Wyoming (Week 6)
A brief note about these updates. I’m going to retool how I post. I’m going to avoid long play-by-play recaps as I think they’re the least received and probably as boring for me to write. Instead, I’m going to stick more to the observations of the game itself as an event and how that area of the country handles it, supports it, etc. If anybody reading these liked the more in-depth play-by-play let me know and I’ll take better notes next week.
This week found myself in the Equality State for a pair of games Friday night. Keeping with my mindset of finding more out of the way places to watch games. This time it was on a baron stretch of I-25 north of Casper, Wyoming.
In Wyoming, teams without lights at their stadiums generally host games at 3pm on Friday afternoon instead of the obvious Saturday afternoon start. The early game was in little Kaycee, Wyoming. Population: 293. The town was named for the “KC” brand used by the ranch that acted as the basis for the town. However when they applied for a post-office, they were told they couldn’t simply use two initials and opted to spell it out as “Kaycee”. I parked in the small town and walked around a bit before heading of the three blocks to the field behind the high school.
The field is new, as of 2009. This is only the third year that Wyoming has played 6-man football in modern times. Prior to this, any team had to play 11-man. This led to some inadequacies and caused many of the really small schools to not field any teams and instead co-op with a larger school so their students could play the sport. In this case, the only football team in Johnson County: the Buffalo Bison. In recent years, two small northern schools: Meeteetse and Ten Sleep, both dropped out of the WHSAA for football so they could participate in the Montana league in 6-man. Which was a deciding factor by the WHSAA to move to avoid other schools from attempting to join outside leagues.
However, with the reintroduction of 6-man football, Kaycee was a prime example of the unexpected benefits. A small school that has never fielded a football team in its entire history now has a three year old program. The team started only because of 6-man being an option. A small stadium set into a non-descript hillside behind the school was built to accommodate roughly 300 spectators. Roughly 250 on the home side (5 rows of 20 or so seats on both sides of the 40 with a central ‘entrance’ for players to make their entry to the field to start the game). There is no fence between the field and stands, only a rope held aloft by plastic markers. The visitors seats were very small and sat about 40 to 50 people at most. A good deal of the fans simply stood around the edge of the field or sat in lawn chairs that they brought to the stadium. The eastern sideline sits below a high flat hillside where cars parked and other fans simply sat there to look down at the action or sat in lawn chairs there as well.
The stadium is a short aluminum riser with a small press box spanning the 8 foot or so entrance way. The entranceway is entirely wood and the players made a practice of beating against it loudly as they amped up for the game. Constructed on a concrete slab that goes to the south endzone where it also serves as the base for the concession stand and restrooms. A simple scoreboard is setup in the south endzone with the score, time, and four lights for what down and four lights for what quarter.
Admission was free for the game and it appeared given the activity in town and the crowded stadium that the entire town had shown up for the game. About 30 fans from Meeteetse (Meh-teet-see) had made the trip for the game.
The game was actually a doubleheader. The first game was a middle school game between the Kaycee Broncs and the Meeteetse Longhorns that had started at 1pm. Both teams wore red and white. Kayce dressed in white helmets, red jerseys, white pants, with white curly-Q numbers. Meeteetse wore white helmets, white jersey, red pants and red numbers. It was a little disconcerting trying to recognize who was who.
Watching from the second quarter, Kaycee was up 25-12 at the half and won in a route, 46-12.
After a brief break, the Kaycee Buckaroos (the high school) made their grand entrance to much horn honking and hollering from the faithful. Dressed in all blue from head-to-toe with a white bucking-bronco logo on the helmet, red numbers, with white outlines. Meeteetse wore all white with red numbers and black accents.
Now, the rules of 6-man are pretty easy to follow once you start watching a game. And the fact there’s ten less players on the field start to drift away. The field is only 80 yards from goal-to-goal. The field is 25 yards wide. A first down requires 15 yards. The quarters are 10 minutes each. All players are eligible to receive a pass. And the quarterback (whoever takes the snap) cannot advance the ball forward on his own. Also, PATs by kick are worth two, while a PAT by pass or run is worth one since at this level it’s much more difficult to successfully kick the ball).
This sets up a ‘double snap’, where the center shotgun snaps to a player who then tossed it behind them to the real quarterback who now is eligible to take off running if he wants. Meanwhile, the center is an eligible receiver along with the original quarterback.
The game is fast paced, and scoring can happen quickly as only one missed tackle is needed to score a touchdown most plays. It’s extremely entertaining, as well.
Kaycee opened up with a 16-0 lead :21 into the game. After Meeteetse countered with a 34-yard TD pass on fourth down for touchdown, Kaycee added two more scores to make it 32-6 after one.
