In a closed set of games like Class 4A has every season — no opponents outside the group of the 10 largest schools in the state — score comparison is an inevitability.

The problem with comparing scores is it leaves you susceptible to falling into the trap that teams play the same way each time they take the field.

As any high school football coach will tell you, that’s their goal, but not their reality.

In fact, only twice since entering the round-robin schedule in 2009 — in 2012 and 2017 — has Class 4A gone without an “upset,” with the 10 teams finishing 9-0, 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, 5-4, 4-5, 3-6, 2-7, 1-8 and 0-9 in regular-season play.

Football is a messy sport, and it’s even messier at the high school level. That’s part of the appeal.

So when we look at Friday night’s game between the last two unbeaten teams in 4A, Cheyenne East and Sheridan, it seems inevitable that we would compare scores. After all, they share three opponents through the first five games — Thunder Basin, Laramie and Rock Springs — and each has played this series of foes in the past three weeks.

So when we bring up East has had bigger victories against all three, it seems that East is the obvious choice. The Thunderbirds’ margins of victory against Laramie (63-7 vs. 55-7 for Sheridan), Thunder Basin (52-42 vs. 34-27 for Sheridan) and Rock Springs (54-20 vs. 39-28 for Sheridan) suggest East has the upper hand in the challenge to stay undefeated.

However, as more games are played, the messier score comparisons get, especially in a closed, round-robin schedule.

That’s the thing about 4A. It doesn’t always play out the way the previous scores suggest it should.


To be honest, this week’s schedule statewide is not as interesting as other weeks of the year. But that’s on paper. On the field, I’m sure we’ll see some surprising results. Still, these are the games that look like big ones, at least before the first kickoff:

For the first time, Campbell County enters the Coal Bowl with a better record than crosstown rival Thunder Basin. Will the momentum from the Camels’ four-game winning streak be enough to best the ‘Bolts, who have lost three in a row but played competitively in all three? …

Douglas and Buffalo both won their 3A East openers last week, and the winner this week will be the favorite to continue that success right on into home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Call it the “Cow on the Mountain” game, because the stakes are elevated. …

Some of the most competitive football of the year has been in the 2A West, where the top four teams (Lovell, Cokeville, Lyman and Mountain View) are a combined 13-4. Cokeville and Mountain View will play Friday in the Bridger Valley to help sort out some of the confusion at the top of the league, and it might be an opportunity to define a season for one of the two teams. …

It’s a nonconference week in 1A six-man, with the most intriguing out-of-league game pitting 3-1 Encampment up against 4-0 Kaycee up in Johnson County. The Buckaroos’ resurgence has been one of the feel-good stories of the year, but the Tigers will be game and will definitely be Kaycee’s toughest test to date.


This is the week, y’all. This is the week I go 100% on my picks — something I’ve never done before in 17-plus years of doing this stuff. Or not, because the bold teams are my favorites and the non-bold teams always find a way to surprise us. And thank goodness. Otherwise this would get boring, fast.

Class 2A
Kemmerer at Lyman
Upton-Sundance at Newcastle
Class 1A nine-man
Riverside at Shoshoni
Wyoming Indian at Wind River
Class 4A
Campbell County at Thunder Basin
Cheyenne East at Sheridan
Cheyenne South at Cheyenne Central
Kelly Walsh at Laramie
Rock Springs at Natrona
Class 3A
at Buffalo
Evanston at Jackson
Green River at Cody
Lander at Riverton
Star Valley at Powell
Worland at Rawlins
Class 2A
at Glenrock
Cokeville at Mountain View
Thermopolis at Pinedale
Torrington at Tongue River
Wheatland at Big Horn
Class 1A nine-man
Guernsey at Southeast
Lusk at Pine Bluffs
Moorcroft at Lingle
Rocky Mountain at Greybull
Wright at Saratoga
Class 1A six-man
at Kaycee
Farson at Burlington
Hanna at Midwest
Lovell at Rich County, Utah
Class 1A nine-man
Big Piney
at St. Stephens
Class 1A six-man
Hulett vs. Snake River (at Midwest)
Meeteetse at Dubois
Open: Ten Sleep.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 5” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.


Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 28-3 (90 percent). This season: 122-27 (82 percent).


Also, one more quick note: The first season of football for Casper Christian School has been, and will be, busy.

Casper Christian School’s 33-12 loss to Kaycee on Sept. 13 has been retroactively added to the site.

Kaycee coach Dave Largent said Kaycee added the mid-week game two weeks ago after getting permission from the Wyoming High School Activities Association, which allowed the game since Kaycee was idle during Zero Week. Largent said his team played a mix of players but still counted statistics and the game for their season record.

CCS coach Ryan Harrison said his team will finish its season with three games against a Natrona freshman/sophomore team and a game against Hulett in the final week of the season. All three NC games will be on consecutive Saturdays, starting this week. Hulett originally scheduled Edgemont, S.D., for the final week, but Edgemont failed to field a team this season, Hulett AD Jen Stevens said.

The Mountaineers are playing a six-man schedule this year. They are 0-3 so far with losses to Kaycee, Midwest and Burlington.


We’re now past the midpoint of the regular season. Whose play, individually or team-wise, has been a pleasant surprise for you? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Note: This is the first in a series of stories about some of Wyoming’s biggest high school sports underdogs.

The Reliance boys basketball team from 1949. Photo courtesy of the 1949 Reliance High School yearbook.
Top row: Coach Jack Smith, Ronald Wilson, Robert Burns, Tony Tsakakis, Everett Hernandez, John Fortuna, George “Bud” Nelson, Stan Kouris, Claude Thomas, Walter Sawick, assistant coach Thomas Manatos.
Bottom row: Manager Henry Telck, George Jelaco, Michael Fresques, James Rafferty, William Strannigan, Ernest Mecca, Spiro Varras.

The Reliance High School basketball team from 1949, one of the most remarkable teams ever fielded in Wyoming history, has two big claims to fame.

