Unlimited money. Unlimited time. A schedule full of Wyoming high school football games.

Two of these, I don’t have.

But if I had all three, and I could spend my Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays parading around the state catching as many of the best games in the state as I could, I’d need a plan.

This is that plan — the games I would watch if I had the time and money to spend the fall the best way I know how.

Week 0: Rock Springs at Sheridan, 6 p.m. Friday; Natrona JV at Lovell, 2 p.m. Saturday. Call this one the week of introductions. With this swing up northern Wyoming, I’m able to see new Rock Springs coach Mark Lenhardt in his 4A debut against the perennially tough Broncs. Then a quick trip over the Bighorn Mountains will give me a chance to see new Lovell coach Nicc Crosby in his debut with the Bulldogs.

Week 1: Riverton JV at Kemmerer, 7 p.m. Thursday; Pinedale at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday; Laramie at Rock Springs, 6 p.m. Friday; Guernsey-Sunrise at Farson, 1 p.m. Saturday. Southwestern Wyoming has a ton of great games on the docket in Week 1, and I didn’t even get to what might be the best one (Cokeville-Mountain View, inconveniently scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday). I like seeing a Week 1 conference game with Pinedale-Lyman, and I’d be curious to see how Farson stacks up as it starts its title defense.

Week 2: Lingle at NSI, 1 p.m. Friday; Natrona at Sheridan, 7 p.m. Friday; Midwest at Hanna, 2 p.m. Saturday. The Mustangs-Broncs 4A title game rematch is the clear winner on the schedule for Week 2. Before and after, I’d sneak in a pair of six-man games, even though the jaunt from Sheridan to Hanna isn’t a short one.

Week 3: Riverton JV at Shoshoni, 6 p.m. Thursday; St. Stephens at Burlington, 2 p.m. Friday; Douglas at Powell, 6 p.m. Friday; Ten Sleep at Riverside, 2 p.m. Saturday. I’d be curious to see how Douglas looks… and Powell, too, for that matter. Seeing them together is a great option. Around that are a bunch of interesting games that make for easy travel.

Week 4: Natrona JV at Rocky Mountain, 5 p.m. Thursday; Meeteetse at Burlington, 2 p.m. Friday; Jackson at Cody, 6 p.m. Friday; Dubois at Ten Sleep, 2 p.m. Saturday. The Northwest corner gets two straight weeks of attention because, well, that Jackson-Cody game is the most intriguing game on the 3A schedule this year. Everything else is just gravy.

Week 5: Hulett at Kaycee, 2 p.m. Friday; Natrona at Thunder Basin, 7 p.m. Friday. Scenarios exist where I could catch more games, but there’s no way I’d miss Natrona-Thunder Basin, which could be the biggest 4A game of the season.

Week 6: Mountain View at Lyman, 1 p.m. Friday; Jackson at Star Valley, 6 p.m. Friday; Farson at Snake River, 2 p.m. Saturday. Mountain View-Lyman is always good; Jackson-Star Valley could be the most intense 3A game of the year; Farson-Snake River has playoff implications all over it. The drive from Afton to Baggs is a long one, but it’ll be worth it here.

Week 7: Star Valley JV at Cokeville, 4 p.m. Thursday; Riverside at St. Stephens, 2 p.m. Friday; Rocky Mountain at Wind River, 6 p.m. Friday; Hanna at Kaycee, noon Saturday. The Rocky Mountain-Wind River rivalry has taken on a new dynamic now that they play each other twice a year, and it’d be fun to see that play out. And the Hanna-Kaycee game on Saturday could be a fun one in the six-man East Conference.

Week 8: NSI at Kaycee, 1 p.m. Friday; Cheyenne East at Sheridan, 6 p.m. Friday; Lingle at Hulett, 1 p.m. Saturday. The Northeast corner gets some love this week, as the East-Sheridan game is always good and the others are six-man afternoon showdowns that could be just as fun.

What game is your can’t-miss game of the year? Leave a comment below and let’s hash out our road trip plans.

–patrick

Class 2A championships aren’t supposed to be won as easily as the way Buffalo won its title in 2018.

After opting up to play in Class 3A in 2016 and 2017, the Bison entered 2A last year as one of the favorites to win the title. They had several things going for them — their size (biggest school in 2A), their talent, their recent experience against bigger 3A programs.

Bolstered by all of that, the Bison lost just once in 2018 (7-0 to 3A Douglas in the season opener) and won their final 10 games to claim the 2A title, the program’s first championship since the dominant 2005 squad won it all in 3A.

Only one team stayed within single digits of the Bison, and even the championship game turned into a rout as Buffalo bumped off Mountain View 43-18.

Whether the Bison’s title was the start of a dynasty or a coalescing of multiple right factors at the right time will be seen in 2019. For now, though, everyone’s chasing the little-guys-turned-big-guys, who are now defending a title instead of chasing one.

