A trophy of a cowboy throwing a football.
A trophy of a cowboy throwing a football.
Slim MacGuffin

Everyone, meet Slim MacGuffin.

He might just be the next great piece of Wyoming high school football lore.

Right now, Slim belongs in the trophy case at Sheridan High School.

In addition to winning the Class 4A championship this year, the Sheridan Broncs also held onto an important honor they didn’t even know they were playing for — the Wyoming football MacGuffin.

Some of you may have heard of the MacGuffin, which has built a following on Twitter by tracking college football’s most interesting theoretical traveling trophy.

The concept is simple: All you have to do to get the trophy is beat the team that has it.

In this case, we start with the first Wyoming high school football game ever played, and the winner gets a trophy — Slim, in this case. They get to hold onto that trophy until they lose; the team that beats them gets the trophy. That team then holds onto it until they lose. And so on, and so on, and so on.

In the college ranks, there have been more than 1,500 MacGuffin games; the trophy has traded hands 317 times since the first intercollegiate game in 1869, and 93 teams have had the trophy, including the University of Wyoming for a bit, including the entire 1994 offseason.

If we had a Wyoming high school football MacGuffin, though, Sheridan would be the rightful owners of that trophy, at least for now.

Starting with the first game between two Wyoming high schools in 1908 — played on Nov. 3 of that year between crosstown rivals Laramie and University Prep — there have been 907 Wyoming football MacGuffin games, as of the end of the 2022 season. In all, 24 different teams will have held the trophy, and 38 programs will have played in MacGuffin games.

Since 1908, the trophy would have logged some significant miles in every corner of the state. Every Class 4A team except Cheyenne South would have had it at least once. And, oddly enough, it would have been up for grabs in every 4A/5A championship game since 1987.

Here’s a breakdown of the teams who would have had the trophy in their possession, with tallies of how many times they defended the trophy and how many times they beat teams with the MacGuffin to steal it for themselves:

SchoolGames defendedTimes won
Sheridan17628
Natrona11529
Laramie9520
Cheyenne Central8016
Worland724
Campbell County5013
Rock Springs469
Cheyenne East3515
Kelly Walsh196
Thermopolis154
Lander114
Cody103
Powell101
Lovell83
Thunder Basin72
Douglas61
Evanston53
Cowley51
Rawlins42
Torrington21
Green River12
Riverton02
Kemmerer01

For the Wyoming high school version, I limited the potential transfer of the trophy to in-state, varsity teams; we can’t have some out-of-state team taking Wyoming’s MacGuffin with them, and we can’t be giving it to a town team, JV team or college team, either. So it’s only up for grabs in varsity vs. varsity, in-state games.

And here’s a look at how those games have gone, and who’s played in those games:

TeamMacG WinsMacG LossesMacG GamesLast MacGameLast held
Sheridan1727224420222022
Natrona1458022520222019
Laramie1158119620222000
Cheyenne Central918117120222020
Rock Springs557513020222021
Campbell County636412720222016
Cheyenne East507112120222021
Worland76138919771959
Kelly Walsh25487320222005
Cody13304320041977
Thermopolis19214019741947
Rawlins6333919881974
Evanston8253320162007
Lander15163119881974
Riverton2293120081972
Green River3242720102007
Powell11162719771958
Lovell11142519591947
Buffalo018181984never
Torrington3151819661952
Thunder Basin971620222021
Douglas761319841952
Cowley671319351934
Cheyenne South011112022never
Greybull011111959never
Basin0771934never
Newcastle0661932never
Kemmerer14519401932
Star Valley0441998never
Midwest0441952never
Lusk0331969never
St. Mary's0221952never
Superior0221936never
University Prep0221909never
Jackson0111974never
Ten Sleep0111933never
Manderson0111928never
Sundance0111935never

One of the challenges of a traveling trophy like this is that it needs to travel. Due to Class 4A’s round-robin schedule, the MacGuffin has been, and will continue to be unless the schedule changes, the exclusive domain of Wyoming’s big schools. The last interclass game where the MacGuffin was up for grabs was in 1998, when Evanston held onto the trophy by nudging Star Valley 13-7.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of all 907 Wyoming football MacGuffin games.

