HIGHWOOD — The 6-Man football schedule has already been adjusted in hopes that Montana’s smallest high school football classification can take a “leadership position for the state,” according to de facto 6-Man president Brandon Gondeiro, who is also the co-head coach with Rod Tweet at Geraldine-Highwood.
“We feel it’s important to get going at the start of the season and get off on the right foot if we can. If we can do it, great, others can kind of follow behind us. And if we can’t do it, we feel kind of the odds that anybody being able to do it would be pretty tough,” Gondeiro said, noting the rural locations and smaller populations of most 6-Man communities have typically resulted in fewer positive COVID-19 cases.
“We’re hoping to lead the way here, we’re looking forward to getting going next week and see how it goes,” Gondeiro continued. “We’re taking every precaution to make sure our kids are safe. … We’re doing everything we can to make sure that we can do it the right way and follow the protocols and hopefully have a successful season.”
To that end, 6-Man administrators have maintained consistent communication over the past month and have made alterations to the master schedule. They canceled non-conference games and moved the start of the conference seasons up to the first eligible week of competition. Games will start kicking off across Montana next week, with the majority of 6-Man teams playing their season openers on Aug. 28 or 29. The Eastern and Western divisions won’t start their conference schedules until Week 2.
While the master schedule doesn’t include non-conference games, Gondeiro said administrators decided to leave non-conference scheduling up to the individual schools, their boards and their county leaders. Some schools have taken advantage to add non-conference games this fall, but the classification as a whole still has some flexibility built into its schedule in case games get postponed.
“We’re going to start Week 1 just as intended rather than backing things up, and that gives us the flexibility to where if we need to reschedule we can reschedule,” Gondeiro said. “We’ll start Week 1 right with conference games and that will take us at least through seven weeks of the season.”
That means the 6-Man regular season could be done by Oct. 10, leaving two open weeks before the playoffs are scheduled to start on Oct. 30. The state championship games are scheduled for Nov. 20-21 for all classifications except for Class A, which will play its state championship the weekend of Nov. 13 after voting to trim its playoff bracket from 12 teams to eight this fall.
“We have a flexibility plan in place, a maximum of two weeks,” Gondeiro said. “And it could change once teams start playing each other, but our plan is to have a one-week flexibility there on the back end right now and up to two.”
The 6-Man landscape was already poised to look different this fall, as the classification moved from four conferences to five. After previously splitting teams into just Eastern, Southern Northern and Western divisions, there’s also a Central Division this year. The new Central Division includes Centerville, Denton-Geyser-Stanford, Geraldine-Highwood, Grass Range-Winnett, Harlowton-Ryegate, Roy-Winifred and Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap.
The other divisions for the 2020 season are as follows:
Eastern Division: Bainville, Froid-Medicine Lake, Jordan, Richey-Lambert, Savage and Wibaux.
Southern Division: Bridger, Broadview-Lavina, Custer-Hysham, Fromberg, Reed Point-Rapelje and Shields Valley.
Northern Division: Big Sandy, Box Elder, Heart Butte, North Star, Power-Dutton-Brady, Sunburst and Valier.
Western Division: Gardiner, Hot Springs, Noxon, Valley Christian, White Sulphur Springs.