Best Small-Town Sports Team in Every State
The story of sports in America is not told without small towns and the teams that thrive in those towns. They exist in the shadow of big cities and define many of the great things we love about sports — the underdog ethos, scrappy attitude and do-what-it-takes will to be a champion.
There’s something special about cheering for a team that comes from a small town and understanding what it means to those communities when they win.
These are the best sports teams from a small town (population under 25,000) in every state.
Alabama: Mountain Brook High School
Sport: Pretty much anything
City: Mountain Brook
Bottom line: No high school has won more state championships in Alabama history than Mountain Brook High School, an affluent suburb of Birmingham.
Mountain Brook, which competes in Class 7A, Alabama’s largest division, has won 122 state championships since it opened in 1966.
While the boys and girls tennis teams hold the Alabama record with 23 state titles each, the boys basketball team has been the school’s crown jewel in the last decade, winning state titles in 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2019, with a runner-up finish in 2015.
Alaska: Mat-Su Miners
Sport: Baseball (summer)
Bottom line: The Mat-Su Miners play in the Alaska Baseball League, one of the top summer leagues for college players. They’ve won two National Baseball Congress titles, in 1987 and 1997, which is the top tournament for amateur players in the country.
Palmer is located in the Matanuska Valley, just 40 miles south of Anchorage, and the Miners have been home to 72 future Major League Baseball players over the years.
Their most famous alum is Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell, the 2001 National League Championship Series Most Valuable Player and a two-time World Series champion.
Arizona: Keams Canyon High School
Sport: Cross country
City: Keams Canyon
Population: 304 (2010)
Bottom line: The tradition of running in the Hopi tribe stretches back eons and is tied to carrying messages and bringing rain to the tribe’s land.
At Hopi Junior/Senior High School, which serves grades 7-12, that tradition has taken form in the dynasties built up by the boys and girls cross-country teams.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the boys team’s streak of 27 state titles is a national record. The girls team owns 22 state titles.
Arkansas: Greenwood High School
Bottom line: The remarkable thing about Greenwood High School’s eight state championships in football is the team has won all of them since 2000, and also finished as runner-up in 2004. And the school was founded in 1915.
The greatest run for Greenwood was three consecutive state titles between 2005 and 2007 behind future University of Arkansas quarterback and NFL draft pick Tyler Wilson.
The one common denominator between all of those state titles — head coach Rick Jones — resigned in February after 16 seasons to take a job with the University of Missouri football team.
California: South Bay Lakers
City: El Segundo
Bottom line: The Los Angeles Lakers' G-League franchise, the South Bay Lakers, plays its games at the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo that opened in 2017.
The South Bay Lakers are owned by the same group that owns the actual Lakers, the Buss family, so fans who attend games always run the chance of seeing someone from the Lakers at one of the games because that’s where the NBA team practices.
Being in El Segundo itself also offers some pretty ample opportunities to recite old Tribe Called Quest lyrics. Especially if you can’t find your wallet.
Colorado: Colorado Raptors
Bottom line: The city of Glendale can lay claim to being the rugby capital of the United States. Glendale opened the 4,000-seat Infinity Park, the first municipal U.S. rugby stadium in 2007.
Infinity Park is home to the Colorado Raptors, one of the original teams in Major League Rugby, along with the Glendale Merlins, who have teams in the Division I men’s and women’s leagues, along with an Elite Level women’s team.
The Raptors announced they were leaving MLR after the 2020 season to focus on developing players who could compete on the international level.
Connecticut: New England Black Wolves
Sport: Box lacrosse (indoor)
Population: 19,511 (2010)
Bottom line: The Black Wolves relocated from Philadelphia in 2015, where they were the Philadelphia Wings and won six National Lacrosse League championships.
The Black Wolves share their home stadium, the Mohegan Sun Arena, with the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and play their games inside of the Mohegan Sun casino.
The Mohegan Sun seemed to be laying the groundwork for being home to an NLL team for quite some time — it hosted the NLL All-Star Game in 2002 and was home to an AFL2 indoor football team for two seasons.
Delaware: Sanford School
Sport: Boys basketball
Population: 13,527 (2010)
Bottom line: The Sanford School boasts two dominant basketball programs and became the first school in Delaware history to sweep the boys and girls state titles in 2010.