Four questions to answer

Was Buffalo’s championship the start of a new 2A dynasty? Possibly. The Bison get back five all-state players from last year’s title team, setting them up well for a repeat in 2019. If that momentum can keep building, the Bison could be the team to beat in 2020, too.

Who’s Buffalo’s biggest threat? Mountain View, again. Just like Buffalo, Mountain View returns five all-state players. And like Buffalo, Mountain View has seen a ton of success in the postseason recently. Mountain View will start as the favorite in the 2A West and, if everything falls together by November, the Buffalos could notch their first undefeated season since 1997.

Will anyone else challenge for a championship? Probably not. Mountain View and Buffalo return five all-state players apiece; the rest of 2A, combined, has four (Burns’ Boe Clayson, Kemmerer’s A.Q. Martinez, Moorcroft’s Rowdy Pfeil and Thermopolis’ Logan Cole). The talent gap between Buffalo and Mountain View and the rest of 2A is pretty wide this season, so any dark horses will need a bunch of talent to develop quickly to put up a legitimate challenge to the top squads.

Will the West Conference have as much parity in the middle as it did last year? Almost certainly. No one represented the West’s parity like Pinedale, which won conference games by scores of 28-22, 21-14 and 14-6 and lost them by scores of 14-7, 21-14, 12-6 — a net score of plus-one in six games decided by eight points or less. With basically every team (outside of Mountain View) returning similar talent at similar levels, the rest of the West appears to be a crapshoot, one that will be decided in tight games week after week.

Four players (OK, three players and a unit) to watch

Hunter Gross, Mountain View. When coaches get together to award player of the year honors, they almost always go to a senior. Not last year, and not for Gross, who won the 2A lineman of the year award as a junior. He was second for the Buffalos in defensive points and racked up a team-high eight sacks — and he could be even more dominant this year.

Rowen Ruby, Buffalo. Ruby was one of 2A’s most consistent running backs last season, finishing with 1,072 yards (7.5 per carry) and 14 touchdowns. The Bison’s featured running back could have an even better season in 2019; Buffalo graduated its quarterback, its top receiver and its No. 2 running back, putting Ruby in a much brighter spotlight.

Dawson Hatch, Buffalo. Hatch was all over the field for the Bison last year, finishing first for the team in defensive points. He somehow finished with 10 tackles for loss and six interceptions, helping prove his versatility. And he was Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver and even carried the ball a few times.

Everyone from Mountain View’s backs and receivers. How do you stop Mountain View’s offense? You don’t — not with all the returning talent the Buffalos have, and not with their ability to place basically anyone in any spot at any time. Briggin Bluemel ran for 1,106 yards and Kimball Madsen added 985; Madsen threw for 866 yards and Braeden Walk chipped in 381; Walk led the team with 468 receiving yards, Ashton Schofield had 300, Bluemel had 163 and Madsen 140. The versatility the Buffalos have — particularly with those four players — makes them a challenge for any opposing defense.

Four key games

Pinedale at Kemmerer, Sept. 20. With the parity on display in the West Conference last year, this Week 3 game — after both teams have already played Lyman to open their conference schedules in Week 1 and Week 2, respectively — will tell us a lot about the makeup of a tumultuous West Conference.

Buffalo at Burns, Sept. 20. The Bison’s first road conference game of 2019 will be in eastern Laramie County against an up-and-coming Burns squad. A Buffalo victory here will be key in a repeat attempt… but a Broncs upset could completely change the outlook for the rest of the season for every team in the East.

Greybull at Mountain View, Oct 25. These two teams have been in the West Conference’s top three finishers every season since 2014, and last year they finished as the top two teams in the conference. A Week 8 showdown could determine the conference champion again this year.

Thermopolis at Burns, Oct. 25. Both teams are ready to make leaps up the East Conference standings this season. If they both capitalize on that potential through the season, this Week 8 meeting could be absolutely huge.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Buffalo, Thermopolis, Burns, Glenrock, Wheatland, Moorcroft, Newcastle.

West Conference: Mountain View, Greybull, Kemmerer, Big Piney, Lovell, Lyman, Pinedale.

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Mountain View 28, Buffalo 26. The Buffaloes have been scary consistent, with four trips to Laramie in the past six years. With a deep and motivated senior class, this just might be Mountain View’s year to return to the top of 2A. But Buffalo is the defending champs, and the Bison won’t make anything easy.

Stadium tour and season preview video

What do you think? Is another Mountain View-Buffalo championship game inevitable? Or is there someone outside of last year’s two title-game teams who could challenge for the 2A championship? Is 2A is any deeper than the two teams that are on top on paper? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Next week: Class 3A preview.

