There are just two games remaining for most football teams in the state, which means the playoff race is slowly figuring itself out. There have been some crazy upsets and breakout players this year, so who really knows for sure how the rest will shake out?
Exactly. So let’s sort through the muck and bring some clarity to each classification.
But why stop there? Part of the fun is getting too far ahead of ourselves. So here’s how the rest of the season will go down through the eyes of someone who has studied the box scores and isn’t afraid to be proven wrong.
(Remaining) Regular season
There’s a decent amount of mismatches left in Class 4A that should have no major impact on the playoff picture, with one intriguing, gigantic exception.
This weekend’s game in Gillette between Kelly Walsh and Thunder Basin will determine who gets to host a quarterfinal. Both are 4-3 going into Friday (so is Rock Springs, but the Tigers already have lost to both the Trojans and the Bolts, and finish their season at Cheyenne East and Natrona County), which means the winner takes a decisive step forward in what could be the first meeting between these two in three weeks.
However, do not be surprised if Cheyenne East defeats Sheridan in the regular season finale. The T-Birds match-up very well against the Broncs.
This is how it shakes down: 1. Sheridan vs. 8. Cheyenne Central; 2. Natrona County vs. 7. Laramie; 3. Cheyenne East vs. 6. Rock Springs; 4. Kelly Walsh vs. 5. Thunder Basin.
We’ll have seen all these match-ups before so there should be no surprises. However, I don’t think the winner of KW/TB can repeat that result two weeks later so, for the sake of the argument, the Bolts move on.
A fully healthy Austin Clemetson does make the Bolts more dangerous, but Sheridan is a special kind of team. Thunder Basin scores a lot of points but they also allow almost as many. The Broncs, meanwhile, have the best offense and third-best defense.
With all that in mind, Sheridan advances to the championship game for the third straight year.
Natrona County against East was an absolute battle in the regular season, so it would be an absolute treat to see it again. The Mustangs won that game and if there’s one thing we know about that program it is that the team plays its best at the end of the season.
The Mustangs win this one as well, if only because of the experience factor.
Despite the massive mismatch on paper, Natrona County was within striking distance early in the fourth quarter of last year’s title game. Sheridan had handled business at Cheney Alumni Field earlier in the year but the Mustangs were on fire heading into Laramie.
However, the wheels fell off and the relative inexperience proved costly against the Broncs’ talented senior class. Sheridan pulled away with four straight touchdowns.
But that was last year. Natrona County is massively better than it was last year and rallying to force overtime in the teams’ regular season meeting gives them confidence to go along with the neutral site game. Mustangs win.
(Remaining) Regular season
There is one big game left in each conference.
This weekend there is Rawlins at Torrington in the East. It has been 20 years since this game has had any real bearing on the playoff picture. The Outlaws are rolling and could very well pull off the upset at home, but last week Torrington throttled the same Douglas team that beat Rawlins two weeks ago.
Then there’s Star Valley at Green River in the West to end the season. The Braves should be undefeated going into that and are the overwhelming favorite despite Green River being just one game back in the standings.
By my count, it shakes like this: 1E Torrington vs. 4W Worland; 3E Rawlins vs. 2W Green River; 2E. Douglas vs. 3W Cody; 4E Buffalo vs. 1W Star Valley.
This appears to be all chalk, but the Green River-Rawlins game has so much excitement to it. The best offense in 3A against the best defense. This is the kind of game you’d want reserved for later in the year.
Having said that, the Outlaws have beaten Evanston, a feat that the Wolves could not do.
Oh, boy. We’ll know more about this match-up when the time comes, but the Trailblazers could have problems against that Green River defense. In the end this smells like an upset, but without knowing how things will shake out in the quarterfinals, Torrington gets the nod.
The other side of the bracket brings us the exact same semifinal the state was hoping to see in Laramie last year. Star Valley’s tough defense against Douglas’ speed and finesse game. This one has been seen before, however, and it has ended the same way. Braves return to Laramie.
It already happened earlier this season and Star Valley got off to a very quick lead with two pick-sixes. There’s a very good chance that will not happen again and the Blazers will come in ... well, you know.
Still, this is a dynasty in Afton. The Braves are strong, tough, bruising, talented and focused. They are the top rushing offense in the state and have lost just one fumble all season.
Star Valley makes it three in a row with a closer, but still affirmative, win over Torrington.
(Remaining) Regular season
Newcastle at Wheatland will determine seeding for the East Conference this weekend. Defending state runner-up Greybull has looked incredibly shaky but could still make a statement in its final two games.
It’s the playoff push. And it’s time to make sense of this mess.