The boys basketball program has been especially dominant, winning five of its nine state championships in the last decade, including in 2019 when both Sanford teams swept the titles again.
Current senior Jyare Davis is one of the best players to ever play for Sanford. He’s headed to play for Providence and was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior in 2019.
Florida: Florida Everblades
Population: 22,612 (2010)
Bottom line: The Florida Everblades, the minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Nashville Predators and the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals, have been one of the most consistent franchises in the ECHL since the team started play in 1998.
The Everblades have only missed the playoffs once in franchise history and have played for the ECHL’s top prize, the Kelly Cup, four times.
The Everblades' lone Kelly Cup victory came in 2012, when they went 11-0 in the postseason on the way to the championship.
Georgia: The Elliots
Sport: Auto Racing
Bottom line: Dawsonville is known in auto racing as the little town that could and has been involved with NASCAR since its inception by producing elite drivers.
A lot of that can be credited to Dawsonville’s location, which is adjacent to some of the most well-known moonshine routes in the United States.
The town’s most famous drivers are the father-son combo of Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, and his son, Chase Elliott.
Whenever there’s a win or significant accomplishment by one of the town’s drivers, the siren in the town square goes off to let everyone know.
Hawaii: Kahuku High School
Population: 2,614 (2010)
Bottom line: There is no more beautiful town on this list than Kahuku, located on the famous North Shore of Oahu.
The Kahuku High School Red Raiders have won eight state championships in football since 1999 and produce Division I and NFL products on a regular basis.
Even for all of its football success, Kahuku High’s most famous sporting alum played a totally different sport — pro surfer Jack Johnson, the youngest person ever to make the finals of the Pipeline Masters and a singer-songwriter with four albums that have reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.
Idaho: Fruitland High School
Bottom line: Fruitland High School is close enough to the Oregon border it regularly integrates schools from Eastern Oregon into its schedule, which is a common practice for high schools in the region on both sides of the border.
Fruitland is known as "The Big Apple of Idaho" because of the lush apple orchards that surround the town, but it’s now also known as a prep football powerhouse.
Fruitland High School has won four of its five state titles in the last 15 years, including three of those in the 2010s.
Illinois: Kane County Cougars
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Bottom line: The Kane County Cougars are the Single-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks and located in Geneva, a bedroom community located 35 miles west of Chicago.
The Diamondbacks are the sixth MLB affiliate of the Cougars since 1991, following stints with the Orioles, Marlins, Athletics, Royals and Cubs.
The Cougars became the first Single-A team to pass the 10 million mark in lifetime attendance in 2013 and have been a good-luck charm for most of their affiliates, with the Marlins, Royals and Cubs all winning a World Series with players who came through Kane County’s clubhouse.
Indiana: Washington High School
Sport: Boys basketball
Bottom line: There is something in the water in tiny Washington, Indiana, which has seen its own Washington High School produce as many NBA players as some of the great prep juggernauts across the United States.
That latest run has been highlighted by a trio of brothers, Luke Zeller, Tyler Zeller and Cody Zeller. The Zellers all won Indiana’s coveted Mr. Basketball award, all won Class 3A State Finals Most Valuable Player, and all have played in the NBA, with Cody the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
Not too shabby.
Iowa: Lisbon High School
Bottom line: In Iowa, wrestling is treated almost like a religion.
It’s just a sport, but it’s defined the state as much as anything else, culturally, and Lisbon High School has managed to rack up an amazing 16 state titles — and they just missed out on two more with runner-up finishes in 2019 and 2020.
So who was the best Lisbon wrestler of all time? That honor likely goes to Scott Alger, who won two NCAA championships at the University of Iowa under legendary coach Dan Gable.
Kansas: Pittsburg State University
Bottom line: There’s not another small-college tradition like the "Gorilla Walk" on Pittsburg State’s campus, where fans line the streets to greet football players as they walk into "The Jungle" — Carnie-Smith Stadium.
The small-town vibe in Pittsburg is centered around the team’s success, as Pittsburg State has won four national titles and won more games than any program in NCAA Division II history.
It’s also home to possibly the best fried chicken in the country — try Pichler Chicken Annie’s or Chicken Mary’s, and wash it down with $5 pitchers.
