Cokeville’s record-setting head football coach, Todd Dayton, will retire at the end of the 2021 season.

No Wyoming high school football coach has won more games, been the head coach for more seasons or won more state championships in the Equality State than Dayton.

Dayton’s retirement was first reported by SVI Media on Facebook.

Dayton was honored during Cokeville’s homecoming game Friday afternoon against Thermopolis. Among the dignitaries were Gov. Mark Gordon, WHSAA Commissioner Ron Laird, state representatives, school board members and Cokeville administrators.

Keith Nate, an assistant coach and fellow Cokeville graduate who joined Dayton for almost his entire coaching career at Cokeville, was also honored. Nate has had multiple sclerosis for many years but has continued coaching and being part of the football program.

The Cokeville football field was renamed Nate-Dayton Field in honor of both coaches.

In remarks to the crowd before the game, Gordon told the crowd the naming of the field was fitting when “you really think about the amount of effort Mr. Nate and Mr. Dayton put in.” Gordon also called Friday “the greatest day for the greatest field in Wyoming.”

A 1970 graduate of Cokeville High School, Dayton taught and coached in Kemmerer for six years as an assistant before taking over the head coaching position at his alma mater in 1980.

Dayton is Wyoming’s all-time leader among high school football coaches in victories, games coached, seasons coached and state championships, among other records. He has led the Panthers since 1980, the 2021 season representing Dayton’s 42nd as the Panthers’ leader.

He helped Cokeville win 20 state championships in his time as head coach, including a state-record six consecutive titles between 1986 and 1991. The Panthers also won four straight titles from 1993-96, three consecutive titles from 2001-03, back-to-back titles in 1983-84, 2010-11 and 2013-14, and a championship in 1998. Ten of his teams went undefeated. The Panthers also won a program-best 26 games in a row from 1987-90, a streak that’s in the top 10 of Wyoming winning streaks.

Entering Week 5 of the 2021 season, Dayton had a career record of 343-69, a winning percentage of .833. His winning percentage is the highest among all Wyoming football coaches with at least 50 victories.

Dayton also coached Cokeville’s boys basketball team for 30 years, with the 2022 season set to be his 31st. He coached the team from 1981-2007 and again from 2019 to 2021, winning titles in 1981, 1990 and 1997.

The coach who’s No. 2 on Wyoming’s all-time football victory list, Natrona’s Steve Harshman, entered Week 5 with 215 victories in Wyoming, 128 fewer than Dayton.

–patrick

The new head football coach at Riverside comes to the Rebels with six years of head coaching experience in Nebraska.

Jason Mitchell, who was previously a head coach at three different high schools in Nebraska and was a volunteer assistant at Burns last season, will be the Rebels’ new head coach.

Riverside Principal Matt Jensen verified Mitchell’s hire to wyoming-football.com on Friday. The Big Horn County School District No. 4 hired Mitchell as coach and as a middle school social studies teacher at Riverside at its meeting Thursday.

Mitchell said he was the head football coach at Valentine, Minatare and Lodgepole high schools in Nebraska. Valentine finished as Class C-1 runners-up in 2006 under him; he was head coach at Valentine for three years, Minatare two years and Lodgepole one year prior to its consolidation. Minatare and Lodgepole were eight-man programs while Mitchell was there. He was also the wide receivers coach for a year at Peru State College in Nebraska for a year.

In an interview with wyoming-football.com on Friday, Mitchell said he is looking forward to the teaching, coaching and mentoring opportunities he will have in Basin.

“When I saw that opening come up, I did a little bit of research, and I love the idea of coaching in a community small enough where you get to know the players beyond (the team),” he said.

Jensen also said he and Dale Query will join Riverside’s coaching staff as assistants.

Class 4A Laramie, Class 2A Glenrock and Class 1A nine-man GreybullLingle and St. Stephens have hired new head football coaches for 2021. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

St. Stephens will have a new head coach for 2021 after the Eagles’ coach since 2017 resigned to take an athletic director position in Oregon.

Billy Brost, the Eagles’ head football coach since 2017 and also the school’s track coach, resigned Tuesday to become the athletic director at his alma mater, The Dalles High School, a Class 5A school in north-central Oregon.

Dee Harrison, who was Brost’s co-head coach in 2017 and who has been both the offensive and defensive coordinator for the Eagles since then, will be the new head coach for both the football and track teams at St. Stephens, Brost said.

