Behind the Lines: 11K in a Bluebird Bus

10,978 that’s the magic number this weekend. No, it’s not a lottery ticket, but a ticket of another type, a ticket to the second round of the playoffs, and eventually a chance to attend the “Big Dance” in Laramie in two weeks.

Beginning Thursday afternoon for some teams, and ending early Sunday morning for others, the highways of Wyoming will be filled with busloads of football players as 20 teams take to the road for the opening round of the playoffs.

Almost 11,000 miles on 66-passenger Bluebird buses for most of the teams.

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The Mountain View Buffaloes win the prize for the longest time on a bus this weekend with a 916-mile round trip to play at Big Horn – {h/t googlemaps.com}

Teams from the old Class B Southwest Conference have the greatest treks this weekend beginning with the potential 2022 distance leader, the Cokeville Panthers.

If the weather holds, the Panthers will have only 824 bus miles over the weekend in a trip to play Tongue River. If a front were to move through, Cokeville would vault from second to the top spot in travel miles with a 1,000-mile roundtrip through Casper instead of a run up the Big Horn Basin to cross over the Big Horns.

Good weather is predicted across the state for the upcoming weekend so the 916 miles Mountain View will travel to Big Horn should be the distance prize winner. It’s interesting the Big Horn and Tongue River are just a few miles apart while Cokeville and Mountain View are practically next-door neighbors by Wyoming standards at just 85 miles apart.

The third-place squad, also from the Southwest features a battle of the pines as Big Piney drops down to Rock Springs for a 400-mile one-way trip to Pine Bluffs on Interstate 80.

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Mountain passes are a feature for many teams every year in the post-season, as are trips through Shoshoni, Rawlins, and Casper.

Cokeville gets the chance to see a few moose or elk twice when they pull over South Pass and then cross the Big Horns to Sheridan.

Lander has their choice of high mountain passes on their trek to Afton to face Star Valley. The Tigers could climb up either of Fremont County’s trademark mountain passes in South Pass via Farson to Afton or Togwotee Pass on a route through Dubois and Jackson.

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Jackson will have their own chance to spot a late-season grizzly as they climb Togwotee on the way to Buffalo, and then cross the Big Horns in a trip similar to Cokeville’s.

By classification, some leagues have much shorter aggregate distances than others.  In the state’s smallest division, 6-man, Hulett, Encampment, Meeteetse, and Farson-Eden combine for only 1,750 miles, the smallest total for all five leagues.

It’s a little farther in 9-man where Wind River, Lingle-Ft. Laramie, Big Piney, and Lusk ride the bus a little further at 2,526.

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The winning division, with a total just short of 3,000 miles is Class 2-A.

There’s just no way to get there from here, a local might say, but 902 miles from the corner of Utah and Colorado to just a few dozen miles from Billings is what the Mountain View Buffalos face. Lyman, even closer to Utah, to Burns, which is almost in Nebraska is a bit closer thanks to Interstate 80 but it’s still two long days in a bus to cover the 776 miles for the Broncs.

As long as the Big Horns are free of snow, the Panthers only have an 824-mile weekend ahead on their trip to Sheridan County, and the Doggies leave home in Newcastle with a relatively short (by Cowboy State standards) 550 miles to play the Bulldogs in Lovell.

The trip is thankfully short for the Worland Warriors in trying to avenge a 67-7 regular season shellacking by the Cody Broncs. Friday’s game marks the 90th meeting between the two schools and they’re almost right next door at just 90 miles apart.

The other three traveling teams in Class 3-A, Lander, Jackson, and Powell combine with Worland for a total of just 1,880 miles.

That leaves Class 4-A, the “Interstate Highway League” as many refer to the state’s largest division since every school is located on Interstate 25, 80, or 90.

The longest run is a trip by the Laramie Plainsmen, the eighth-place team to Sheridan, the top-ranked team in 4-A at 590 miles. Bosler, Rock River, and Medicine Bow are nice this time of year.

Thunder Basin and cross-town Gillette rival Campbell County both drive to or through Casper on Friday with the Bolts headed to Cheyenne Central on a 488-mile round trip, and the Camels heading for Casper on a 260-mile jaunt to face Natrona County.

The only true Interstate trek is the 512-mile roundtrip on Interstate 80 when Rock Springs plays the East High Thunderbirds.

Mountain passes, long miles between settlements, and quick jaunts into rest stops and fast food establishments a long ways from home are ahead on trips the kid and coaches will never forget.

It will be a banner day at the Fast Lane in Shoshoni, the Flying J and Ghost Town truck stops in Casper, and at franchise fast food restaurants across the Cowboy State. It’s playoff football weekend.

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