Even though Slim’s presence in any school’s trophy case is still just theoretical, it’s still fun to look at where Slim may have gone on his travels around the state and which schools, even if only for a week, got to have him in their possession.

–patrick

Here’s a quick overview of some of the pages on wyoming-football.com that saw updates at the conclusion of the 2022 season:

Scoring records: For just the 18th time in state history, two 11-man teams combined to score triple digits, as Cheyenne Central (42) and Sheridan (63) finished just outside the top 10 with 105 combined points scored. It did mark the third highest combined point total in an 11-man playoff game, though, just four points shy of the record.

Burlington finished in the top 10 all-time in single-season scoring with 659 total points, good for ninth.

Cheyenne East and Cody both reached the top 10 in points scored in an 11-man season. East was No. 2 all-time with 553 total points, while Cody was eighth at 531. Oddly enough, neither one won a state title. Cody’s 48.27 points per game, meanwhile, finished fifth in state history for 11-man teams.

On the flipside, Guernsey-Sunrise’s 66.13 points allowed per game ranked 10th all-time in most points allowed in a season.

Streaks: Cody’s 26-game winning streak, which came to an end in the Class 3A title game, finished tied for eighth among Wyoming’s longest winning streaks. And Lyman’s 20-game winning streak, which ended early in the season, finished in a tie for the 22nd longest. Snake River, meanwhile, enters the 2023 season on a 21-game winning streak, good for 19th-longest in state history.

Cheyenne South’s 29-game losing streak, however, is tied for the sixth-longest losing streak in state history. Pinedale has now lost 22 games in a row, a streak that’s tied for 20th-longest.

Snake River’s scoring streak moved up to second-longest in state history at 137 games; however, the Rattlers have a ways to go to break the state record of 175. Sheridan, meanwhile, has scored in 95 straight games entering 2023, the eighth-longest scoring streak in state history.

Cokeville had its 35th consecutive winning season and its 37th consecutive non-losing season, both continuing state records. Sheridan’s 16th consecutive winning season, though, moved the Broncs up into a tie for second-longest such streak in state history behind Cokeville.

Laramie’s 22nd consecutive losing season moved the Plainsmen into a tie for the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons. Moorcroft is now tied for fourth on that list with 14 losing seasons in a row, with Worland and Wyoming Indian tied at sixth with 13 and Cheyenne South and Wright tied for ninth with 12.

Individual records: Several players notched games or seasons worthy of the individual records page. They included:

  • Receiving yards in a season: Star Valley’s Wyatt Crogg set a new individual single-season receiving record with 1,253 yards, beating the old record set by Jackson’s Nate Keipert last year by 43 yards. And Thunder Basin’s Kayden LaFramboise put up the No. 3 season all-time with 1,151 yards. In nine-man, Pine Bluffs’ Ryan Fornstrom also broke the single-season record with 1,084 yards. Three other players made the top eight with Shoshoni’s Trey Fike (509), Lingle’s Louden Bremer (482) and Moorcroft’s Chaz Dewey (478). Nine-man records are from 2020-22 only.
  • Passing yards in a season: Three players cracked the top 10, including Star Valley’s Taft McClure in second (3,294 yards), East’s Cam Hayes in sixth (2,867 yards) and Thunder Basin’s Alonso Aguilar in ninth (2,575 yards). In nine-man, Pine Bluffs’ Stu Lerwick broke the single-season record with 2,226 yards, breaking his own record from last year by 11 yards. Shoshoni’s Alex Mills was fifth with 1,403 yards, while Rocky Mountain’s Carsyn Weber was seventh at 1,190 yards. In six-man, Burlington’s Seth Wardell posted the No. 9 season all-time with 1,469 yards.
  • Rushing yards in a season: Dubois’ Wyatt Trembly set a single-season rushing record in six-man with his 2,502-yard effort of a season, beating the old mark by 194 yards. Sheridan’s Colson Coon finished fourth all-time in 11-man with 2,195 rushing yards. In nine-man, Shoshoni’s Pehton Trueumpler had the No. 2 all-time season with 2,080 yards, while Wind River’s Cooper Frederick was No. 3 all-time with 1,919 yards.
  • Rushing yards in a game: Sheridan’s Colson Coon and Wind River’s Cooper Frederick each set rushing records in their respective areas. Coon’s 29 carries for 517 yards against Cheyenne Central set the state’s all-time 11-man rushing mark, while Frederick’s 549 yards on 61 carries against Southeast set the state’s all-time nine-man rushing record.
  • Passing yards in a game: Five of the top 10 single-game passing performances in 11-man history came in 2022. Three came from Star Valley’s Taft McClure, who finished in third (480 yards), fourth (448 yards) and fifth (429 yards) for his performances against Powell, Cody and Riverton, respectively. East’s Cam Hayes had the No. 9 performance all-tie with 420 yards against Sheridan, while Thunder Basin’s Alonso Aguilar tied for 10th with a 419-yard game against East. Pine Bluffs’ Stu Lerwick finished with the No. 4 and No. 5 all-time passing games in nine-man with 314 and 312 yards against Lusk and Moorcroft, respectively.
  • Receiving yards in a game: East’s Garet Schlabs set a single-game record for receptions with 19 catches against Sheridan. Thunder Basin’s Kayden LaFramboise finished tied for fifth all-time in single-game receiving yards with 242 yards, on 16 catches, against East. In nine-man, Pine Bluffs’ Ryan Fornstrom was fourth all-time with 187 yards against Moorcroft, while Moorcroft’s Chaz Dewey was fifth with 163 yards against Saratoga.

