Big Horn was virtually unstoppable last season. The Rams outscored opponents by 43.0 points per game (52.5 to 9.5); finished with an 11-man record 577 points; and averaged 63.7 points per game in the playoffs, including a 56-3 rout of previously unbeaten Cokeville in the state championship game, in winning their second title in the past three years.
And while Big Horn has to replace seven all-state selections off last year’s 11-0 squad, the Rams still return six all-staters. In other words, the Class 1A/11-man state championship trophy might be staying put for 2019.
That’s not to say Big Horn won’t be tested, especially in the East Conference.
Upton-Sundance returns two all-state selections and has advanced to at least the semifinals the past four years. Pine Bluffs is just a year removed from back-to-back state titles and is eager to get back to Laramie. Lusk returns nine starters on both sides of the ball as the Tigers seek their first playoff berth since 2014. And Wright, Tongue River and Southeast all have the postseason in their sights.
In other words, Big Horn might be the prohibitive favorite but the Rams better come to play every Friday night. They’ll have a target on their back and they’ll get every team’s best shot.
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Things look to be a little bit more clear-cut in the West, where Cokeville is once again the team to beat. The Panthers put together their own magical season last year until running into the Big Horn buzz saw in the championship game.
Cokeville’s biggest challenge might be staying sharp given that their schedule includes three games against JV squads in the watered-down West.
Wind River, Rocky Mountain and Shoshoni are expected to complete the West playoff field as low numbers have forced Wyoming Indian to play just two games against varsity squads and Saratoga to play a 6-man schedule.
It’s also worth noting that this will be the last year for Class 1A/11-man for the foreseeable future as it will be replaced by 9-man beginning with the 2020 season. So enjoy this classification and these teams while you can.