I’m not ready for the 2018 season to end. But all good things must, right? Over the next two days, five games will bring the 2018 season to a close. Here’s what to look for in each of them:
Class 1A six-man, noon Friday
Burlington Huskies (4W, 6-4) vs. Farson Pronghorns (1W, 10-0)
Series record: Farson leads 4-1.
Last meeting: Farson beat Burlington 47-41 on Oct. 12 in Burlington.
Last playoff meeting: First playoff meeting.
State championships: Burlington two, most recently in 1994. … Farson zero.
Previous title game record: Burlington, 2-1. … Farson, 0-2.
The path to Laramie: Burlington rallied in the second half to beat East top seed Hanna 61-36 in the first round before thumping Meeteetse 57-18 in the semis, with both games on the road. … Farson destroyed Hulett 90-22 in the first round and topped Snake River 62-19 in the semis.
The case for the Huskies: The Huskies started slow. And they finished slow. And they came into the playoffs at 4-4. But anyone who was paying attention knew how good the Huskies were. They’ve finally shown it in the postseason, beating two excellent opponents with ease. Moreover, a six-point loss to Farson — the only team to hang within 40 points of the Pronghorns all season — should be a huge confidence booster.
The case for the Pronghorns: Aside from that 47-41 victory against Burlington, the Pronghorns have been absolutely destroying teams. Farson is on pace to have the highest average scoring offense in state history. In six-man terms, its defense is as solid as it gets. Their senior class is loaded and motivated, and Lain Mitchelson will likely eclipse 2,000 rushing yards for the season by the time this game is done. Anything else?
The pick: Don’t let Burlington’s record fool you. The Huskies are more than capable. But the Pronghorns were the anointed team in six-man all season, and they’ve lived up to that hype. All that’s left to do now is close out the season holding the trophy that’s eluded them the past two seasons. … Farson 54, Burlington 42.
Class 3A, 3 p.m. Friday
Torrington Trailblazers (1E, 10-0) vs. Star Valley Braves (1W, 9-2)
Series record: Star Valley leads 10-2.
Last meeting: Star Valley beat Torrington 38-14 on Sept. 8, 2017, in Afton.
Last playoff meeting: Star Valley beat Torrington 42-27 in a 3A semifinal game on Nov. 6, 2015, in Torrington.
State championships: Torrington three, most recently in 1990. … Star Valley 10, most recently in 2016.
Previous title game record: Torrington, 2-10. … Star Valley, 9-10.
The path to Laramie: Torrington took care of Evanston 34-7 in the quarterfinals and then eked past Jackson with a touchdown and two-point conversion with no time on the clock to win 22-21 in the semis. … Star Valley notched a pair of shutouts, beating Worland 48-0 in the quarterfinals and Cody 33-0 in the semifinals.
The case for the Trailblazers: First of all, Torrington is undefeated. Second, Bryan Lemmon is one of the best running backs in the state. Third, the Trailblazers should be plenty motivated to win in Laramie after coming up short last season. Fourth, they have a deep and talented senior class. Sounds like a champion to me.
The case for the Braves: I’ll be honest: After seeing how many seniors the Braves lost last year, I didn’t have high hopes for them this year. But new players stepped into big roles quickly, and after a 1-2 start the Braves have won eight in a row. No single team in the state may have improved as much from last November to this November as Star Valley.
The pick: I’ve been ride or die with Torrington all season. The Trailblazers were my preseason No. 1 and were my No. 1 vote in every weekly poll this season. With what happened last week, this feels like their time, their destiny. So of course it won’t happen. … Star Valley 28, Torrington 24.
Class 2A, 10 a.m. Saturday
Mountain View Buffalos (1W, 9-1) vs. Buffalo Bison (1E, 9-1)
Series record: Series tied 3-3.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Mountain View beat Buffalo 18-0 in a 2A semifinal game on Oct 31, 1997, in Mountain View.
State championships: Mountain View five, most recently in 2017. … Buffalo five, most recently in 2005.
Previous title game record: Mountain View, 5-6. … Buffalo, 5-10.
The path to Laramie: Mountain View busted up Thermopolis 41-0 in the quarterfinals and scored 26 unanswered points in the second half against Glenrock in the semifinals to win 33-21. … Buffalo cruised past both Kemmerer (56-20 in the quarterfinals) and Wheatland (50-7 in the semifinals).
The case for the Buffalos: In case you forgot, the Buffalos won here last year. Their small senior class is more than made up for by a cadre of juniors who play like seniors. They’ve won nine in a row, almost all of them by wide margins. Their offensive diversity makes them tough to scout, and their defense stacks up against any in 2A.
