First off, like I say every year, this is for fun. I know exactly how important high school football is in America. I know how important it is in Wyoming. A town’s team is akin to their personality, their hopes and dreams and their ability to get through another week in many cases. Any perceived slights during my predictions are just in good fun. You may be wondering about the name. Before I starting writing for the Star Valley Independent I worked in a print shop. One day while reading the paper I thought, “I can do this.” Ten years later, whether I can or not is up to the readers. It was while sucking in the fumes of that print shop that my good buddy Josh Henderson pointed out I needed a nickname to write sports columns. My first name is Dahl (like “Al” with a D) and my last name starts with an E. He suggested Dahl E. Llama, using the animal so as not to offend the religious following of the actual Dalai Lama. It stuck, and here it is. Week One in Wyoming’s 3A is a doozie in a lot of ways so let’s get right to it.
Powell Panthers @ Douglas Bearcats – Since the Braves play both of these teams in the first five weeks, I don’t want to offend either one, but here are my thoughts. I was both surprised and not surprised by Powell’s 43-7 loss at Miles City, Montana. Surprised that it was so one-sided, but not so surprised that after three years, 27 straight wins, three straight state titles and an incredibly emotional summer due to the loss of Coach Jim Stringer, there was a disappointing result. Teams graduate players, new players take those roles. Powell’s ultimate success this year will not come in wins or losses in my opinion, but how the players, coaches and fans go about their season with their effort and guts. Powell has those in spades so years from now I think they will be proud of both their effort level and their passion. How that translates into wins? That’s yet to be seen. On the other hand, Douglas also graduated a ton of seniors, seven of which were all-staters. Their returning all-staters are linemen, generally where I like my all-state kids to be. Their Zero Week was more of a mystery although I did talk to a few parents in the stands at War Memorial about their scrimmage with Green River. I expect the Bearcats’ defense to be stingy. Their skill position kids will come around. At home, I’m picking them to win this game. In week one I might look like a fool. Llama says – Bearcats – 28-13.
Lander Tigers @ Worland Warriors – Two teams with new coaches rolling into the regular season. Coach Hughes is now the AD of LVHS and the God of Thunder himself is Worland’s new coach as Thor Ware led the Warriors to a Zero week win over Riverton. It’s hard to know what to expect for this game. Lander won some games late last year including a nice upset of Riverton in the regular season finale. Worland’s win over the Wolverines last week honestly make my eyebrows raise up too. I guess I have more faith in how Lander finished last year than how Worland started this one. – Llama says – Tigers 24-21.
Buffalo Bison @ Cody Broncs – Loss or no loss, I had the Broncs at the top of my pre-season voting because this group of seniors have been starting since their sophomore year. They lost 13-0 to Laurel, Montana, but that is a team that is generally tough. Can Cody break their state championship drought? Too early to say, but based on what they have coming back and the struggle the Bison had during last years (1-7) campaign, I think they are heavy favorites to win this week. I look for big games from Carter Myers, Tate Pehringer and John Boudrie. – Llama says – Broncs – 35-13.
Green River Wolves @ Riverton Wolverines – Yes, the Wolverines lost a close Zero Week game to Worland, but I think they have the tools and pieces for a strong offense this season. The Wolves really struggled last season and while some of those kids are back, I don’t think they have enough to beat Riverton on their home field. – Llama says – Wolverines – 31-10.
Torrington Trailblazers @ Glenrock Herders – Since I don’t know much about the 3A East from a competition standpoint other than the playoffs, I can only draw conclusions on numbers. Wins and losses and statistics. Every year the Blazers make me look silly becausee I think they might be on the cusp of a prolific offensive season. I guess I don’t learn very fast. – Llama says – Blazers – 28-20.
Jackson Broncs @ North Fremont, Idaho Huskies – The Broncs running game picked up where they left off last year, dropping over 50 points on Teton High School in Zero Week. I fully expect Jackson to lead the class in rushing again this season and they may not have much trouble doing so this week against Idaho 2A North Fremont. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I’m more interested in seeing how the Broncs’ develop their passing game and their defense in a game like this. Both of those elements were exposed against the 3A semi-final teams last season. – Llama says – Broncs 45-14.
Preston, Idaho Indians @ Star Valley Braves –
Why the Braves Win – History is on the Braves’ side. They are 7-2 against the Indians all time and Preston has only claimed victory in Afton once and that was before Sputnik was launched. Preston was gouged by the running game of Park City last weekend to the tune of over 350 yards so they may have trouble stopping the run. The Braves should have one of the better running games in the 3A class this year and they also have a talented group of pass catchers who should make it difficult to focus on stopping the ball carriers. Preston’s offense has struggled in the past ten games dating back to last season, scoring just 14 per contest.
Why the Braves Lose – Preston is a big school, well over 700 students from a blue-collar town that knows how to work. They have some big players on their line with a handful over 250 pounds. They may not be a football powerhouse historically, but they play week in and week out in Idaho’s 4A classification and their level of skill is used to a tough opponent. The Indians lost four games last year by six points or less as their defense was constantly called upon to keep them in the game. If the Braves offensive line cannot make holes and/or protect the quarterback, it might be a very tough outing for Star Valley. A bevy of young players making the transition to varsity play for the Braves will be key components in the season, starting today.
There you have it. Feel free to make your own predictions in the comment section and keep it civil please! Good luck to all teams, and may injuries pass you by.