Only two weeks remain in the Wyoming high school football season. That means the playoff push takes center stage this weekend.
It’s the penultimate week of the season and if the importance of these games doesn’t spark excitement in communities across the state then those places don’t have a football team in the postseason hunt.
There’s a lot of scenarios left. Only a small handful of teams have been eliminated. Hope exists across the state for at least one more week. And, going into Week 7, here’s what those teams hope for:
Technically, all teams remain playoff hopefuls. If the playoffs started this weekend it would be Cheyenne South and Gillette sitting out. Here’s where it gets interesting: South plays Gillette this weekend. A win would put the Bison in a presumptive tie with Kelly Walsh (which faces Thunder Basin) and Cheyenne Central (which plays Natrona County). Then there’s the Week 8 game between Kelly Walsh and Gillette. Two months ago that game would have likely been considered of zero consequence but it’s effectively a “win-and-in” game for the Trojans now.
Another interesting aspect of this playoff race, without getting too much into seeding, is about the top spot. An initiative was discussed at the last Wyoming High School Activities Association Board of Directors meeting to move away from coin toss determinations for tie-breakers. So a point-based system was introduced. If that particular system were to be used this year (it can’t be — its earliest implementation would be in 2019) then it would be: No. 1 Thunder Basin, No. 2 Natrona County, No. 3 Cheyenne East.
Barring any surprises, those three should finish in a three-way tie for first. The closest any team has to a trap-game is Cheyenne East at home against Sheridan in the last week. If the Broncs win that they would finish tied with East for third, but would earn the No. 3 on head-to-head. That would also put Thunder Basin-Natrona County in a two-way tie, meaning head-to-head would be the primary tiebreaker, and the Mustangs won a wild one at Cheney Alumni two weeks ago.
A lot can happen in terms of seeding, but the breakdown is:
Locked in: Cheyenne East (6-1), Natrona County (6-1), Thunder Basin (6-1), Sheridan (5-2), Laramie (4-3).
On the bubble: Rock Springs (3-4), Cheyenne Central (2-5), Kelly Walsh (2-5), Cheyenne South (1-6), Gillette (0-7).
Out: Nobody, yet.
The West Conference has learned to watch its back, as each week has been filled with upsets and inconsistencies. Star Valley had its own question marks coming into the season but saw through a tough non-conference schedule to stand 3-0 at this point. Last week’s win came against Jackson, currently in a three-way tie for second. Star Valley’s last two games are against the other two currently tied for second — Evanston and Cody. It’s possible the Braves could slip up but they hold the inside track right now.
It’s not exactly the same situation for East leader Torrington. The Trailblazers are undefeated with their two remaining games against Worland (3-3) and Rawlins (1-5). There’s a good chance they finish the regular season undefeated and top of the conference. Then there’s Douglas, which is 4-2 despite a young squad; and Lander, which in Year One of its rebuild under John Scott already shows signs of the ball coach’s signature excitement.
The qualifying four teams appear evident in both classifications but upsets do happen. Powell can still make the playoffs by beating Green River this week and then Jackson. In fact, only Rawlins is mathematically eliminated due to its remaining schedule and losing would-be tiebreakers.
Bring on the insanity. (All records listed are in-conference).
Locked in: East, Torrington (3-0). West, Star Valley (3-0).
On the bubble: East, Douglas (2-1), Lander (2-1), Worland (2-1), Riverton (0-3). West, Evanston (2-1), Cody (2-1), Jackson (2-1), Powell (0-3), Green River (0-3).
Out: Rawlins (0-3)
Each conference has an undefeated team remaining and both have solidified their postseason aspirations. But that’s as far as determinations go. No team is eliminated from contention and playing for seeding is just as much up in the air at this point.
Buffalo is undefeated in the East, two games ahead of everyone else and has already locked in the top seed. The new team on the block in 2A beat both Wheatland and Glenrock earlier (the only two teams with three East-conference wins), so the Bison are set. Glenrock and Wheatland control their own destinies. Thermopolis is No. 4 right now but the Bobcats finish against Glenrock and Burns, which remains in contention along with Moorcroft. Newcastle stands essentially eliminated but there are scenarios where the Dogies can advance if they win out and the dominoes fall the right way.