Coaching: Four coaches cracked the 50-victory barrier for their careers and entered Wyoming’s top 100 list for total victories for coaches — Shoshoni’s Tony Truempler, Buffalo’s Rob Hammond, Sheridan’s Jeff Mowry and Snake River’s Jack Cobb. They are all among the top 18 active coaches in the state in career victories in Wyoming. Barring retirements, Natrona’s Steve Harshman (227 victories), Southeast’s Mark Bullington (165 victories) and Douglas’ Jay Rhoades (130 victories) will enter 2023 as Wyoming’s top three active coaches in career in-state victories.

State champions: Sheridan’s 29th state championship continued a Bronc state record.

Weekly rankings: Of the five state champions, only Class 1A six-man Snake River completed a wire-to-wire run as the No. 1-ranked team in the state. Meanwhile, both Class 2A Big Horn and Class 3A Star Valley won a title despite not being ranked first at any point during the season.

Finally, Wyoming’s newest football program, the Casper Christian Mountaineers, saw their team page go up at the end of the 2022 season — too late for the season but just in time to start chronicling their history.

–patrick

See part 1 of this series here.

Last week, five teams — Sheridan, Cody, Lovell, Pine Bluffs and Snake River — entered the playoffs as the No. 1 ranked team in their classification.

By default, that means they’re the favorites to win the state championships.

And while the chances of the top-ranked team entering the playoffs actually winning the championship is barely above half, the chances that the eventual champion will come from one of the teams ranked either first or second is extremely high.

Since 1984, the start of the “one poll” era, teams ranked No. 1 entering the playoffs have won the state championship 52% of the time.

If it’s not No. 1 winning it all, it’s usually No. 2. Together, teams ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 entering the playoffs win a title 83% of the time. (Do the math, and the No. 2 ranked team wins the state title 31% of the time.)

The No. 3 team wins the title 10% of the time; teams ranked fourth, almost 4% of the time.

The remaining 3% of championships is evenly divided between teams ranked fifth and teams not ranked at all. A team entering the playoffs ranked fifth or unranked and winning a state championship hasn’t happened since 2011.

The six teams to win championships ranked either fifth (three titles) or not at all (three titles) entering the playoffs?

First, the three teams ranked No. 5 all entered the playoffs on a low but were at some time during their championship season ranked in the top two:

  • Powell, Class 3A 2011 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)
  • Cheyenne Central, Class 5A 2005 (Highest rank during the season: No. 2)
  • Glenrock, Class 3A 2003 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)

Meanwhile, of the three teams that won titles after entering the playoffs unranked, two were previously No. 1 during the season:

  • Big Piney, Class 3A 2006 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)
  • Powell, Class 3A 1987 (Highest rank during the season: No. 5)
  • Jackson, Class 3A 1986 (Highest rank during the season: No. 1)

The seven teams to win titles that went into the playoffs as the No. 4 ranked team are dominated by 3A teams, including Cody in 2017, Worland in 2001, Star Valley in 1995 and Riverton in 1994. Other No. 4-ranked champs are Cheyenne East (4A, 2013), Glenrock (3A, 2002) and Cokeville (1A, 1986).

