Class 2A has shown more parity over the past decade than any other classification.
With five different state champions in the past five years — and eight different champions in the past nine years — 2A has been full of unpredictability. In fact, accounting for reclassification, nine of the 14 schools in 2A have won state titles in the past nine years.
A 10th may join the ranks this fall.
In short, expect another “typical” year in 2A.
Four questions to answer
Will we see Big Horn and Mountain View in the title game for the third consecutive year? Maybe, but neither one is the favorite for the 2015 title. That honor goes to Wheatland, which retains all four of its all-state selections. The Bulldogs nearly knocked off Big Horn in the semifinals last year and appear poised for a run at the school’s second football title and its first since 1984.
Who else has a good shot at the title? Well, Mountain View and Big Horn. The Buffalos return three all-staters and the Rams a pair; Thermopolis is the only other team in the classification to bring back more than one all-state selection from last year.
Anyone else in the state title mix? Not really. Class 2A has a bunch of teams with potential — Lovell, Greybull, Big Piney, Lyman, Glenrock, Newcastle and Thermopolis should all be competitive. But none stands out as a potential championship threat. Yet.
Can Kemmerer break its losing streak? If so, look for it to happen sooner, not later. The Rangers, who enter the season on a state-worst 20-game losing streak, are the only 2A team with a new coach. Kemmerer native Jason Ferrarini has the unenviable task of trying to end the streak in a season with an unforgiving schedule that gets tougher as the season progresses.
Four players to watch
Justis Borton, Wheatland. Borton was the 2A East lineman of the year last year as a junior and led the Bulldogs with 11.5 tackles for loss. He fronts a cadre of Bulldog seniors ready to make a run at a state championship.
Josh Calvert, Wheatland. If Borton is the best lineman in 2A this year, his teammate Calvert is right on his heels. Calvert led the Bulldogs’ defense in defensive points last season, notching team highs in solo tackles, assisted tackles and blocked kicks. Strength up front makes Wheatland a tough team to stop.
Tyler Cornwell, Thermopolis. Cornwell’s numbers dipped a bit in his junior campaign, going from 1,012 rushing yards in 2013 to 924 in 2014, but he’s 2A’s leading returning rusher and the only player in the classification who’s already got two all-state selections to his name. (Updated 2:20 p.m. Aug. 6 to fix Tyler’s first name.)
Beau Green, Lovell. Green enters his third season under center for the Bulldogs as one of the classification’s most established quarterbacks. He threw for 1,056 yards and 13 touchdowns last year and piled up 1,271 and 16 TDs as a sophomore; if his young receivers come along quickly, this year could be even bigger.
Four key games
Mountain View at Greybull, Sept. 11. Mountain View’s biggest conference game may be its first against Greybull — a challenge made even tougher by the 329-mile one-way trip. The defending champs will have to prove their mettle early to establish themselves as the team to beat out west.
Big Horn at Thermopolis, Oct. 2. While Wheatland is the clear favorite in the East, both the Rams and Bobcats will line up with competitive squads this fall, too. This midseason showdown may make the difference between who hosts a playoff game and who goes on the road.
Lyman at Mountain View, Oct. 23. The Bridger Valley Bowl has had huge implications the past few years, and this year figures to be no different. This Week 8 showdown will likely have playoff seeding and qualification question marks all over it.
Big Horn at Wheatland, Oct. 23. The defending conference champion Rams have to make the trip south to play the Bulldogs in the regular-season finale. If both teams live up to preseason expectations, this could be for the East title.
Predicted order of finish
East: Wheatland, Big Horn, Thermopolis, Glenrock, Newcastle, Burns, Wright. West: Mountain View, Greybull, Lovell, Big Piney, Lyman, Pinedale, Kemmerer.
Preseason top five: Wheatland, Big Horn, Mountain View, Thermopolis, Greybull.
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Wheatland 28, Big Horn 14. The Bulldogs have enough talent to earn the title of preseason favorite. In a classification that, historically, is as parity-filled and competitive as 2A, though, Wheatland can’t take anything for granted.
So what do you think? Is the 2A title Wheatland’s to lose? What team do you see as the one poised to break through this season? Leave a comment and we can chat about what looks like a predictable season — which, as we know, in 2A, means little….
Next week: Class 3A.