The two Class 4A programs with more questions hovering over them than any others this offseason? Thunder Basin and Cheyenne Central.
For everyone’s convenience, they’ll play each other in the first game of the year on Friday when the ‘Bolts head south to face the Indians in Cheyenne.
The question marks around Thunder Basin as it enters its second year are sparked by one overarching question.
In their first season, the ‘Bolts stole most of the players from a Gillette Camel team that was supposed to be one of 4A’s top contenders. If anyone should have come out of the gate hot in its first season, it was Thunder Basin.
However, having 90 percent of the available high school football talent in the city of Gillette wasn’t enough to get Thunder Basin past .500 last year. Now, a lot of those key contributors are gone. That brings up questions: What will the ‘Bolts look like in their second year? Will new personnel mean a new approach? And, perhaps most importantly, was Thunder Basin’s .500 finish more attributable to the feeling-out process that comes with a new program, or was it tied to an actual shift in how football functions in the city of Gillette?
In Cheyenne, the Central Indians made one of the biggest offseason splashes by hiring away Mike Apodaca from Silver Creek High School in Colorado. Apodaca had been a successful coach at Silver Creek for more than a decade, but the opportunity to coach his alma mater was too great an opportunity to ignore.
So now Apodaca’s the coach of the Indians — and arguably the red and black will change more than any other 4A team this offseason. The only other new coach in the big-school ranks, Sheridan’s Jeff Mowry, has already said he won’t change much from the previous regime, and the coaching staff remained pretty much in tact for the Broncs. For the Indians, Apodaca’s hiring represents a change not only in personnel but in approach, where most of what was in place has been removed for something that will attempt to make Central a true contender for the first time in almost a decade.
Last year when these two teams met, questions dominated: Right up until the day of the game, questions existed even about the location of the game. Central played Thunder Basin surprisingly tough before falling 34-29.
This year, at least we know where the game will be played.
But there’s arguably more questions around this year’s contest than last year’s.
And that makes it perhaps the biggest 4A game of the week.
While I’m keeping close watch on ‘Bolts-Indians, a few other games are worth noting in Wyoming high school football’s soft launch of 2018:
Three-time defending Class 1A six-man champ Kaycee will have a tough one on its hands when it plays MonDak (Westby-Grenora), Montana’s defending six-man champion, in a halfway-meet game in Broadus, Montana. MonDak was also Montana’s six-man runner-up in 2016 and 2014, so pitting the two dominant regional squads of the mid-teens against each other will be a cool game to watch. It would have been even better if it had been scheduled for last year, though, when both programs were peaking — but hindsight is 20-20. Nevertheless…
Speaking of three-time champs on the road, Sheridan’s first game in the post-Don Julian era will be in Rock Springs as the Broncs take on the Tigers. Rock Springs has floated under the radar a bit this offseason, and with quarterback Graedyn Buell transferred to Cheyenne East, the Tigers could head back to their run-first roots. It will be interesting to see how a rebuilding Sheridan defense handles that kind of challenge. …
Don’t overlook any of the interstate games on Saturday. While Kaycee-MonDak will get the early headlines, the Star Valley-Hillcrest, Idaho, game should be a doozy, and Snake River taking on North Park, Colorado, in a late addition to the six-man schedule should be good, as well. The Friday interstate games aren’t nearly as intriguing, although it will be interesting to see of Jackson can get off the schneid and knock off Teton, Idaho, in Driggs to open the season. …
On to some picks. Just in case you forgot how we do things here, or in case this is your first time here, projected winners are in bold.
Cheyenne East at Gillette
Laramie at Kelly Walsh
Natrona at Cheyenne South
Sheridan at Rock Springs
Thunder Basin at Cheyenne Central
Riverton at Powell
Evanston at Altamont, Utah
Jackson at Teton, Idaho
Lead-Deadwood, S.D., at Upton-Sundance
Newcastle at Custer, S.D.
Evanston JV at Farson
Lovell at Natrona JV
Rocky Mountain at Powell JV
Kaycee vs. Mon-Dak (Westby-Grenora), Montana, at Broadus, Montana
North Park, Colorado, at Snake River
Star Valley vs. Hillcrest, Idaho, at Pocatello, Idaho
Scrimmages and Jamborees
Big Piney, Douglas, Pinedale at Lander Jamboree
Cody, Moorcroft, Wright at Big Horn Jamboree
Cokeville at Kemmerer
Greybull at Tongue River
Lingle, Midwest at Guernsey-Sunrise Jamboree
Lyman at Rawlins
Mountain View at Green River
Pine Bluffs at Glenrock
Saratoga at Rock River
Buffalo at Worland
Burns, Lusk, Thunder Basin JV, Torrington, Wheatland at Southeast Jamboree
Hulett, Riverside at Meeteetse
Shoshoni, Wind River at Thermopolis
Open: Burlington, Dubois, Hanna, St. Stephens, Worland, Wyoming Indian.
For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here.
It’s finally here. Thank goodness. What do you see as the most interesting or intriguing part of the 2018 Wyoming high school football season? Post your thoughts and let’s get full on into the latest chapter of Wyoming high school football.