Between now and the second weekend of November 2023, a lot is possible.
We do know that, at the end of it all, five teams will be crowned champions, and 60 others will be left to chase.
Just which teams will win those five championships, we won’t know until the clock in War Memorial Stadium hits 0:00 on five separate occasions.
That doesn’t mean we can’t speculate.
So, here’s some way-too-early speculation on what might happen almost exactly 10 months from now on which teams might be the title holders come the end of a season that’s still months away from starting.
1. Cheyenne East: With five first-team all-state players coming back — and with the rest of 4A only having four combined — the Thunderbirds are the early favorites to win it all in 2023. That tally also includes QB Cam Hayes and RB Drew Jackson, a good place to start.
2. Sheridan: Never, ever rule out the Broncs, who will need to replace a talented senior class but always seems to do so no matter who’s on the roster. DB Dane Steel, the conference defensive player of the year, and lineman Alex Haswell are the key pieces on which to rebuild.
3. Cheyenne Central: Central’s five returning first-team all-conference selections gives the Indians just as many as East, and a lot of that strength rests in an improving defense that could carry the team early.
4. Thunder Basin: Returning QB Alonso Aguilar gives the ‘Bolts some experience under center, a necessary piece for a team that has lots of holes to fill.
5. Rock Springs: The Tigers return some key offensive pieces in QB Michael Faigl, RB Brycen Cooms and WR Goodness Okere but might need to outscore opponents until the defense comes along.
Wild card: Natrona. The Mustangs were a senior-loaded bunch last season, but they always seem to be in the same position every season and usually come out OK on the other side. Some untested talent will need to grow quickly.
1. Star Valley: The defending champs return three all-state picks, tops in the classification. The biggest offensive weapons are gone to graduation, but a solid group of up-and-coming players should make the Braves the favorites from day one.
2. Douglas: Douglas is loaded with solid returners, including QB Trey Rinn, linemen Tegen Seeds and Malachy Lehnen and maybe the best up-and-coming junior in the state in Carter Archuleta. The Bearcats will definitely be the East favorites.
3. Buffalo: The Bison had a solid campaign in 2022 and with four returning all-conference players (tied with Douglas for the most in 3A), they should be right in the championship discussion again this year. RB Will Hammond emerged as a solid offensive centerpiece.
4. Cody: How will the Broncs react to losing all 13 of their all-conference picks and all nine of their all-staters? If Cody’s returners learned anything in practice, it’ll be time to show it in the games.
5. Powell: A trio of returning all-conference selections, led by all-state WR Trey Stenerson and QB Jhett Schwahn, should put the Panthers in a good spot entering 2023.
Wild card: Evanston. The Red Devils get back a pair of all-staters in Cohen Morrow and Brady Roberts and could be a team on the rise but will need to adjust to a new head coach.
1. Lyman: Three teams in 2A return four all-conference players; Lyman just happens to be one of them. The Eagles’ title hopes went awry in 2022, but honestly — a play here, a play there and maybe we’re talking four-peat.
2. Big Horn: The defending champs proved a lot in their title run, and with a pair of returning all-staters in Kiefer Dunham and Drew Heermann, the Rams should be in the chase for a repeat.
3. Tongue River: The Eagles had a breakthrough season in 2022, and they did so with a bunch of younger players leading the way. With four all-conference players returning — all of whom were key pieces of TR’s turnaround — watch out.
4. Mountain View: The Buffalos’ four returning all-conference players might be the most exciting group of talent returning to any team in 2A. Both Jayce Schultz and Carson Eardley were all-state, and they lead a group that’s eager to return to the top.
5. Cokeville: Three all-conference players (but no all-staters) return for Cokeville, and it goes without saying that the Panthers consistently put out winners.
Wild cards: Lovell and Newcastle. For opposite reasons, two teams show up here — Lovell, last year’s runner-up, gets back just a pair of all-conference players and loses a senior class that was clearly carrying the bulk of the weight. Newcastle, meanwhile, improved significantly last year and gets back a trio of all-conference selections, enough to compete in the East.
Class 1A nine-man
1. Pine Bluffs: In a classification that was hit hard by graduation (only six returning all-state players statewide), the defending champs earn the recognition of early favorite by returning four all-conference choices, tied for the most of any team in 1A nine-man.
2. Big Piney: The Punchers get back four of their five all-conference choices and lead the state with a pair of returning all-state picks in seniors Karsyn Gurr and Ruben Stoutenberg.
3. Southeast: The Cyclones don’t return any all-state choices but do get back four of six all-conference picks, setting them up well to compete in the East.
4. Lingle: The Doggers will rely on two returning all-state choices in Louden Bremer and Kaiden Riggs, who both made the team as sophomores, to be leaders in 2023 for a team that was one big play away from hosting a playoff game.
5. Wind River: RB Cooper Frederick is the centerpiece of a Cougar game plan that will rely on him heavily, but in a depleted West Conference, that may be enough to carry the day.
Wild cards: Rocky Mountain and Shoshoni. Between them, they combined for 18 all-conference and 11 all-state choices. Every single one has graduated. Underclass talent will have to develop in a hurry for them to stay in a title conversation.
Class 1A six-man
1. Burlington: Last year’s runners-up return four all-conference players, tied for the most in six-man with Kaycee, but with some key players graduated, rebuilding will need to happen fast.
2. Dubois: RB Wyatt Trembly set a single-season rushing record in six-man last year, and his presence alone will keep the Rams competitive — which is good, because four all-conference players will leave upon graduation.
3. Encampment: The Tiger trio of all-conference players (Quade Jordan, Ryon Miller, Kaben Pickett) will be tough to top as seniors, and that experience will help Encampment find some success, especially early.
4. Snake River: The Rattlers have had back-to-back undefeated seasons, but this might be the year they come back to earth. They’ll still be competitive with all-stater Isaiah Skalberg leading the way, but the senior class is thinner than usual.
5. Kaycee: Four all-conference returners will help Kaycee improve, and all-stater Vaun Pierson will help set the pace for a thin but improved Buckaroo squad.
Wild cards: Meeteetse and Midwest. Both the Longhorns and Oilers return all three of their all-conference choices, and Meeteetse’s Joseph Pina was the North’s co-defensive player of the year. Both teams should be improved in 2023.
What do you think, in January at least? Who’s poised for a breakout year? Leave a comment and share your ideas. And then let’s keep talking for another 10 months until all of this actually, finally, gets settled on the field.