Mountain View leads the West now but only by a game. Greybull and Big Piney each have three wins, making the final game of the season between Mountain View and Greybull a must-watch. Kemmerer and Pinedale each have two wins and are fighting over the No. 4 spot. The Rangers have the edge for now by holding the tiebreaker victory. Each actually play Lovell, which could make its own playoff push by winning out and watching Kemmerer, Pinedale and Lyman all not win another game. Speaking of the Eagles, they remain a contender with Greybull and Big Piney left on the schedule, so that could be tough.
Let’s get weird:
Locked in: East, Buffalo (5-0). West, Mountain View (4-0).
On the bubble: East, Glenrock (3-1), Wheatland (3-2), Thermopolis (2-2), Burns (1-3), Moorcroft (1-3), Newcastle (0-4). West, Greybull (3-1), Big Piney (3-2), Kemmerer (2-2), Pinedale (2-3), Lyman (1-3), Lovell (0-4).
Out: No one.
It is what it is. The East Conference remains the more favorable conference with teams like Big Horn, Upton-Sundance and Pine Bluffs (and even Lusk) playing competitive games each week while the West Conference has been marred by forfeitures and cancellations due to low numbers. Realistically, Big Horn has been battle-tested and Cokeville hasn’t played a four-quarter game since a 14-6 win over Class 2A Lyman In Week 3.
Big Horn has been as good as advertised and can solidify the top seed in the East Conference by beating Lusk this weekend. Upton-Sundance and Pine Bluffs are the next two in the standings and the Rams beat them both by a combined 97-21. That means this weekend’s game between the Patriots and Hornets has monumental importance. Upton-Sundance can lock in the No. 2 with a win while the Hornets need two more wins to get the No. 2 seed. Then there’s Lusk, which is No. 4 now but with the Rams on the schedule and previous results in mind, the Tigers are actually on the outside. Wright can get the No. 4 seed by beating Tongue River and Southeast, and with a Big Horn win this weekend. Tongue River and Southeast can still get in but they each need to win and let the chips fall correctly.
Cokeville and Wind River square off in Week 8 for the defacto-No. 1-2 seeding game, provided Rocky Mountain doesn’t beat Wind River this weekend. Shoshoni doesn’t have a conference game left on the schedule but is locked in because of tiebreakers. Wyoming Indian will play one last varsity game, against Rocky Mountain. The Chiefs can make the playoffs alone with that win and a Grizzlies’ win this weekend. Saratoga is not eligible for the postseason.
Locked in: East, Big Horn (4-0), Upton-Sundance (4-1). West, Cokeville (3-0), Wind River (2-0), Shoshoni (1-2).
On the bubble: East, Pine Bluffs (3-1), Lusk (2-2), Wright (1-3), Tongue River (1-4), Southeast (0-4). West, Rocky Mountain (0-2), Wyoming Indian (0-0)
There’s actually a lot figured out here with even more intrigue remaining. Both conferences remain up for grabs as one of the most exciting classifications undergoes another exciting two weeks.
Kaycee came into the season with a 30-game winning streak and the last three state championships. Hanna had never won a six-man conference championship. That’s how quickly things can change. The Miners can clinch their first East Conference title by beating the Buckaroos on Friday. They stand tied in the standings now and locks for the playoffs so it comes down to seeding for them. Then there’s Guernsey, which can clinch a spot with a win against Lingle-Fort Laramie this weekend. NSI Academy stands in the No. 4 spot after a three-game losing streak. The Wolves are off this week before playing Kaycee. Lingle-Fort Laramie and Hulett can advance by winning out and getting some help from others.
Only Burlington and St. Stephens stand between Farson and an undefeated regular season that eluded them last year. The Pronghorns can clinch the West by beating Burlington on Friday. Meeteetse is already in with Dubois on the schedule this weekend. Snake River, also in, has the week off before playing Dubois. What is up in the air comes down to Burlington and St. Stephens. Burlington gets in with a win this weekend or next week (Riverside). St. Stephens gets in if Burlington loses out and if the Eagles win out (Riverside this week, Farson next week). Riverside is ineligible for the playoffs as the Rebels voluntarily opted down to six-man; and Dubois, with all seven of its players, is already eliminated.
Locked in: East, Hanna (4-0), Kaycee (4-0), Guernsey (3-1). West, Farson (4-0), Meeteetse (4-1), Snake River (3-2).
On the bubble: East, NSI Academy (2-2), Lingle-Fort Laramie (1-3), Hulett (1-3). West, Burlington (2-2), St. Stephens (1-3).
Out: Midwest (0-5), Dubois (0-4), Riverside (ineligible).