–patrick

As always, Phil Steele’s annual college football preview magazine is a source of inspiration for looking at football, and football stats, in new ways.

Last year, I broke down the Yards Per Point stat that’s highlighted in the Phil Steele preview. This year, though, I wanted to look at something else — the yards per game differential in conference games.

Using last year’s final stats, I broke out the game-by-game statistics and looked at how the yards gained compared to the yards allowed in conference games — and then simply subtracted to find the difference.

Of course, yards aren’t the be-all, end-all statistic to track team strength. No stat is, really, although the closest is obviously a team’s win-loss record. But even wins and losses can sometimes be deceiving, so breaking out yards as a measure of a team’s relative strength can be useful to identify teams that either under- or over-performed based on what we might expect based on how many yards a team gained and gave up.

When I applied this measure to the 2018 Wyoming high school football season, some interesting revelations emerged:

  • Class 2A champ Buffalo was fourth in its own conference in yardage difference.
  • Class 3A Jackson obliterated the rest of the West Conference in yards gained, yet Star Valley went unbeaten in conference play and won the 3A title.
  • There’s a huge gulf between the top and bottom teams in the 1A 11-man East.
  • The teams that went winless in conference play (Gillette, Riverton, Powell, Newcastle, Lovell and Southeast) all finished last in their respective conferences in YPG differential.

Of course, one of the big things you can try to do with this data is compare it to conference standings and compare differences. Teams that finish higher in the conference standings but lower in YPG might have been more fortunate, or won more close games, or won the turnover battle — things that may not carry over to next season. The teams with the biggest differences were Laramie (fifth in 4A, but eighth in YPG) and previously mentioned Buffalo. Two other teams that might have been more “fortunate” in their win-loss records than the YPG would suggest were Big Piney (finished tied for second in the conference standings but was fifth in YPG) and Lander (finished third in the conference but fifth in YPG).

The team that was the least “fortunate” in its win-loss record may have been Thermopolis. The Bobcats finished fourth in the 2A East but were second in YPG differential.

The full YPG stats for conference play are below. (For Class 4A, total yards in all games, regular season and playoff, are included. No stats are included for Class 1A six-man, where per-game stat-keeping is inconsistent, as well as for Wyoming Indian, which played only one conference game.) And if you need a reminder of how the conference standings actually came together last year, click here.

Class 4AOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Natrona410.2206.4203.8
Thunder Basin403.3212.3191.0
Sheridan318.8242.476.4
Cheyenne East341.0323.917.1
Kelly Walsh308.6346.3-37.7
Cheyenne Central272.2316.7-44.5
Rock Springs224.6272.1-47.5
Laramie225.3302.4-77.1
Cheyenne South223.1378.8-155.7
Gillette147.2389.8-242.6
Class 3A EastOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Torrington448.8190.4258.4
Douglas361.6261.899.8
Worland262.2299.4-37.2
Rawlins220.0313.2-93.2
Lander238.0348.4-110.4
Riverton245.6363.0-117.4
Class 3A WestOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Jackson397.6234.8162.8
Star Valley323.0277.445.6
Cody278.4300.6-22.2
Evanston313.8353.6-39.8
Green River249.8299.8-50.0
Powell197.8294.2-96.4
Class 2A EastOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Glenrock417.5170.0247.5
Thermopolis374.8229.5145.3
Wheatland358.2217.2141.0
Buffalo320.3260.360.0
Burns296.3377.5-81.2
Moorcroft198.8332.0-133.2
Newcastle172.7431.2-258.5
Class 2A WestOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Mountain View324.5165.2159.3
Greybull330.5248.881.7
Kemmerer211.2210.50.7
Pinedale245.0263.7-18.7
Big Piney231.3257.4-26.1
Lyman223.6250.0-26.4
Lovell163.2326.7-163.5
Class 1A 11-man EastOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Big Horn434.8194.0240.8
Pine Bluffs313.7189.0124.7
Upton-Sundance411.5290.8120.7
Lusk236.8330.7-93.8
Tongue River199.7303.2-103.5
Wright212.0328.8-116.8
Southeast193.6364.8-171.2
Class 1A 11-man WestOff YPGDef YPGDifference
Cokeville314.3153.3161.0
Wind River218.3223.7-5.3
Shoshoni307.0326.3-19.3
Rocky Mountain147.0283.3-136.3

Note: Big Piney and Lyman totals do not include yards that Lyman’s offense gained against Big Piney. Similarly, Pine Bluffs and Southeast totals do not include yards that Southeast’s offense gained against Pine Bluffs. Those totals were not available in the end-of-year season statistics.

So… whose win-loss record in conference play doesn’t match their yardage difference? What might that say about who’s ready for a breakthrough in 2019? Leave a comment, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

–patrick

Well, Big Horn, how do you come up with an encore for that?

