One of the hallmarks of Class 2A football for more than a decade has been its parity. And with last year’s defending champion Big Horn gone to 1A 11-man, and lots of turnover from graduation, who wins the 2A title could be as much of a toss-up as ever.
Make no mistake, though. There exists a clear dividing line between the haves and the have-nots in 2A this year. The favorites are clear, the challengers are clear and the also-rans are clear. On paper.
Four questions to answer
What’s different about 2A this year? Is “everything” too strong of a word? The defending 2A champions, Big Horn, are gone, moved to 1A 11-man. Most of last year’s best players are gone, too: The entire classification only has seven returning all-state players, the fewest of any classification in the state. There’s going to be a lot of change, and a lot of unpredictability, in 2A this fall.
With all the change, who’s the favorites? Three teams — Glenrock, Greybull and Mountain View — have been getting the most attention this offseason. Greybull was last year’s runner-up, Glenrock lost to Greybull in a bit of a surprise in the semifinals, and Mountain View — last year’s No. 1 seed from the West — is back after falling in a shocking upset loss in the first round to Newcastle. They’ve all got a chip on their shoulder, and that could make it interesting come November.
Is any one of those three a clear-cut favorite? No. All three suffered big losses to graduation, leaving the door wide open for any one of the three — or any other program, honestly — to fill that gap.
How about Kemmerer? I think everyone in the state wants Kemmerer to break its state-record 36-game losing streak. But no one wants to be the team Kemmerer breaks the streak against. The Rangers softened the schedule a bit with dates against 1A foes Saratoga and Lusk, but the conference slate remains treacherous. The season opener against Saratoga, in Kemmerer, might be the Rangers’ best bet to break the streak.
Four players to watch
Jason Stoddard, Mountain View. The only two-time all-state selection in 2A this year, Stoddard is a key piece of what the Buffalos do on both offense and defense. He had 28 receptions for 449 yards on offense and had a team-high 46 solo tackles on defense.
Riley Hill, Greybull. Hill is the only returning all-state selection for last year’s runners-up; the other five graduated. But he can help prop up the inexperienced Buffs with his play under center. He threw for 847 yards last year and had 1,357 passing yards as a sophomore. He’s also one of Greybull’s top defenders and had a team-high five sacks a year ago.
Cameron Quigley, Newcastle. Few players in 2A will be as tough to stop as the Dogies’ quarterback. He ran for 744 yards and threw for 628 last year, and combined he notched 16 touchdowns either running or throwing. Oh by the way, he was also Newcastle’s leading defensive player a year ago and had team highs in interceptions, fumble recoveries and pass break-ups.
Kia Sexson, Glenrock. In a year where 2A’s losses to graduation will be apparent, the Herders return five of their top 10 tacklers, setting them up well for early success. Sexson, the Herders’ only returning all-state player, was in the middle of that last season, finishing fourth on the team in defensive points and topping the squad with 46 assisted tackles.
Four key games
Glenrock at Greybull, Sept. 1. The most intriguing nonconference game on the schedule this season has the two early favorites for the East and West conference crowns facing each other. The Herders will be eager for revenge after losing in last year’s semis to the Buffs; the Buffs will be eager to prove that victory was no fluke.
Newcastle at Glenrock, Sept. 22. The most significant challenge Glenrock might face in the East Conference could come from Newcastle. And the Dogies aren’t afraid to make the trip to Converse County: The last two times they’ve played in Glenrock, Newcastle has won.
Lyman at Mountain View, Oct. 6. The Eagles are an interesting team; they graduated the bulk of their offensive stars but return the bulk of their defensive stars. Against Mountain View in the annual Bridger Valley rivalry game, anything could happen, and Lyman may have what it takes to push for its own claim to the top spot in the West.
Mountain View at Greybull, Oct. 20. The last game of the regular season for both teams may also be for the West Conference title. The two teams split first place last season, and neither one wants to do that again.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Glenrock; Newcastle; Wheatland; Thermopolis; Burns; Moorcroft.
West Conference: Greybull; Mountain View; Lyman; Big Piney; Lovell; Pinedale; Kemmerer.
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Glenrock 20, Greybull 17. On paper, the Herders have more experience and more ability than pretty much any other 2A team. The difference in 2A this year may come from improvement throughout the season, so don’t be surprised to see a team seeded third or lower make a run at a title come playoff time.
What do you think? In a class full of parity, what do you make of a season where no clear favorite has stepped forward? Who’s ready to step up and seize the open spot atop 2A? Post your thoughts below and let’s chat!
Next week: Class 3A.