Montana’s high school football postseason is beginning to take shape.
Week 7 saw several teams clinch conference titles and postseason berths around the state as the playoffs linger just around the corner – next week for Class A and 6-Man and two weeks for the remaining classifications.
Billings West and Missoula Sentinel continue to cruise in Class AA, but there’s still another team in the hunt out West. Helena High ensured itself a berth in the postseason with a Week 7 win and won’t let Sentinel gain any separation.
Dillon will have a spot in the Class A playoffs after winning a huge road matchup in Week 7. Its opponent may not be quite as fortunate, as the Western A has once again been among the most competitive conferences in the state. Hamilton locked up the regular-season title and pushed a team to the brink of elimination in the process.
The Northern B lost a pair of unbeaten teams over the weekend. Malta controls its own destiny in the conference, but so does Fairfield, even after stumbling in Week 7. What has happened to Columbus? The Cougars fell again and will likely miss the postseason.
The 8-Man South is all but wrapped up. Park City and Joliet gave us one of the most thrilling finishes of the season in deciding the conference’s top seed. The 8-Man West continues to have a pair of dominant teams leading the conference, while Fort Benton had its closest game of the year.
Big Sandy’s revenge season rolls on, as the Pioneers claimed the 6-Man North title once again, doing so by handing a conference foe its first loss of the year. White Sulphur Springs may have produced the surprise result of the weekend on the 6-Man fields, as the Hornets clinched the 6-Man West. The result wasn’t necessarily shocking, but the margin of victory certainly was eye-opening.
That and more highlight what caught my eye in another busy week on Montana’s high school football fields.
- Helena High is still in the hunt for the Western AA regular-season title. The Bengals knocked Kalispell Glacier from the ranks of the unbeaten in Week 7 with a 34-14 win at home. Helena's defense has been its shining star all season long, as the Bengals have allowed just 44 points across their five games. Helena knocked off one unbeaten team to keep its conference title hopes alive. It will have to do so once again in Week 8 to make those hopes a reality.
- Billings West and Missoula Sentinel are the other two unbeaten teams in Class AA, and both rolled once again in Week 7. Billings West trounced Great Falls High, 56-27, and Sentinel shut out Missoula Hellgate, 64-0. West has essentially locked up the Eastern AA, while Sentinel can clinch the Western AA against Helena in Week 8.
- There are numerous playoff scenarios that could shake out in the Western A this weekend, but there are a pair of certainties -- Hamilton and Dillon are in. Hamilton clinched the regular-season title with a 54-23 win over Whitefish, which will make the Bulldogs' path to the postseason quite difficult. Dillon locked up the conference's No. 2 seed with a 34-14 win at Libby.
- The other two playoff spots in the Western A have four teams in contention. Columbia Falls, Frenchtown and Libby all are 5-2, while Whitefish is 4-3. Whitefish, though, has a head-to-head win over Columbia Falls that could prove vital should the Wildcats lose to Frenchtown in Week 8. Libby will face Hamilton in the season's final week, so chaos is likely ahead trying to sort out the Western A's playoff picture.
- It's been an odd season for Malta, but the Mustangs are suddenly in control of their own destiny in the Northern B. Malta won a rivalry game at home against Glasgow in Week 7, 36-14, to stay perfect and hand the Scotties their first loss. Malta is almost assured of a top-two seed in the conference but can lock up the conference title in Week 8 against Fairfield. Fairfield, though, also suffered its first loss of 2020 in Week 7 in a 28-20 loss to Red Lodge.
- The wheels seem to have fallen off in Columbus. The Cougars had one of the surprise victories of the year when they beat Red Lodge 62-40 on the road, but they now sit sixth in the Southern B after a 45-24 loss to Whitehall last week. Columbus has plenty of opportunity ahead, as victories over Big Timber and Townsend could potentially save the season.
- Park City reigns supreme in the 8-Man South, barring catastrophe over the final two weeks of the regular season. The Panthers handed Joliet its first loss of the season with a thrilling 46-42 come-from-behind victory to take hold of the conference. The Panthers have been on a roll since a 30-24 loss to Chinook to open the season, having won four consecutive games. Park City has showcased an explosive offense all season that could be a problem for defenses in the postseason.
- The three top-ranked teams in the Treasure State Media Poll this season have been some combination of Thompson Falls, Drummond-Philipsburg and Fort Benton. All three teams kept their unbeaten records intact in Week 7. Thompson Falls and Drummond-Philipsburg continued their dominant performances in 2020, as the Bluehawks beat Troy, 75-0, and the Titans beat Sheridan, 74-0. Fort Benton beat Simms 38-18 in its closest game of the year.
- You don't want to get in the way of Big Sandy this season. The Pioneers kept their perfect season going with a 46-29 win over previously unbeaten Power-Dutton-Brady to clinch the 6-Man North regular-season crown. It was easily Big Sandy's closest game of the season. The Pioneers are a strong bet for a deep postseason run again in 2020. Is it too early to look forward to a potential unbeaten semifinal between Big Sandy and 6-Man East champion Froid-Medicine Lake?
- White Sulphur Springs is the 6-Man West regular-season champ after an emphatic 53-15 win over Hot Springs on Saturday. The Hornets certainly made a statement to the rest of 6-Man football with their blowout win over the Savage Heat, who are a perennial power out of the West. Once again I'm getting ahead of myself, but we could potentially get Shields Valley and White Sulphur Springs in the semifinals in a matchup of teams who are all too familiar with each other in other sports.