Either the No. 1 or No. 2 team entering the playoffs has won every title in each of the past four seasons. It’s the longest such streak since playoffs restarted in 1975.

And it just so happens that the five No. 1 teams all won last week.

See each week’s poll by clicking on each year’s set of rankings here.

–patrick

Evanston and Green River played the 100th game in their series on Friday, becoming just the seventh series in Wyoming to reach that milestone.

Other series with more than 100 games played are:

  • Cheyenne Central-Laramie: 138 games
  • Lander-Riverton: 126 games
  • Cody-Powell: 125 games
  • Natrona-Sheridan: 116 games
  • Central-Natrona: 109 games
  • Big Piney-Pinedale: 107 games

Of those rivalries, only Big Piney-Pinedale won’t be played or has not been played this season. Other series close to the 100 milestone are:

  • Torrington-Wheatland: 99 games
  • Worland-Thermopolis: 97 games
  • Douglas-Wheatland: 96 games
  • Green River-Rock Springs: 96 games
  • Evanston-Star Valley: 95 games
  • Douglas-Torrington: 94 games
  • Lovell-Greybull: 92 games
  • Laramie-Natrona: 92 games

In the Evanston-Green River series, Green River leads 59-35-6. Of all series with at least 100 games played, it’s the most lopsided.

–patrick

Only two weeks remain in the 2022 regular season for Wyoming high school football teams. Here’s who’s in, who’s out and who’s on the fence entering those last two weeks, as well as a quick breakdown of what’s possible, with a more detailed breakdown of all possible scenarios to come after Week 7’s action:

Class 4A
In: Sheridan, Cheyenne East, Natrona, Campbell County, Cheyenne Central, Thunder Basin.
Neither in nor out: Rock Springs, Kelly Walsh, Laramie, Cheyenne South.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes. Sheridan can earn the No. 1 seed if the Broncs earn a victory against Natrona.
Break it down for me: Sheridan, East and Natrona have all but wrapped up the top three seeds, but after that it gets messy. Campbell County, Central and Thunder Basin are all 4-3 — in the postseason, but still slugging it out for the one remaining home game in the first round — while the remaining four teams are scrapping it out for the scraps, with 2-5 Rock Springs in the best shape.

Class 3A East
In
: Douglas.
Neither in nor out: Lander, Buffalo, Worland, Riverton, Rawlins.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes, but only if Douglas beats Rawlins and Lander loses to Worland. If that happens, Douglas will be the top seed.
Break it down for me: Douglas is in the catbird seat at 3-0 and Rawlins in the opposite of that at 0-3. In the middle, anything is possible, as a certain amount of uncertainty plagues the East this year.

Class 3A West
In
: Cody.
Neither in nor out: Star Valley, Powell, Jackson, Green River, Evanston.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes, but Cody has to beat Evanston and Powell has to lose to Jackson for Cody to take the No. 1 seed.
Break it down for me: Cody and Star Valley have the advantages for the top spots, while Powell is also in good shape at 2-1. Green River’s victory against Jackson looms large for the No. 4 seed, while Evanston needs some help to stay in the race.

Class 2A East
In
: Tongue River, Big Horn.
Neither in nor out: Burns, Newcastle, Torrington, Wheatland, Upton-Sundance, Glenrock.
Out: No one.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It will be decided this week, as the winner of the Thunder Bowl between Big Horn and Tongue River will be the East top seed.
Break it down for me: After the two Sheridan County schools, the 2A East is full of potential scenarios. Burns, at 3-2, is in the best shape of the bunch, but a mishmash of 2-3 schools (Newcastle, Torrington, Wheatland) and Upton-Sundance at 1-4 but with a bit of momentum will mean this conference’s playoff scenarios will be a bear to work through next week.

