LUSK-Following the slew of forfeits during last fall’s 1A 11-man schedule, the WHSAA gave the go-ahead for a nine-man league beginning in time for the 2020 season. What began about a year ago as many smaller schools face dwindling participation numbers, culminated at last week’s Board of Directors spring meeting. “I kind of figured it had a good chance of passing,” said NCHS Activities Director and Head Football Coach Ryan Nelson. “We discussed it at the All State meeting last fall, knowing the problems the West has had with numbers recently.”
Lusk is no exception to this trend as they finished last season with 21 players-similar to what conference rivals Southeast, Tongue River and Wright experienced. “After talking to other coaches and AD’s around the state, there’s a lot of support and ways to keep the game as close to 11-man as possible,” Nelson added.
The proposal gained steam after the WHSAA winter meetings and reclassification cycle for 2020-22 began. All schools were surveyed and many of the 1A 11-man schools felt nine man would be better for their projected enrollments. 2A Moorcroft has also opted to play nine-man, while six-man schools Lingle-Ft Laramie, St Stephens and Riverside intend to move up. Big Horn, Pine Bluffs, Upton-Sundance and Cokeville all expressed their desire to remain 11-man and will move into the 2A league.
The Tigers keep Southeast, Wright and TR on the schedule while Moorcroft and L-FL will return. In the West will be Rocky Mountain, Riverside, Wind River, Wyoming Indian, St Stephens, Shoshoni and perhaps Saratoga. “We want to do what’s best for the kids and still be competitive,” Nelson said. “Something needed to happen- we can’t survive with 15-20 guys going into 2A, and anything to avoid six-man.”
While there are still many things to put in place, it appears the upcoming 2019 season of Tiger Football will be its last as an 11-man program for the foreseeable future.