Behind the lines: Entering the Ring

    Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.

    “Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed,” General George Patton said in a speech to the Third Army in June 1944.

    The premise that winning is the only acceptable outcome is endemic among armchair quarterbacks who have never entered the arena as athletes or coaches, but who can easily toss deriding comments from the cheap seats.


    To have a winner, you must have a loser. That simple fact will be played out in three different 11-man games next weekend in Class 2-A, 3-A, and 4-A in windy Laramie. Our own Wind River Cougars will battle the Big Piney Punchers once again for all the marbles on Saturday at 1 p.m. And the Little Snake River Rattlers look to extend their unbeaten streak to 32 straight against the Burlington Huskies in 6-man football.

    In Fremont County football, Riverton has four Class 3-A titles, Shoshoni a pair of Class B 11-man championships and one in 9-man. Wind River has a single title along with Dubois and Lander, that totals 10 state titles in Fremont County since 1948.

    Fremont County teams have played in the title game 21 times. That means there were 11 excellent seasons that ended with a loss.

    In 1992, Wind River finished 8-2 overall and second to a solid Rocky Mountain team in the state title game at Byron. The 22-14 loss was hotly contested by Fremont County fans, but the trophy now resides at the new school in Cowley.


    What is memorable about that season wasn’t the title game, but the semi-final contest where the Cougars pounded the heavily favored Guernsey-Sunrise Vikings 26-6 at the old field in Pavillion. The hit Ray Smith laid on future Wyoming Cowboy return specialist Je’Ney Jackson is the stuff of legend. Jackson took a pitch and did a little “shake and bake” but Smith didn’t bite and leveled the prized recruit with a hit that would have Jackson’s helmet taken via the concussion protocol in the game today. Jackson was sidelined for almost two quarters as Smith and company battered the Vikings.

    Head coach Dick Quayle’s Cougars were still runner-up that year losing 10-7 to the Grizzlies in the finale.

    A couple of the old state championship titles are hard to figure out. Shoshoni was 10-0 and Class B state champion in 1959, and Lander was also unbeaten in 10 games in 1948.


    Both schools have championship banners celebrating those teams, but why did Shoshoni play only one team outside the Big Horn Basin in 1959 when it was considered a state championship?

    That team was Midwest, a mediocre 3-5 squad. Cheyenne St. Mary’s, Buffalo, Douglas, and Campbell County (yes Gillette, Douglas, and Buffalo were Class B schools in the 50s) had better records but didn’t advance to the semi-finals.

    Lander had the same lack of eastern opponents when they won the title. Legendary coach Bill Bush, the man the field is named after led his Tigers to an unbeaten season against just two teams outside the Big Horn Basin, Green River twice, and Newcastle in the semi-finals.


    That is ancient history many would say, but history is always interesting, and the lack of a formal playoff system makes it even more so.

    Before the self-esteem movement reached even high school football, you had to win your conference to reach the playoffs. Now with eight teams in the postseason out of just 10 total in Class 4-A and eight out of 12 in Class 3-A, making the playoffs isn’t that impressive.

    Arguably the two best Riverton teams to ever take the field finished second in 1972 and 1973. The Wolverines won the West AA both times and fell both seasons in Casper. The first time to Kelly Walsh in Casper 27-8 and the second to Laramie 22-7 also at Kelly Walsh.

    Head coach Don Pomeroy had an outstanding running game but it wasn’t enough against the big boys from the East.

    In terms of “Big Boys,” none were possibly bigger in the entire history of Wyoming prep football than the Cheyenne Central Indians in 1979.

    Riverton lost just three games that year with a 34-0 blanking by Natrona County and a 28-6 loss to Kelly Walsh in the regular season.

    Coach Ken Boatwright’s Wolverines won the West and the Indians the East courtesy of a 28-27 overtime win over Natrona County in Casper.

    They demolished Riverton 51-12 in the final. It wasn’t surprising with eight of the Central starters going on to full-ride football scholarships at the Division I level that following spring.

    Shoshoni has the best percentage in the finals with three of four championship games going the way of the Wranglers. Only the 33-27 loss last season in War Memorial Stadium kept the Wranglers from a perfect record in the big dance.

    Dubois is the inverse. As one of the smallest schools fielding a football team, the Rams have been incredibly competitive.

    They lost the 9-man state title under head coach Pat Ballinger 35-20 to the Lingle Ft. Laramie Doggers in 1990 and fell twice under head coach David Trembly in 6-man title games at Jonah Field in 2011 and 2014. They lost 54-33 to Little Snake River the first time and were run over by Guernsey Sunrise 80-30 the second.

    The frustration award for reaching the title but letting the brass ring slip away goes to Lander.

    The Tigers under head coach Jeff Savage played in the championship game three times in a row from 1993 to 1995, losing all three on the road.

    They came close in Afton in 1993 dropping a 14-12 decision to Star Valley and fell 33-27 across the valley in Riverton in 94’ in what is considered the greatest game ever played in Fremont County before falling to Star Valley again in Lincoln County 32-14 in 95’.

    To have a champion, you must have a contender and at least in our society, no one ever remembers the efforts made by the second-place team.

    They deserve equal honor with the champions for bravely stepping into the ring and facing the challenge.

    Go Cougars this weekend in Laramie.


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