The Rams were more than just dominant in 2018 on their way to the Class 1A 11-man title. The numbers speak for themselves — 11-0 record, a state 11-man record 577 points scored, a title-game victory margin of 53 points, a state record for most points scored in a three-game playoff series… and on and on.

Now, the Rams have to find a way to remain competitive despite graduating seven all-state picks. Somehow, they have six other all-state picks coming back, and Big Horn remains the favorite to win 1A 11-man even with all the changes.

Part of the reason the Rams are drawing so much respect is because the talent well is just that deep in Big Horn. And part of it is that the Rams proved they could handle change last season when they shifted head coaches, giving Kirk McLaughlin a perfect start to his head coaching career with that dominant season.

If anyone can handle high expectations AND transition at the same time, it’s Big Horn. However, a repeat of last year’s record-setting season would be a surprise — and challengers like Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs and Cokeville will make an undefeated season in and of itself a challenge.

Four questions to answer

What makes Big Horn the favorite again? Returning firepower. In short, no other team returns what Big Horn returns this fall. The six returning all-state players is the highest number in the state regardless of classification, and with so many key players back from an undefeated team, the Rams start the year as the favorites.

Who’s most likely to challenge Big Horn for the top spot? Is “pick ’em” an option? Several squads return key chunks of players, including Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs and Lusk from the East and Cokeville, Rocky Mountain and Shoshoni from the West. Any one of those teams is capable of pulling off a first-round playoff victory given the right circumstances, although Upton-Sundance appears on paper to be the most capable of challenging Big Horn for both conference and state title honors.

What was that about Lusk? Oh yeah, Lusk is a thing again. The Tigers return four of their five all-conference choices from last year, including a pair of all-staters in senior Damien Molzahn and junior Drake Lamp. After missing the playoffs last year thanks to a little bad luck in a coin flip, Lusk should be a contender again this year.

What about the West Conference? In short — what about it? Aside from Cokeville, the conference was disappointing in the postseason last year, with the No. 2, 3 and 4 seeds losing first-round games by scores of 67-8, 54-0 and 56-0. With Saratoga playing six-man and Wyoming Indian playing a patchwork schedule, four teams are eligible for the four playoff spots out of the West — not exactly conditions conducive to creating playoff-ready, tested squads.

Four players to watch

Quinn McCafferty, Big Horn. Any discussion of the Rams’ hopes this year starts with the man under center. McCafferty led Class 1A 11-man with 1,731 passing yards (157.4 per game). His completion percentage of 63.4 (92 of 145) was by far the best among 1A, and he had a 27-to-3 touchdown to interception ratio. His presence will keep the Rams stable in a new season.

Will Pelissier, Big Horn. Pelissier is a rare player that can show up in the top 10 of the classification in both the rushing and receiving categories. He was ninth in 1A in rushing last year, carrying 82 times for 653 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he was just as dangerous through the air, finishing with 20 catches for 429 yards. As a senior, both yardage totals could go up as Pelissier gets even more opportunities.

Dax Yeradi, Wright. The Panthers broke a long streak last year by qualifying for the playoffs, and Yeradi was a big reason why. As the Class 1A 11-man leader in defensive points each of the past two years, Yeradi has consistently proven his ability to provide huge plays (class-high seven interceptions last year) and keep Wright in games.

Jayden Caylor, Upton-Sundance. As a junior, Caylor was instrumental in the Patriots’ run in the playoffs. He led U-S in several key statistics, including rushing (779 yards), receiving (331 yards), scoring (110 points), tackles (91), and defensive points (147). As the Patriots’ only returning all-state player, Caylor might see his responsibilities increase in 2019 — as if that’s possible.

Four key games

Big Horn at Upton-Sundance, Sept. 27. This showdown between the Patriots and the Rams is always key — and the Rams have always had the upper hand. Big Horn is 2-0 against the U-S co-op, winning 55-14 last year and 53-13 the year before that.

Cokeville at Rocky Mountain, Oct. 11. The Panthers appear to be ready to cruise to yet another West Conference title, and no one appears to be in a position to put up much of a fight against that. However, the up-and-coming Grizzlies, at home in Week 6, are in the best position to catch the Panthers in a potential trap game.

Upton-Sundance at Pine Bluffs, Oct. 18. This game between the Patriots and Hornets has had playoff implications for the past several years. Expect similar stakes this year, where a victory could mean the difference between having a home playoff game and not.

Pine Bluffs at Lusk, Oct. 25. A lot of people are looking at Lusk as a potential breakout team in 2019. If the Tigers uphold their end of the expectations, this Week 8 meeting at home against perennially tough Pine Bluffs could have higher stakes than pride on the line.

Predicted order of finish

East Conference: Big Horn, Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs, Lusk, Tongue River, Wright, Southeast.

