After two consecutive runner-up finishes, Farson finally won its first state football championship last year.
The Pronghorns stampeded their way to an 11-0 finish, outscoring their opponents 790-231, and won the state title game 73-38.
The question facing six-man in 2019, though, is if the Pronghorns are still the favorites despite losing several key playmakers to graduation.
Although the Pronghorns figure to be in the hunt, the tides are shifting a bit in six-man. The East Conference — which went 0-for-4 in its first-round playoff games last year — is much stronger this year, with Hanna the favorite to take the top seed. Snake River could emerge from a weaker but still competitive West. Burlington learned a lot from its runner-up finish. And several other teams return enough players to stay competitive and potentially pull a playoff upset or two.
While Farson was the favorite from start to finish last season, no team takes that honor this year. In what might be six-man’s most wide-open season since its inception in 2009, no team is the definitive favorite.
Four questions to answer
What’s different about six-man this year? The conference balance. Last year, the West dominated the East; the West was much stronger, top to bottom, and East teams didn’t win a single playoff game. This year, though, the East has 14 returning all-conference players, total, while the West has eight. While East teams won’t be as dominant as West teams were last year, they’ll be much more competitive than they were in 2018.
So which team from the East has the best chance of upsetting the West’s dominance? Hanna. The Miners were undefeated in the regular season last year before losing to West No. 4 seed Burlington in the first round. They return most of their key players from 2018, including the McGraw twins (Conor and Shane), who play equally important roles. That was shown in one key statistic, total offense — Shane had 1,596 yards of total offense last year, while Conor had a nearly identical 1,590.
So let’s get to it — who’s gonna win the state championship? Probably Snake River. The Rattlers will have close to a dozen seniors on this year’s team, including a pair of all-staters in Riggen Myers and Wyatt Duncan. After finishing third in the West and reaching the semis last year, Snake River has the chance to be the team everyone else is chasing.
Who’s ready to surprise everyone? Riverside. The Rebels had a roster last year that included zero seniors, one junior, three sophomores and eight freshmen. Although the Rebels are still ineligible for postseason play — and will move to nine-man in 2020 — they could have a heck of a final year in six-man if the young players develop quickly.
Four players to watch
Riggen Myers, Snake River. Myers was a beast on both offense and defense for the Rattlers. Last year, he ran for 1,398 yards and 24 touchdowns while also piling up 207 defensive points and 71 total tackles. On a senior-laden Rattler team, Myers will be the pacesetter.
Conor McGraw, Hanna. The Miners’ dynamic McGraw twins fulfill different, but similar, roles. It’s Conor McGraw’s role to run the ball (881 yards, 14 touchdowns last year) and lead the defense (207 points, second-best in six-man last season).
Shane McGraw, Hanna. Meanwhile, it’s Shane McGraw’s role to pass (558 passing yards, 12 TDs and zero interceptions), run (762 rushing yards, 13 TDs) and support defensive efforts (fourth on the team with 139 defensive points, including three sacks and three pass break-ups).
Jarom Davidson, Burlington. Davidson is the only returning all-state selection for last year’s runners-up, and he’ll be a terror on defense. He led the Huskies and was fifth in the state in defensive points last year, racking up 127 total tackles. He was also the Huskies’ top receiver last year.
Four key games
Kaycee at Burlington, Sept. 7. Both programs have had recent success — Kaycee with three straight titles from 2015-17, Burlington with a runner-up finish last season. But neither is in the early talk for state title contenders. That could change with a statement victory against the other on opening weekend.
Farson at Snake River, Oct. 12. This Saturday matchup between the Pronghorns and Rattlers in Baggs might determine the West’s No. 1 seed. On paper, they’re the two best teams entering 2019, which means something will have to give.
Burlington at Farson, Oct. 18. The rematch of last year’s state championship game comes in Week 7 in Farson — and both teams will need to win here to keep hopes of a No. 1 seed alive.
Hanna at Guernsey, Oct. 25. Hanna finishes its schedule with its two toughest games — at Kaycee in Week 7 and at Guernsey in Week 8. Whether the Miners muster a postseason push that gets them to Laramie may well depend on whether they can win in Platte County in the regular-season finale.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Hanna, Guernsey, Hulett, Lingle, Kaycee, Saratoga*, NSI, Midwest.
West Conference: Snake River, Farson, Burlington, Meeteetse, Riverside*, St. Stephens, Dubois, Ten Sleep.
*-ineligible for playoffs
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Snake River 54, Hanna 52. On paper, these are the two best teams entering the season. Both teams return a ton of players from competitive teams, and either one could be six-man’s most dominant program in 2019. Call this pick a bias for geography: It’d be fun to see these two Carbon County rivals play each other in the season finale.
Stadium tour and season preview video
What do you think? Is a Hanna-Snake River title game the stuff of legend, or will another team (like, say, the defending state champs from Farson) come along and surprise us all? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.
Next week: Class 1A 11-man preview.