The first, most obvious, is the smaller of the two accomplishments: A team from a high school with 94 students played with Wyoming’s big schools and nearly pulled off a basketball championship run for the ages, finishing as the state’s runners-up during a magical week in March.

The second reason why the Pirates of 1949 are so special goes well beyond the scores of games played more than 70 years ago, stretching into communities and lives across the state and country. Of the 15 players in the team picture, three (plus a fourth freshman not in the photo) went on to become inductees into the inaugural class elected to the Wyoming Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Several others became coaches and educators in Wyoming. Also in the mix were boys would become an oceanographer, a doctor, a civic leader, a Naval weapons specialist and more — a collection of leaders who shaped countless lives. They were inspired by a coach who left a noticeable impression on their lives.


It seems odd that a team that would produce so many coaching legends would come from a town and a school with such little hardwood success. To put it bluntly, Reliance did not have a rich basketball history. Aside from trips to the state tournament in 1929 and 1930, when all teams no matter their record could play, the Pirates’ only other visit to state came in 1942, when the Pirates rallied from a first-round loss to win the consolation championship.

In 1948, the year before their memorable run at state, Reliance finished a paltry 11-14 but had shown promise in the regional tournament, upsetting Rawlins in the first round and nearly beating Kemmerer in a state play-in game before losing 33-32.

The following season, the Pirates had shown they were an improved team under coach Jack Smith, but they still looked far from championship material. Reliance was competitive during the regular season, finishing 14-9 and going 11-4 in conference play, good enough to finish second in the nine-team Class AA/A Southwest District. (Incidentally, the Pirates also played well at home, in a “crackerbox” gym that needed two 10-second lines because the court’s length was too short to be regulation.) Reliance reached state by finishing second in the Southwest District tournament; their one-point loss to top seed Rock Springs in the title game was proof, though, that the Pirates could play with the state’s best.

This realization came even though the Pirates were not blessed with the one thing that usually guarantees success in basketball, height. The starting five of senior Spiro Varras and juniors Stan Kouris, Bud Nelson, Michael Fresques and George Jelaco were built for hunching in coal mines, not posting up on the block.

“We were really small,” Nelson said. “We had one person that was over 6 feet tall. I was the center and I was 5-11.

“We didn’t have much height, but we had a lot of fight.”

The size of the school itself, not just its players, was another handicap, another one Reliance was determined to overcome.

With a senior class of 18 students and a 9-12 student body of 94 (according to a count from the school’s 1949 yearbook), the Pirates were one of the smallest schools in Wyoming’s Class A ranks. At the time, Wyoming basketball only had two classifications — A and B — as four-classification play with classes of AA, A, B and C was still three years away. The dividing line between Class A and Class B was an enrollment of 100 students. Riding the edge of that line, Reliance played against Wyoming’s biggest boys from its biggest schools, including some schools more than 10 times their size, despite having only double-digit numbers walking the halls.

In fact, John Fortuna, a senior on the 1949 team, said the Reliance superintendent probably lied in reporting the school’s enrollment to keep the Pirates in Class A.

But Reliance was used to the challenge, and they knew how to handle it.

“Most of what made our team click was aggressiveness and desire and to believe in that we could win,” Nelson said. “People will look at us and kind of laugh at us, like a car of midgets drove up to the basketball court… but we had the desire to win so much, that made up for us being so small.”

When the state tournament came around, that desire wasn’t yet on display for the state to see. Reliance wasn’t given much of a chance to get out of the first round, much less make a deep run.

Up first was Worland, which had finished third in the Northwest District tournament but had 19 victories on the season, including one against mighty Casper Natrona. The Pirates weren’t fazed; Fresques scored 12, Kouris 10 and Varras nine, and Reliance won 43-35.

Next up: Cheyenne.

This is where the dream had to end, right? After all, the Indians represented the state’s biggest school and, at the time, its biggest basketball dynasty.

Entering the 1949 season, Cheyenne and coach Okie Blanchard had won six of the past seven state basketball championships. The Indians had their struggles in 1949, sure, but still came into the game against Reliance with 18 victories, a Southeast District tournament championship, momentum from a 27-point first-round victory against Gillette and a student body significantly larger than that of the Pirates. (The 1949 Cheyenne yearbook shows 829 students in grades 10-12.)

The game wasn’t even close — and not in the way that most expected. Reliance dominated Cheyenne in every possible way. Kouris had 10 and Nelson, Varras and Jelaco had eight apiece, no Cheyenne player had more than five, and the Pirates won 44-27.

“They were much bigger, but we were quicker,” Varras said. “We pressed, and we had a bunch of guys that were just really tough. And the pressure got to (Cheyenne). Their coach told our coach later, ‘I’d trade two of our big guys for one of your scrappers.'”

That was the game that turned the state’s attention to the little team that could.

Now one of the final four, Reliance was among a set of giant-killers. Little-regarded Lusk beat Northwest District tournament champion Cody in the second round, while at the same time Lovell had beaten Rock Springs — the team that beat Reliance in the Southwest District title game. The only non-surprise among the final four teams was Casper (Natrona), which had consistently been one of the state’s best all season long.

The semifinals paired Reliance with Lusk and Lovell with Casper. But with mighty Cheyenne already vanquished, what were the Tigers? Once again, Reliance played above its size, Nelson scored 14 and the Pirates wiped out Lusk by 11, 39-28.

Just like that, little Reliance was in the state championship.

Casper’s 45-35 victory against Lovell set up one of the most unlikely of title pairings: the 22-4, big-school, big-town, we-belong-here Mustangs against the 19-10, small-school, small-town, we-belong-here-too Pirates.

Nelson said excitement for the Pirates had reached a frenzy back in the four coal camps of Reliance, Winton, Dines and Stansbury. Those who couldn’t make it to UW’s Half Acre Gym by car, train or bus for the championship still managed to keep up with the proceedings. Even the underground miners in Reliance’s coal mines kept in the know. Miners running hoists above ground would listen to the game on the radio and periodically write down the score of the game.

