Take that regular season and tuck it away in the books. It’s amazing to try and delve back into one’s mind nine short weeks ago and try and come to grips with what pre-season thoughts were compared to post-season reality. Here are a few of mine and where they went right and where I was dead wrong.
• Cody was my pre-season favorite to win the 3A State Title – This thought starting brewing about two years ago. Star Valley shut out the Broncs 39-0 in the 2012 regular season meeting in Afton. The Broncs were starting a lot of sophomores but the Braves crowd talked about them after the game. Just give them some time and they could be really good. After upsetting Riverton in the quarterfinals that same year, the Braves needed everything they had to pull out a 19-6 win to advance to the state title game. Here we are two years later and those sophomores are seniors. The Broncs ended a 57-year title drought in basketball this past May. Their last football title was in 1991. That drought might be over before too long.
• Douglas would be good, but they would loose a few – Yeah. I was wrong here. Watching the Bearcats is like watching a machine with all the moving parts doing exactly what they are supposed to do. In that regard Douglas football is like an old International truck. Extremely tough, no frills and with proper care, can last forever. The Bearcats seem to put out playoff football on a weekly basis. No lead is safe and they have already won multiple games this year with their offense on the sideline.
• Jackson would go 5-3 in the regular season – Again, wrong here. The Broncs went 7-1 and claimed a home playoff spot. They hit the hole hard on offense and play confident on defense. They will be a handful for the post-season until someone proves they can stop Theo Dawson and Mark Ford. Not many teams have the defense to do that.
• Riverton would be good, but maybe not good enough to win the East – This turned out to be true, but it was so close and such a good season there’s nobody upset about how the Wolverines have played. They have as good a balance offensively as any team in the post-season.
• Star Valley thoughts – This is why I don’t try and pick Braves games. I can’t be objective. I thought the team would have a strong offense. That has proven true, but turnovers and early-season inconsistency plagued the squad. Defensively, Star Valley has allowed more points that I would have guessed, but looking at the young pieces in place it was definitely a possibility. Finally, I thought individuals like Reese Hiibel, Cole Critchfield, Jesse Sanders and Austin Hoopes would have great seasons. This was true. I did NOT expect the receiving numbers from Critchfield who is threatening school marks by Andy McKen and Jason Lewis I thought would be there for another ten years. Hoopes has been the heart and souls of a young defense and will leave a legacy to all the returning players what is required next season.
In the regular season, yours truly went 29-8 (.784) in the 3A Class. This week’s Quarterfinals are brutal. As tough as they’ve been in some time.
#4E Rawlins @ #1W Cody – On the surface, the Outlaws’ best chance here appears to be to make this game into a shootout. They have the state’s best passing offense but they will be challenged by a Bronc defense that seems to be getting better every week and they were already pretty good. The Broncs have the potential to be suffocating on defense. Star Valley had the state’s #2 ranked offense and the Braves were fortunate to score back in September on their home field. Defensively, Rawlins will be hard-pressed to stop a big offensive line with a battering ram like Carter Myers and quick backs like Tate Pehringer. This could be a close game but I think the Broncs have too much. Llama says – Broncs 31-14.
#3W Powell @ #2E Riverton – Perhaps the hardest game to predict all season long. I really like Powell’s emotion. They have channeled it and done their community proud under difficult circumstances. They should be able to run the ball effectively against Riverton, but that depends on how they protect quarterback Carter Baxter. Ask most Star Valley fans who the most physical defensive line they faced this year and the Wolverines are at the top of the list. I think Riverton also is anxious to protect the home field after the aforementioned upset in 2012. It might be silly to pick against the three-time defending champs, but I guess that’s what I’m doing. Llama says – Wolverines 27-21.
Torrington #3E @ Jackson #2W – One of the most astounding stats that came out of Week Eight came from Patrick Schmidt and wyoming-football.com when he announced that the Blazers and Broncs had NEVER played. Really? In 80+ years it’s just never happened? I find that remarkable. Especially since I remember following my brothers to Torrington three times in four years in the 1980’s. Torrington is a wild-card type team in my opinion. Their only losses were close ones to both Riverton and Douglas. They can run the ball and they can pass it too. Jackson has a terrific home field and they will be fired up while the Blazers have a long trip in front of them. It seems like it’s all about the run game in Teton County, but their defense makes enough plays that a pivotal mistake could cost the Blazers. Llama says – Broncs 31-28.
#4W Star Valley @ #1E Douglas –
Why the Braves Win – Blind Optimism? The first thing I thought of when I knew the Braves were heading back to Douglas for the sixth time since 2010 was that they were the boxer and this year’s Star Valley team is the puncher. In the first five weeks, the Braves scored 69 points. In the past three, they’ve scored 127. There’s no doubt they are playing their best ball, but is it good enough to win in Douglas for the first time? This offense will go as far as Jesse Sanders and Cole Critchfield take them. Some of the big plays they’ve rolled up the past three weeks likely won’t work against the Bearcats, but they are as confident as they’ve been all season offensively so it’s time to use up those special plays in the back of the little green notebook this week. I called the play-by-play in 2006 of a top-rated Star Valley team that was upset by a (2-6) Wheatland squad. As it was stated before, Cody upset a top-rated Riverton team just two years ago. It’s not that rare.
Why the Braves Lose – Douglas plays with quickness and poise every week it seems. They then seem to find another level in the playoffs. A quick start against Star Valley might be a real morale breaker for the Braves. We asked a young man if he thought Star Valley had enough to beat his Bearcats back in Week Three. His response? “Nope”. Confident crowd too.
Good luck to all and let’s not get injured out there. After all, basketball and wrestling season are just around the corner.