Class 2A West
In
: Lovell, Lyman.
Neither in nor out: Cokeville, Kemmerer, Mountain View, Thermopolis.
Out: Pinedale.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes. A Lovell victory against Kemmerer this week will assure the Bulldogs of the No. 1 seed from the West.
Break it down for me: Of the not-quite-in teams, 3-1 Cokeville is sitting the best. Meanwhile, 2-2 Kemmerer is in good position, but Mountain View and Thermopolis are lurking at 1-3. They both need Ws and help, and fast — and the Kemmerer-Mountain View Week 8 game is potentially a season-maker for one.

Class 1A nine-man East
In
: Pine Bluffs, Southeast.
Neither in nor out: Lingle, Saratoga, Lusk, Wright.
Out: Guernsey.
Ineligible: Moorcroft.
Can the top seed be decided this week? No. With Pine Bluffs and Southeast not meeting until the final week, no definitive top seed can be drawn from this week’s action.
Break it down for me: The Cyclones and Hornets will meet in the final week, but Pine has to overcome Lingle this week for the meeting with Southeast to be for all the marbles. Saratoga is 2-2 but also lost to Lusk, which is 1-3 and has a more favorable remaining schedule (Guernsey, Wright) than Saratoga does (Southeast, Lingle). Wright is hoping for something wacky.

Class 1A nine-man West
In
: Shoshoni, Wind River.
Neither in nor out: Big Piney, Rocky Mountain, Riverside, Greybull.
Out: St. Stephens.
Ineligible: Wyoming Indian.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Yes. The winner of Shoshoni-Wind River this week will be the top seed no matter what Week 8 shenanigans unfold.
Break it down for me: After the top two, anything’s possible. Big Piney (3-2) is basically in, and Rocky Mountain (2-2) is in the best shape for the last spot. Riverside (1-3) is still alive but has to find a way to win two games in a row, while Greybull has to beat Riverside this week to stay alive at all.

Class 1A six-man conference games end in Week 7, so playoff seeds for that classification will be set by the end of the day Saturday. Non-conference and games against JV teams dot the Week 8 schedule as teams prepare for the playoffs. Both the breakdowns and all the scenarios entering the final week of conference play are lined out below.

Class 1A six-man North
In
: Burlington, Kaycee.
Neither in nor out: Hulett, Meeteetse, Midwest.
Out: Ten Sleep.
Can the top seed be decided this week? It’s already decided; Burlington secured the top seed last week and will carry the No. 1 designation into the playoffs.
Break it down for me: The final two teams and the final three seeds will be decided in some way this week as Kaycee plays Hulett and Meeteetse plays Midwest. Midwest is the only team in a true lose-and-out scenario depending on what happens in the other games.

North scenarios
Week 7 games affecting playoff seeding: Midwest at Meeteetse; Hulett at Kaycee (Saturday).
Burlington: In. No. 1 seed.
Kaycee: In. No. 2 seed with victory. Tie for 2-3-4 seeds (score differential to break) with loss and Meeteetse victory. No. 3 seed with loss and Midwest victory.
Hulett: Neither in nor out. No. 2 seed with victory and Midwest victory. Tie for 2-3-4 seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Meeteetse victory. No. 4 seed with loss and Meeteetse victory. Tie for 3-4-out seeds (score differential to break) with loss and Midwest victory.
Meeteetse: Neither in nor out. Tie for 2-3-4 seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Hulett victory. No. 3 seed with victory and Kaycee victory. Tie for 3-4-out seeds (score differential to break) with loss and Kaycee victory. Out with loss and Hulett victory.
Midwest: Neither in nor out. No. 4 seed with victory and Hulett victory. Tie for 3-4-out seeds (score differential to break) with victory and Kaycee victory. Out with loss.
Ten Sleep: Out.

Class 1A six-man South
In
: Snake River, Dubois, Encampment, Farson.
Neither in nor out: No one.
Out: Hanna.
Can the top seed be decided this week? Too late; Snake River’s victory over Encampment last week secured the Rattlers’ No. 1 spot.
Break it down for me: This one’s easy. With two weeks to go in the regular season, the West’s seeds are sealed up. Even in the case of a tie between Dubois, Encampment and Farson, or even just Encampment and Farson, Dubois always beats the other two and Encampment always beats Farson in tiebreakers. And Farson has the tiebreaker on Hanna if it were to come to that. So the order will be Snake River-Dubois-Encampment-Farson in the 1-2-3-4 spots.

