Everything — except history — will be on Thunder Basin’s side when the ‘Bolts face Gillette on Friday.
The game will be the first between the new Gillette rivals, the beginning of a rivalry that will likely live for decades and develop its own rich character and flavor.
The short-term football history between the intra-city foes is pretty simple: When the returning seniors and juniors got to choose their school, most of them chose Thunder Basin. Because of that mass migration south, Thunder Basin has a better-than-average chance of ending a streak of bad luck for first-year programs playing intra-city rivals for the first time.
The ‘Bolts are a respectable 2-2; losses to Cheyenne East and Sheridan the past two weeks have slowed their momentum a bit, but they’re still one of the better Class 4A teams in Wyoming.
The Camels, meanwhile, are 0-4, outscored 251-19 while playing with what mostly amounts to a junior-varsity team.
Yes, Thunder Basin will probably win the first “Coal Bowl.” However, while the short-term history might be on Thunder Basin’s side, long-term history is on Gillette’s side: Schools playing an intra-city foe in their first season have had historically bad luck, going 0-5 all-time.
Those losses include:
In 1960, Cheyenne East lost its first game to Cheyenne Central 13-7. (East beat Central 7-6 the next season.)
In 1965, Kelly Walsh lost its first game to Natrona 12-7. (Kelly Walsh first beat Natrona 8-7 in 1969.)
In 2011, Cheyenne South lost its first game to Cheyenne Central 63-0 and its first game to Cheyenne East 49-6. (South first beat Central 31-28 in 2014 and first beat East 31-28 last season.)
And, in 1908, University Prep lost its first game to Laramie 6-5. (Prep never beat Laramie, going 0-10-1 all-time.)
Thunder Basin will probably break this 109-year-old trend. After all, who needs history when you’re barely a month old?
If somehow Gillette pulls this one off, though, we can chalk it up to more than a century of history stacked against the ‘Bolts.
A few other games that have me rubbernecking to check them out:
I didn’t anticipate that the Week 4 game between Rawlins and Buffalo would match up two undefeated teams. But here we are. And the winner might secure home field in the playoffs by late October in what’s turning into a weekly gauntlet in the 3A East. …
Last year’s 2A runner-up, Greybull, is off to a somewhat surprising 1-2 start. That makes Friday’s game against Pinedale — which started 2-0 in conference play — all of a sudden a make-or-break game for the Buffaloes. …
Tongue River travels south to play Pine Bluffs in a rematch of last year’s 1A 11-man title game. That feels like a lifetime ago. Nevertheless, in a competitive 1A 11-man East where only one team has a losing record right now, this is a big one. …
East-Natrona ought to be a good one. Even though East is undefeated, Natrona is still the favorite. I’m sure that will get East fired up. …
I’m curious to see how Cody stacks up on the road against Green River. The Wolves should win, but the Broncs have shown some pluck this season and I think they’ll be tougher than people might anticipate. …
Shoshoni’s been outscored 135-0 this season; Wind River’s been outscored 132-20. Someone will get off the schneid when they play each other; the winner’s likely headed for the playoffs. …
The only interclass game this week (Mountain View at Jackson) is actually really intriguing. Curious to see how the Buffalos do punching above their class against the winless Broncs. …
Picks. Bold for winners. Obviously.
Cheyenne Central JV at Southeast
Cheyenne East at Natrona
Kelly Walsh at Sheridan
Laramie at Cheyenne Central
Rock Springs at Cheyenne South
Thunder Basin at Gillette
Cody at Green River
Evanston at Powell
Lander at Torrington
Rawlins at Buffalo
Riverton at Douglas
Worland at Star Valley
Big Piney at Kemmerer
Burns at Moorcroft
Greybull at Pinedale
Lyman at Lovell
Newcastle at Glenrock
Thermopolis at Wheatland
Class 1A 11-man
Big Horn at Lusk
Cokeville at Rocky Mountain
Tongue River at Pine Bluffs
Wind River at Shoshoni
Wright at Upton-Sundance
Wyoming Indian at Saratoga
Class 1A six-man
Burlington at St. Stephens
Dubois at Snake River
Hulett at Kaycee
Meeteetse at Riverside
Midwest at Lingle
NSI at Guernsey-Sunrise
Mountain View at Jackson
Class 1A six-man
Farson at Ten Sleep
Cheyenne South JV at Hanna (six-man)
For a full schedule including kickoff times, check out the 2017 schedule and results page.
I pick every game every week. And I tally how well I do. But you knew that, right?
Last week: 27-5 (84 percent). This season: 96-18 (84 percent).
On Rock River: As reported a couple weeks ago, Rock River has decided to forgo its varsity season. Longhorns coach Doug Spriggs said via email to wyoming-football.com this week the Longhorns will play a junior varsity schedule this year. The Longhorns have only six healthy players on their roster right now, Spriggs said; four of those hadn’t played varsity football prior to this season.
“It was not in the best interests of our student athletes or programs future to take on the juggernaut of six-man varsity football given these circumstances,” Spriggs wrote.
Spriggs said Rock River will run its junior high program this season and intends to field a high school varsity team in 2018.
After this week, we’ll be halfway through the season. Who’s been your surprise team so far? Who’s been doing exactly what you expected? Leave a comment and let’s talk!