The 2011 Class 4A playoffs brought a unique twist for Wyoming’s big schools.
For the first time in big-school history, the same four teams — Gillette, Cheyenne East, Sheridan and Natrona — reached the playoff’s semifinal round as the previous year.
The feat was unprecedented in the big school ranks and extremely rare outside the big-school division. In fact, only three other times in Wyoming’s football history have the same four teams reached the semifinals.
But then it happened again in 2012. And again in 2013. And again in 2014.
Let me translate that: The same four programs have been in the 4A semifinals for five consecutive years.
Not only is such a run unprecedented, it’s unfathomable given the state’s high school football history.
The first two occurrences of repeat semifinalists were more anomalistic than trendsetting: Burlington, Big Horn, Hulett and Meeteetse reached the Class 1A nine-man semifinals in both 1993 and 1994, while Star Valley, Riverton, Torrington and Lander made the Class 3A semifinals consecutively in 1994 and 1995.
Probably the closest parallel in Wyoming to the 4A string we’re seeing now came from 2001-03, when Mountain View, Lovell, Big Piney and Glenrock all reached the Class 3A semis for three consecutive years.
Those three occurrences — 1A nine-man in 1993-94, 3A in 1994-95 and 3A in 2001-03 — are the only times Wyoming had repeat semifinalists until the foursome of Cheyenne East, Gillette, Sheridan and Natrona put their recent lock on the 4A semifinals.
Those “Big Four” have had their way in the playoffs, too. Of the 20 first-round playoff games the past five years, only three finished within a possession — East 28, Evanston 27 in 2011; East 13, Central 7 in 2013; and Sheridan 10, Kelly Walsh 3 in 2010. Last year’s 4A quarterfinal games were decided by 21, 30, 43 and 45 points, an average margin of victory of almost 35 points.
This week, 4A’s “Big Four” play each other; it’s the only time this week that these four schools play against one another in the same week. East will be at Sheridan, while Gillette will be at Natrona.
So far this season, East, Gillette, Sheridan and Natrona are 10-0 against the other six teams in 4A.
Anomaly, trend, or the result of elite programs separating themselves from the pack.
Call it what you will.
The same four teams, five years in a row? Maybe six, if the same four teams survive and advance again? Maybe more?
Wyoming has never had a run like that. And may never have one like it again.
Other games to watch this week:
You guys: Cokeville-Shoshoni. For reals. I could write all day about this series. I nearly did. Cokeville is 23-1 all-time in this series, with that one Shoshoni W coming in 1997. But this Friday might be the time the Wranglers finally break that curse. I’m still taking Cokeville, because Cokeville, but if Shoshoni can pull this one off, I’ll be sure to shoot off some fireworks on the Wranglers’ behalf. …
Speaking of Wranglers, when did Lovell-Pinedale get this interesting? Pinedale has been one of the most pleasant surprises of 2015 — they’re 2-0 for just the second time since 1991 — while Lovell bounced back big last week with its victory against Big Piney. I’m taking Lovell, but Pinedale’s success has my attention. …
Central-Rock Springs could be a season-maker for one of those squads. The Tigers already have as many victories as the past two years combined, while Central has hung tough with quality competition and knocked off rival South. Both have shown flashes of greatness. …
Pine Bluffs might be better than we think. This week’s game in Yoder against Southeast will be telling. …
The big question of the week: Will Riverside actually step foot on a field? The Rebels forfeited in Week 1 and were forfeited to in Week 2. Unprecedented. …
A host of other games stick out as potential nailbiters: Evanston-Laramie, Kelly Walsh-Cheyenne South, Buffalo-Worland, Dubois-Farson, Hulett-NSI. Curious to see how those come out.
On to the picks, in which I choose the teams I think will win the upcoming games for the week and denote those teams by putting their school’s name in bold. Like you didn’t know that. Pffft.
Cheyenne Central at Rock Springs
Cheyenne East at Sheridan
Evanston at Laramie
Gillette at Natrona
Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne South
Buffalo at Worland
Douglas at Star Valley
Jackson at Rawlins
Lander at Cody
Powell at Riverton
Torrington at Green River
Burns at Mountain View
Glenrock at Big Horn
Greybull at Big Piney
Kemmerer at Lyman
Lovell at Pinedale
Newcastle at Wheatland
Thermopolis at Wright
Class 1A 11-man
Cokeville at Shoshoni
Lusk at Moorcroft
Pine Bluffs at Southeast
Riverside at Wind River
Saratoga at Rocky Mountain
Upton-Sundance at Tongue River
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Farson
Guernsey-Sunrise at Midwest
Hanna at St. Stephens
Rock River at Kaycee
Lingle at Mitchell, Neb.
Class 1A six-man
Hulett at NSI
Meeteetse at Ten Sleep
Natrona sophs at Snake River
For the second week in a row, Burlington will forfeit, and Wyoming Indian picks up the victory the Huskies gave up. The Chiefs’ losing streak is now officially over at 14 games.
For a full schedule including start times, click here.
