It’s a rare meeting this Friday at 5 p.m. for the Wind River Cougars and Southeast Cyclones in Goshen County in the quarter-finals of Class 1-A 9-man football. The teams have met just four times previously.
Wind River fell to Southeast in Yoder in a Class 1-A 11-man semi-final contest 42-12 back in 2009.
The Cougars were blown out twice at Leroy Sinner Field, the first time 57-6 in 2013 and the second just two years ago in a 42-0 shutout.
They met a year ago, with Wind River topping the Cyclones on their home field in Yoder 8-6 in a contest dominated by the Cougars but filled with turnovers.
Turnovers will again be a major factor when the third-seeded Cougars from the West 9-man make the long trek to Goshen County for a 4 p.m. opening-round game with the Cyclones.
Injuries will be a factor, maybe the biggest factor when these two teams meet. Wind River lost speedy running back Jaycee Herbert and quarterback Chris Burk against Shoshoni two weeks ago, and in their absence dropped a 35-0 decision to Rocky Mountain, in a game that should have been much closer based on common opponents when the Cougars were full strength.
Reports coming out of Southeast Goshen indicate the Cyclones are at least as banged up or worse, with four starters out in a 63-7 shellacking by unbeaten Pine Bluffs last Friday on the road.
The Cougars and Cyclones have a pair of common opponents in Riverside and Saratoga. Riverside beat Southeast 20-10 in an opening-week cross-conference matchup. Wind River rolled over the Rebels 50-6 in week three at Pavillion.
They both posted nearly identical scores playing at Saratoga. Southeast beat the Panthers 47-14 and the Cougars handled them 46-14.
Both teams had six-game winning streaks during the season, the Cougars won their first six before falling to Shoshoni and Rocky.
Southeast dropped their opener then won six straight including a nail-biting 36-35 win over Goshen County rival Lingle-Ft. Laramie.
At full strength, the Cougars would be a solid favorite in spite of the travel distance, but they struggled offensively against Rocky Mountain when they were shorthanded. Leading rusher, junior Cooper Frederick ran for 123 yards against the Grizzlies, and Calder Johnson added 51, but the remainder of the team was thrown for a negative 56 yards. The Cougars had just eight total passing yards on just a pair of completions on the game.
Another week would give Wind River a chance to recover from their injuries and get a second chance at Shoshoni in the semi-finals but first, they have to get by the Cyclones.
Wind River will have to rely on the blocking and defensive work of Trapper Hallock, Tucker Jensen, Casey Befus, Kaden Jones, and Kyzaia Jones, and the coverage of Aiden Ruby, Juaquin Stevens, Wambli Romero, and Carter Fowler if they want to advance.
Southeast runs by committee with Wyatt Campbell their leading rusher. Ayden Desmond, Matthew Chapman, and Austin Short all average over five yards per carry.
The Cyclones throw the ball much more than Wind River. Desmond quarterbacks the offense had 41 completions for 18 touchdowns entering the Pine Bluffs game. Short is his favorite receiver.