“They’d put (the scores) on the coal cars and run them down the mine, and (the miners) could keep up with the scores that way,” Nelson said.

The Pirates’ magic ran out in the championship, though, as a bigger and more physical Mustang team built a six-point halftime lead and won by 13, 49-36.

“They played a completely different ballgame than any other team we played,” Fortuna said. “They forced us to move the ball. … They just turned the tables on us.”

Regardless, Varras was named to the all-state team, the first time a Reliance player had been so honored. And the Pirates picked up all kinds of recognition for being the team to not only end Cheyenne’s title run but to reach the title game. The team came home with a big, golden basketball trophy for its runner-up finish, which was displayed proudly in the school trophy case, and Smith was named the state’s coach of the year.

Jim Rafferty, a junior on the runner-up team, said the reason for the Pirates’ success was a simple combination of the care and comfort the players had for and with each other: “We played together.”

However, the on-court magic ended there.

The 1950 team had the opposite experience of being the hunted, not the hunter; the Pirates finished 21-2 in the regular season and won the Southwest Conference regular-season title. Then it all crumbled down at the district tournament, where Reliance had the misfortune of losing their final two games of the season in the final two games. They didn’t even have the chance to repeat their run at state, failing to qualify and spending that weekend at home.

The 1952 and 1953 teams, now playing in Class A and avoiding run-ins with the likes of Cheyenne and Casper, each advanced to the state tournament semifinals but no further.

That’s the closest Reliance ever got to another title run. With a declining enrollment, the Pirates moved to Class B in 1955 and, not long after the Union Pacific coal mines near Reliance closed in early 1959, the high school closed later that year. Reliance went 4-16 in its final season of basketball.

Reliance, population 714, survives today, with the school remade into apartments. The nearby mining towns of Winton, Dines and Stansbury, whose youth also filled the halls of Reliance High and whose citizens emptied the town to come to a high school basketball tournament in Laramie in 1949, did not survive, as a handful of foundations is all that remains.

And Varras is curious what happened to the big, golden trophy.

“I don’t know where that went,” he said. “That would be nice to know.”


The true nature of the Pirates’ championship-game run wasn’t apparent for decades later, after it became clear just how special the group of young men on that team in Reliance truly was. To a man, each of them went on to lead successful, enriching lives. Many of them gave back to the sport by becoming coaches, educators or administrators. Others found success in other lines of work, such as engineering, medicine or military service. Many served as part of the U.S. military the Korean War. And they led the way for younger players who didn’t see the floor but saw the leadership in action and followed the path blazed in part by a dramatic championship-game appearance.

The team, and the fortunes that followed them, included:


  • John Fortuna: Worked in the oil and gas industry for nearly a decade, then worked with the U.S. Postal Service in Rock Springs for 30 years. Lives in Rock Springs; age 91.
  • Everett Hernandez: Became an engineer and had a 40-year career with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego; was also a youth baseball coach and taught math at San Diego State and San Diego Mesa College. Died 2017.
  • Claude Thomas: Went to college at BYU and to medical school at Utah; was a practicing doctor in Utah for more than three decades, retiring in 1993. Died 2014.
  • Spiro Varras: A WCA hall of famer, led Rock Springs’ basketball team to four state championships in 14 years as head coach and was a math teacher at the school. Lives in Rock Springs; age 91.


  • Michael Fresques: According to Varras, Fresques was a Korean War hero, working as a medic and rescuing people from battlefields after injuries; he graduated with an engineering degree from UW in 1956; buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado. Died 2006.
  • George Jelaco: Was a teacher, coach and administrator in Rock Springs for close to three decades; he is a member of the Wyoming Sports Officials Association’s hall of fame. Died 2000.
  • Stan Kouris: A basketball coach for six years at Rock Springs and at one time was the elected head of the Wyoming Coaches Association, a position Varras took over immediately after Kouris became an administrator at Rock Springs High; he later worked as a grocery manager and owner in Utah. Died 2021.
  • Ernest “Ernie” Mecca: A 30-year member of the National Guard and civic leader in Sweetwater County, with accomplishments and memberships too numerous to mention, and was employed by Rocky Mountain Power; later became chief of staff to Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan. Died 2011.
  • George “Bud” Nelson: A WCA hall of famer, he was a coach and administrator at Rock Springs and Cokeville as well as at Western Wyoming College, where he was the basketball coach; he was named the national athletic director of the year in 1989 while at Rock Springs. Lives in Rock Springs; age 91.
  • Jim Rafferty: Worked in extraction industries, both coal and oil, until his official full retirement in 1988. Lives in Reliance; age 90.
  • William “Bill” Strannigan: A WCA hall of famer, coached St. Stephens to a then-record 46-game winning streak and two state titles; was later activities director at Riverton for many years. Died 2012.
  • Tony Tsakakis: Worked in the office of the lieutenant governor in Minnesota. Died 2020.


  • Robert Burns: Graduated from UW in mechanical engineering; Nelson, his brother-in-law, said Burns spent his career working on space research and technology with Lockheed Martin. Died 2015.
  • Walter Sawick: Graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Colorado; he served in the Navy and worked at Mare Island Naval shipyard and Concord Naval Weapons Station. Died 2010.
  • Ronald Wilson: According to Nelson and Fortuna, Wilson went to pharmacy school at UW and later worked as a pharmacist in Texas. Lives in Amarillo, Texas.

And some freshmen who weren’t in the team picture went on to have an impact as educators and coaches in Wyoming:

  • John Maffoni: An educator in Rawlins for 40 years, working up from teacher and coach — he was head football coach for six years — to administrator; he was the Rawlins High principal for nine years and the district superintendent for eight years. Lives in Rawlins.
  • Jim Mecca: An educator throughout the Bighorn Basin, including time in Thermopolis, Burlington and Shoshoni both teaching and coaching; he later owned the Tepee Pools in Thermopolis and was involved with fundraising for Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Died 2019.
  • Jack Rafferty: A WCA hall of famer, was a coach and athletic director in Buffalo for many years, retiring in 1987; he was president of the Wyoming Coaches Association and led Buffalo to two state basketball championships. Died 2020.