West Conference: Cokeville, Shoshoni, Rocky Mountain, Wind River, Wyoming Indian.

Way-too-early title game score prediction

Big Horn 34, Upton-Sundance 24. By acclimation, the Rams are the favorites in 1A this year. A surprise might be waiting somewhere along the line, but as of August, the Rams are in the best position to be the last team standing come November.

Stadium tour and season preview video

What do you think? Can Big Horn keep up the pace it set for itself last year? Could Upton-Sundance, Pine Bluffs or someone else end the Rams’ run in the East? Is Cokeville, of all programs, being overlooked? Leave a comment, or drop a line on Twitter or Facebook.

Next week: Class 2A preview.

–patrick

After two consecutive runner-up finishes, Farson finally won its first state football championship last year.

And how.

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.

–patrick

It’s pretty easy to figure out which players are among Wyoming’s top returners this year.

Take a look at last year’s all-conference, all-state and Super 25 listings, and just remove the seniors.

Or (shameless plug alert) read the upcoming annual Wyoming high school football preview magazine, which I wrote again this year with previews on every team in the state and will be out in mid- to late August.

Rarely, if ever, do typical season previews and postseason recognition lists indicate the number of the player’s jersey. However, that’s the most common way for fans to figure out who’s who on the field.

So what if we put together a team of returning players and chose the best players based on the number of their jerseys — choosing only one player per number?

Let’s do this for Wyoming high school football’s 2019 returners.

I’m certainly not the first to do this. The specific inspiration for this post, though, came from one of my former students, Sam Herder, who’s doing something similar for players at the FCS level of college football for HeroSports.

The problem with taking something that’s normally reserved for the NFL or college teams and applying it to Wyoming high schools is that, um… how to put it politely?… not every number has a bunch of good players from which to choose.

One of the things that became readily apparent during the production of this list was that Wyoming high schools rarely use numbers in the 90s. In fact, using last year’s final stats as my starting point, I couldn’t find a single returning player in the entire state at any level who wore number 91, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97 or 98 last year.

Similarly, I couldn’t find a returner who wore 46 or 59, either. A few numbers had only one returner in the state (and, no, I won’t tell you which ones, because I don’t want to embarrass anyone who’s listed below). On the flipside, some numbers — like 1, 2, 5 and 12, among others — were overloaded with talented players who would have easily made this list if they had worn a less-common number.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of these returning players will wear the same number this year that they did last year. And there’s a chance that the players listed here may not go out, or may have moved or transferred since the end of last season.

The list here is subjective; it’s my opinion, and I made it for fun. Hopefully, you have fun with it too… and I’m more than happy if you disagree with me. 🙂

Anyway, here’s Wyoming’s top returning high school football players for 2019 by jersey number:

NumberNameSchool
1Mason HamiltonThunder Basin
2Dax YeradiWright
3Kirby CastagnoJackson
4Chance AumillerCheyenne East
5Garrett CoonSheridan
6Peter GoettlerJackson
7Hunter HaysCody
8Rowen RubyBuffalo
9Andrew JohnsonCheyenne Central
10A.J. YeamanDouglas
11Dawson MaclearyCheyenne Central
12Quinn McCaffertyBig Horn
13Graedyn BuellCheyenne East
14Todd PaisleyWheatland
15Kaden RazaBig Piney
16Seth HymasRock Springs
17Riggen MyersSnake River
18Tristan BlattCody
19Kimball MadsenMountain View
20Devon MercadoWorland
21R.J. CazierStar Valley
22A.J. McCoolJackson
23Favor OkereRock Springs
24Jhett LetellierHulett
25Wyatt DuncanSnake River
26Jeydon CoxJackson
27Hunter KramerGillette
28Jaxon PikulaThunder Basin
29Emory YoosookKelly Walsh
30Rowdy PfeilMoorcroft
31Austin SansoucieMidwest
32David CastilloStar Valley
33Dante WallaceNatrona
34Hyrum HatchBuffalo
35Caden WerbelowRiverton
36Josiah DiversSt. Stephens
37McCaffrey BillingsBig Horn
38Eli DickeyThermopolis
39Carson OlsenPowell
40Drake LampLusk
41James StoneLusk
42Damien MolzahnLusk
43Bryson DavisEvanston
44Logan ColeThermopolis
45Jeremy HarttGuernsey-Sunrise
46No returners identified
47Bryston Jennings*Glenrock
48Luke MullinaxBig Horn
49Nick TalichCody
50Hunter GrossMountain View
51Anthony GravesBuffalo
52Gavin ThomasKelly Walsh
53Cody PinkertonDouglas
54Hansen BradshawLyman
55Nathan SwanstonBuffalo
56Keith ConnorCody
57Riley ShafferThermopolis
58Parker MerrittStar Valley
59No returners identified
60Nate BarnesCokeville
61Brandon Mortenson*Rock Springs
62Brendan Miller*Kemmerer
63Colter Collver*Wind River
64Mitch MillerBurns
65Remington FerreeThermopolis
66Garrett KingCokeville
67Edel Diaz-JaimeDouglas
68Tyler SchaubTorrington
69Parker SchlaterMoorcroft
70Kie FosterRawlins
71Zane TaylorRiverton
72Cam ThomasBig Piney
73Jasper CalderaLusk
74Jeff WilliamsCody
75Corbin HarrisTorrington
76Hunter MeeksMountain View
77Hunter PopeBuffalo
78Jacob KnoblochTongue River
79Reid FosterDouglas
80Brady StoreboCheyenne Central
81Zion GrahamKelly Walsh
82Tyler MoyesCokeville
83Tyson ChristiansenRocky Mountain
84Chase MerrellStar Valley
85Kaden ReddingMeeteetse
86Jaret TaylorCheyenne East
87Johnathon TrueNatrona
88Mason MastellerThunder Basin
89Kaden GautenbeinRiverton
90Hunter BaileyHulett
91No returners identified
92No returners identified
93Garrett OswaldCheyenne East
94No returners identified
95No returners identified
96No returners identified
97No returners identified
98No returners identified
99Rhiley Grubbs*Torrington

