A Utah high school football program with deep tradition will play seven games against Wyoming schools this fall in an effort to keep its program going.
Rich County, Utah, will play what amounts to a Class 2A West Conference schedule in addition to four games against Utah teams in the 2022 season.
Cooper Cornia, Rich County’s athletic director, said via email Tuesday with wyoming-football.com that the move by the Rebels — a program that has won six Utah championships since 1994 — will help them overcome some of the problems they’ve faced in the Beehive State.
“We have gone independent in hopes of saving our football program here at Rich,” Cornia said. ” … The timing was just perfect with Big Piney dropping down to allow us to jump into the southwest Wyoming schedule and fill our independent schedule with close, quality games.”
As one of 11 schools in Utah’s Class 1A, Rich County was isolated from many of its conference opponents. In both 2020 and 2021, Rich averaged more than 200 miles, one way, per road game. Its closest conference opponent, North Summit, was 73 miles away; its furthest, Monticello, was 382.
“Utah has basically gotten rid of the traditional 1A league here,” Cornia said. “There are only two true 1A schools playing in the 1A league. The rest are 2A schools.”
In 2022, Rich County will play four schools within 73 miles, traveling to Kemmerer and Cokeville in 2022 and to Mountain View and Lyman in 2023.
Rich will also have a road game at Thermopolis (268 miles) in 2022 and road games at Lovell (370 miles) and at Pinedale (147 miles) in 2023. In the next two years, Rich’s schedule against mostly Wyoming teams will reduce its travel almost 30% as compared to the trips the Rebels have had to play Utah teams the previous two years.
Rich’s 2022 schedule also has two road games against Utah opponents Monticello and Water Canyon (408 miles) and two home games against Utah teams.
Rich has a proud football tradition. The Rebels won six Utah championships between 1994 and 2014, including three in a row from 1994-96. Rich also won titles in 2002, 2009 and 2014 and was a runner-up in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
However, since 2017, the Rebels are a combined 6-43, never winning more than two games in any one season. Rich had to forfeit a pair of games in the 2021 season. The Rebels will enter 2022 with a new coach, Tyson Larsen.
Going independent will mean that Rich is ineligible for the Utah playoffs. As for potentially joining the Wyoming ranks, Cornia said, “I don’t think Wyoming will ever allow us to be post-season eligible. … Hopefully, we can build our program back and return to Utah post-season play soon.”
For the full 2022 Wyoming high school football schedule, click here.