Together, Gillette and Natrona have given us some amazing football games.
Since 1999, the two teams have played each other 22 times, including eight playoff games and three state championship games.
Not surprisingly, the two largest high schools in the state — by a wide margin, according to the WHSAA’s most recent release of enrollment numbers — have also been two of the most successful. In the past 15 years, the schools have combined to win eight state championships and have only had three losing seasons between them.
One team’s success always seems to come at the expense of the other. And for this series, the rule is simple: The home team wins.
In the past 22 games between the Camels and Mustangs, the home team is 18-3 (one neutral-site game). Natrona won home games in 1999 (twice), 2001, 2003 (twice), 2005, 2007, 2010 (twice) and 2012; Gillette won home games in 2000 (twice), 2001, 2002 (twice), 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Only on three occasions since 1999 has this rule been broken: Natrona won in Gillette in 2004 and 2011, while Gillette won in Casper in the 2007 playoffs.
In part, the home-field success speaks to the success of both teams. Often, they’re so even that where the game is played decides who wins. We saw this last year, didn’t we? The Mustangs nipped the Camels at home in a battle of unbeaten teams in the final week of the regular season. The two teams met three weeks later in the state championship game in Laramie and Natrona, buoyed by the confidence of their regular-season victory, steamrolled Gillette in the state title game.
This year, both the Camels and Mustangs are again among the best in Class 4A. They play each other Friday. The winner gains a precious foothold in an interesting 4A race.
And Natrona has home-field advantage this week.
As if we need to emphasize it again, we will, with one more odd piece of trivia: Gillette, despite all its recent success, hasn’t won in Casper during the regular season since 1997.
No matter the result, though, when Saturday morning rolls around and either the Camels or Mustangs have won, we won’t be able to help but think how the game might have been different if it had been played in Gillette instead of Casper.
History shows us it would have been.
What else I’m watching this week: Big Horn has to make the long trip to Burns in a key 2A East game. Burns has had a great start but to be taken as a serious contender for the 2A title, the Broncs have to win home games like this one. … Another big 3A East-West cross-conference rivalry week is highlighted by a couple interesting matchups: Star Valley-Douglas and Cody-Riverton. Both will be telling. … Saratoga-Midwest may be for the 1A six-man East title (although Hulett and Kaycee and Guernsey-Sunrise will have plenty to say about that). … Wyoming Indian and St. Stephens have a well-documented basketball rivalry. This may be the only time these two schools meet on a varsity gridiron, though. Forget the 0-2 records; this is a big one. … Lingle’s been easy to overlook, even at 2-0. The Doggers can make a huge statement this week against Lusk. … How did I get this far without mentioning this one: Lyman-Lovell? The 2A title game the past two years has involved these two schools. … Gillette-Natrona gets the nod this week, but another 4A game is just as big: East at Sheridan. They’re both undefeated.
Here are this week’s picks, with the teams I think will win in that more emphatic type:
Cheyenne Central at Rock Springs
Cheyenne East at Sheridan
Evanston at Laramie
Gillette at Natrona
Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne South
Buffalo at Green River
Cody at Riverton
Jackson at Lander
Powell at Torrington
Star Valley at Douglas
Worland at Rawlins
Big Horn at Burns
Big Piney at Mountain View
Greybull at Thermopolis
Lyman at Lovell
Newcastle at Moorcroft
Pinedale at Kemmerer
Tongue River at Glenrock
Wheatland at Wright
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville at Wind River
Lingle at Lusk
Rocky Mountain at Riverside
Shoshoni at Burlington
Southeast at Pine Bluffs
Class 1A six-man
Hanna at Guernsey-Sunrise
Normative Services at Kaycee
Saratoga at Midwest
Snake River at Farson
Ten Sleep at Meeteetse
Wyoming Indian at St. Stephens
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Hulett
For a full schedule including kick times, check out the 2013 schedule and results page.
Last week: 28-4 (88 percent). This season: 62-16 (79 percent).
Now I turn the floor over to you. What games jump out to you? Which games do you want to watch? Post your thoughts below and let’s chat.