Only a single touchdown was scored in the second quarter to make it 38-6 after a missed PAT.
Kaycee returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown and then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that they returned for a touchdown to make it 50-6 only :18 into the second half.
Ten seconds later, Meeteetse fumbled the first down shotgun snap and was recovered in midair by a defender who returned it for the third touchdown in 28 seconds to make it 56-6. This initiated the mercy rules in Wyoming that ensures a running clock except for change of possession, timeouts, or other referee stoppages.
After scoring to make it 62-6 after three, the announcer said, “Well, that’s the game, folks.” Before realizing there was one more quarter to go. Meeteetse had one good drive late in the game and scored. The final: Kaycee 70, Meeteetse 12.
Now, this was a fun game to go to and I’d love to be back some day. The crowd was really excited and cheering on their team. I talked to one local beside me in the stands and was proudly touting how good the team was. We talked about how they’ve just started and how well this little town has latched onto them.
This is _the_ event of the week. Even for being homecoming weekend. The football game took center stage. Where else does 95% of the town show up for a game? Kaycee is a big team, too. For 6-man, they have 18 players dressed. Which, by my guess is every boy from 9th through 12th. This being that I did not see one high school aged male in the stands at all. This is quite a feat for a small school. But, this is new, and the team has been wildly successful.
In their first ever season, they won their first ever game and went all the way to the state title game in Laramie before losing to Geurnsey-Sunrise. Last year, they went to the state semifinal. Now, this seems impressive, but Wyoming has very small classifications. In fact, 1A-6Man only has 10 teams in the entire state. And 2A has the most, with 16.
The entire state is broken down into two divisions, the North and the South. Kaycee competes in the north with Dubois, Hulett, Meeteetse, and Ten Sleep. The South consists of Farson-Eden, Guernsey-Sunrise, H.E.M. (Hanna, Elk Mountain, and Medicine Bow co-op), Little Snake River, and Midwest (who is just south of Kaycee, northeast of Casper). The top four in each division will qualify and the higher seed hosts up until the title game that is played at University of Wyoming in Laramie.
You can tell that they’re still new to the high school football world as the announcer carried on conversations with people he knew (with 293 people in town, how could you not know everyone?) while the game progressed. In lieu of tickets, they did make money with concessions and auctioned off pies at halftime of both the middle school and high school games. Astoundingly, the five pies in the high school game all went for over $20 each, with the proceeds going to support the team. Also, for concessions, they had the usual. Water for $1, Candy for $1, Hot Dog for $2, Pizza for $2, Nachos for $2 and had Tamales for $2. Which, was another first for me. The chicken tamale was very good. As for programs, simple folded red or blue cardstock served as the roster sheets and done nicely, yet simply. They had roster sheets for both the middle school and high school games that were color-coded to the red or blue of the two teams.
After the game, I quickly walked back to where I was in town and headed north to Buffalo just under an hour away. Given the easy time setup, I arrived in town at the brand new high school (and stadium) just before kickoff. Walking down to the stadium was a little arduous as the school is at the top of a hill overlooking I-25, while the stadium sits in a depression down by exit 298.
The Bison Bowl (as it’s listed online, yet lacked any signage) is a simple metal riser spanning from the 20 to 20 on the home side with about 20 rows of seats. The entire under portion of the stands are off limits. The concession and restrooms are located to the north end.
The field is situated inside an 8-lane track and is natural grass. A huge scoreboard detailing the basics stands to the north. Arriving to the stadium I was surprised that there was no admission charged here as well. And as a bonus, they were handing out free t-shirts courtesy of the sponsors for homecoming. The shirts were old gold colored and read “Gold Rush” “BHS” and “Homecoming”. They were handing them out on the condition that you must wear them, which I honored the request. Luckily, they had a 2x left.
Walking by the concession stand, I was again greeted by the smell of some wonderful local cuisine. This time grilled ribeye steak sandwiches. These were good. For $6 you got a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a drink (in my case, a bottle of water). Or, for $4, you got just the sandwich. I opted for a meal and an extra sandwich and headed to the stands.
The stadium seats about 4,000-5,000 at most and had about 2,000-3,000 in attendance. This again felt like the ‘must see’ event of the weekend. Homecoming, a big game against a team ahead of them in the standings.
Buffalo (the Bison) were decked out in Colorado Buffaloes inspired apparrel. In all black with a gold buffalo on the helmet with gold numbers. The Riverton Wolverines wore black helmets, white jersey, and black pants with black numbers and red accents.
