Monday, September 16, 2013

A Football Phenomena: The Answer Is In The Stars

End-Game Handshakes by mdt1960
End-Game Handshakes, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
If you have ever been to West Yellowstone, Montana, you know it hardly feels like a small town. Located on the border of Yellowstone National Park, this community is a tourist magnet, and it shows—restaurants, motels, museums, fly shops, snowmobile rentals… you name it. But, when it comes to education, West Yellowstone High School is considered a small school—specifically when it comes to football, it is considered a Class C Six-Man program.

Further, given most “six-man-towns,” I never struggle in finding the community/school football field—even if I’ve never visited before. Driving into “West,” I was flummoxed by the continued growth of that community, and as a result, finding the school wasn’t automatic, even though I have attended several games there since 1999.

In short, West Yellowstone feels like Cody, Wyoming, but the Broncs of Cody play in one of the Cowboy State’s larger classes of eleven-man football.

And so, I was running late in getting to the West Yellowstone-Box Elder six-man football game. Coming from Red Lodge, Montana, I had anticipated a little over four hours of driving by way of the Park. However, it turned out to be nearly a five-and-a-half-hour trip thanks to the “bison jams” and road construction near Mammoth—not to mention the 45-mph speed limit.

This contest was of particular interest to me because Box Elder is somewhat of a resurrected program—fluctuating between a varsity and junior varsity schedule since 2005, including several years in the eight-man ranks before that.

Despite my tardiness, somehow I managed to arrive before the first half had expired and expected to find a game that already possessed a running clock due to a lopsided score in favor of the Wolverines of West Yellowstone. The score was lopsided alright, but surprisingly in favor of the Bears from Box Elder to the tune of 28-0. Looking over the program rosters, I was also a bit taken back by West Yellowstone’s low numbers—only eleven athletes on this year’s team.

For the remainder of the one-sided game, it puzzled me: how could a rural school like Box Elder field a football team that was so dominating over what appears to be a richer and more-developed school like West? Not that I’ve seen these things before, but it always baffles me. On top of that, Box Elder has struggled to field a team year after year, not to mention its roster is composed mostly of Native American kids—typically not known for being over-achievers when it comes to football, unlike their basketball accomplishments (a topic I’ve touched on before).

Coach Simpson & Ketchum by mdt1960
Coach Simpson & Ketchum, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Since then, I’ve been kicking around all kinds of answers to my question. I’ve even considered consulting an astrologist.

Perhaps it’s simply an enrollment thing. West Yellowstone may have more residents than Box Elder: 1,298 vs. 794, but Box Elder wins in the K-12 enrollment contest: 313 vs. 221.

Also, maybe football is finally becoming more accepted, supported, and is catching on in the Native American communities. After all, not every kid in any culture or society is talented in the same areas. Surely there are Kenyans who can’t run a marathon very fast or Norwegians who can’t stay upright on a pair of skis.

It could also be that there’s just more distractions or options for high school kids in West Yellowstone, while autumn in Box Elder, maybe it’s football or nothing else.

Finally, perhaps Box Elder just has some kids this year that are above average in athletic achievement. I was also told the squad has a pretty good connection to their coach, Ronnie Simpson, and good coaching goes a long way too.

It’s likely that the answer to my bewilderment on the Box Elder-West Yellowstone outcome is a combination of some or all of the above.

Well, if anyone out there has some concrete, fact-based evidence on such small town football phenomena, feel free to share it here—even if it’s in the stars.

Postscript: Here's another Native American football story with a Wyoming spin on it from my friend and journalist Ron Feemster at WyoFile.


It makes sense to some said...

They play not far from Chinook, so maybe they got ahold of the "magical" cleats that Chinook was accused of wearing in their lop-sided win over Wibaux in the 2010 championship game.

Morgan Tyree said...

Oh that's good. I didn't consider the magical cleats...

Mudrunner said...

Hi Morgan~! Don't let the people from Chinook rattled your chain! If Chinook was a well rounded sport school and fairness they would have warned Wibaux about their football field (ice rink)week before Wibaux left for the road trip. Results would not have been so lopsided but closer.(Field same shape for two wks pior to title game). :o)