You can drive yourself insane trying to calculate modern playoff scenarios in Wyoming’s five divisions of prep football. In a simpler time, the conference champions advanced and everyone else packed the trunk for next season.
That’s no longer the case and teams with a single win can advance to the playoffs as in seasons past. This year, Hulett with a 2-5 record makes a 780-mile round trip to Baggs to play unbeaten Little Snake River in the opening round of the 6-man playoffs.
Similar trips have taken place in the past with one less than memorable experience for Newcastle in 1992 and 93 when they were walloped in Kemmerer (think about that trip) 54-6 and 52-0 after finishing the regular season with two and one win respectively.
This year four teams from Fremont County have already made the post-season and Riverton with a win at Worland on Friday would make it five.
A win sends Riverton to top-ranked, unbeaten Cody for a rematch the following week.
In the Class 3-A East, the Lander Tigers control their own destiny, at least to an extent. Lander can finish as high as the top seed, but with the unlikely outcome of Rawlins knocking off Buffalo.
A Tiger win at Douglas this Friday would put a monkey wrench in the East 3-A, with ties between Lander, Douglas, and Buffalo for the top spot. If that were to occur, a complex tie-breaking system with plus and minus points against each other and the margin of victory comes into play.
It’s much easier for Riverton, just win and get another week of football.
The playoff tie-breaker rules have a much greater likelihood in the Class 1-A 9-man West.
Shoshoni has won the league and will host the fourth-place team from the East, probably Lusk if the Tigers can win at Wright on Friday, or lose by less than eight points.
It gets interesting when you take a look at Wind River, Big Piney, and Rocky Mountain. All three lost to Shoshoni but Big Piney beat Rocky, and Wind River beat Big Piney. If the Cougars win, they are in and will host Lingle-Ft. Laramie as the two seed.
If they lose by more than six, they finish third and go to Southeast Goshen, with Rocky second and Big Piney fourth.
If they lose by six or less, they’ll be the four seed headed to Pine Bluffs, and Big Piney is the second seed hosting Lingle.
The Cougars have their fate in their control, much like the Tigers, but they don’t need any help.
In a strange quirk, if the Cougars are blown out by a touchdown or more, they’re third. If they lose close by less than six, they’re fourth. If they win, they’re second.
The state’s smallest division, 6-man, is also the easiest to figure out. Dubois is second in the South Conference and will host Meeteetse in the opening round. After that, the Rams will likely travel back to Big Horn County to face Burlington, the team they play this Friday, in the semi-finals.
Confused yet? Here is the rationale for the playoff system. The first criteria is head-to-head. If you beat someone, who beat another team that beat you, that is considered a tie. To break the tie you look at the point differential. In other words, how much did team A, beat team B by, and how much did team C lose to team B by, but how much did they beat team A by.
Looking at Big Piney, Wind River and Rocky Mountain, the Punchers are +2 because they had a +4 against Rocky in a 12-8 win, but a -2 against Wind River in a 20-18 loss. The Cougars are presently +2 awaiting Thursday’s game with Rocky Mountain.
So the Cougars win and they host. If they lose, they want to lose big, since those points, up to 12, go against Big Piney and Rocky moves up by the differential.
Presently, Rocky is -4 with the loss to Piney, and the Punchers are +2 with the four points from Rocky subtracted by the two points in the loss to the Cougars. That means to get a higher seed they have to beat Wind River by seven or more points.
A positive for the modern playoff system is that it keeps many teams involved until the final minute of the last regular season game.