Riverton, on a side note, just played their last ever game at their old stadium and the next time at home will be opening their brand new stadium up. The old stadium sounded like a great place to play. Sunken into the ground, you could sit anywhere on the berm around the field for overflow crowds.
As for the teams, Buffalo came out with a long drive that ended in a field goal to make it 3-0 after the first. A 65-yard touchdown run was followed by some back and forth that made it 17-7, Buffalo. A TD pass with 4.1 seconds left made it 24-7 and the rout was on. Buffalo tacked on two more in the third, including a 91-yard kickoff return to answer a Riverton touchdown. The score, 38-13 after three. while subbing in backups, the game dragged on as Riverton made one last long game-ending drive that accounted for no points.
Buffalo won, 38-13.
As for the atmosphere and crowd. With the open gates in and out of the stadium, it kept the students wandering in and out all night and really killed the atmosphere in the stadium. So many kids went to the practice field to the west of the stadium (behind the home stands) to play, socialize, etc. A strong student second was down by the band’s second standing along the fence decked out in black and gold.
The food was amazing. Grilled Ribeye Steak Sandwiches should be at all high school games. Cooked on a grill the size of a U-haul trailer, they were the highlight of the night for aesthetics. The stadium itself is nice, but has little character given it’s an erector set no different than most other high school stadiums. The charm of an old stadium is absent. Again, for this game, there was only a one-sheet roster page for the fans available.
As for the announcer, they too had problems. The announcer was getting tongue-tied trying to say “Riverton Wolverines” and habitually called them the “Wiver–Riverton Wolverines”. He also, loudly, cheered for the home team. Being excited by a play is one thing, but cheering the player on a kickoff return–while the play is going on–is uncalled for.
As for the band, which Buffalo did have, they did songs from “Wicked”, the broadway musical. I’ve seen the play at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh. As a side note, it’s an amazing show and the band did a great job starting out with “No One Mourns The Wicked”. The Majorettes were dressed in Wizard of Oz costumes (several Glindas and Elphabas, Dorothy, Tin-girl, lioness, and scarcrow). It was a very intriguing and non-ordinary production.
Now, the dynamic between Buffalo and Kaycee is very apparent. I overheard several fans of Kaycee talking about going to Buffalo for this game. Also, when the Buffalo announcer was updating out-of-town scores in 3A, they threw in a few of the day games from earlier. The “Kaycee 70, Meeteetse 12” score drew a chorus of cheers from the Buffalo fans. Given that until three years ago all Kaycee students that wanted to play football played for Buffalo under the lights and therefore were part of the fold, you undertood their duopoly. Like a big brother to a little brother, Buffalo will probably always have a soft spot for the Kaycee team and the Kaycee team will always be cheering on ‘the big school’ in the county under the lights.
And after that, my double-header was done. It was a great day. A beautiful day, actually. Saw two games. The home team won both. Saw some great plays. Two kickoff returns. Got to see my first ever 6-man game. Definitely goes down as one of my favorite ‘non-Ohio’ football weekends.
Elsewhere Around the Country:
Platte Valley (CO) beat Brush, 29-7 to go up 2-3 on the season. Wiggins (CO) beat Holyoke, 19-12 to rise to 4-1. Lamar (CO) won a shootout with La Junta (pronounced: lah hun-tah), 47-33 to get to 4-2. Kent Denver (CO) crushed Bishop Machebeuf of Denver, 54-6 to go up 4-1.
Boone County (KY) lost, 27-13 to Ryle to fall to 4-3. Louisville Male were idle with a 2-3 record. Bishop Dwenger (IN) beat Bishop Chatard, 24-14 to go up 5-2. Indianapolis Cathedral fell to .500 (3-3) with a 36-14 loss to Louisville Trinity (KY).
In New Mexico, I still cannot find scores for the Albuquerque Foothill-Mountainair and Floyd-Logan 8-man football games. I assume this a product of Foothill getting no publicity being a correctional school and the other three schools being nowhere near a regular newspaper that would report their scores. In 5A, Albuquerque Manzano (formerly #1 in the state) lost big to Rio Rancho Cleveland, 67-35 to fall to 5-1. Albuquerque Valley was idle with a 1-3 record.
In all, this was my 27th and 28th game on the season. I’m halfway to the 56 games I saw last year. I hope to keep up this ‘two games a week’ streak I have going away from home. Next time in Ohio that I’ve planned is the weekend of 10/21 for my anniversary, the Big Red-Massillon game, the Browns-Seahawks game, in addition to as many games I can see on Thursday or Saturday.
As always, have a good week hopefully next week I’ll be somewhere in this great country under the Friday Night Lights.