When the 2016 schedule came out last November, we knew immediately that Oct. 7 was going to be a big day in Class 3A.

That was the day Green River was going to go to Afton to play Star Valley.

Friday’s game took on special significance about 11 months ago, when both teams advanced to the state championship game. The title game didn’t match up to the two teams’ regular-season game — Star Valley won the regular-season game 16-15 on a last-play field goal but won the title game 31-15 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.

Now, they’re meeting in the game after “the game” that defined this longstanding rivalry, one that dates back to 73 previous meetings and 67 years. And the stakes? Still high.

Granted, given Star Valley’s surprising 22-14 loss to Powell last week, Green River has inherited its own destiny in a way it couldn’t have foreseen prior to this week. Even so, Green River comes into Friday’s game as Class 3A’s lone undefeated team at 5-0, while Star Valley enters as the classification’s defending state champion and a team that could still earn a conference championship, and maybe the top seed for the playoffs, if it can win out.

The game speaks to the bigger challenges of playing in the 3A West.

The conference is loaded with programs who have proven they know how to win. Last year’s state champ (Star Valley), last year’s runner-up (Green River), last year’s conference champ (Jackson), the 2014 3A champ (Cody), the 3A champ from 2011-13 (Powell)… they’re all in the conference. The only team not listed in that Murderer’s Row is Worland — a team that comes into Week 5 with a 3-2 record and riding a mini-resurgence, as well.

For now, the Wolves are sitting at the top of that heap.

And of all the teams chasing them, the Braves may be the best equipped to knock them down.

The one thing we know? It won’t be easy for either team. In the 3A West, it never is.

Other games I’m watching closely this week, for a litany of reasons that I can only begin to explain here: The obvious 4A game of the week is Rock Springs at Gillette. Campbell County has been unkind to the Tigers — they’re just 1-9 in Gillette all-time, last winning there in 2001. With Gillette, Rock Springs and Sheridan all sitting at one loss apiece, this game might decide home-field advantage in the playoffs. …

Evanston is playing for its playoff life this week; a loss to Kelly Walsh in Casper would eliminate the Red Devils from 4A postseason contention. …

The Buffalo-Riverton game is really intriguing now that the Wolverines are starting to make things click. …

Greybull is undefeated but going on the road to Mountain View could prove to be a big challenge. Don’t be surprised to see the southern Buffalos make things tough on the northern Buffaloes and maybe even sneak out a victory. …

Glenrock could clinch the 2A East championship this week. A victory in Burns assures the Herders of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — something no other team in the state can earn on their own this week. On the other side of the 2A playoffs, Lyman and Kemmerer will be rooting hard for each other this week. If they both lose, they’re both out of the postseason chase. …

I don’t know what to think of Shoshoni anymore, which is why I’m keeping a ton of attention on the Wranglers’ game with resurgent Rocky Mountain. I honestly don’t know what to expect; finals of 14-12 or of 38-6, in either direction, wouldn’t be surprising to me. …

Meeteetse and Farson have built a nice rivalry in six-man. Some of the luster is gone after Meeteetse’s loss last week, but the Longhorns could ruin the Pronghorns’ plans for a top seed if they can bounce back this week.

On to the picks. This is where I like to try to make a fool of myself by predicting winners of games organized and facilitated by adults but played (almost exclusively) by people legally defined as children. The groups of children I think will play the best are in bold type:

Class 4A
Cheyenne Central at Sheridan
Evanston at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Cheyenne East
Natrona at Cheyenne South
Rock Springs at Gillette
Class 3A
Buffalo at Riverton
Cody at Jackson
Green River at Star Valley
Powell at Worland
Rawlins at Douglas
Torrington at Lander
Class 2A
Glenrock at Burns
Greybull at Mountain View
Kemmerer at Pinedale
Lovell at Lyman
Moorcroft at Wheatland
Newcastle at Big Piney
Thermopolis at Big Horn
Class 1A 11-man
Pine Bluffs at Southeast
Rocky Mountain at Shoshoni
Saratoga at Cokeville
Tongue River at Wright
Upton-Sundance at Lusk
Wyoming Indian at Wind River
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Burlington
Guernsey-Sunrise at Hanna
Lingle at Kaycee
Normative Services at Rock River
Snake River at St. Stephens
Class 1A six-man
Meeteetse at Farson
Midwest at Hulett
Riverside at Ten Sleep

For a full schedule with kickoff times, click here.

My picks last week? Not great. I hope to redeem myself this week, but I also like upsets. The struggle is real.

Last week: 23-9 (74 percent). This season: 135-38 (78 percent).

How about you? Who do you think has the best chance to pull an upset this week? Who’s cruising straight to Laramie in mid-November? Leave a comment…


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