Finally, senior manager Henry Telck also got into coaching; his specialty was youth baseball, where he eventually served as president of Rock Springs Little League. He, too, was a Korean War veteran, and he worked for 32 years for Mountain Fuel Supply. He died in 1997.

Meanwhile, the coaches of the team made their impacts beyond Reliance, too. Head coach Jack Smith — a graduate of Kemmerer and a former member of the UW basketball team — stayed on as the Pirates’ head coach through 1955. He later entered administration and became superintendent of Rock Springs schools, holding that position for 23 years. He died in 1999 at age 80.

His influence stoked the passion many of the Reliance players had for both sports and education.

“He was in World War II as a bomber pilot, and he just inspired all of us,” Varras said. “He was just that kind of person. I think that was one of the main reasons we all went into coaching. … We really felt that he was a good person and we tried to be the same way.”

Added Nelson, “He was a fundamental coach. He was a great coach that way, X’s and O’s, and he had a way with young people. … He was quite a man, and we all admired him.”

Assistant coach Thomas Manatos taught in Reliance and later in Rock Springs for 42 years. He also was the sports voice of the Tigers on the radio, broadcasting Rock Springs football and basketball games for almost 20 years. He died in 2004 at age 84.

Varras said Manatos was his inspiration to become a math teacher.

In Reliance’s case, success bred success. The success of the players after high school was no doubt related to the successes they already were, and the successes their families and community helped mold them into, with or without a couple victories in March.

Fortuna said the legacy of the team’s success was evident each of his 30 years delivering mail in Rock Springs, which was full of former residents of the closed coal camps.

“When I carried mail, the majority people knew me from playing ball in Reliance,” he said. ” … They knew all the players. It was like family.

” … It was just something that stuck with them all the time, that a little burg like we were could beat someone like Cheyenne.”


Box score photos courtesy of Bud Nelson.

Big Piney’s refrain bounced across the valley, hitting the Wind River Range to the east, the Wyoming Range to the west. But then it settled into the basin of the upper reaches of the Green River, just like the famous inversions that keep Big Piney cold in the winters. It stayed there, unheard but still present through times of change — new coach, new classification, new style of play. Still, the Punchers asked.

What about us?

The call grew louder as the Punchers’ season started. A road victory over Lusk to start the season barely turned any heads; close game, not unexpected, welcome to nine-man. But the shout grew in Week 2 after the Punchers shocked last year’s runner-up and this year’s expected contender, Rocky Mountain. This wasn’t a whisper; this was a yell.

What about us?

A 20-point victory against Greybull last week sent Big Piney to 3-0, one of four remaining undefeated teams in Class 1A nine-man along with Pine Bluffs and Lingle from the East and Wind River from the West.

This week, though, one undefeated will fall, as Wind River ventures into Sublette County.

The Cougars were expected to be here, though, and they’ve followed through. Like Big Piney, Wind River is also 3-0, outscoring their opponents so far by a combined tally of 172-26. The Cougars have every reason to think this year is their year.

However, in a top-heavy classification that just got a little bit heavier, the Punchers’ rallying cry is now less of a plea and more of a demand. Rocky Mountain learned the hard way, and Wind River has the luxury of learning from the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the Punchers keep moving forward, so far perfect against a new set of rivals.

What about us?


Some other Week 4 games will help me understand what I’ve seen so far in 2022, because I’m easily confused:

Thunder Basin has lost two in a row heading into its game against undefeated Sheridan. But the ‘Bolts should be ready for this one, and Sheridan can’t get caught looking ahead to Cheyenne East next week. If they do, Thunder Basin could turn 4A upside down in one fell swoop. …

Cody and Jackson meet in a rematch of the past two Class 3A championship games. Cody is obviously Cody, so far the dominant team in the classification, but Jackson is no slouch — something I wasn’t sure I could say in August but I am sure of now. …

Worland’s trip to Douglas is super intriguing. The 3A East has been a crapshoot so far, and these two teams have represented that uncertainty with dominating victories surrounded by losses surprising either by the margin or the opponent. If either one of these teams strings together some consistency, they will be dangerous, and that starts right here. …

The Bridger Valley Bowl has an undefeated team in it — and it’s not Lyman. Instead, 3-0 Mountain View has the loss goose egg it’s trying to protect against the 2-2 but two-time 2A champ Lyman (say that twice fast). …

I do find it interesting that by the end of Friday night, every 4A team (and a handful of others) will have played five games and Farson will have played one. …


Let’s pick some games. Bold teams, I pick to win. All teams, I pick as my valentine. No, it’s not February.

Class 1A nine-man
at Wyoming Indian
Class 1A six-man
at Meeteetse
Class 4A
Cheyenne Central
at Laramie
Cheyenne East at Rock Springs
Cheyenne South at Natrona
Kelly Walsh at Campbell County
Thunder Basin at Sheridan
Class 3A
at Lander
Cody at Jackson
Powell at Green River
Riverton at Rawlins
Star Valley at Evanston
Worland at Douglas
Class 2A
Glenrock at Wheatland
Kemmerer at Cokeville
Lyman at Mountain View
Newcastle at Tongue River
Torrington at Big Horn
Upton-Sundance at Burns
Class 1A nine-man
at Wright
Pine Bluffs at Moorcroft
Rocky Mountain at Shoshoni
St. Stephens at Riverside
Saratoga at Guernsey
Southeast at Lusk
Wind River at Big Piney
Class 1A six-man
at Hanna
Midwest at Kaycee
Rich County, Utah
, at Thermopolis
Class 2A
Pinedale at Lovell
Class 1A six-man
Farson at Dubois
Ten Sleep at Hulett
Green River JV at Snake River

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 4” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.


Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 26-7 (79 percent). This season: 94-24 (80 percent).


Also of note this week is the change in head coach for St. Stephens, as Melvin Blackburn takes over for Dee Harrison. The change was posted by WyoPreps on Twitter on Wednesday. Blackburn was the Eagles’ coach in 2013 and 2014.


