending champions and they’re on a 20-game winning streak. And they beat Dubois by 42 points earlier this season.
Could I be wrong? Maybe, but probably not. The Rams have a lot of ground to make up to catch up to the Rattlers, although comparatively the Rams’ scores against common opponents match up fairly well with the Rattlers’ scores.
Kickoff? 10 a.m. Saturday. Wake up early, lazy bones. It’ll be worth it.
I know you have some thoughts and want to make some predictions, too. Chip in what you’re thinking about this weekend’s games by commenting below.