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Class B football playoffs preview: Manhattan, familiar faces highlight bracket

Manhattan football
Posted at 3:00 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 17:00:36-04

Fairfield and Eureka have combined to win the past five Class B football state championships, with the Eagles claiming titles in 2015 and 2018 and the Lions hoisting the hardware in 2016, 2017 and 2019. Both teams are in the 16-team field yet again and figure to be tough outs.

In fact, the 2020 bracket includes many of the same teams from 2019: Only Colstrip, Conrad and Whitehall are new to the postseason this year after missing out last year. Three of this year's No. 1 seeds -- Fairfield, Manhattan and Red Lodge -- were also No. 1 seeds last year, with Florence, which was a No. 2 seed in 2019, joining the top seed line this year.

All eight first-round games are scheduled for 1 p.m. kickoffs on Saturday.

  • Columbus at Red Lodge
  • Glasgow at Eureka
  • Colstrip at Manhattan
  • Bigfork at Malta
  • Missoula Loyola at Fairfield
  • Whitehall at Shepherd
  • Conrad at Florence
  • Huntley Project at Townsend

For updated scores and pairings throughout the Class B playoffs, click here.

No. 1 seeds: Red Lodge (East), Manhattan (South), Fairfield (North) and Florence (West).

Red Lodge, Manhattan and Fairfield each won their conferences for at least the second consecutive year, while Florence dethroned Eureka to climb to the top.

Red Lodge suffered an eye-opening 62-40 loss to Columbus back on Sept. 4 and lost on a late touchdown against Huntley Project, but the Rams have otherwise had a solid season after reaching the semifinals a year ago. They took care of business to close out the season with a lopsided 40-14 win over Shepherd to clinch the East's No. 1 seed, which gives Red Lodge home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

After last year's runner-up finish, Manhattan has been Class B's top team all season. The Tigers feature a number of weapons on both offense and defense, and they've rarely been challenged this year. They needed overtime to win at Florence in their first game but outscored their next five opponents 248-13. They closed the regular season with two-score wins over Townsend and Jefferson.

In its first year without coach Les Meyer, Fairfield did what it does best: win conference championships. First-year coach Greg Misner guided the Eagles to a 5-1 overall record and 4-0 mark in the Northern B, which included back-to-back hard-fought wins over Malta and Glasgow. The Eagles might have taken some time to find their footing this season, but they're right back in their usual spot as a No. 1 seed.

The top of the Western B looked like it was going to be among the most competitive conferences in Montana, regardless of classification, but Florence took the league by storm this fall, getting impressive wins over Bigfork and Eureka to win the conference title. With the coronavirus pandemic and other cancellations or forfeits affecting their season, the Falcons even got in a rare cross-class game to close out their season, defeating Corvallis 42-0 in a battle of the Bitterroot.

Favorite: Manhattan.

The 2019 Class B football season featured four powerhouse teams that finished with unblemished regular-season records. The four undefeated teams advanced to the semifinal round, giving Montana high school football fans an awesome final four. There's no such parity this year, as Manhattan has been the clear-cut favorite since its season-opening win at Florence. The Tigers don't have an obvious flaw, showing the ability to win with the passing or running games while dominating on the defensive side of the ball.

Dark horse (No. 3 seed or lower): Glasgow.

For much of the season, Glasgow looked like the best team in the Northern B and one of the best in the entire class. But the Scotties surprisingly got drilled by Malta a few weeks ago and then lost a close game to Fairfield to end the regular season. If Glasgow is closer to the team that blanked Shepherd in the season opener, routed its next four opponents and played Fairfield tough than the version that got controlled by Malta, the Scotties will be a handful for Eureka in the first round.

Best first-round matchup: Whitehall at Shepherd.

This is probably the first round's "nobody respects us" bowl. Neither Shepherd nor Whitehall has gotten much praise this season, but both teams are now in the playoffs for an interesting first-round matchup. The teams have similar resumes, which should make for a close game on Saturday.

Shepherd had a shot to win the Eastern B conference title but faltered against Red Lodge last week. The Mustangs, though, did what they needed to do throughout the season to lock up a home playoff game by winning four conference games, including a 7-6 victory over rival Huntley Project.

Whitehall, meanwhile, had the unenviable task of starting its season with games against Townsend and Manhattan, two of the better teams in Class B. The Trojans haven't lost since, winning their past four games to secure the South's third playoff seed.


Missoula Loyola qualified for the bracket despite not winning a game on the actual field of play this season. The Rams are in as the Western B's No. 4 seed after the conference saw Deer Lodge forfeit its varsity season, leaving Loyola and Anaconda to fight over the final playoff spot. When the Copperheads were forced to forfeit their head-to-head game with Loyola, that sent the Rams to the playoffs. Despite the asterisk on this strange pandemic-altered season, Loyola is no stranger to the Class B playoffs. This will be the Rams' 15th consecutive appearance in the Class B playoffs, which includes championships in 2012 and 2013, runner-up finishes in 2006, 2016 and 2018, and semifinal appearances in 2008, 2011, 2015 and 2017. Loyola, which has won at least one playoff game each of the past five seasons, plays Fairfield in Saturday's first round. The teams met in the season opener on Sept. 4, with the Eagles earning a 22-0 win.