Which teams that were under-appreciated in the preseason are showing us all why they should be appreciated? Who’s going to come out of the woodwork in the second half of the season and pull some surprises, maybe starting this week? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Whenever Sheridan returns a kickoff for a touchdown, I think the same thing — man, no one does this better than the Broncs.

It happened again on Friday:

But that was never more than just a hunch.

Until now.

In looking at the past four years (2018-21) of kickoff and punt return touchdowns, the only four years where such data is immediately available, the Broncs are indeed Wyoming’s return kings. And it isn’t even close.

With 14 such touchdowns, nine via kickoff and five via punt return, no other team has been able to match Sheridan’s efficiency with special teams touchdowns.

Only two other teams are in double digits, and they both played six-man in that time. Burlington had 11 return touchdowns, nine via kickoff and two via punt, while Guernsey had 10, with nine by kick and one by punt.

Big Horn, Riverside and Douglas are tied for the fourth spot with eight returns apiece; Big Horn and Riverside each had six kickoffs and two punts that they returned for touchdowns, while Douglas flipped that with six punt return and two kick return touchdowns.

Dubois, Mountain View, Snake River and Star Valley have had seven apiece.

Conversely, six programs — Cheyenne Central, Green River, Newcastle, Tongue River, Wyoming Indian and Ten Sleep — haven’t returned a kick or punt for a touchdown in the last four seasons. Ten Sleep, though, sat out three of those seasons, while Wyoming Indian missed one.

Check out the full spectrum of kick and punt return touchdowns over the past four years below. Note that the totals are taken from the official stat sheets, so there is a chance that something might be missing if original stats were off, and that these totals do not include the 2022 season:

Big Horn268
Mountain View347
Snake River347
Star Valley437
Big Piney145
Thunder Basin235
Pine Bluffs235
Rocky Mountain224
Wind River224
Cheyenne South033
Rock Springs123
Kelly Walsh022
St. Stephens022
Cheyenne East011
Campbell County101
Cheyenne Central000
Green River000
Tongue River000
Wyoming Indian000
Ten Sleep000

Got any statistical hunches you think might be true that you’d like for me to explore? Let me know in the comments!


Over its past 20 games, Lovell has a record of 16-4.

Three of those four losses were to Lyman.

One of those was an 8-6 loss in the Class 2A championship game last season.

So it’s safe to say that when these two teams renew acquaintances Friday afternoon in the Bridger Valley, the Bulldogs will be keen to exact some revenge.

And this just might be the time to do so.

Lyman may be as vulnerable now as it has ever been in the past two-plus seasons. After all, both the 2020 and 2021 seasons ended with the Eagles as the Class 2A champions, including an undefeated season last year.

The Eagles’ run of success, though, has already hit unexpected challenges.

Lyman’s 20-game winning streak ended in a Week 1 loss to Bear Lake, Idaho. Injuries have taken a severe toll on the Eagles’ three-peat chances, and the adjustments players and coaches make will be key. However, the Eagles started 2A West play by pasting struggling Pinedale 40-0. Oddly enough, every Lyman game has been a shutout — two by Lyman’s defense, one by its offense.

Lovell, meanwhile, has started 2-0 behind a stout defense and just enough offense. In the Week 1 victory against Big Horn, a 14-7 slugfest, the Bulldogs’ defense forced a late fumble near the goal line to snuff out the Rams’ potential game-tying or game-winning drive. Last week in a 27-7 victory against Cokeville, the Bulldogs’ consistency on both sides of the ball simply overwhelmed the Panthers — a hallmark of teams that want to contend for championships.

Lovell enters as 2A’s top-ranked team, an honor will have for a second consecutive week after Lyman’s streak-breaking loss.

For as much as Lovell is now the hunted instead of the hunter, the Bulldogs know how tough it is to beat Lyman.

The past two seasons are evidence of that.

And beware a top-ranked team motivated, at least in part, by revenge.


Every game is special, but these are some games that, at least on paper, have the appearance of potentially being the most special of the week:

Cheyenne Central has had a tough go, with its two losses by a combined seven points. The Indians draw Thunder Basin this week, another tough test. If Central can somehow manage to get on the right side of the scoreboard up in Gillette, watch out. ….

It doesn’t matter what the rest of the season looks like, the Oil Bowl is always an important game in Casper. Natrona is the obvious favorite, and over the past couple decades upsets in the Oil Bowl have been exceptionally rare. …

Powell-Douglas is one of the most interesting 3A games, in part because of their similar paths. They both got knocked off in Week 1 against opponents who were ready for them; they both rebounded with solid victories last week to put them back on track. Now they play each other, so their paths will have to diverge somehow. …

Wheatland, Torrington, Burns and Newcastle all played overtime games last week, with Newcastle beating Wheatland in two overtimes and Torrington nipping Burns. Conveniently, they all play each other this week, with Burns venturing to Newcastle and Torrington hosting Wheatland. We’ll know quickly this week just how the 2A East might shake out — well, with these four teams, at least. …

It didn’t take long for the ranks of undefeated teams to shrink. Riverside’s game against Wind River is the only game above six-man this week to pair up two unbeaten teams. …

Dubois looked good despite a loss to Snake River last week. Now the Rams have to muster the same intensity to keep up with 2-0 Encampment to have any hope of a home playoff game. That 1A six-man South is brutal at the top. …

Three teams in the 1A six-man North are undefeated in Midwest, Burlington and Kaycee. And three are winless. Midwest and Burlington will meet Saturday, and the winner moves one huge step closer to home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. …


I’m convinced no one reads this paragraph. I think everyone probably skip right over it to see the picks. Because by now, you know that bold means the team I think will win. If you’ve made it this far, you’ve proven me wrong. Congratulations! May a few of the non-bolded teams join you this week in proving me wrong, just to spice it up a bit.


