With Week 8 in the books, Montana’s high school football season is coming to an end.
Several teams claimed regular-season conference titles in the season’s penultimate week, as playoff pictures are beginning to take shape across the state.
Butte locked up the Western AA with a road victory, while Miles City clinched the Eastern A regular-season title behind a record-setting performance from quarterback Carson Hunter.
Defending champion Fairfield continues to run its win streak up, as the Eagles can lock up the Northern B with a rivalry-game victory in Week 9. The Eagles face Glasgow Friday night. Manhattan moved one step closer to a conference title and can lock up the Southern B’s top seed with a win in the season’s final week.
Top-ranked Fairview and second-ranked Fort Benton claimed conference titles in the 8-Man ranks over the weekend. Two-time defending 8-Man state champion Drummond-Philipsburg lost again, but the Titans will be a playoff team out West and a very pesky No. 4 seed.
Defending 6-Man state champion Wibaux was handed its second consecutive loss and will likely hit the road in the first round of the playoffs. The 6-Man East conference title is still up for grabs after Westby-Grenora’s come-from-behind win. Hot Springs proved to be the 6-Man West’s elite team with a dominant win over White Sulphur Springs to claim the conference crown.
The playoff picture is becoming clear as we enter the final week of the season, as conference champions highlight what caught my eye in Week 8.
- Butte locked up the Western AA's regular-season title with a 43-20 win at Missoula Big Sky last Friday. The Bulldogs recently rose to the top spot in the MontanaSports.com power rankings and remain there after the victory. Butte will have a first-round bye and enter the playoffs fully rested. Butte is looking for its first state title since a 38-36 win over Bozeman in the final seconds of the 2012 championship game.
- Helena Capital sealed a top-four seed out of the Western AA after winning at Missoula Hellgate 33-28 last Friday. Capital has suffered just two losses all season – home to Sentinel and at Butte – and heads into its rivalry game against Helena High with a chance at the conference’s No. 3 seed. Grabbing the third seed would guarantee a matchup against the winner of Friday night’s Billings Skyview/Belgrade game, which features a pair of winless teams.
- Miles City cruised past Lewistown 55-8 on the road last Friday night to clinch the program’s first Eastern A regular-season title since 2015. According to Class A football historian Brian Reed, Cowboys quarterback Carson Hunter tied the Class A state record for touchdown passes in a game with eight. The Cowboys also clinched home-field advantage throughout the entirety of the Class A playoffs.
- For the second consecutive week Libby fell on the road at a Western A foe. A 35-21 loss at Hamilton likely costs Libby a shot at the conference’s regular-season title and will force the Loggers to play during the opening weekend of the Class A playoffs. Libby will host Frenchtown in Week 9 looking to avoid entering the playoffs with three consecutive losses.
- Defending Class B state champion Fairfield has run its win streak to 19 games with a 34-0 win over Malta, and can clinch the Northern B regular-season title if it defeats Glasgow on Friday. Fairfield’s last loss came in the 2017 semifinals to eventual champion Eureka. With the Northern B title in hand, Fairfield would have home-field advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs. Fairfield can push its win streak to 20 with a win at Glasgow in Week 9.
- Manhattan beat Townsend 34-14 in Week 8 to move one win from clinching the Southern B’s top seed. Even if Manhattan is to fall in Week 9 on the road at Jefferson, its possible the Tigers could win the conference title with a Towsend win over Columbus. Manhattan is looking for its first regular-season conference title since 2016.
- Florence went into Missoula Loyola and handed the Rams a 39-21 loss, giving the Falcons the No. 2 seed out of the Western B and their first win over Missoula Loyola in 17 years. It’s an improvement on last year’s fourth-place regular-season finish, and the Falcons will host a playoff game on Nov. 2.
- No. 1 Fairview continues to blast its opponents, as the Warriors clinched the 8-Man East’s No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (until the 8-Man title game at neutral site Rocky Mountain College) with a 50-0 win over Scobey in the conference’s de facto regular-season title game. The Warriors are allowing less than 6 points per game this year. Fairview has been hungry this year and looks like the favorite entering the 8-Man playoffs.
- Fort Benton joined Fairview as unbeaten regular-season conference champions, as the No. 2 Longhorns picked up their second win of the season over No. 5 Great Falls Central – a 20-14 victory to win the 8-Man North. Great Falls Central has lost just two games all season and both have been to Fort Benton. Should Fort Benton and Fairview win their first round and quarterfinal games in the playoffs, the top-two teams in the MontanaSports.com power rankings would play in Fairview in the semifinals.
- St. Ignatius handed two-time defending 8-Man state champion Drummond-Philipsburg its third loss of the season with a 50-36 win on Friday night. St. Ignatius still has a chance at the 8-Man West’s No. 2 seed, as it will be determined by point differential if the Bulldogs are still tied with Thompson Falls after the season’s final week. St. Ignatius went 4-5 last season but has a chance to double its win total with a victory in Week 9 against Darby. Drummond-Philipsburg will need to beat winless Victor to lock up the conference’s final playoff spot.
- Defending 6-Man state champion Wibaux has lost back-to-back games after falling to Westby-Grenora 52-42 last Friday. The Thunder trailed 22-8 after the first quarter but outscored Wibaux 44-20 over the final three quarters. Wibaux didn’t fall from the MontanaSports.com top five entirely, but the Longhorns are out of the conference title race and will likely hit the road in the opening round of the 6-Man playoffs. The Longhorns need to beat Savage on Saturday, though, to clinch a playoff berth. Westby-Grenora still has a shot at the 6-Man East conference title and can steal it from Jordan with a win in Week 9.
- No. 3 Hot Springs continues to roll along and now has a perfect 8-0 record after dismantling White Sulphur Springs on Friday night, 44-6. Hot Springs clinched the 6-Man West’s regular-season conference title with the win and will have home-field advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. Hot Springs dropped to 6-Man in 2011 and finished second in the West that season. The Savage Heat then won five consecutive 6-Man West titles before moving up to 8-Man in 2017 and being unable to field a team. Hot Springs won the 6-Man West title again in 2018 to give the Savage Heat six 6-Man West titles in their past six years in the division.
- North Star locked up a playoff berth with a 40-20 win over perennial 6-Man power Geraldine-Highwood, forcing the Rivals to fight for a playoff berth this weekend against Valier. North Star hasn’t made the 6-Man playoffs since 2016, when the Knights lost to eventual champion Hot Springs in the opening round.
For updated standings please click here.