We knew there was plenty of uncertainty surrounding the beginning of the 2020 Montana high school football season. Week 1 showed just how quick we’d see the ramifications of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Drummond-Philipsburg and Plains never saw kickoff on Friday night. A Drummond-Philipsburg player recorded a positive COVID-19 test on Friday, though the athlete had not been at recent practices after showing symptoms early in the week. Plains, though, still elected to turn its bus around, putting the game in the books as a no contest.
Wibaux and Richey-Lambert’s game on Saturday was canceled, too, and will not be made up. Richey-Lambert still played this weekend, though, as Bainville had an opening on its schedule.
It’s going to be a strange year, but there were several teams that kicked off the season this past weekend and are in full swing.
The Class A season got off to a bang last Friday night, as Columbia Falls and Polson lit up the scoreboard and posted some eye-popping numbers on the stat sheet. Dillon exacted a little revenge on the road, as the Beavers wouldn’t fall in their season opener again.
There’s going to be several teams in Class B with the ability to make a playoff run, including a handful who did so last year. Glasgow was dominant in Week 1 and is hoping to assert itself as a contender, while Bigfork looks capable of returning to championship form.
Welcome to 8-Man football, Westby-Grenora. The Thunder took down one of the 8-Man East’s top contenders in their debut at the classification. Fort Benton, Belt and Alberton-Superior looked the part of dominant teams on opening week, but keep an eye on Joliet, as the J-Hawks had an impressive victory in Week 1.
There’s typically some lopsided scores in 6-Man football in the season's opening week. The closest game last weekend was a 26-6 Harlowton win over Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap. Perceived heavyweights Big Sandy and Shields Valley rolled, Geraldine-Highwood gave Centerville a rude welcoming to the 6-Man ranks and Broadview-Lavina posted a huge number on the scoreboard.
That and more highlight what caught my eye in Week 1 of the high school football season.
- It didn’t take the Polson and Columbia Falls offenses long to get rolling in 2020. The Wildcats nearly put up a 50 burger in Week 1, topping the Pirates 48-28. There were some monster stats in the game, too. Columbia Falls quarterback Mason Peters threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns, while also hitting the century mark on the ground with 104 yards and another score. Polson’s Jarrett Wilson threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. According to Class A statistician Brian Reed, Wilson’s passing total is the fourth-most totaled in Class A history. Keep in mind, Wilson is just a sophomore.
- For the second consecutive season, the road team has won the season opener between Dillon and Frenchtown. This time, Dillon got revenge for last year’s double-overtime loss, as the Beavers’ defense and special teams fueled them to a narrow 20-13 win. Both teams look a bit different this season, but it appears they’ve filled spots nicely.
- Bigfork sure sent a message in Week 1. The Vikings dismantled Townsend in Townsend 57-20 behind a powerful rushing attack led by Cormac Benn and Levi Taylor. Bigfork is coming off a sub-.500 season, but new coach Jim Benn is likely to turn things around pretty quickly. The addition of Benn’s son, Cormac, doesn’t hurt, either.
- Glasgow finished 5-3 in 2019 and made the playoffs, but the Scotties fell to Columbus in the opening round. They’re primed for a postseason run in 2020, though, and the Scotties kicked it off with a 36-0 win at Shepherd, also a 2019 playoff team. Even more impressive is that Glasgow was missing a handful of starters due to COVID-19 testing and missed practices. The Scotties cracked the Treasure State Media Poll and could be in that group for a while.
- It wasn't a bad start to 8-Man football for Westby-Grenora. The Thunder, a perennial 6-Man contender, took down 2019 8-Man East runner-up Scobey, 28-22, in Week 1. It's apparent the Thunder are going to make their presence felt in the 8-Man ranks right away. It's an adjustment to the 8-Man game, but the Thunder have some weapons back, including all-stater Keegan Nelson. Plentywood and Circle lay ahead on the schedule, so we'll see fairly quick how Westby-Grenora stacks up with the rest of the conference.
- Joliet looks like it could be a force in the 8-Man South this season. The J-Hawks missed out on the playoffs in 2019, but that doesn't seem likely to continue. Joliet trounced Shelby, 46-26, to pick up an early victory over a 2019 playoff team. Joliet should be in contention for the 8-Man South regular-season title this season.
- Geraldine-Highwood looks to be right back to its winning ways. The Rivals beat down Centerville, 66-27, in the Miners' first game at the 6-Man level. Ian Moline totaled four rushing touchdowns and Ridger Bowman caught three in the win. Geraldine-Highwood has been a perennial contender in the 6-Man ranks, but competing for a conference title is going to be a task this year with Power-Dutton-Brady and Denton-Geyser-Stanford in the mix.
- There were some big scores around the state on opening weekend, including Geraldine-Highwood's 66, but no team scored more than Broadview-Lavina. The Pirates hung 77 on Fromberg in Week 1. Broadview-Lavina is young, but there's a very bright future on the horizon. This could be the tip of the iceberg, as the Pirates may challenge for a playoff berth out of the 6-Man South in 2020.