Want to know who’s going to win the Wyoming state football champions this year? Here’s how to do so, in decreasing order of necessity, based on how that team finished last year:
1. They had at least two victories last year: Only one team since 1990 has won a title with fewer than two victories the previous year — and even that comes with an asterisk. Lingle won the nine-man state championship in 1990 after going 1-7 in 1989, but that 1989 season was played at the 11-man level. In short, it’s exceedingly rare for a team to win zero games or one game in one season and turn around to win a state championship the next year.
2. They were in the playoffs last year: Pine Bluffs proved to be the exception to this rule in 2016, winning the 1A 11-man state title despite missing the playoffs in 2015. Before the Hornets, the last state champion that missed an eight-team playoff bracket the year before? Cokeville in 1993. (In 1992, Cokeville finished 4-3 but missed out on a playoff spot; the Panthers won it all in 1A the next season.)
3. They have the same coach: Only eight of the past 115 state champions have won titles with a coach in his first year as head coach at the school. But the trend is changing, as it’s happened five times the past six years with Lyman’s Dale Anderson in 2012, Meeteetse’s Matt Jensen in 2013, Kaycee’s Lee Kremers in 2015, Star Valley’s McKay Young in 2016 and Kaycee’s Tony Rouse in 2017.
4. They had a winning record last year: Only 14 of the 120 state champions since 1994 had a losing record the previous season; nine of those occurrences were between 2005 and 2010. And it’s happened three time in the past three years. Those teams: Rocky Mountain in 1995, Kemmerer in 2005, Jackson in 2007, Cheyenne East in 2007, Burns in 2008, Gillette in 2008, Guernsey-Sunrise in 2009, Thermopolis in 2009, Snake River in 2010, Natrona in 2010, Star Valley in 2015, Pine Bluffs in 2016 and Cody in 2017.
5. They reached at least the semifinals the previous season: Only 26 of the 120 state champions since 1994 were not in the semifinals of the playoffs the year before. However, two of those 26 were last year: Cody in 3A and Mountain View in 2A.
6. They played in the state title game the year before: Of the past 120 state champs, 53 played in the state title game the previous season. However, just two years ago, this trend was busted up pretty well: None of the 2015 state champs played in the title game in 2014… the first time that’s happened since 1997.
So, to those 13 teams who had one win or fewer: Your title chances are basically zilch, based on historical precedent. Sorry.
To those 24 teams who missed the playoffs last season: Your title chances are basically zilch, based on historical precedent. Even though there’s a Pine Bluffs-in-2016-style chance, it happens rarely. The Hornets may have been the one exception granted by this rule for the next 20 years. Sorry.
To those 30 teams who had losing records: Your title chances are slim, slim, slim (about 1.7 percent) — but not zilch — based on historical precedent. Sorry.
To those 20 teams who reached the semifinals last year: Your title chances are actually pretty good, based on historical precedent! Hurray for you!
To those 10 teams who played in the title games last year: Your title chances are EXCELLENT, based on historical precedent! Hurray for you.
And to those 14 teams with new head coaches: Your title chances, oddly, are better than they’ve ever been. Congratulations?