South scenarios
Snake River: In. No. 1 seed.
Dubois: In. No. 2 seed.
Encampment: In. No. 3 seed.
Farson: In. No. 4 seed.
Hanna: Out.

–patrick

The Week 5 game between Riverton and Lander ended about 74 hours after it began.

Fortunately for both teams, about 72 of those 74 hours were spent with the game under suspension.

The action started Friday night, as is common for a high school football game, and Riverton took a 7-0 lead. However, with 2:36 remaining in the first quarter, lightning delayed the game. With the storm not dissipating, the two teams agreed to restart the game at 6 p.m. Monday.

The final three-plus quarters happened Monday, including an extra bit of overtime in which Lander scored on a 2-point conversion pass on the final play to win 29-28.

This was not the first time in Wyoming’s history that a game stretched across more than one day. It’s happened twice before:

The first came in 1951, when Greybull and Powell played to a 0-0 tie on Oct. 19, then met 11 days later to play the overtime period. The overtime had to be played to decide the conference champion, and Greybull officially won 2-0 by gaining more yards on five plays during the overtime frame than Powell did on its five plays.

The other instance of a Wyoming high school football game lasting more than one day came in 1967. On Oct. 27, Basin defeated Byron 40-34 by scoring in the final minute. But Byron protested the game’s final 2 minutes, 24 seconds after claiming that an official mistakenly applied a rule about fumbles and mistakenly awarded possession to Basin. The WHSAA upheld the protest, and the two teams met three days later to play the final 2:24. In the replay, neither team moved the ball much and neither scored, and the game finished officially as a 34-34 tie.

–patrick

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:

TEAMPUNTKICKTOTAL
Sheridan5914
Burlington2911
Guernsey-Sunrise1910
Big Horn268
Riverside268
Douglas628
Dubois077
Mountain View347
Snake River347
Star Valley437
Meeteetse066
Hanna066
Buffalo156
Worland156
Upton-Sundance156
Kaycee156
Wheatland336
Cokeville516
NSI055
Big Piney145
Wright145
Thunder Basin235
Pine Bluffs235
Midwest325
Lingle044
Natrona134
Glenrock134
Encampment134
Rocky Mountain224
Wind River224
Cheyenne South033
Pinedale033
Thermopolis033
Hulett033
Laramie123
Rock Springs123
Jackson123
Lusk123
Burns213
Saratoga213
Kelly Walsh022
Evanston022
Torrington022
St. Stephens022
Lander112
Greybull112
Farson112
Lyman202
Cheyenne East011
Cody011
Powell011
Rawlins011
Riverton011
Kemmerer011
Lovell011
Shoshoni011
Moorcroft011
Southeast011
Campbell County101
Cheyenne Central000
Green River000
Newcastle000
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!

–patrick

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 wyoming-football.com 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 %
202116512800.563
202017312700.577
201917712200.592
201815313800.526
201716813200.560
201616313400.549
201514614200.507
201415614100.525
201315214000.521
201216812700.569
201116813000.564
201017411200.608
200916212900.557
200816212300.568
200716711400.594
200616113600.542
200517012700.572
200416912300.579
200316312800.560
200217411000.613
200115312900.543
200013812200.531
199914411300.560
199814610900.573
199714511000.569
199614110800.566
199513811300.550
199414010800.565
199314710000.595
199213911200.554
19911549800.611
199014312700.530
198916410400.612
198814912500.544
198713613210.507
198614911300.569
198514513100.525
198414014000.500
198316710600.612
198214612400.541
198115411400.575
198014112200.536
197915111800.561
197816110700.601
197712913800.483
197615711710.573
197515013400.528
1974153132110.535
197315813480.540
1972158129100.549
1971151116130.563
1970145132100.523
1969148136140.520
196816712540.571
196716013220.548
196615312720.546
1965144114120.556
1964146114120.559
1963137125120.522
196215411250.577
1961145120130.545
1960138133130.509
1959142114120.552
1958136109100.553
195714711370.564
195613710090.575
195513811080.555
195413397120.574
1953137108110.557
195213199120.566
19511229770.555
195013010040.564
19491159380.551
19481108770.556
194710592100.531
194610263190.606
1945967080.575
19441046670.607
19439162100.589
19427852100.593
194113010290.558
194010910070.521
19391128970.555
193810165160.599
19379456140.616
193610051150.648
193510055190.629
19349360100.601
19337851140.594
19328250110.612
1931904680.653
19308847110.640
19296938120.630
19286143130.577
19277745100.621
1926684190.614
1925693690.645
1924643680.630
1923622740.688
1922533120.628
1921352510.582
192017630.712
19196500.545
1918No games
19176610.500
19166240.667
19159700.563
19146500.545
19136210.722
19129420.667
19117210.750
19108120.818
19097510.577
19084310.563
1894-190716750.661
TOTAL13495103925390.564

