LINGLE – The Lingle-Fort Laramie High School football team has used the last four seasons as a temporary move in the 6-man division as a way to save the Dogger program and keep football alive.
When the season came to a close on Nov. 8 in Hanna, it was the last time the Doggers will take the field in the 6-man division.
Now school turns its attention to moving up to the reformed 9-man division, beginning in the fall of 2020.
The state of Wyoming has a history with 9-man football, and so does Lingle.
Nine-man was the state’s smallest classification from the 1990 to 1994 seasons. In April of 2019, it was unanimously voted on to return for the 2020 season.
In the 1990 season, Lingle’s only year in the 9-man division, the Doggers won the state championship. The pending move up is one which has a lot of people around the L-FL football program excited.
“This is a move we are really excited about making. Our intention with 6-man from the get-go was, it would be temporary,” L-FL Athletic Director Mike Lashley said. “We had to make the move to save our football program because we knew our numbers were going to be such that we couldn’t field an 11-man team.”
Numbers in the Dogger progam had gotten so bad, at one point in 2018, L-FL was suiting up only seven players for one game.
“We would have to have forfeited games the last few seasons if we would have played 11-man,” Lashley said.
Knowing the change was temporary, the high school never even moved the goalposts into the 80-yard size which the 6-man teams play on.
The change allows Lingle the opportunity to move up from the 6-man ranks sooner than expected.
“Nine-man has been a very good option, allowing us to move out of 6-man sooner than we had originally thought,” Lashley said.
The move will also allow the Doggers to return to the standard 100-yard field, which was a major factor in going with 9-man versus the more common 8-man.
“One of the reasons 9-man was originally proposed was because 8-man is played on an 80-yard field,” Lashley said. “Everyone would have to switch to a smaller field.”
He mentioned two additional benefits to moving up: It brings back nearly everyone from the original SEWAC – the exceptions being Burns (now 3A) and Guernsey (remaining in the 6-man division) – and the resurgence of the junior varsity program.
“It’ll give some of those younger kids additional playing opportunities,” Lashley said.
Lusk, Moorcroft, Pine Bluffs, Saratoga, Southeast, Wright, Greybull, Riverside, Rocky Mountain, St. Stephens, Shoshoni, Wind River and Wyoming Indian will join Lingle in the 9-man division next season.
Unbeknownst to many, L-FL coach Matt Cornelius hoped to try juggling winning games while getting a head start on the 2020 season in 2019.
They did both with success.
“I wanted to try to initiate some of the things we want to do next year. We got a lot accomplished in the effect that we had some linemen and pulling linemen which lends itself to next year when we go to 9-man with a more traditional linemen set,” Cornelius said. “We have players that fit much more into the 9-man game with their body styles and speed. We are really excited. We will also have kids that will find themselves in a more comfortable roll.”
The Doggers will open the 2020 season at home against Wind River.