“The administration feels good about moving forward with Dee, and so do I, because we built this together,” Brost said to wyoming-football.com Tuesday afternoon.

Brost and Harrison met with players Tuesday to inform them of the switch, Brost said.

Brost called his new position a “dream job” but also indicated that St. Stephens would only be a phone call away.

“I think they’re on the verge of doing something special,” Brost said. “St. Stephens will always be near and dear to my heart.”

Brost and Harrison took over coaching the Eagles’ football program together halfway through the 2017 season. Brost became head coach prior to 2018, with Harrison as the assistant.

Harrison previously coached throughout the West, including Eastern Oregon University. He was the head coach at Firth, Idaho, from 2009 to 2012, taking the Cougars from an 0-7 finish his first year to an 11-1 record and a Class 2A runner-up finish his final year. He was also a head coach at West Jefferson in Terreton, Idaho, for two years and was a junior high coach at Arapahoe, just down the road from St. Stephens.

“We’ve kind of been in this together, and we’ve kind of helped each other out for the whole four, five years we’ve been doing this,” Harrison said Tuesday. ” … It’s a just a matter of taking the reins and continuing to rebuild and hopefully building some more on it.”

The Eagles went 1-6 in both 2018 and 2019 in Class 1A six-man. St. Stephens did not play in its first year of Class 1A nine-man last year as the St. Stephens school was closed due to COVID-19.

Class 4A Laramie, Class 2A Glenrock and Class 1A nine-man Greybull and Lingle have hired new head football coaches for 2021, while Class 1A nine-man Riverside is looking for a new head coach. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

This post was updated at 8:47 p.m. July 13 with comments and additional information from Harrison.

A coach with head coaching experience in Colorado will be the new football coach at Glenrock this season.

Paul Downing, previously the head coach at Coal Ridge High School in New Castle, Colorado, will take over the Herders’ head coaching role this season.

Glenrock High School Principal Mark Fritz said via email on Wednesday to wyoming-football.com that Downing had been hired to coach football and teach social studies in Glenrock. An email sent to Downing on Thursday morning was not immediately returned.

Downing was the head coach at Coal Ridge from 2018 through this season. Coal Ridge went 3-3 last season during Colorado’s spring football season, the program’s best record in his three years. Coal Ridge went 1-8 in both 2019 and 2018.

He was also head coach at Highland High School in Ault, Colorado, for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, going a combined 10-9. During 2017, Downing stepped away from coaching to battle Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He also coached middle school football at Donelson Christian Academy in Tennessee for six years and was an assistant high school coach at Au Gres-Sims School in Michigan and at Kiowa (Colorado) High School for one year each.

Downing takes over for Ryan Collier, who was a combined 6-11 in two seasons as the Herders’ head coach. Collier resigned in May. Glenrock went 4-5 last season and did not qualify for the Class 2A playoffs.

Class 4A Laramie and Class 1A nine-man Greybull and Lingle have hired new head football coaches for 2021, while Class 1A nine-man Riverside is looking for a new head coach. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Riverside is looking for its third head coach in three seasons as Greg Mendenhall resigned as the Rebels’ coach after one season.

Mendenhall verified his resignation with wyoming-football.com via email on Wednesday; his resignation as Riverside’s football and head girls basketball coach was on the Big Horn County School District No. 4 agenda for its June 8 meeting.

In a follow-up on Friday, Mendenhall said via email that he plans to continue to teach at Riverside Middle School, where he teaches science, but will not coach.

The Rebels went 2-7 last year, their first year in Class 1A nine-man. They lost to Southeast in the first round of the playoffs.

Class 4A Laramie and Class 1A nine-man Greybull and Lingle have hired new head football coaches for 2021, while Class 2A Glenrock is looking for a new head coach. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Note: Updated at 10:54 a.m. June 25 to reflect Mendenhall’s continuing to teach at Riverside.

Brandon Gifford, an assistant coach who has been with Lingle for nearly a decade, will be the new head football coach for the Doggers in 2021.

Gifford, who has also been the school’s head wrestling coach for several years, confirmed his hiring Tuesday via email to wyoming-football.com.

Gifford has been at Lingle for 11 years and has been an assistant football coach for the Doggers for the past nine years, including stints in 11-man, six-man and nine-man. In addition to football and wrestling duties, he also is an assistant track coach for Lingle and teaches science at the school.

The hiring has been approved by the Goshen County School District, Gifford said.

