Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Rising Up To Pinedale

Fist Bump by mdt1960
Fist Bump, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
After umpteen years of attending small town high school football games, one would think that I’ve been everywhere there is in the two states of Wyoming and Montana but, it’s just not true.

When it comes to Montana Class C football, I’ve been absent for games in Victor, St. Regis, Hot Springs, Culbertson-Bainville, Froid-Medicine Lake, Darby, Box Elder, Lambert-Richey, Cascade and Valier… and those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

In Wyoming, it’s the same story but the small schools are defined as those playing 2A or lower. Starting with the smallest schools playing six-man, Midwest and Guernsey-Sunrise are still not represented in my portfolio. In 1A, I have yet to attend a game at Wyoming Indian, Saratoga, Upton, Southeast, Pine Bluffs, Normative Services, Lusk or Lingle-Ft. Laramie.

Despite this blatant negligence on my part, I can say that most of the schools listed above, I have actually been to their gridirons—just not during game days.

So, I’m delighted to announce here that this past weekend I added another notch to my football belt in a trip to Pinedale for a contest between the 2A Wranglers and the 1A Rebels of Riverside (Basin).

The one thing I truly cherish about the 2A class in Wyoming is that it represents the largest tally of schools in all of Wyoming’s classes. So, if anyone can say they are a “state champ” in Wyoming, it is the team that takes the 2A title—unless they are beaten by a 1A school during the regular season (this might be a good opportunity to read up on Cokeville).

Like West Yellowstone, Montana, the best way to get to Pinedale from my home in Powell is through the Park—Yellowstone National Park that is. And since Pinedale is south of the Park, I also passed through Grand Teton National Park. Excuse me if I sound as if I’m boasting here but, I’m confident few people are lucky enough to drive through places as scenic as Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks on their way to a high school football game.

When it comes to Pinedale, it is unique in its elevation. Walking around town or on the artificial turf of Sonny Korfanta Field, one might experience a shortness of breath given the town is listed at nearly 7,200 feet. So, I wondered: Do the Wranglers have an advantage, especially when other teams are visiting, hailing from locations under 5,000 feet—like Riverside (Basin) where the elevation is a mere 3,900 feet? According to head coach Allen Johnson, he’s never known elevation to be an issue for their visiting opponents. Whether elevation was a factor or not, the Wranglers were impressive in their 31-0 shutout over the Rebels from Riverside. Further, for this 52-year-old who normally resides at 4,300 feet, I felt there was a formidable difference when I ran my routine eight laps at the track the next day in Pinedale.

Lastly, in all of my visits to various small town high school football venues, Pinedale’s Sonny Korfanta Field was my first with artificial turf. A Pinedale statistician on the sidelines told me he expects more schools around the state to install artificial turf in the near future. If that’s the case, one has to wonder, which school will be the first in Wyoming to have a non-green turf?