*-Jennings wore both 47 and 64 last year; Mortenson wore both 61 and 63 last year; Miller wore both 62 and 77 last year; Collver wore both 63 and 40 last year; Grubbs wore both 55 and 99 last year.

If you have suggestions for folks I should have put in each spot, leave a comment, or consider hitting me up on Twitter or Facebook.

–patrick

To break three-way ties in conference play in 2019, the Wyoming High School Activities Association will use a new step in its tiebreaking procedures, one that incorporates scoring differential in games against the tied teams.

On paper, it’s a small change, one that’s deep down in the WHSAA’s tiebreaking procedures, just a step ahead of flipping a coin.

However, if we retroactively apply the new tiebreaking procedures to past three-way ties, some interesting results emerge.

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PREVIOUS PROCEDURES

Before we dive into that, it’s important to understand that the top two elements of Wyoming’s high school football tiebreaking procedures have remained unchanged for more than a decade.

Since 2009, when power ratings were fully eliminated from playoff seeding, the first two steps of the three-way tiebreaking procedure have been (1) head-to-head results of the tied teams, and (2) records of the tied teams against the highest-ranking non-tied team.

After that, though, the tiebreaking procedures have seen multiple iterations — including the new one to be introduced in 2019.

  • In 2010, after the first two steps, tiebreaker steps included (3) overall record; (4) highest winning percentage in road conference games; (5) triangular playoff; (6) coin flip.
  • From 2011-15, steps after the first two were simplified to include just these: (3) triangular playoff; (4) coin flip (skip 3 if qualifying isn’t involved).
  • From 2016-18, triangulars were eliminated, and the third step was the only step after the first two: (3) coin flip.

In 2019, though, after years of stripping away options, the WHSAA is adding one to its procedures. Starting this season, the third step will be point differential among the tied teams in games between those teams (capped at 12 points per game). After that, the coin flip is the last option.

Although other states have used a similar tiebreaker, Wyoming has never used point differential as a tiebreaker for conference standings.

But what if the Equality State had decided to do this a decade ago?

What if we applied the tiebreaking rules to be used this year to break three-way ties in past seasons? Would the results be any different? Would different teams qualify for the playoffs?

That’s what we’re about to explore here.

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THREE-WAY TIES, EXPLORED

Since 2009, Wyoming high school football has had 29 three-way conference ties that affected seeding or playoff qualifying.

Of those 29 ties, the new tiebreaker rules come into play in 24 cases — the other five were broken by one of the first two tiebreaker criteria, either the head-to-head tiebreaker or the record vs. higher teams in the conference tiebreaker.

However, in 17 of the remaining 24 cases, the playoff seedings would have been different with a point differential tiebreaker than whatever the previous tiebreaker created. And in six *and maybe seven* cases, the teams that would have qualified for the playoffs under the new tiebreaker rules were different from those who actually did qualify under old tiebreaker rules.

Let’s break down each one of these seven ties, looking at who would qualify for the playoffs with the new tiebreaking system and comparing it to who qualified under the systems in place at the time:

2018 1A 11-man East
Who would have qualified: Lusk
Who actually qualified: Wright
The most recent of the ties that would be settled differently happened last year, where Wright, Lusk and Tongue River tied for the final playoff spot out of the 1A 11-man East Conference. Last year, Wright won a coin flip to earn that last spot; if the exact same tie happened this year, Lusk would qualify for the playoffs with scoring differentials of Lusk +5, Wright +1 and Tongue River -6.