Kentucky: Fort Thomas Highlands High School
City: Fort Thomas
Bottom line: Highlands High School has won a Kentucky-record 23 state championships in football, and no player shined brighter for the program than quarterback Jared Lorenzen.
He was named Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 1998 after an undefeated season and state title, then went on to star at the University of Kentucky and win a Super Bowl as a backup for the New York Giants in 2008.
The sight of Lorenzen, 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds playing quarterback at such a high level, was breathtaking for sports fans and made him a household name.
Lorenzen, who documented his struggles with his weight on social media after his career, died in 2019 at 38 years old.
Louisiana: Grambling State University
Sport: Marching band
Bottom line: There’s something absolutely electric that occurs when the GSU Tiger Marching Band performs.
Founded in 1926 and better known as the "World Famed Tiger Marching Band," they’ve performed at multiple Super Bowls, multiple presidential inaugurations and been featured in numerous films and television shows.
Even with all of that recognition, it’s the annual "Battle of the Bands" at the Louisiana Superdome during the Bayou Classic that is at the heart of GSU’s longstanding popularity and success.
That’s when they go head-to-head with Southern University’s Human Jukebox Marching Band.
Maine: Rock Coast Roller Derby
Sport: Roller derby
Population: 3,330 (2010)
Bottom line: The Rock Coast Rollers were founded in 2011 and rebranded as Rock Coast Roller Derby in 2019.
RCRD joined the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association in 2014, which is home to nearly 500 flat-track roller derby leagues on six continents.
For the last five years, the RCRD have played host to Coastal Chaos Roller Derby Tournament at Rockport’s Midcoast Recreation Center, an WFTDA-sanctioned event featuring teams from Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Virginia.
Maryland: Aberdeen IronBirds
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Bottom line: The Aberdeen IronBirds began play as the Baltimore Orioles’ short-season, Single-A affiliate in 2002.
The IronBirds, owned by Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., play at 6,300-seat Ripken Stadium, which also opened in 2002 and has sold out every IronBirds game since opening.
Aberdeen is Ripken Jr.’s hometown, and the stadium is part of a larger athletic complex owned by Ripken that features fields for youth baseball.
Ripken Stadium also played host to the 2016 Big East Baseball Tournament.
Massachusetts: Islanders Hockey Club
Sport: Hockey (juniors)
Population: 11,292 (2010)
Bottom line: The Islanders Hockey Club formed in 2010 when two of the premier junior hockey clubs, the New England Huskies and Middlesex Islanders, joined forces.
The Islanders play in the United States' top amateur league, the United States Premier Hockey League. Their top-level, Junior A team won two straight league championships in 2017 and 2018.
The USPHL and the Islanders, who play their home games at Lawler Arena, put out NHL players on a regular basis, including recent products Tim Schaller and Zach Sanford.
Michigan: Grand Valley State University
Population: 17,579 (2010)
Bottom line: Grand Valley State University has built one of the great dynasties in NCAA Division II football history over the last 20 years, winning four national titles and appearing in six national championship games.
The irony of GVSU quarterback Curt Anes becoming the school’s first Harlon Hill Trophy winner in 2002 was that his favorite target, wide receiver David Kircus, is arguably the greatest player in school history.
Kircus finished his career with an NCAA-record 80 touchdown receptions and played three seasons in the NFL.
Minnesota: Bemidji State University
Sport: Men’s hockey
Bottom line: The winters are long and harsh in Bemidji, which has recorded some of the lowest temperatures on record. Maybe that’s why the men’s hockey team at Bemidji State University is so beloved, because they’ve provided a distraction from many winter nights with their play.
The Beavers won 13 national titles on three different levels from 1968 to 1997 and have made the NCAA Tournament four times since moving up to Division I in 2000.
Bemidji State had two former players on the 2019-20 roster for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild — Matt Read and Brad Hunt.
Mississippi: East Mississippi Community College
Bottom line: The world was introduced to the tiny town of Scooba with the debut of Netflix’s "Last Chance U" documentary series that chronicled the East Mississippi Community College football program.
The show, which followed the lives of EMCC players, head coach Buddy Stephens and academic counselor Britney Wagner, was critically acclaimed and a ratings hit. It followed up with a second season that chronicled the 2016 season.
Stevens has won five national titles at EMCC, including back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 since the exit of Netflix’s cameras.