The case for the Bison: When we learned Buffalo was moving from 3A to 2A this year, everyone in the state knew the Bison were going to immediately contend for a state title. And here we are. Buffalo’s only loss this year was to Douglas in Week 1, and since then the Bison have been on fire. Moreover, they’ve jumped to another level in the playoffs.
The pick: This is an excellent matchup, and I would pay good money to watch this game. I don’t know that either team has an advantage. When I think too hard about it, my head hurts, so I’ll go with my gut instead, and think about a foot (as in Buffalo kicker Luke Glassock) that might be the hidden game-breaker. … Buffalo 31, Mountain View 28.
Class 1A 11-man, 1 p.m. Saturday
Cokeville Panthers (1W, 10-0) vs. Big Horn Rams (1E, 10-0)
Series record: Cokeville leads 3-2.
Last meeting/last playoff meeting: Big Horn beat Cokeville 12-7 in a 1A 11-man semifinal game on Nov. 3, 2017, in Cokeville.
State championships: Cokeville 22, most recently in 2014. … Big Horn five, most recently in 2016.
Previous title game record: Cokeville, 21-6. … Big Horn, 5-10.
The path to Laramie: Cokeville flexed its muscles in the first round by beating Wright 61-8 in the quarterfinals and topping Upton-Sundance 25-6 in the semifinals. … Big Horn laid waste to its two postseason opponents, beating Wind River 67-8 in the quarterfinals and Pine Bluffs 68-13 in the semis.
The case for the Panthers: If you have to even ask if Cokeville’s a legit contender, you’ve been paying attention to the wrong state. Cokeville is ALWAYS a contender, and always will be with Todd Dayton as coach and entire community on its sideline. Beyond that, the Panthers are undefeated (and beat Mountain View for goodness sake!), relying on a defense that’s only allowed 65 points all season, by far the lowest mark in the state, to carry them.
The case for the Rams: Big Horn isn’t just the best team in 1A this season. The Rams are trying to make a case for one of the best 1A teams in the history of this state. They’re undefeated, but with potential record-setting efficiency: With 24 more points, the Rams will finish as the highest-scoring 11-man offense in state history; with 45 more points, they’ll have a higher scoring average than any other 11-man team in state history.
The pick: Cokeville is having a great season. Big Horn, somehow, is eclipsing even that, with a season for the ages. … Big Horn 40, Cokeville 24.
Class 4A, 4 p.m. Saturday
Sheridan Broncs (3, 9-2) vs. Natrona Mustangs (1, 10-1)
Series record: Natrona leads 57-47-6.
Last meeting: Natrona beat Sheridan 34-7 on Sept. 7 in Casper.
Last playoff meeting: Sheridan beat Natrona 28-14 in the 4A championship game on Nov. 11, 2017, in Laramie.
State championships: Sheridan 26, most recently in 2017. … Natrona 17, most recently in 2014.
Previous title game record: Sheridan, 16-6. … Natrona, 10-7.
The path to Laramie: Sheridan beat Rock Springs 41-8 in the quarterfinals but needed a touchdown in the final 31 seconds to overcome Thunder Basin 14-7 in the semis. … Natrona topped Kelly Walsh 35-7 in the quarterfinals, but needed a touchdown with less than 4 seconds remaining to beat Cheyenne East 21-14 in the semifinals.
The case for the Broncs: Anyone else going for a four-peat this weekend? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Even with a new coach in Jeff Mowry, the Broncs are still the Broncs, tradition lives on and the quest for a fourth consecutive championship is still alive. The two losses Sheridan had back in Weeks 2-3 are basically distant memories now, and with the lessons learned from those losses, everything is lining up well for that fourth title in a row.
The case for the Mustangs: One point is all that separates Natrona from being unbeaten right now. The Mustangs have 4A’s highest-scoring offense, and the defense has been up to the challenge when called upon. Natrona has balance, athleticism, diversity, coaching and momentum — everything you need for a title. All that’s in the way is the same thing that’s been in the way the past two seasons: Sheridan.
The pick: This pick should be easy. After all, Natrona beat Sheridan 34-7 earlier this season. The Mustangs are a no-brainer, right? Except when it’s November, in Laramie, and it involves Sheridan. Ah, what the heck. … Natrona 21, Sheridan 20.
I keep track of who wins and loses games. I also keep track of how well I choose the winners and losers prior to the games being played. This is a tally of how I’ve done with those choices this season:
Last week: 8-2 (80 percent). This season: 240-58 (81 percent).
For a full schedule including kickoff times, as well as results from past weeks, click here. Click on “Championships” on the top of the page for this week’s schedule. For playoff brackets, click here.
Championship weekend is finally here! It’s better than Christmas. Let’s share in that joy together by gathering around the comments section, sharing stories and drinking hot cocoa.