Wheatland looks better after stumbling out of the gate and Newcastle has recovered from a three-game skid. We’ll say the Dogies win based solely on record.
That makes it: 1E Glenrock vs. 4W Greybull; 3E Wheatland vs. 2W Big Piney; 2E Newcastle vs. 3W Lyman; 4E Thermopolis vs. 1W Mountain View.
The Herders and Buffaloes met in the season opener, with Glenrock pulling out a 12-7 victory. Now they look at each other in the quarterfinals with one team still struggling to find its identity. Oh, and Lyman beats Newcastle because the Dogies have the worst defense (statistically) in 2A.
Glenrock against Big Piney is a very interesting match-up. They are the two best offenses in the class but the Punchers’ defense is much better on paper. Some lunacy always happens about this time so we’ll say Punchers pull off the upset because this is where Glenrock lost last year.
On the other side there is Lyman against Mountain View. This game was just played last week and the Buffalos were clearly the better team. Only one touchdown has been scored on Mountain View since Week 2 and it was not by a 2A team. Mountain View moves on.
Who would have guessed it’s Mountain View and Big Piney in the title game? Well, at least it’s a good one. The Buffalos won the regular season meeting 22-21 in Week 2.
It’s another close one but it’s tough to pick against Jason Stoddard and Colby Rees. Mountain View wins this one in another nail-biter.
(Remaining) Regular season
Pine Bluffs will be tested in the final two games but gets both Southeast and Upton-Sundance at home, which helps.
The East can still see some shuffling, but the West has been solidified with possible changes seen in the 2-4 seeds. Wyoming Indian forfeiting the remainder of the season doesn’t affect the standings much.
It will probably break down like this: 1E Pine Bluffs vs. 4W Saratoga; 3E Upton-Sundance vs. 2W Rocky Mountain; 2E Big Horn vs. 3W Wind River; 4E Southeast vs. 1W Cokeville.
Going into this week, Rocky Mountain, Saratoga and Wind River are all tied in the West Conference. There’s a lot of parity between the three, which makes for an entertaining race. But compared to the East in the same position, it doesn’t do them any favors.
The East takes three of the four quarterfinals, with Cokeville being the lone survivor from the West.
Pine Bluffs and Upton-Sundance play each other in the regular season finale in Pine Bluffs, so we’ll know more about this prospective semifinal after that. As it stands now, however, the Hornets are still the gold standard of the state and the defending champions will be favored until someone knocks them off.
Just thinking about a Big Horn-Cokeville game is exciting. Last year’s Class 2A state champions lost key standouts over the summer but still haven’t missed a beat with a younger line-up.
Having said that, this Cokeville team looks special and has not been slowed yet. Panthers return to Laramie.
Cokeville’s staunch defense will be tested by the dynamic Pine Bluffs offense throughout. The Hornets are explosive and relentless with the Fornstrom attack, which could challenge the Panthers. But in a battle of quality offense versus quality defense, defense wins every time. Cokeville for theoretical champions.
(Remaining) Regular season
All eyes are on Kaycee at Midwest for this week and then Farson at Snake River in the season finale. Both of those games will have major ramifications as they will serve as unofficial conference championship games between teams tied at the top of each conference standings.
No surprises seem likely on the horizon outside of those two games. Riverside is currently fourth in the West Conference standings but the Rebels are still ineligible for the playoffs.
Farson is returning state runner-up with a lot of returning talent, but Snake River has looked incredibly impressive so far this year, so I’ll give the Rattlers the nod because it’s a home game. Also, Kaycee is still the champions so the Buckaroos get the benefit of the doubt.
That makes the field: 1E Kaycee vs. 4W Meeteetse; 3E Guernsey vs. 2W Farson; 2E Midwest vs. 3W Burlington; 4E Hanna vs. 1W Snake River.
Dang, 6-man football is great.
Kaycee’s state-leading winning streak continues (28 games by this point) for at least one more game (so make it 29). Farson gets a good match-up that the Pronghorns will win. That sets the stage for a state championship rematch in the semifinals, which will end with the same outcome.
Midwest lost to Burlington back in Week 1, but the Oilers get revenge in the postseason. It’s also a very favorable game for Snake River in the first round. As much as Midwest has rallied this year, the grind of the West Conference gives the Rattlers the edge.
This is a very intriguing game on paper. Kaycee is still the best team in 6-man and will remain there until someone knocks the Buckaroos off. Snake River, meanwhile, has gone through as tough of a road as a 6-man team could.
But let’s have some fun and play the gamble. Snake River is capable of winning and this is a weird game, so the Rattlers end the streak in Laramie and seize the gold.