2014 1A 11-man West
Who would have qualified: Burlington
Who actually qualified: Riverside
In this case, Riverside, Burlington and Wind River all tied for the fourth and final playoff spot out of the West. In 2014, they played a triangular playoff for that spot, with Riverside topping Wind River after Burlington withdrew from the triangular altogether. Using a score differential system for the final spot, though, Burlington would have actually earned the last spot (Burlington +8, Riverside 0, Wind River -8).

2013 1A 11-man West
Who would have qualified: Shoshoni
Who actually qualified: Riverside
This season, Burlington, Riverside and Shoshoni all tied for the final two postseason spots. In real life, Burlington earned the third seed by winning a triangular playoff, and Riverside earned the fourth seed after that by virtue of a head-to-head regular-season win. Using a scoring differential, though, would have given Shoshoni the third spot, Burlington the fourth spot and Riverside a spot on the sidelines (Shoshoni +6, Burlington 0, Riverside -6).

2011 2A West
Who would have qualified: Greybull
Who actually qualified: Kemmerer
Thermopolis, Kemmerer and Greybull tied for the final two spots, and in a triangular playoff, Thermopolis emerged with the No. 3 seed and Kemmerer the No. 4 seed. With a scoring differential tiebreaker, though, Greybull would have been third, Thermopolis fourth and Kemmerer out (Greybull +5, Thermopolis 0, Kemmerer -5).

2011 1A 11-man East
Who would have qualified: Pine Bluffs
Who actually qualified: Lingle
This is perhaps the most famous failure of a tiebreaking system to actually break a tie. Lingle, Pine Bluffs and Sundance tied for the final two seeds from the East. After none of the tiebreakers worked, the teams staged a triangular playoff. After the triangular playoff, though, the teams were still tied. So they flipped coins in the parking lot, and Sundance finished third, Lingle fourth and Pine Bluffs out. However, using a scoring differential system, Pine Bluffs would have been third, Sundance fourth and Lingle out (Pine Bluffs +9, Sundance -3, Lingle -6). (By the way, after the 2011 season, the WHSAA added an overtime system to triangular tiebreaker playoffs in case this ever happened again. It didn’t.)

2010 2A East
Who would have qualified: Wright
Who actually qualified: Newcastle
In this case, Newcastle, Burns and Wright tied for two playoff spots out of the East. Newcastle finished third, Burns fourth and Wright out by virtue of a tiebreaker system that was in its last year — one where the “team with the highest winning percentage of away league games” is the highest seed. In this case, Newcastle’s 2-1 road league record beat Burns’ 2-2 and Wright’s 2-2 to earn the third seed, and Burns’ head-to-head victory over Wright got them the fourth seed. In a score differential system, though, Burns would have finished in the third seed, Wright the fourth seed and Newcastle out (Burns +3, Wright 0, Newcastle -3).

BONUS: 2009 1A 11-man West
Who would have qualified: ???
Who actually qualified: Rocky Mountain and Riverside
In 2009, Rocky Mountain, Riverside and Burlington finished tied for the final two playoff seeds. At the time, one of the tiebreakers was overall record. Burlington’s 4-4 was worse than Rocky’s and Riverside’s duplicate 5-3 marks, bumping them out of the playoffs, and Rocky’s victory against Riverside decided who got the third seed and who got the fourth. However, in a scoring differential system, it’s impossible to know how qualifying would go — the scoring differential for all three teams was 0, as each game between these three programs was decided by more than 12 points. In a case like this, were it to happen again in 2019, the spots would be decided by a coin flip.

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In 11 other cases, new tiebreaking procedures in place for 2019 would have generated different seeding than what we saw using old tiebreakers. These changes often affected who was at home and who was on the road for the first round of the playoffs and matchups in the first round. Those ties included:

2018 1A 11-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker
: Wind River 2, Rocky Mountain 3, Shoshoni 4
How seeds actually went: Shoshoni 2, Rocky Mountain 3, Wind River 4

2017 3A East
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker
: Rawlins 2, Buffalo 3, Douglas 4
How seeds actually went: Buffalo 2, Douglas 3, Rawlins 4

2017 1A six-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Burlington 1, Snake River 2, Farson 3
How seeds actually went: Farson 1, Burlington 2, Snake River 3

2016 3A West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Star Valley 1, Green River 2, Powell 3
How seeds actually went: Powell 1, Star Valley 2, Green River 3

2016 1A 11-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Rocky Mountain 1, Cokeville 2, Shoshoni 3
How seeds actually went: Shoshoni 1, Rocky Mountain 2, Cokeville 3

2016 1A six-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Burlington 2, Snake River 3, Meeteetse 4
How seeds actually went: Meeteetse 2, Snake River 3, Burlington 4

