One team’s success in 2015 and 2016 will define the preseason discussion of Class 1A six-man in advance of 2017.
The Kaycee Buckaroos enter this season with 20 consecutive victories and two consecutive state championships behind them. Ahead of them is a schedule full of teams ready for the opportunity to knock them down.
As Kaycee tries for a three-peat, something not yet accomplished in Wyoming’s six-man ranks, teams behind them are lining up for their opportunity to put the state’s longest active winning streak to an end.
No team in Class 1A six-man carries the momentum Kaycee carries into 2017. No team may have as much talent, either. That combination could help the Buckaroos not only win another championship but also cement their legacy as one of the state’s great small-school football dynasties.
Four questions to answer
Will Kaycee lose this year? Probably not. The Buckaroos start 2017 having won their past 20 games — the longest active winning streak in the state regardless of classification. They also return four all-state selections, the most in six-man this fall. Teams will challenge Kaycee, but with a deep senior class pushing the way, don’t be surprised to see Kaycee go 11-0 again.
Who has the toughest schedule? Farson. While trying to defend their West Conference title, the Pronghorns figure to have three big challengers: Burlington, Snake River and Meeteetse. Farson has to play all three of those teams on the road. It’s a challenge Farson didn’t have to sweat last year — the Pronghorns played all three of those teams in Farson last year — and it will be interesting to see how last year’s runners-up handle the pressure of trying to win big games on the road.
Is anyone else even in the discussion? Yes, but only as upset picks. Snake River, Meeteetse and Burlington all proved to be worthy foes in the West, while Guernsey-Sunrise, Lingle and Midwest could challenge Kaycee for supremacy in the East. However, it will be surprising if anyone other than Kaycee hoists the trophy in Laramie in November.
What’s new for Lingle? A chance at the playoffs. The Doggers finished third in the East Conference last year but were held out of the playoffs for opting down from 1A 11-man. This year, with Thunder Basin’s opening in Gillette causing a cascade of changes, the Doggers are once again eligible for the postseason. Fellow 11-man opt-down school Riverside, though, is still ineligible for the playoffs.
Four players to watch
Mark Largent, Kaycee. A two-time all-state pick, Largent was Kaycee’s No. 1 tackler last season, leading the Buckaroos in virtually every tackling category. The senior is also a go-to option in Kaycee’s passing game, with 16 catches for 238 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
J.D. Corson, Snake River. Another two-time all-state pick, Corson is entering his fourth year as the Rattlers’ starting quarterback. If his yardage totals keep growing like they have — he threw for 1,157 yards as a freshman, 1,220 as a sophomore and classification-best 1,853 as a junior — Snake River should again find success. And, oh by the way, he was the co-defensive player of the year last year in six-man.
Lain Mitchelson, Farson. Mitchelson gets it done on both sides of the ball. He led six-man with 1,653 rushing yards last year; he also had 31 rushing touchdowns, also best in six-man. Just a junior, Mitchelson was also Farson’s top tackler last year, leading the Pronghorns with 43 solo tackles.
Josh Graybill, Meeteetse. If the Longhorns want to make it to Laramie in November, they’ll have to go through Graybill. The senior is Meeteetse’s leading returning rusher, receiver and tackler, and he’s the Longhorns’ only returning all-state selection.
Four key games
Farson at Burlington, Sept. 8. The West Conference opener for both squads will be telling. Can Farson overcome its losses to graduation? Can Burlington hang with last year’s runners-up?
Lingle at Guernsey-Sunrise, Sept. 8. Both the Doggers and Vikings have big goals set for this season. This East Conference opener between the old rivals will set the pace for the season, for better or worse.
Guernsey-Sunrise at Kaycee, Sept. 30. On paper, the Vikings pose the biggest regular-season challenge to the Buckaroos’ 20-game winning streak. Fortunately for Kaycee, it gets to play this one at home.
Farson at Snake River, Oct. 21. The Week 8 showdown between the Pronghorns and Rattlers last season decided the West Conference championship. It might do so again this season.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Kaycee; Guernsey-Sunrise; Midwest; Lingle; Hanna; Hulett; NSI; Rock River.
West Conference: Farson; Snake River; Burlington; Meeteetse; Riverside; Dubois; St. Stephens; Ten Sleep.
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Kaycee 52, Farson 38. About the only thing that can stop the collision course between the Buckaroos and Pronghorns is some kind of unexpected regular-season upset. Given the right conditions, this could happen, but the odds are on both of last year’s title-game participants to make it back to Laramie again.
What do you think? Is the state title Kaycee’s to lose, or will a challenger end the winning streak and the title streak? Comment below and let’s hear what you think will happen in 1A six-man this year — and who will lead it as it happens.
Next week: Class 1A 11-man.