Missouri: Northwest Missouri State University
Bottom line: Legendary head coach Mel Tjeerdsma went 0-11 in his first season at Northwest Missouri State University in 1994.
Four years later, the Bearcats went undefeated and won the first of six NCAA Division II national championships, the first three under Tjeedrsma and the next three under Adam Dorrel.
Northwest Missouri plays home games at Bearcat Stadium, which was built in 1917 and is the oldest Division II stadium still in use.
In the early 2000s, the rivalry between Northwest Missouri State and Pittsburg State grew enough in popularity that the games were played at Arrowhead Stadium.
Montana: University of Montana Western
Sport: Women’s basketball
Bottom line: High-level sports are at a premium in Montana’s small towns, but there’s something unique happening in Dillon with the University of Montana Western’s women’s basketball program.
Western made the NAIA Final Four in 2018, then followed that up by going 30-4 the next season and winning the first national championship in program history.
Dillon has a lot to offer in the way of scenery as well, with Forbes Magazine naming it one of America’s "prettiest towns."
Nebraska: Chadron State University
Bottom line: Chadron State University is known as a party school throughout the Midwest, but the best parties have centered around Chadron State’s NCAA Division II football team.
Chadron State also has a tradition of putting out NFL players, including Don Beebe, the first person to play in six Super Bowls, and two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner Danny Woodhead, who finished his college career as the NCAA’s career leading rusher and played 10 seasons in the NFL.
Nevada: Sierra Nevada University
Sport: Skiing and snowboarding
City: Incline Village
Population: 8,777 (2,010)
Bottom line: Sierra Nevada University’s campus is located on some of the most expensive real estate in the United States, right on the northern shore of Lake Tahoe, and is home to some of the richest individuals in the country.
Sierra Nevada’s signature athletic programs are its snowboarding and skiing teams, which seem to reel in United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association national championships by the truckload.
The team is largely made up of Europeans, including two members of Croatia’s 2010 Winter Olympics team with alpine skiers Matea Ferk and Tea Palic.
New Hampshire: University of New Hampshire
Sport: Women’s hockey
Population: 14,638 (2010)
Bottom line: The University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team have been trailblazers in the sport since they started playing in 1978, including going undefeated (73-0-1) over their first five seasons.
UNH also won the inaugural women’s national championship when it was led by National Player of the Year Brandy Fisher and had four players on the USA’s gold-medal winning team in the 1998 WInter Olympics.
UNH has made two Frozen Four appearances, but none since 2008 and has just one winning season in the last decade.
New Jersey: New Jersey Jackals
Sport: Baseball (Independent League)
City: Little Falls
Bottom line: Independent League baseball is a tough sell for fans, because you don’t have the carrot-on-the-stick incentive of getting people out to see future Major League Baseball players like you do with affiliated teams.
But the New Jersey Jackals have found a way to maintain their success over the years by getting the best talent available — they’ve sold dozens of contracts to MLB teams — and continued success.
The Jackals have made the playoffs in 17 seasons since their inception in 1998.
New Mexico: Artesia High School
Bottom line: There is a family tradition when it comes to Artesia High School football. Current Artesia High head coach Rex Henderson is the third member of his family to coach the Bulldogs, following his uncle, Cooper Henderson, and his grandfather, L.G. Henderson.
All three Hendersons have won state titles for Artesia. L.G. won five in six seasons, Cooper won 14 in 27 seasons and Rex, who took over in 2016, won a state title in 2017 after winning eight state titles as an assistant coach.
Artesia has won a New Mexico-record 30 state titles in school history dating back to 1957.
New York: Hudson Valley Renegades
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Population: 22,107 (2010)
Bottom line: The Hudson Valley Renegades are the short-season, Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, since 1996, and spent their first two seasons as an affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
The Renegades have a pretty awesome mascot because, for some reason, they decided to go with the Raccoons and have developed a whole brand on that, with a daddy raccoon, Rookie, Rookie’s wife, Rene Gade, and their son, Rascal.
There are even occasional appearances by Rookie’s dad, Roofus.
North Carolina: Carolina Mudcats
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Bottom line: The Carolina Mudcats are the Class A affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers and one of the most marketable, memorable minor league teams in the nation.
