Mountain View and Buffalo share stunning similarities. Both have potent offenses that can strike at a moment’s notice, athletic defenses that flow to the ball and head coaches who have their programs near the top in their seventh years of coaching. They’ll also meet in Saturday’s 2018 Wyoming State High School Class 2A Football Championship at War Memorial Stadium, which is scheduled for a 10 a.m. kickoff.
They also have both grown immensely from opening losses in Week 1.
The returning Class 2A state champion Buffalos began their quest for a repeat with a gut-check road loss to Class 1A/11-man state finalist Cokeville. That game finished 20-13, having gone down to the final whistle. It was also a game where the Buffalos had their chances but couldn’t get out of their own way.
“Everybody knows how good they are and the credit goes to them,” Mountain View head coach Brent Walk said. “We had five turnovers. And you’re not going to beat a Todd Dayton-coached Cokeville team with five turnovers.”
From then on the Buffalos focused on individual days. Walk emphasized his players to not let the same mistake happen again. They haven’t lost since and ride a nine-game winning streak into Laramie this weekend for a chance to defend their state championship.
“We literally focus on the task at hand,” Walk said. “Day by day, rep by rep. Our kids have totally bought in.”
Squaring across from the Buffalos will be the Buffalo Bison.
Pre-season expectations put the Bison in the midst of a race for the Class 3A title. Dropping down to Class 2A meant their path to gold potentially got easier. And that mentality may have gotten into the players’ minds going into the season. Buffalo opened with a 7-0 home loss to rival Douglas.
“Our kids had high expectations this year and I think our kids were a little too overconfident going into it,” Buffalo head coach Rob Hammond said. “They thought we may have come out and had an easy game. I was worried about that, as a coach, and Douglas is a good program. Our team has changed a lot since then.”
And some of that hasn’t been out of choice as much as necessity. Returning all-conference running back Caleb Jones tore his ACL on the game’s first play. The Bison lost an interior lineman later in the game to another ACL tear. That required new blood to immediately see the field. Initially they were shell-shocked.
More than two months later and after conquering every conference foe, Buffalo brings a nine-game winning streak of its own into Saturday’s game.
“That first game taught us a lot of lessons,” Hammond said. “Coming in we wanted to beat Glenrock. That was our goal, to be the No. 1 seed. And that Douglas game got us ready for that Glenrock game. Things really turned after that and our kids felt like our team could win a big game if we’re in there.”
Then there’s the intricacies of their personnel that make them mirror images.
Junior Kimball Madsen has taken over as full-time quarterback for Mountain View, which freed standout junior Braeden Walk to play receiver alongside sophomore Ashton Schofield. Then there’s junior running back Briggin Bluemel and his 17 touchdowns.
Buffalo counters with senior quarterback Lukas Glassock, junior running back Rowen Ruby and the receiving trio of seniors Aaron Thiele and Cody Milmine and junior Dawson Hatch.
“I can’t even say where our offense starts,” Hammond said. “We have a ton of team speed. We do a lot of fly action that stretches the defense, then that opens up the inside.”
All that athleticism carries over to the other side of the ball, where Mountain View also has one of the classification’s best defenders in senior Colby Rees, a four-year starter for the Buffalos.
“He’s even surpassed my expectations,” Walk said. “I know some 2A schools that start freshmen and that doesn’t happen here very often but he’s been a two-way starter since he showed up.”
All that has helped set the stage for what could be a high-scoring, athletic battle of wills.
“We’re as athletic as you get in 2A,” Hammond said of his Bison, “but we’re not any more athletic than they are.”