–patrick

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.

–patrick

Making an all-state football team is a challenge.

Making an all-state football team as an underclassman is even more challenging.

Making an all-state football team as an underclassman and then making all-state again after changing schools, though, is so rare that the number of incidents in Wyoming where that’s happened can be counted on two hands — and you’d still have fingers left over.

One player in Wyoming will be trying to do just that this year, as Dom Kaszas, an all-state selection at wide receiver for Sheridan last year, will play his senior year at Cheyenne East.

An examination of the 11,060 all-state selections on wyoming-football.com shows that Kaszas’ attempt, if successful, will accomplish something only a handful of players have ever done — reach all-state status with two separate Wyoming football programs.

The list of names is short — seven for sure, and two more maybes where I need to get your help.

The seven players who have done this before, in reverse chronological order:

  • Josh Dawson, Jackson/Star Valley: Dawson was an all-state selection as a sophomore at Jackson in 2015, then finished his career at Star Valley as a junior and a senior, where he was all-state both in 2016 and 2017.
  • Jordan Roberts, Campbell County/Sheridan: Roberts’ transfer might be the most famous in state history. He was an all-state running back at Campbell County as a sophomore and a junior in 2009 and 2010. He then moved to Sheridan as a senior, where he set the state’s all-time single-season rushing record (2,688 yards), which still stands.
  • Boyd McMaster, Big Horn/Lusk: McMaster was a second-team 1A all-stater as a junior at Big Horn in 1986 and a first-team 2A all-state pick in 1987 as a senior at Lusk. Both times, he was chosen to positions on the defensive line.
  • Ron Cathcart, Greybull/Lander: Cathcart was a Bighorn Basin star as a junior with Greybull, notching an honorable mention to the Class A all-state team in 1962 at guard. Then he transferred to Lander for his senior year, earning Class AA honorable mention all-state honors at tackle in 1963 with the Tigers.
  • Larry Dickman, Shoshoni/Morton: Dickman’s journey is one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. As a sophomore, he played at Morton; as a junior in 1962, he was at Shoshoni, where he was honorable mention to the Class B 11-man all-state team as a guard. Then, as a senior, he went back to Morton, where he was a 1963 Class B first-team all-state guard.
  • Larry Kellner, Hulett/Upton: A running back, Kellner was a Class B eight-man honorable mention selection to the all-state team as a sophomore with the Red Devils in 1961. His junior and senior years, though, he played at Upton, where he earned first-team Class B all-state honors in both 1962 and 1963.
  • John Turner, Saratoga/Evanston: Turner was a second-team all-state selection in the Class B eight-man division while playing at Saratoga in 1961; he was also a heck of a basketball player and was team MVP. As a senior, though, he played at Evanston, earning first-team Class A all-state recognition as an end.

Two other instances of possible transfers have popped up, but I have yet to prove anything definitively on whether they’re the same person or two people with the same name in similar times:

  • Devin Wilson, NSI/Moorcroft: There was a Devin Wilson, a junior, who was a Class 1A all-state selection while playing at NSI in 2007; there was a Devin Wilson, a senior, who was a Class 3A all-state selection while playing at Moorcroft in 2008. I don’t know if they’re the same guy.
  • Matt Miller, Kemmerer/Big Piney: There was a Matt Miller, a junior, who was a Class A all-state selection at offensive tackle at Kemmerer in 1979; there was a Matt Miller who was a Class B first-team all-state selection at offensive and defensive tackle at Big Piney in 1980. Again, I don’t know if they’re the same guy.

If you, dear reader, can provide any insight on either of the two cases above, leave a comment on this post!

–patrick

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