Rivalry Week is in full swing on Friday: Capital Bowl. Energy Bowl. Oil Bowl. Bridger Valley Bowl. Thunder Bowl. Cody-Powell whatever-it’s-called. Sublette County something-or-other.
They’re all secondary this week to a 3A West rivalry game that normally doesn’t have much intrigue but is bubbling over with it this year.
Jackson hosts Star Valley on Friday, and that’s important because Jackson and Star Valley are the only two remaining teams unbeaten in 3A West Conference play.
And even though league foes Evanston and Cody will make it interesting the next couple weeks, the Jackson-Star Valley winner will be way ahead of everyone else for the conference title and home-field advantage in the 3A playoffs.
That’s a lot to say for a Jackson-Star Valley game — a rivalry that, most of the time, gives us games that aren’t all that interesting.
The most interesting recent matchup between these two teams came in 2015, when Jackson won a heck of a regular-season game 14-7 but Star Valley won the 3A title without having to play Jackson in the playoffs.
However, the 2015 game was the only time since 1998 that the Braves and Broncs faced off in a season in which both teams finished with winning records. And despite being in the same conference for a heck of a lot of time (every year since 1961 except 1974), the last time a Star Valley-Jackson game directly separated first place from second place in a conference race — prior to 2015 — was in a three-team 3A Southwest Conference in 1990.
A three-team race in 1987 was also decided by this rivalry, but the only other time the Jackson-Star Valley game separated first from second in the 56 years they spent in the same conference was in 1982, when Star Valley’s 20-7 victory against Jackson propelled the Braves to the Class A title game (and a state title), ended a Jackson winning streak at 16 games and prevented the Broncs from a repeat title attempt.
Moreover: Star Valley leads the all-time series 65-16.
The Braves have absolutely owned this rivalry. When they started annual play in 1959, the Braves won the first 10 matchups and 18 of the first 20; they also won 15 in a row from 1990-2003.
Heading into this season, it looked like this would be another easy notch in the win column for Star Valley. Jackson had lost 15 in a row (eventually 16), while Star Valley was one upset loss to Cody away from a potential three-peat of 3A championships.
But second-year coach David Joyce has Jackson moving quickly in a positive direction. The Broncs went from 16 straight losses to five straight victories. Jackson will enter Week 6 ranked second in 3A — all but unfathomable at the start of the season.
And Star Valley is right there with Jackson. Setbacks to a couple of Idaho schools didn’t stop the Braves from winning their first two West Conference games, topping Green River and Powell the past two weeks to set up a suddenly meaningful contest with the Broncs.
For a rivalry that hasn’t had much juice for the past 60 years, it’s fun to see this one take center stage for once.
- Big Piney-Pinedale in a 2A West game that will be critical in the postseason chase
- Cody-Powell as the Panthers try to play spoiler and make a postseason push of their own after two tough losses
- Capital Bowl between East and Central with the Indians coming off victory No. 1 and East chugging right along
- Pine Bluffs-Burns in a gift from the scheduling gods to keep this rivalry going
- Oil Bowl as a wounded Kelly Walsh hosts a confident Natrona
- Bridger Valley Bowl with Mountain View trying to keep a stranglehold on the 2A West with Lyman in the way
- Shoshoni-Wind River in a new production of “who cares because the playoffs are guaranteed anyway”
- Thunder Bowl with Big Horn preparing to thump Tongue River just like the Rams have thumped everyone else
- Energy Bowl as Sheridan faces Gillette in a game that might be good next year
Other not-so-rivalry games with my attention this week:
Buffalo is playing a trap game this Friday against Wheatland. Bison need to be careful on that trip to Platte County. However, with a victory, the Bison can be the first team in the state to secure a conference championship, so the motivation should be strong. …
Someone will get their first win of the season when St. Stephens hosts Dubois in six-man. There’s actually only six winless teams statewide — Gillette, Riverton, Southeast, Hulett, St. Stephens and Dubois — and three are in six-man. …
Don’t look now, but Worland is 2-0 in the 3A East. If the Warriors can beat Douglas in Douglas, the rest of the state just may have to take them seriously. …
Cody JV at Wyoming Indian
Cheyenne East at Cheyenne Central
Cheyenne South at Laramie
Gillette at Sheridan
Natrona at Kelly Walsh
Rock Springs at Thunder Basin
Cody at Powell
Green River at Evanston
Rawlins at Lander
Riverton at Torrington
Star Valley at Jackson
Worland at Douglas
Big Piney at Pinedale
Buffalo at Wheatland
Glenrock at Kemmerer
Lovell at Greybull
Lyman at Mountain View
Thermopolis at Newcastle
Class 1A 11-man
Big Horn at Tongue River
Rocky Mountain at Cokeville
Shoshoni at Wind River (at Ethete)
Southeast at Upton-Sundance (at Upton)
Wright at Lusk
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at St. Stephens
Hulett at NSI
Lingle at Kaycee
Midwest at Guernsey-Sunrise
Riverside at Meeteetse
Snake River at Farson
Pine Bluffs at Burns
Saratoga at Burlington (six-man)
Moorcroft at Rapid City Central, S.D., JV
For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Week 6” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule.
Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:
Last week: 26-5 (84 percent). This season: 129-45 (74 percent).