He replaces Matthew Cornelius, who had coached the Doggers the past five seasons. Cornelius went 16-25 with the Doggers, including a trip to the Class 1A six-man semifinals in 2019.

Class 4A Laramie and Class 1A nine-man Greybull have hired new head football coaches for 2021, while Class 2A Glenrock is looking for a new head coach. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

I’ve been using the Wyoming Digital Newspaper Collection a lot recently to track down information from before 1923, especially coaches. Some updates:

Games

Found the location for the Oct. 20, 1922, game between Lovell and Greybull; it was in Greybull.

Coaches project

Added the first name for Torrington coach Gordon Warren, who was coach in 1922 and 1923.

Found Riverton’s coach for 1922; it was Richard “Tripp” Tripplett. Tripplett was a center for the University of Nebraska before coming to work in the oil industry and coach in Riverton.

Found the first name and corrected the spelling of the last name for Leo Kische, one of Basin’s head coaches in 1921.

Found Buffalo’s coach for 1916; it was Lynn Myers.

Found the coach for Laramie in 1910 and corrected the name for the Laramie coach in both 1911 and 1912; they were all E.E. Smith.

Found the first name for Lander’s coach in 1910; it was William Kemp.

Found the first name for Natrona’s head coach in 1908; it was Rolla Hoffman.

Found the coach for Cheyenne Central in 1908; it was B.H. Claypool. Claypool coached at Douglas the next year.

Found the first name for Cheyenne Central’s coach in 1907; it was Russell Townsend.

Found the last name for Cheyenne Central’s coach in 1905; it was Lee. Still looking for the first name.

All the updates have been made on all the relevant pages.

–patrick

Glenrock is on the search for a new head football coach after the Herders’ coach of the past two years resigned.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported on Friday that Ryan Collier had stepped down after two years as Glenrock’s head coach.

Glenrock went 2-6 in Collier’s first season but improved to 4-5 last year. The Herders did not make the Class 2A playoffs in either season.

Class 4A Laramie and Class 1A nine-man Greybull have hired new head football coaches for 2021. At this point, no other school has announced an open head coaching position for football. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Jerome Pouska, a former Riverside assistant coach, will be the new head football coach at Greybull.

The Greybull Standard first reported the hiring in its Thursday edition, noting that Pouska’s hiring was made official at the April 12 board meeting for Big Horn County School District No. 3.

Pouska works for Big Horn County as a maintenance supervisor.

Class 4A Laramie is the only other Wyoming program to have hired a new head football coach for 2021 at this point, and no other school has announced an open head coaching position for football. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

Paul Ronga, a veteran high school football coach who’s spent nearly three decades coaching in New York, will be the next head coach for the Laramie Plainsmen.

The Albany County School District announced Ronga’s hiring on its website Friday.

The district release said Ronga has spent more than 25 years in coaching, all in New York. Most recently, he was the head coach at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, New York, last year. He was also the head coach at Saunders High School in Yonkers, New York, from 2013-17; Lincoln High School in Yonkers, in 1997; and Iona Grammar School in New Rochelle, New York, in 1992.

Ronga takes over a Laramie program that hasn’t had a winning season since finishing as Class 4A runners-up in 2000.

“I am aware of the challenge ahead of me, and I will do all I can to give back to the community and to Laramie High School,” Ronga said in the release. “I have been a fan of Wyoming sports for many years, and I respect the excellent sports programs that Laramie High School has under (activities director) Ron Wagner. … I hope to work hand in hand with the assistants, players, administration, community, and Mr. Wagner to do all we can to rebuild and restore Laramie High School football and Plainsmen pride.”

Ronga has been involved in coaching high school football since 1992, the district release said. He also had high school coaching experience at Lakeland High School in Shrub Oak, New York; Walter Panas High School; Haldane High School in Cold Spring, New York; Lincoln High School in Yonkers, New York; and Westlake High School in Thornwood, N.Y. He also was the president and coach of the Cortlandt Manor youth football organization, the Cortlandt Panthers, for four years.

Ronga was a running back at Marist College, finishing his career in 1988.

“He has close, personal connections to Laramie and has a passion and excitement for football that is contagious,” Wagner said in the release. “His preparation and attention to detail was evident during the hiring process and will serve LHS and the football program well.”

Class 1A nine-man program Greybull is the only other Wyoming program seeking a new head football coach at this point. If you know of other head coaching changes in the state, please email me at pschmiedt@yahoo.com.

–patrick

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