MISSOULA — The 8-Man football playoffs will go through Arlee.
The third-ranked Warriors wrapped up an undefeated regular season Friday, outlasting No. 4 Valley Christian 34-25 in a hard-fought game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. With the win, Arlee clinched the 8-Man West conference championship and home-field advantage throughout the state playoffs. The Warriors are off next week before hosting a first-round game when the playoffs kick off Oct. 27.
Friday's top-five matchup between the Warriors and Eagles lived up to the billing. It started as a defensive battle with neither team able to put points on the board in the first quarter.
Arlee broke the scoreless tie early in the second quarter, though, when Jake Knoll took a handoff 40 yards for his first of four touchdowns in the game. Valley Christian responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Stoltzfus to Nicholas Karvandi. The teams would go into halftime knotted up at 6-6.
The fireworks started in the third quarter. Knoll stiff-armed a defender to the ground and sprinted down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown to give Arlee a 12-6 lead, but the Warriors' advantage didn't last long.
Valley Christian's Brayden McCoy mishandled the ensuing kickoff but recovered before the Warrior defenders closed. He weaved his way through traffic, returning the kick for a touchdown. The Eagles scored the two-point conversion to go up 14-12, and, after blocking an Arlee punt, pushed the lead to 17-12 on a 45-yard field goal by Judah Levy.
But the Eagles had no answer for Knoll. He scored on another long touchdown to put the Warriors back in front. Moments later, the Arlee defense forced a punt, and Jace Arca put together an absurd return.
Initially, Arca appeared willing to let the ball rest, but he picked it up and gradually started to work his way upfield. He broke six tackles, eluding seven Valley Christian defenders, before finally breaking free and dragging the final defender across the goal line. That put the Warriors up 26-17.
Valley Christian scored on its next possession to draw within 26-25, but Knoll added his fourth and final touchdown to help Arlee secure the win and 8-0 regular-season mark. Valley Christian falls to 6-1 and will be the West's No. 2 seed for the playoffs. The Eagles close out their regular season at Victor on Oct. 21.
Elsewhere in 8-Man ...
No. 1 Fairview 60, Plentywood 12
No. 2 Ennis 55, Cascade 0
No. 5 Belt 56, Chinook 0
No. 7 Wibaux 29, Scobey 6
No. 10 Fort Benton 58, Shelby 14
Charlo 50, Plains 6
Culbertson 70, Poplar 8
Drummond-Philipsburg 26, Seeley-Swan 22
Lone Peak 48, Sheridan 7
Manhattan Christian 36, Choteau 24
Park City 47, Lodge Grass 30