2015 1A 11-man West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Rocky Mountain 2, Riverside 3, Cokeville 4
How seeds actually went: Cokeville 2, Rocky Mountain 3, Riverside 4

2014 4A
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Sheridan 2, Cheyenne East 3, Gillette 4
How seeds actually went: Cheyenne East 2, Gillette 3, Sheridan 4

2010 2A West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Greybull 1, Lovell 2, Lyman 3
How seeds actually went: Lovell 1, Greybull 2, Lyman 3

2010 1A six-man
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Kaycee 2, Ten Sleep 3, Hanna 4
How seeds actually went: Hanna 2, Ten Sleep 3, Kaycee 4

2009 3A West
How seeds would be under new tiebreaker: Worland 1, Star Valley 2, Cody 3
How seeds actually went: Cody 1, Worland 2, Star Valley 3

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Six three-way ties unaffected by the new tiebreaking procedures include:

2017 1A six-man East: Hanna, Midwest, Guernsey. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2016 3A East: Lander, Rawlins, Buffalo. Lander won the coin flip in real life and would have won on scoring differential.
2015 4A: Kelly Walsh, Evanston, Laramie. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2015 3A East: Buffalo, Douglas, Riverton. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2015 2A East: Wheatland, Glenrock, Big Horn. Goes to coin flip, even with new tiebreaker.
2010 2A West: Big Piney, Mountain View, Pinedale. Big Piney won the overall record tiebreaker in real life and would have won on scoring differential.

And three-way ties that wouldn’t even reach the scoring differential tiebreaker, whether tied in the past or tied in 2019, are:

2018 4A: Cheyenne Central, Kelly Walsh, Rock Springs. Rock Springs beat both head-to-head.
2016 4A: Natrona, Laramie, Cheyenne East. Natrona beat both head-to-head.
2013 1A six-man East: Hulett, Kaycee, Saratoga. Hulett beat the highest-ranking non-tied team.
2011 4A: Cheyenne Central, Cheyenne East, Evanston. East beat both head-to-head.
2010 4A: Gillette, Evanston, Sheridan. Sheridan beat the highest-ranking non-tied team.

+++

The WHSAA also includes language in its handbook about breaking a four-way tie. A four-way tie break would not include scoring differential. However, the WHSAA handbook does not have any language about breaking a five-way tie, or breaking a tie involving more than five teams.

A four-way, five-way or more-way tie in football conference standings has never happened in Wyoming. Yet.

–patrick

Chad Lobdell will be the football coach for the six-man football team at NSI Academy near Sheridan this fall.

Lobdell confirmed his hiring, which happened last week, to wyoming-football.com on Wednesday.

A native of Buffalo, Lobdell works at the school as the admissions director. He was an assistant coach with the Wolves in both 2014 and 2015. He previously coached in Holbrook, Arizona, and has also coached wrestling and baseball at the high school level. He also works in Wyoming as a wrestling official.

Lobdell will replace Antoine Proctor, who coached the Wolves to a 3-4 record last season in the Class 1A six-man East Conference.

Other Wyoming high schools with new head coaches for 2019 include Kelly WalshGilletteRock SpringsEvanstonTorringtonGlenrockLovellBig PineyPinedale, Wyoming IndianKayceeMeeteetse and Ten Sleep. In addition, Midwest is seeking a new head coach. If you know of other head coaching changes statewide, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Three players from Wyoming will be a part of the 2019 Can-Am Bowl, a six-man all-star game.

Farson’s Clancy Gines and Lain Mitchelson and Meeteetse’s Kirwin Johnson will be a part of Team USA, Farson coach Trip Applequist said via email on Friday.

The game takes place every July in Saskatchewan. A six-man all-star team from the United States faces a six-man all-star team of players from Saskatchewan and Alberta. Full rosters are not yet available.

The game will be July 6 in Wakaw, Saskatchewan.

This will be the 23rd Can-Am Bowl. Team USA has an 18-4 series edge and won last year’s game 68-30. Wyoming players began playing in the Can-Am Bowl in 2014.

Applequist and Farson’s Scott Reed will be among the coaches for the team.

The Team USA provided by Applequist includes:

Montana: Cobe Begger, Caleb Fix, Joey Hale, Bill Hansen, Caleb Hess, Seth Prevost, Bryce Reitz, Jake Solomon, Zane Somerfeld, JR Spenser, Sawyer Thiel, Tyler Thiessen, AJ Ullmer, Colby Zentner.
Nebraska: AJ Jenkins.
Texas: Trisdon Bynum, Toby Cran, Bastion Pickens, Corbin Ruthehardt, Corbin Schrotke, Jake Weiser.
Wyoming: Clancy Gines, Kirwin Johnson, Lain Mitchelson.

–patrick

Updated 8:40 a.m. Saturday, June 29, to include the Team USA roster.