For years, the Mudcats were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, and many of the Indians' star players from their great 1990s World Series teams spent some time in Zebulon.
The greatest of those players was Baseball Hall of Famer Jim Thome, and Mudcats fans got to see Thome, Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez play during a five-year stretch from 1988 to 1992.
North Dakota: Grafton High School
Sport: Boys hockey
Bottom line: The boys hockey team that plays at Grafton High is actually a co-op and plays under the Grafton-Park River tag. Whatever the team has played as over the years, it has been dominant.
Grafton-Park River has won five state titles and finished as runner-up nine times since North Dakota started playing for hockey state titles in 1967.
It’s remarkable the community has had that kind of success considering the team routinely faces off against bigger communities in the state, losing to schools from Grand Forks in eight of its nine state championship game losses.
Ohio: University of Mount Union
Bottom line: The greatest football dynasty in NCAA Division III history resides in Alliance. The University of Mount Union’s story is incredible, in part, because of how long the school played before finding any real, sustained success.
Mount Union played 75 years of football before winning its first conference title in 1985, then won its first national title in 1993. It was the first of 13 Division III titles for Mount Union, including six titles from 2000 to 2010.
All of the titles have been won with Larry Kehres or his son, Vince Kehres, as head coach.
Oklahoma: Jenks High School
Bottom line: In Oklahoma, football is king. And Jenks High School is the best there is when it comes to high school football.
Former head coach Allan Trimble is considered the greatest high school football coach in state history. Jenks High plays its home games at 10,000-seat Allan Trimble Stadium, and the school itself sits on Allan Trimble Way.
Trimble spent six seasons as an assistant coach before taking over in 1996 and winning six state titles in his first six seasons.
Oregon: Southern Oregon University
Bottom line: Ashland has long been famous for being home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which features an authentic, outdoor Elizabethan stage, and is known as "Little San Francisco" in travel circles.
Over the last decade, it’s also become a hotbed for some of the best small college football in the country. Southern Oregon University won the NAIA national title in 2014 behind NAIA Player of the Year Austin Dodge and New York Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas, then finished as runner-up in 2015.
SOU head coach Craig Howard, the architect behind the school’s national success, died unexpectedly in January 2017 at 64 years old.
Pennsylvania: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Bottom line: Tiny Moosic plays home to the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, and has welcomed some of the biggest stars in baseball before they made the leap to the majors.
Moosic is located just six miles away from Scranton and 13 miles away from Wilkes-Barre. The RailRiders have changed names four times in the last 15 years, from the Red Barons to the Yankees to the Empire Yankees, then to the RailRiders.
Seems like a big missed opportunity for an "Office"-themed mascot to have taken over.
Rhode Island: Newport Gulls
Sport: Baseball (summer)
Population: 24,672 (2010)
Bottom line: There aren’t many towns in the United States with more breathtaking views than Newport, where presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy set up "Summer White House" locations during their terms.
There’s also really good summer baseball in Newport thanks to a wooden-bat league that attracts some of the top amateur talent in the country to the Newport Gulls. And the Gulls bring out the fans and are annually among the league leaders in attendance.
They’ve also had 13 players make the majors in the last 20 years.
South Carolina: Augusta GreenJackets
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
City: North Augusta
Bottom line: The GreenJackets — not to be confused with "murder hornets" — are named as a tip of the cap to nearby Augusta National, which hosts the Masters. It should be pointed out the mascot is actually a green hornet.
The GreenJackets are the Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, but they were affiliated with the Boston Red Sox until 2004.
And GreenJackets fans got to see two players from Boston’s famous 2004 World Series title team on the Augusta roster at once with Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia.
South Dakota: South Dakota State University
Bottom line: South Dakota State University’s football legacy has largely gone by the wayside — in the public’s eye, at least — as North Dakota State’s dynasty took hold over the last decade.
The Jackrabbits' already have one player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with offensive lineman Jim Langer, considered by many to be the greatest center in NFL history and a two-time Super Bowl champion.
Langer will soon have company — or should, at least — with legendary kicker Adam Vinatieri, another former Jackrabbit, who is a four-time Super Bowl champion and has made some of the most important field goals in NFL history.