Shoshoni at Cheyenne East JV
Class 4A
Campbell County
at Cheyenne South
Cheyenne Central at Thunder Basin
Laramie at Cheyenne East
Natrona at Kelly Walsh
Sheridan at Rock Springs
Class 3A
at Buffalo
Evanston at Lander
Green River at Worland
Powell at Douglas
Star Valley at Riverton
Class 2A
Big Horn
at Glenrock
Burns at Newcastle
Lovell at Lyman
Pinedale at Cokeville
Mountain View at Thermopolis
Tongue River at Upton-Sundance
Wheatland at Torrington
Class 1A nine-man
Big Piney
at Greybull
Guernsey at Lingle
Moorcroft at Southeast
Riverside at Wind River
Wright at Pine Bluffs
Shoshoni JV at St. Stephens
at South Fremont, Idaho
Moffat County, Colo., at Rawlins
Rich County, Utah, at Kemmerer
Class 1A nine-man
Lusk at Saratoga
Wyoming Indian at Rocky Mountain
Class 1A six-man
Dubois at Encampment
Hanna at Snake River
Hulett at Meeteetse
Kaycee at Ten Sleep
Midwest at Burlington
Open: Farson.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 3” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.


Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 29-6 (83 percent). This season: 68-17 (80 percent).


Whose hot start is the sign of things to come? Whose slow start is an anomaly? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

If you like what you see here, consider a page sponsorship


If it feels like home-field advantage isn’t what it used to be, you’re right.

Or you’re completely wrong.

It depends on what your definition of “used to” is.

In looking at the 24,426 games on since 1894 where we know the winner, the loser and the location — and where the location was not a neutral site — we can see a consistent pattern in how often home teams win games. In total, home teams have 13,495 victories, 10,392 losses and 539 ties, a baseline winning percentage of .564. (If your math isn’t up to par, or if you’re just skimming, that means home teams have won 56.4 percent of Wyoming high school football games.)

Remember .564. It’s the measuring stick against which all other numbers in this post are measured.


From season to season, home teams deviate subtly, but consistently, away from that baseline.

And those deviations are a factor of time — as long as that time is your great-grandpa’s time.

From 1920 to 1938, for 19 consecutive seasons, the home teams won Wyoming high school football games at above-average rates. Since 1939, though, winning percentages have been much more consistent.

Moreover, since 1939, there has been no consistent pattern. There have been stretches of home-field success and home-field struggle. In fact, since 1939, the winning percentage for Wyoming high school football teams is .557, which almost a full percent lower than our baseline.

For five straight years from 1942-46, home teams won at above-average rates, the longest such stretch in that era. However, in the 18 seasons from 1958-75, home teams won at an above-average rate just twice (1962 and 1968). That includes a seven-year stretch from 1969-75 where home teams won at below-average rates, the longest such streak.

That record was recently challenged; from 2013-18, the home team won at a below-average rate, too. In 2019 (.592) and 2020 (.577), the rate was above average, though; last year’s .563 was almost exactly on the average.


The outliers stretch our expectations of what’s possible.

In 1977, home teams had a winning percentage of .483, the only time in Wyoming’s history that home teams finished below .500. Twice — in 1917 and again in 1984 — home teams went exactly .500, going 140-140 in 1984 and a much more modest 6-6-1 in 1917. The fourth-lowest winning percentage for home teams came recently, in 2015, when home teams had a winning percentage of .507.

Home teams did best in the early years. Since 1939, when numbers began evening out, home team’s best success came in 2002, when home teams had a winning percentage of .613. That was followed by 1989 (.612), 1983 (.612), 1991 (.611) and 2010 (.608).

Between 1921 — when high school football really took off in Wyoming — and 1939, the best home-field winning percentage came in 1923, when home teams went 62-27-4 (.688). In the 18 years between 1921 and 1938, home teams had a winning percentage of .622, almost 6 percent better than the average.


So what happened? Why was home-field advantage so advantageous in the early years and less meaningful since 1939?

The short answer boils down, I think, to two factors: consistency and infrastructure.

In Wyoming’s early days of high school football, referees weren’t always the most neutral parties. The Wyoming High School Activities Association wasn’t even formed until 1931, 10 years after high school football got going. And even then, it took a while before the WHSAA coordinated officiating. Once officiating became more consistent, so did the game results.

As for infrastructure, take a look at this map of Wyoming in 1927. Count up the number of paved roads. Not many, are there? As the road system improved — as evidenced by this map from 1951, just 24 years later — teams could travel faster, spend less time on the road and arrive at games more refreshed and ready to play.

Since 1939, the most remarkable thing isn’t the change in home-field advantage. It’s the lack of it.


Here’s a table listing the home-team records and winning percentages by year for Wyoming high school football:

YearWLTHome win %
1918No games


Shoshoni will shuffle its Week 3 schedule and play at the Cheyenne East JV on Thursday.

Originally scheduled to play St. Stephens this week, the Wrangler JV will instead play the Eagles at St. Stephens’ request, Shoshoni AD Max Mills posted on the school website. Shoshoni picked up the Thunderbird JV to fill the hole in the schedule.

Shoshoni will get credit for the 1A nine-man West Conference victory against the Eagles.

Thursday’s game will kick at 4 p.m. in Cheyenne; Friday’s game will start at 3:30 p.m. in St. Stephens.

Here is the full Week 3 schedule.


When the 2022 schedule came out, the Dubois Rams knew they had to start their season fast.

After all, Week 2 and the South Conference opener brought defending state champion Snake River to Fremont County. And Week 3 sent the Rams to play at Encampment, last year’s runners-up.

The gauntlet of the second and third weeks will prove to be a testing ground for a team with big aspirations.

It wasn’t that long ago — just back to 2018 — when Dubois went winless. The next season wasn’t much better, as the Rams went 1-7.

But younger players grew, and players even younger entered the program. Bit by bit, victories accumulated, as Dubois went 3-5 in 2020 and 5-5 last season. Last year also brought the program’s first playoff victory since 2014. Success in other sports has accompanied the success on the field — a tribute not only to the football program but to athletics as a whole, coaches and players and community together.