Everyone’s favorite pair of adorable brothers, Tad and Homer, made their picks as well:
Tad: Evanston over Laramie; Douglas over Star Valley; Torrington over Green River; Newcastle over Wheatland; Thermopolis over Wright; Riverside over Wind River; Upton-Sundance over Tongue River; Guernsey-Sunrise over Midwest; Hanna over St. Stephens; Hulett over Normative Services.
Homer: Laramie over Evanston; Star Valley over Douglas; Green River over Torrington; Wheatland over Newcastle; Wright over Thermopolis; Wind River over Riverside; Tongue River over Upton-Sundance; Midwest over Guernsey-Sunrise; St. Stephens over Hanna; Normative Services over Hulett.
Both: Cheyenne Central over Rock Springs; Sheridan over Cheyenne East; Natrona over Gillette; Kelly Walsh over Cheyenne South; Worland over Buffalo; Jackson over Rawlins; Cody over Lander; Powell over Riverton; Mountain View over Burns; Big Horn over Glenrock; Greybull over Big Piney; Kemmerer over Lyman; Lovell over Pinedale; Cokeville over Shoshoni; Lusk over Moorcroft; Southeast over Pine Bluffs; Rocky Mountain over Saratoga; Dubois over Farson; Ten Sleep over Meeteetse; Kaycee over Rock River; Lingle over Mitchell, Neb.; Snake River over Natrona sophs.
Cheyenne Central at Rock Springs (Central 45-17-4 overall, Central 24-10-2 at this location)
Cheyenne East at Sheridan (Sheridan 24-12 overall, Sheridan 17-5 at this location)
Evanston at Laramie (Evanston 13-12 overall, Laramie 7-5 at this location)
Gillette at Natrona (Natrona 40-18 overall, Natrona 17-11 at this location)
Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne South (Kelly Walsh 4-0 overall, Kelly Walsh 2-0 at this location)
Buffalo at Worland (Worland 15-13 overall, Worland 7-6 at this location)
Douglas at Star Valley (Douglas 9-2 overall, Star Valley 2-1 at this location)
Jackson at Rawlins (Jackson 7-2 overall, Jackson 2-1 at this location)
Lander at Cody (Cody 50-16-3 overall, Cody 25-7-2 at this location)
Powell at Riverton (Powell 39-31-3 overall, Powell 18-17-2 at this location)
Torrington at Green River (Torrington 2-1 overall, first at this location)
Burns at Mountain View (Mountain View 1-0 overall, first at this location)
Glenrock at Big Horn (Big Horn 5-3 overall, Big Horn 2-0 at this location)
Greybull at Big Piney (Greybull 7-5 overall, Greybull 3-2 at this location)
Kemmerer at Lyman (Kemmerer 23-14 overall, Kemmerer 10-8 at this location)
Lovell at Pinedale (Lovell 9-1 overall, Lovell 5-1 at this location)
Newcastle at Wheatland (Newcastle 23-20-2 overall, tie 10-10-2 at this location)
Thermopolis at Wright (Thermopolis 3-2 overall, tie 1-1 at this location)
Class 1A 11-man
Burlington at Wyoming Indian (Burlington 17-4 overall, Burlington 7-3 at this location) (Wyoming Indian won this week by forfeit, records represent pre-forfeit status)
Cokeville at Shoshoni (Cokeville 23-1 overall, Cokeville 7-1 at this location)
Lusk at Moorcroft (Lusk 9-3 overall, Lusk 4-2 at this location)
Pine Bluffs at Southeast (Southeast 28-11 overall, Southeast 13-6 at this location)
Riverside at Wind River (Riverside 16-9 overall, tie 5-5 at this location)
Saratoga at Rocky Mountain (Rocky Mountain 6-1 overall, tie 1-1 at this location)
Upton-Sundance at Tongue River (Upton-Sundance 1-0 overall, first at this location)
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Farson (Dubois 6-1 overall, Dubois 3-0 at this location)
Guernsey-Sunrise at Midwest (Guernsey-Sunrise 10-8 overall, tie 5-5 at this location)
Hanna at St. Stephens (Hanna 1-0 overall, first at this location)
Hulett at NSI (Hulett 7-5 overall, NSI 4-1 at this location)
Meeteetse at Ten Sleep (Ten Sleep 28-24-1 overall, Ten Sleep 16-13 at this location)
Rock River at Kaycee (Kaycee 1-0 overall, first at this location)
Lingle at Mitchell, Neb. (Lingle 2-0 overall, Lingle 1-0 at this location)
Weekly reminder: Tad picks the series leader; Homer picks the location leader; when a series is tied, both Tad and Homer pick the home team. And they always pick a varsity team over a sub-varsity team.
Last week’s records: Patrick, 25-7 (78 percent); Tad, 19-13 (59 percent); Homer, 16-16 (50 percent).
Season records: Patrick, 59-15 (80 percent); Tad, 49-27 (64 percent); Homer, 40-34 (54 percent).
I think Week 3 may be one of the most difficult weeks of the season to predict. Lots of evenly matched teams will play this week, and we may look back on this week in about a month and realize a ton of key games were played on Sept. 18. So who’s ready to break through and be seen on a statewide stage? Post a comment and let’s talk it through.