Random tidbits to keep in mind as we enter the semifinals, as drawn from the state champions listings:
* Two of the 20 programs remaining don’t have a state championship: Newcastle and Upton-Sundance. Upton and Sundance have won state titles separately — they actually both won titles in 2005 — but never as a combined program. Newcastle, meanwhile, came closest in 1981, losing the state title game that year in Class A.
* Aside from Newcastle and Upton-Sundance, the team still in the playoffs that has gone the longest without winning a state championship is Wheatland. The Bulldogs last won a state title in 1984. Torrington (1990), Lingle (1990), Cody (1991), Mountain View (1997) and Riverton (1999) are also trying to win their first titles of the 2000s.
* With a championship this year, Natrona would pass Laramie and be alone in third place in the total championships standings with 17. Sheridan leads with 23 and Cokeville has 21.
* Class 4A hasn’t had a repeat champion since Rock Springs in 2001-02. East is trying to break that streak this year.
* The four remaining teams in the 1A six-man playoffs (Meeteetse, Dubois, Snake River and Guernsey-Sunrise) have all won state six-man titles the past five years. In fact, they’re the only programs in the state that have won six-man titles since the 2009 six-man reboot.
We’re going from 20 to 10 teams, one way or another. The title race gets a heck of a lot clearer after this week — you could even say 20/10 clear (badum). But enough trivia. You came here for semifinal playoff picks, and here they are:
(4) Sheridan at (1) Natrona: Two of the past three seasons, we’ve seen an undefeated team lose in the 4A semifinals — Gillette last year, Natrona in 2011. Probably not this year, though. NC has that San Francisco Giants thing going where they win titles in even-numbered years. Chalk this one up to patterns, and a dominant Mustang defense that can keep pretty much any team in check. First playoff meeting since 2010 title game.
(3) Gillette at (2) Cheyenne East: East’s 28-14 victory against Gillette in the final week of the regular season was one of the most impressive victories of the season for any team in any classification in the state. A coin flip and a yawner of a quarterfinal round later, the T-Birds get to host the rematch. That kind of advantage is huge at this point in the playoffs. The Camels will need to be at their best if they want to have any hopes of coming out of Cheyenne with a victory. (And that’s entirely possible. Just saying.) First playoff meeting since 2008 5A semifinals.
(2E) Riverton at (1W) Cody: Everyone’s known for a long time that 2014 was destined to be Cody’s best season in a while. The Broncs have made good on that hunch. Riverton, however, presents a tough test, because the Wolverines know how to (1) score and (2) win close. If the Wolverines get a chance in the fourth, watch out — but I’m afraid the Broncs may not even give the Wolverines that chance. First playoff meeting since 2012 quarterfinals.
(3E) Torrington at (1E) Douglas: Torrington’s turnaround isn’t complete just yet. Even though the team has its first winning season in a generation, as well as its its first playoff victory in almost a decade, the Blazers still have some work to do. Learning how to knock off teams like Douglas — a program that knows what playoff football is all about — in November takes time. Give Torrington another year or two and then maybe we see this one go the other way. Although, you gotta admit, Torrington was REALLY impressive last week, and only lost to Douglas by seven in the regular season…. Crud. Thinking too much. Need to move on…. . First playoff meeting since 1990 quarterfinals.
(2E) Newcastle at (1W) Mountain View: I’ll admit that I gave up on the Buffalos way too early this season. After they lost to Cokeville, I figured last year was Mountain View’s aberration year. Turns out the Cokeville game was Mountain View’s aberration game. The Dogies stand a good chance at an upset, but Mountain View (aside from one nonconference game) has been the powerhouse we all expected them to be this year. Rematch of quarterfinal playoff games from the past two years.
(3E) Wheatland at (1E) Big Horn: A 19-6 victory against Wheatland two weeks ago and a 23-12 victory against Lovell in the quarterfinals aren’t Big Horn’s most impressive victories of the season. However, the fact that Big Horn has won those close games makes them much less susceptible to an upset than if they’d won by 50. The Bulldogs will keep it close, but the Rams know they’re vulnerable, and that will give them focus. First playoff meeting.
Class 1A 11-man
(3E) Upton-Sundance at (1E) Lusk: I’m not sure what to think of the Patriots. They’re a bit unpredictable, but they’re talented and physical enough to match up with the Tigers. U-S only lost to Lusk by 10 (16-6) in the regular season. If everything goes right, U-S has a chance. Even so, this game is Lusk’s to lose. First playoff meeting.
(2E) Lingle at (1W) Cokeville: Lingle’s had a great season. And Lingle has won in Cokeville in the playoffs within the past few years. And… and… and… No. Cokeville has been rolling everyone all season. The Panthers are talented and confident. Fourth playoff meeting in six years; first playoff meeting since 2012 quarterfinals.
Class 1A six-man
(3W) Meeteetse at (1W) Dubois: About a month ago, these two teams faced off in a defensive (for six-man) struggle, with the Rams winning 28-22. This one should be just as tight. The edge belongs to the homestanding Rams, though, who are trying to make their third state title game in four years. First playoff meeting.
(2W) Snake River at (1E) Guernsey-Sunrise: Egads, the Vikings have been good this season. The Rattlers will be a challenge, but not a challenge Guernsey can’t overcome. With big victories against Dubois and Meeteetse, the Vikings have consistently responded against the best the West can throw at them. Rematch of a quarterfinal playoff game from last year.
Last week: 19-1 (95 percent). This season: 239-54 (82 percent).
For a full season schedule, including kickoff times for this week’s games, click here.
So I just realized: I picked nothing but home teams, nothing but top seeds. Does that make me boring? Or ignorant? What am I missing? Fill me in by making a comment, and then we can all move forward together more informed.