Meanwhile, with the bulk of their players returning, the Rams are counting on a breakout year in 2022. But they have to prove their potential in the next two weeks, that is.

No bigger challenge exists for Dubois than the one the one facing it this week. Snake River was undefeated last season and returns a Class 1A six-man high four all-state selections. The Rattlers started 2022 fast, shutting out Meeteetse 48-0 last week.

Snake beat Dubois 46-0 last year, which served as a reality check for the up-and-coming Rams that they still had work to do.

That leads into this week’s big question: How much better is Dubois? And if anyone is going to threaten Snake River’s chances at another championship, can Dubois be the one to do it?

And if the Rams somehow emerge as six-man’s favorites after knocking off the top-ranked Rattlers, can they muster the same kind of effort to do the same against Encampment next week?

Then again, Dubois has known since last November what kind of challenge the schedule presented and just how important a fast start would be.

For a program on the rise, that kind of challenge is both welcomed and necessary.


Other games that are creating beeps on my doppler in Week 2:

Cheyenne East and Thunder Basin are both 2-0. East is in the middle of a tough stretch where four of five games are outside Cheyenne; this one is the second of that five-game stretch, with a home game against Laramie sandwiched in between two road games on either side. How East handles this stretch will dictate much of its season, although it started well last week with at road victory at Natrona. …

Time to figure out which 4A 1-1 team is a real contender: Natrona or Cheyenne Central. Should be a good one in the Capital City. …

Evanston has lost two consecutive one-point games. Will the Red Devils shake off the frustration of two losses like that against Riverton — the third of four consecutive road games for Evanston to start its season? …

Both Glenrock and Tongue River looked sharp to start the season. They’ll meet in the 2A East opener, and I’m extremely intrigued by this matchup. With as even as the East could be this year, the winner will be immediately in the discussion for home field — for now. …

The state’s longest active winning streak ended at 20 games last week with Lyman’s 28-0 loss to Bear Lake, Idaho. The Eagles face struggling Pinedale in their 2A West opener, and although the Eagles are still the favorite, how they match up against the Wranglers will tell us a lot about how the two-time defending 2A champs might fare the rest of the season. …

Wyoming Indian looked much improved in its first victory of the season against Guernsey, a game that broke the Chiefs’ 16-game losing streak. Moreover, that victory was Wyoming Indian’s first against a varsity opponent since Sept. 27, 2013, when the Chiefs beat Ten Sleep in six-man. Riverside will put up a bigger challenge, but the Chiefs should come to Basin confident. …

Speaking of losing streaks, Rawlins ended an 18-game losing streak last week by beating Pinedale. The Outlaws step up from 2A to 3A this week by playing Green River… but the Wolves have lost 14 in a row. Can the Outlaws show they can compete at that level, or will the Wolves break their own losing streak at the expense of the Outlaws? …

Star Valley and Sugar-Salem, Idaho, will renew what has become one of the best interstate rivalries in recent memory on Friday. With both teams coming in undefeated, something will have to give. …

Rich County, Utah, ventures into “2A West” play this week against Mountain View, winners against Wheatland last week, in the Bridger Valley. Get to know the Rebels — they’ll be around this side of the state all season long. …

Another out-of-state game that has my interest is Buffalo’s Saturday game with Resurrection Christian from Loveland, Colo. Resurrection Christian has consistently been one of Colorado’s best 2A teams and is jumping to 3A this year. That jump came with scheduling issues, though, as Buffalo is the second of three consecutive out-of-state foes the Cougars have. And the Bison are the closest of the three, by far. Last week, Resurrection Christian hosted — and beat — Orangewood Christian from Florida. Next week, the Cougars travel to Katy, Texas, to play St. John XXIII. It’s one of the most interesting three-week stretches I’ve ever seen on an out-of-state schedule, and the Bison are right in the thick of it.


On to this week’s picks. Bolded teams are the ones I anticipate winning, but I’m often wrong, and I appreciate teams pointing out to me when they’re better than I think they are. It helps.

Class 1A nine-man
Greybull at Shoshoni
St. Stephens at Wind River
Class 4A
Cheyenne East
at Thunder Basin
Cheyenne South at Kelly Walsh
Laramie at Sheridan
Natrona at Cheyenne Central
Rock Springs at Campbell County
Class 3A
at Riverton
Lander at Powell
Rawlins at Green River
Worland at Cody
Class 2A
Big Horn
at Upton-Sundance
Cokeville at Lovell
Glenrock at Tongue River
Lyman at Pinedale
Newcastle at Wheatland
Thermopolis at Kemmerer
Torrington at Burns
Class 1A nine-man
at Lusk
Pine Bluffs at Guernsey
Rocky Mountain at Big Piney
Saratoga at Moorcroft
Southeast at Wright
Wyoming Indian at Riverside
Class 1A six-man
Snake River
at Dubois
at Gering, Neb.
Rich County, Utah, at Mountain View
Star Valley at Sugar-Salem, Idaho
Wood River, Idaho, at Jackson
Class 1A six-man
at Hulett
Encampment at Farson
Meeteetse at Kaycee
Ten Sleep at Midwest
Cheyenne East frosh at Hanna
Buffalo at Loveland Resurrection Christian, Colo.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 2” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.


Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 27-8 (77 percent). This season: 39-11 (78 percent).


Whose Week 1 performance was an aberration and is ready for redemption in Week 2? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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Lovell has had its fair share of football success.

With a pair of championships to its name and a runner-up finish in Class 2A last year, the Bulldogs have a proud gridiron history.

And now, Lovell can also call itself the capital of high school football coaches in Wyoming.

Three Lovell alumni will be head coaches across the state this year — Nicc Crosby for his alma mater, Richard Despain at Rocky Mountain and Eli Moody at Cheyenne South.

With three alumni among Wyoming’s head football coaching ranks, Lovell can claim more than any other program.

