For the second year in a row, Class 2A looks like the most unpredictable classification in Wyoming.
Most of last year’s top teams lost a lot of their best players; most of last year’s also-rans have significant numbers of returners. Anything’s possible.
Lyman won last year’s championship despite not having a winning season since 2013. Will 2A give us another surprise in 2021?
Four questions to answer
OK, out with it — who’s the favorite? Torrington. The Trailblazers were 2A runners-up last year and were junior-loaded, so it makes sense for Torrington to be a preseason No. 1. The ‘Blazers have three all-state players coming back, more than any other 2A team, and have good depth and experience on both sides of the ball.
Who’s Torrington’s biggest threat? Probably Wheatland. The Bulldogs have a passing game that can’t be topped in the 2A ranks, and with Kade Preuit calling the signals, Wheatland will be tough to slow down.
What about the West? Look for parity. Last year’s West race was defined by it, and this year is shaping up similarly on paper. Similar to 2020, Lovell, Lyman, Cokeville, Mountain View, Big Piney and Thermopolis are all threats, capable of causing chaos in the standings with some well-timed victories.
Isn’t that last answer a cop-out? No. In talking with 2A coaches this summer, they, too, were flummoxed as to who might win it all this year. In addition to the parity in the West, the East, too, should be competitive from top to bottom. This year’s 2A champ may end up being a lot like Lyman was last year — overlooked at the start of the season but undeniable by season’s end. Upton-Sundance, Tongue River, Burns and Big Horn from the East all fall into that category entering 2021.
Preseason class MVP
Jake Hicks, Wheatland. A two-time all-state pick, Hicks led 2A in receiving yards per game last year (86.4), finishing with 42 catches for 778 yards; that was after a sophomore campaign when he was second in 2A with 562 yards on 21 catches. Oh, and he has an experienced quarterback throwing to him. Oh, and he’s Wheatland’s top returning tackler and had four interceptions last year.
Presesason class breakout player
Slade Roberson, Newcastle. Roberson’s 2020 season lasted barely more than one series, as an ACL/MCL injury in Zero Week ended the season for the Dogies’ quarterback early. But he’s healthy now, and he’s bigger and stronger than he was pre-injury. Newcastle may not be a title contender, but Roberson will keep the Dogies competitive.
Other players to watch
Connor Micheli, Mountain View. The Buffalos will lean a lot on Micheli, their only returning all-state player. He led Mountain View in passing and rushing last year (1,160 passing yards; 404 rushing yards) and he’s the only one of Mountain View’s top eight defensive players coming back this year.
Kade Preuit, Wheatland. Class 2A’s top returning quarterback threw for 1,474 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, thanks in part to looking deep. His accuracy wasn’t great last year (46.6%), but he’s a risk taker, with his 18.2 yards per completion leading Class 2A in 2020.
Beau Bivens, Torrington. Another returning starting quarterback? Yep… but Bivens is looking for redemption after dislocating his ankle in the semifinals last year and missing the title game. Prior to the injury, Bivens had thrown for 1,339 yards and 18 touchdowns in leading the Trailblazers to the brink of a championship.
Rho Mecham, Lyman. The Eagles’ defense was rock solid last year’s title run, and Mecham was a big reason why. His 10 sacks led Class 2A, and his 86 total tackles was one short of the team lead. On a defense that will need younger players to step up to maintain its success, Mecham’s presence will be huge.
Four key games
Lovell at Mountain View, Sept. 10. Two teams with a ton to prove this year meet in the West Conference opener, with the winner putting a big stamp of validity on its claims to a title run. A victory here means wonders; a loss isn’t the end of hopes, but it makes the rest of the season a lot more stressful.
Upton-Sundance at Wheatland, Sept. 17. The Patriots are 3-0 against the Bulldogs the past three seasons, so if Wheatland wants to make a run at the East Conference title, the first task is to overcome that trend. The Bulldogs do draw home-field advantage, but if history is any indicator, the Patriots won’t be an easy team to topple.
Big Piney at Lyman, Sept. 23. The Eagles’ only loss last year came to the Punchers, odd considering Lyman went on to win the 2A title and Big Piney missed the playoffs. The Eagles will certainly be motivated here, as will the Punchers as both teams try to keep their postseason dreams going in a tight West race.
Big Horn at Torrington, Oct. 1. Another lost moment in the 2020 season was the Rams’ victory against the Trailblazers in the programs’ first game against each other. The rematch in Week 5 will help dictate the direction of the East Conference for the rest of the regular season.
Predicted order of finish
East Conference: Torrington, Wheatland, Upton-Sundance, Burns, Tongue River, Big Horn, Newcastle, Glenrock.
West Conference: Lyman, Mountain View, Lovell, Big Piney, Cokeville, Thermopolis, Kemmerer, Pinedale.
Preseason top five: 1. Torrington; 2. Wheatland; 3. Lyman; 4. Upton-Sundance; 5. Mountain View.
Way-too-early title game score prediction
Torrington 34, Wheatland 27. Two longtime rivals in a championship game? You love to see it. Unless, well, you’re from one of the 14 other programs trying to prevent this kind of game from happening.
Next Thursday: Class 3A.