History won’t matter much on Friday night in Big Horn.
About half the time, when a defending state champion plays a defending state champion, the matchups prove to be a year late — at least one of the two teams had its better team in its championship year. The other half of the time, though, the matchup gives us a memorable meeting between two squads eager to prove their success spans multiple seasons.
That is the history facing Week 3 combatants Pine Bluffs at Big Horn, each team a defending champion — Big Horn in 2A last year, Pine Bluffs in 1A 11-man.
Friday’s game will be the 23rd time in state history two defending Wyoming state champions face off against each other. In about half of the 22 previous defending champion showdowns, at least one of the teams went on to win another state championship.
The most memorable state champ vs. state champ series of games came right around the turn of the century, with three games involving the same two programs. In 2000, Lusk and Southeast played each other as defending 2A and 1A champs, respectively. Lusk won easily, but both teams went on to win their respective state championships. A year later, they played twice — this time as 2A rivals — and Southeast won both rematches, including the one in the state championship game.
Similarly, in both 1953 and 1954, defending Class AA champ Sheridan played defending Class A champ Worland. In 1953, Sheridan won 18-0, and both teams went on to win titles; in 1954, the Warriors beat the Broncs 14-12, later winning yet yet another Class A championship.
Southeast also played Guernsey-Sunrise twice in 2007 when both were defending champions; the second time they met was in the 1A championship game.
Oddly enough, Kemmerer played TWO defending state champions in 2008. Kemmerer, the defending 3A champ, played defending 4A champ Jackson and defending 2A champ Riverside that season. Kemmerer won both.
Nineteen of the 22 champ vs. champ games were regular-season games; the aforementioned 2A title game in 2001 and 1A title game in 2007, as well as a 1991 Class 1A 11-man semifinal between defending 1A-11 champ Cokeville and defending 1A nine-man champ Lingle, were the only times two defending state champions faced each other in the postseason.
The defending champ vs. defending champ games, with the year of the game, the winner and the score:
Worland/Sheridan 1953, Sheridan 18-0 (both went on to win state titles)
Worland/Sheridan 1954, Worland 14-12 (Worland went on to win state title)
Powell/Sheridan 1958, Sheridan 21-14 (Sheridan went on to share state title)
Cody/Laramie 1959, Cody 12-6
Cody/Green River 1977, Cody 41-20
Mountain View/Cokeville 1985, Mountain View 28-0
Big Piney/Cokeville 1989, Cokeville 36-14 (Cokeville went on to win state title)
Cokeville/Lingle 1991, Cokeville 31-6
Sheridan/Cody 1992, Sheridan 28-18 (Sheridan went on to win state title)
Big Piney/Cokeville 1999, Big Piney 22-6
Southeast/Lusk 2000, Lusk 40-0 (both went on to win state titles)
Southeast/Lusk 2001, Southeast 21-7 and Southeast 14-7 (second meeting in state title game)
Big Piney/Cokeville 2002, Cokeville 25-12 (Cokeville went on to win state title)
Glenrock/Big Horn 2004, Big Horn 49-6 (Big Horn went on to win state title)
Sundance/Upton 2006, Sundance 17-0
Southeast/Guernsey-Sunrise 2007, Southeast 30-12 and Southeast 28-12 (second meeting in state title game)
Jackson/Kemmerer 2008, Kemmerer 39-0
Kemmerer/Riverside 2008, Kemmerer 51-6
Glenrock/Burns 2009, Glenrock 49-13
Mountain View/Cokeville 2015, Mountain View 18-15
We’ll have to wait until the postseason to figure out if Friday’s Pine Bluffs-Big Horn showdown is a classic in the making or a game that came a year too late.
History aside, we already know the game is important for 2017: Both Big Horn (which moved to 1A 11-man from 2A after last season) and Pine Bluffs enter Friday’s game at 2-0. This meeting is key for playoff seeding and the East Conference championship race.
Even in this moment, though, we can appreciate the relative rarity of aligning circumstance that provides this game’s backdrop, no matter what history’s judgment ultimately is.
Every game in Week 3 has my attention, but some games have my attention more than others:
The best game of a lackluster 4A slate might be Rock Springs visiting Kelly Walsh. Both teams are 2-1 and already jockeying for playoff seeding. …
It’ll be interesting to see if the first meeting between Sheridan and Thunder Basin carries with it the same intensity of an Energy Bowl game between Sheridan and Gillette. Do we have a budding new rivalry, or will the change actually take some of the life out of the Sheridan-Gillette rivalry? …
It’s nice to see the Star Valley-Evanston rivalry back on the schedule. This game will be their 90th meeting, and that much history counts for a lot. …
I think Glenrock has what it takes to knock off Riverton. The Herders, No. 1 in 2A, beat 3A foe Lander with relative ease last week. Riverton’s a step up, and the game is in Fremont County, and it’ll be close, but I like what the Herders are putting together this season. …
The second-best interclass game might be between aforementioned Lander playing 2A Thermopolis. The Bobcats have been much improved, surprising everyone but themselves in the process. They might give the 3A Tigers a fight at LeRoy Hayes Field. …
Don’t be surprised to see Big Piney give Greybull a run for its money. The Punchers almost beat Mountain View last week and should be a confident bunch heading north this week. …
Upton-Sundance is the favorite against Lusk, but the Tigers should feel good about their 2-0 start. They’ve been impressive, especially on defense. We’ll see if they can slow down a Patriot attack that’s rolling early this season, though. …
Also, this will be the first game for the U-S Patriots in Sundance since 2014, as the squad christens the new field (with lights!) in that community. A new elementary school went on top of the old football field, so it only makes sense a new football field would go on top of the old elementary school. …
The showdown between Guernsey-Sunrise and Midwest could be for a home playoff game this year. I’m going with the Vikings, but it’s a really tentative pick, especially with the Oilers at home. …
The hardest game of the week to pick was Hanna-Hulett. I have no idea what to expect. …
Oh yeah. Rawlins-Wind River. How did this game get scheduled again? …
Here are this week’s picks, with the team I think will win in bold and the team I’m ready to have surprise me in regular type:
Wyoming Indian at Riverton JV
Cheyenne East at Cheyenne South
Gillette at Cheyenne Central
Natrona at Laramie
Rock Springs at Kelly Walsh
Sheridan at Thunder Basin
Buffalo at Powell
Green River at Worland
Jackson at Cody
Star Valley at Evanston
Big Piney at Greybull
Lovell at Mountain View
Pinedale at Kemmerer
Class 1A 11-man
Lusk at Upton-Sundance
Pine Bluffs at Big Horn
Shoshoni at Tongue River
Southeast at Wright
Class 1A six-man
Guernsey-Sunrise at Midwest
Lingle at NSI
Riverside at Dubois
St. Stephens at Farson
Ten Sleep at Burlington
Douglas at Wheatland
Glenrock at Riverton
Lyman at Cokeville
Rawlins at Wind River
Saratoga at Burns
Thermopolis at Lander
Torrington at Newcastle
Class 1A six-man
Hanna at Hulett
Snake River at Meeteetse
Gillette JV at Rocky Mountain
Moorcroft at Rapid City Central (S.D.) Sophs
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: 30-3 (91 percent). This season: 69-13 (84 percent).
So who do YOU have as a potential sleeper for Week 3? What game do you think will be the best of the bunch? Leave a comment below and let’s talk September football.