While seven other schools (Campbell County, Cheyenne Central, Douglas, Green River, Hulett, Kelly Walsh and Wheatland) have two alumni leading up Wyoming high school football programs, no one can touch Lovell’s trio.

Here’s a quick glimpse of where Wyoming’s high school football coaches went to high school:

Crosby is one of 11 coaches who ply their trade at their alma mater. The others:

  • Andrew Rose, Campbell County
  • Mike Apodaca, Cheyenne Central
  • Kevin Cuthbertson, Green River
  • Patrick Sweeney, Worland
  • Travis Romsa, Burns
  • Jeromy Moffat, Big Piney
  • Trent Aagard, Burlington
  • Boz Backen, Hulett
  • Dave Largent, Kaycee
  • Jack Cobb, Snake River

Most Wyoming head football coaches come from Wyoming high schools, with 42 of the 64 coaches statewide graduating from in-state high schools. The count of 42 is up quite a bit from the total of 34 in 2018. Fifteen others come from bordering states, with Nebraska and Idaho (four each) the most popular. Coaches also hail from Montana and Utah (three apiece) and Colorado (one).

The remaining seven head coaches come from Washington (two) and New York, North Carolina, California, Maryland and Ohio (one each).

On the college level, though, only 19 coaches are graduates of the University of Wyoming. It’s still the most of any college, though, as Black Hills State claims nine alumni, and Chadron State has four.

Schools with two alumni among the ranks of Wyoming high school head football coaches include Sioux Falls, Montana State, Colorado Mesa, Weber State, Utah State, Southern Utah, Dakota Wesleyan and Dickinson State. Schools with a single alumnus are Augustana (South Dakota), Dana (Nebraska), Hiram (Ohio), Idaho State, Marist (New York), MSU-Billings, MSU-Northern, Montana-Western, Northern State, Tabor (Kansas), UNLV and Wayland Baptist (Texas). Four coaches statewide have not finished a bachelor’s degree.


I’ve already talked a lot leading into this season about what fun Class 1A nine-man will be this season, so I won’t belabor it anymore.

This week, the hype can stop and the games can start.

Finally, the fun actually begins.

Prime on the schedule is the showdown between last year’s two conference champions — West champ and eventual state champion Shoshoni and East champ and semifinalist Pine Bluffs.

It’s the game many (including me) thought would be the nine-man championship game last year. And it’s also a reprisal of one of the best-played nine-man games of last year’s regular season, Pine Bluffs’ 34-25 victory against Shoshoni in the Wranglers’ only loss of a championship campaign.

They didn’t get to reprise that game in Laramie after Rocky Mountain upset Pine Bluffs in last year’s nine-man semifinals.

So Week 1 this season will have to do.

A postseason rematch is certainly no guarantee, as the Hornets can attest. Rocky Mountain and Wind River loom large in the West as legit title contenders, while a host of other programs have enough potential to play spoilers’ roles.

Regardless of who picks up the victory in Week 1, this game will be an indicator of just how awesome a season we really might have on our hands in this classification.


Week 1 is always full of intrigue. Every game will uncover secrets we didn’t understand about the 2022 season until it actually started being played. Nevertheless, some games that are drawing a particular bit of curiosity for me include some under-the-radar choices:

East-Natrona and Thunder Basin-Rock Springs will draw the 4A attention, because all four teams won their openers last week. But the Campbell County-Laramie game might be the most intriguing because both teams, despite losing, had their moments last week. Time to see who might be a spoiler. …

Every 2A game is tough to pick, in part because 2A is such a mysterious classification this year. Many of these are literally coin flips — as in, I actually flipped a coin to pick a potential winner. Hopefully 2A clears itself up a bit after this week. Or not. That’s fun too. …

Hulett is in one of the weirdest situations ever — playing the same team three times in a row. Hulett closed its 2021 season with two games against Dubois, one a Week 8 victory, the next a quarterfinal loss. And guess who Hulett gets in Week 1 of 2022? Yep, Dubois, as the two teams meet in a neutral-site game in Ten Sleep. Off the top of my head, the last time I can remember this happening was when Kelly Walsh played Campbell County three straight times in 2003-04, again in a regular season closer –> quarterfinal –> season opener trio. Can anyone else think of other times when this has happened?


On to this week’s picks. Week 1 picks are tough, but I bold teams I think will win anyway because, well, someone has to win. We don’t allow ties anymore.

Cokeville at Smithfield Sky View, Utah, JV (as seen on Twitter)
Class 1A nine-man
Moorcroft at Greybull
Pine Bluffs at Shoshoni
Wind River at Saratoga
Class 4A
Campbell County
at Laramie
Cheyenne East at Natrona
Kelly Walsh at Cheyenne Central
Sheridan at Cheyenne South
Thunder Basin at Rock Springs
Class 3A
at Jackson
Lander at Green River
Powell at Worland
Riverton at Cody
Class 2A
at Glenrock
Lovell at Big Horn
Mountain View at Wheatland
Tongue River at Thermopolis
Class 1A nine-man
Big Piney
at Lusk
Lingle at St. Stephens
Southeast at Riverside
Wright at Rocky Mountain
Wyoming Indian at Guernsey
Class 1A six-man
at Hanna
Snake River at Meeteetse
Newcastle at Buffalo
Rawlins at Pinedale
Evanston at Jordan, Utah
Lyman at Bear Lake, Idaho
Mitchell, Neb., at Torrington
Preston, Idaho, at Star Valley
Yuma, Colo., at Burns
Class 1A six-man

Casper Christian at Burlington
vs. Hulett (at Ten Sleep)
Ten Sleep at Encampment
Kelly Walsh sophs at Midwest
Open: Farson, Upton-Sundance.

For a full schedule including kickoff times, click here. You can click on “Week 1” at the top of the page to take you directly to this week’s schedule.


Here are the results of my picks from last week and this season:

Last week: 12-3 (80 percent). This season: 12-3 (80 percent).


Which teams are ready to draw attention their way with a Week 1 victory? Leave a comment here, or hit me up on the Facebook page or on Twitter.

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