Tennessee: Elizabethton Twins
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Bottom line: Tennessee has a rich tradition of minor league baseball in its state, and the Rookie League Elizabethton Twins has been one of the more notable in the history of the state because of its long-term affiliation with the Minnesota Twins.
While most minor league teams, on all levels, seem to switch MLB affiliations every few years or so, Elizabethton has been with the Twins since its inception in 1974.
And the team has won an Appalachian League title in every decade of existence, 12 total.
Texas: Aledo High School
Bottom line: Tiny Aledo is home to the greatest high school football dynasty in Texas history, which means it’s also home to one of the greatest dynasties in the entire country.
The Bearcats have won a record nine state titles, with eight of those coming in the last 11 seasons. An opposing parent famously filed bullying charges with the school district after a 91-0 loss to Aledo in 2013.
Aledo’s greatest player is Johnathan Gray, who rushed for over 10,000 yards in just over three seasons and won three state titles from 2009 to 2011.
Utah: Snow College
Bottom line: Snow College might not have all the national titles that some NJCAA schools can boast, but what it does have is a well-earned reputation for being one of the toughest teams in the nation for decades and producing NFL talent on a regular basis.
Snow has just one national title, when it went undefeated in 1985, and a runner-up finish in 2006. One of Snow’s most well-known players only got a cup of coffee in the NFL but was one of college football’s more memorable players in the last 30 years — quarterback Josh Heupel transferred from Snow to the University of Oklahoma and led the Sooners to the national title in 2000.
Vermont: Essex High School
Sport: Girls hockey
Bottom line: There’s a built-in advantage for the girls hockey team at Essex High School — they’ve got a hockey rink right there on the school grounds.
That advantage has helped lay the foundation for eight state championships for the Hornets, including back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020.
One unique feature of Essex as a town is its Amtrak Station, which is the busiest train station in Vermont and takes passengers to Washington, D.C., daily.
Virginia: Pulaski Yankees
Sport: Baseball (minor league)
Bottom line: The Pulaski Yankees were awarded the top award for a franchise in Minor League Baseball in 2019, the John H. Johnson President’s Award.
Pulaski’s home stadium, Calfee Park, is in the middle of a local neighborhood, and several of the homes around the stadium actually have good views of the games.
Playing in Advanced Rookie League, Pulaski has seen some future MLB greats on its roster, but perhaps its most legendary former player is famed college football coach Urban Meyer.
Washington: Eastern Washington University
Bottom line: In 2010, Eastern Washington University replaced its natural grass field with artificial turf. The twist was that the new field was red, giving the Pacific Northwest two wild-looking football surfaces alongside Boise State’s blue "Smurf Turf" that’s become nationally famous.
The crazy thing about EWU’s decision to put the turf in was it turned out to be the same year in which EWU won its one and only national championship.
Los Angeles Rams star wide receiver Cooper Kupp played for EWU before being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft.
West Virginia: Shepherd College
Bottom line: Shepherd College has a longstanding reputation in NCAA Division II as being a tough out for any opponent, and the last decade saw them finally break through into the upper echelon of teams on the national level.
The Rams, who sport arguably the best helmets in Division II, have made the national semifinals three times in the last decade and the national championship game once, losing to powerhouse Northwest Missouri State in 2015.
Ram Stadium, which seats just 5,000, is a small home stadium even for Division II purposes.
Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Bottom line: The popularity of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s football team is more on the level with FCS schools than with most of its NCAA Division III counterparts.
The Warhawks have won all six of their Division III national titles since 2007 and play home games at 13,500-seat Perkins Stadium.
In 2016, Wisconsin-Whitewater set the record for on-campus attendance when almost 18,000 watched their come-from-behind win over rival Wisconsin-Osh Kosh.
Former Warhawks punter Matt Turk played in the NFL for 18 seasons and made three Pro Bowls.
Wyoming: Sheridan High School
Bottom line: The picturesque town of Sheridan sits nestled at the base of the Bighorn and is often pointed to as a perfect place to vacation and experience the feeling of being in the "Old West," enough that it got a surprise vacation visit from Queen Elizabeth II in 1984.
It’s also home to the most dominant high school football program in state history — the Sheridan High School Broncs. Sheridan’s 2019 state title was its fourth in five years and 27th in school history.
Cokeville, which hasn’t won a title since 2014, is second with 22 state titles.