Class 2A, due in part to its large number of schools and its consistent turnover of seniors, always seems to have parity. This is especially true at the top of the classification — Class 2A’s playoffs have been among the most exciting the past few years. Will 2014 bring more of the same? Probably….

Four questions to answer

Can Big Horn repeat as state champion? Can they? Yes. Will they? That’s not as clear. The Rams return four of their seven all-state selections from a year ago but have to replace quarterback Connor McCafferty, who was the Casper Star-Tribune’s Super 25 offensive player of the year last year. He won’t be easily replaced, but the Rams have talent in spades everywhere else.

So is Big Horn the favorite in the 2A this year? Well… it depends on who you ask. Big Horn is solid, but so is Mountain View, and Lovell, and Lyman, and Newcastle, and Thermopolis, and…. Class 2A’s parity has been its calling card for several years, but more teams than ever are in the conversation as championship contenders.

Who’s everyone forgetting about? Lovell. It sounds silly to say that a team that started 9-0 and returns five of its nine all-conference selections is overlooked, but the Bulldogs’ success has been overshadowed by the fact that they didn’t make it to Laramie last year. They shouldn’t be: Lovell’s deep and experienced, and it only lost six seniors from last year’s team. Watch out.

Will Thermopolis’ move to the East Conference change anything? Not really. The Bobcats are back in the East after two years in the West Conference. The change isn’t that big to Thermopolis — the only team that’s new to the Bobcats is Wheatland. The two schools haven’t played each other since 1986 but will open East Conference play by facing each other.

Four (OK, five) players to watch

Christian Mayer, Big Horn. When you score five touchdowns in a state championship game, you draw attention. That’s the case for Mayer, who might be Class 2A’s most dangerous wide receiver and return specialist.

Austin Houskeeper and Cade Covington, Mountain View. If the Buffalos return to the state championship game, it will be on the backs of these two-time all-state picks. Covington was Mountain View’s leading rusher last year and Houskeeper had more than 2,100 yards of all-purpose offense — and they both finished in Mountain View’s top three in defensive points.

Tyler Cornwell, ThermopolisClass 2A had six running backs break 1,000 yards a year ago, but Cornwell is the only one who’s back. Just a junior, Cornwell ran for 1,012 yards a year ago and will run behind an experienced offensive line to boot.

Calder Forcella, Greybull. It’s no surprise the dynamic quarterback of the Buffaloes led his team by throwing for 1,717 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago. But he also led his team in rushing yards (624) and rushing touchdowns (nine). With a new coach, his numbers might not be as high, but his responsibilities will be just as critical.

Four key games

Big Horn at Lovell, Sept. 5. These two teams have had pretty epic semifinal games the past two years. Now we don’t have to wait until the playoffs to see them face each other.

Lovell at Mountain View, Sept. 26. This game pits the team that won the West Conference title last year against the team that represented the West in the state championship game. And both teams have the goods to be contenders again this year. This one is big.

Mountain View at Lyman, Oct. 24. Mountain View and Lovell are the clear contenders in the West, but don’t forget about Lyman. The Eagles could be one of the classification’s top teams, and the Bridger Valley Bowl on the regular season’s final day could be for a conference title.

Newcastle at Thermopolis, Oct. 24. Both teams have the potential to challenge Big Horn for supremacy in the East Conference. If things go right for both teams, this regular-season finale should be for way more than just bragging rights.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Big Horn, Newcastle, Thermopolis, Wheatland, Burns, Glenrock, Wright. West Conference: Mountain View, Lovell, Lyman, Greybull, Pinedale, Big Piney, Kemmerer.

Way-too-early title-game score prediction

Big Horn 34, Mountain View 28. If the Rams can find someone as consistent as Connor McCafferty under center, they have the weapons to repeat.

What do you think? Which teams have the best chance of keeping Big Horn from repeating? What teams will be better than we think? Post a comment to kickstart the 2A conversation.

Next Tuesday: Class 3A.


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