We've made it four weeks through the high school football season. With the final weekend of September on the horizon, just five weeks remain before the playoffs begin.
Week 4 gave us some separation in the standings, as the championship contenders made their presence felt over the weekend.
Billings Senior and Helena High etched themselves in on the short list of Class AA's top teams with convincing conference wins over the weekend. Billings West and Missoula Sentinel are likely enjoying doughnuts after their performances in Week 4.
Hamilton has separated itself in the Western A after a crucial win, but there are five teams within one game of the Broncs. One of those is Polson, whose record-setting sophomore quarterback continues to post gaudy numbers.
Florence has arrived in the Western B. The Falcons have the inside track to a home playoff game after a massive win on the road in Week 4. Manhattan is the favorite in the Southern B, but there's a logjam of teams battling for the No. 3 spot currently.
The 8-Man North looks like it will once again go through Fort Benton. The Longhorns are in control of the 'A' sub-division after a dominant road victory over the No. 2 team in the conference. The 8-Man West is setting up for a phenomenal stretch run, as Drummond-Philipsburg, Charlo and Thompson Falls continue to impress.
Broadview-Lavina could easily make a case for the most impressive start to the season. The Pirates have posted some eye-popping scores, and Week 4 was much of the same. It's looking like a two-horse race in the 6-Man East this year, and Harlowton-Ryegate pulled out a thrilling win in the final minute of the game.
That and more highlight what caught my eye in Week 4.
- Billings Senior opened the season with an eye-opening win over Bozeman, but the Broncs proved it wasn't a fluke with a 28-14 win over Great Falls High in Week 4. Senior is coupling a shutdown defense with an explosive offense that's only improving as Junior Bergen becomes more comfortable at quarterback. Senior and crosstown rival Billings West are the only 2-0 teams in the Eastern AA, potentially setting up a massive showdown in Week 6 after West's shutout of Great Falls CMR.
- Helena High had to battle to win its season opener, but the Bengals blew out Missoula Big Sky in Week 4, 48-7. Big Sky was coming off an impressive win of its own, but Helena's win moves the Bengals to 2-0, joining Missoula Sentinel and Kalispell Glacier as the only unbeatens in the Western AA, as Sentinel shut out Helena Capital and Glacier topped Butte. A Week 7 meeting with Glacier could determine which squad plays at home in the opening round of the playoffs.
- Hamilton has graduated some serious talent over the past few years, but the Broncs just keep reloading. Hamilton took control of the Western A in Week 4 with a 37-14 win over Dillon and is the only remaining unbeaten team in the conference. The battle for the conference's No. 2 seed is going to heat up in the final few weeks, as Dillon, Columbia Falls, Frenchtown, Libby, and Polson are all 3-1.
- Speaking of Polson, the Pirates hung up a 50-burger over the weekend, topping Ronan 52-34. Polson's sophomore quarterback Jarrett Wilson posted his second 400-yard passing game of the year, according to Class A statistician Brian Reed. Wilson had 439 yards and five touchdowns in the win and also ran for 120 yards. His 559 yards of total offense is the second-most ever by a Class A player. Billings Central's Chris Klein threw for 624 yards against Colstrip in 1995.
- While Eureka is still unbeaten in Western B play, the conference looks like it's going to go through Florence. The Falcons went on the road in Week 4 and handed Bigfork its first Class B loss of 2020, 33-14. Florence's only loss came in overtime to Manhattan, which is the top-ranked team in the Treasure State Media Poll. Florence will get an opportunity to essentially lock the conference up on Oct. 2 when the Falcons take on Eureka.
- Manhattan controls its own destiny in the Southern B and Townsend has jumped out to a 2-0 start in conference play, but there are three teams battling for the conference's third spot. It's currently a bit of a mess, as Jefferson, Columbus and Big Timber are all 1-1 in conference. Jefferson beat Columbus but lost last Friday to Big Timber, 16-15. This could shake out several ways with multiple weeks left in the season, but it's something to keep an eye on as the playoffs approach.
- Fort Benton has its sights set on a championship after last year's semifinal appearance. The Longhorns continue to decimate their opponents, this time in the form of 8-Man North contender Belt, 50-24. Fort Benton likely won't be tested until the conference title game, if then. It's more than a month out, but the 8-Man North conference champion would clinch home field advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs.
- There are seven unbeaten teams in 8-Man football currently and three of those reside in the 8-Man West. Drummond-Philipsburg moved to 3-0 with a dominant 64-12 win over 2019 runner-up Alberton-Superior, which is now 1-2 in conference play. Thompson Falls shut out Darby, 56-0, to move to 4-0. The Bluehawks haven't allowed a single point in their past three wins. Charlo moved to 4-0, too, with a 52-0 win over Troy. The Vikings have allowed just 18 points this season. There will be one less unbeaten by the end of Week 5, though, as Charlo will host Drummond-Philipsburg.
- Broadview-Lavina has put together a picture-perfect start to its 2020 season. The Pirates steamrolled Reed Point-Rapelje, 73-0, last Friday and are now 3-0. Broadview-Lavina has yet to allow a single point and is averaging north of 70 points per game, with 68 points representing their lowest total this year. The Pirates are certainly a contender for the 6-Man South conference title, but we'll find out in Week 6 if they're on the level of defending conference champion Shields Valley.
- Richey-Lambert and Froid-Medicine Lake appear to have separated themselves as the top two teams in the 6-Man East this season. The Fusion defeated perennial power Wibaux, 47-20, at home over the weekend, while the Redhawks thumped defending state champion Jordan, 76-6. That two-horse race will be settled in Week 6.
- Harlowton-Ryegate took hold of the 6-Man Central, at least for now, with a win in the final minute over Denton-Geyser-Stanford, the first loss of the season for the Bearcats. Harlowton-Ryegate blocked a point-after try with 30 seconds remaining to seal a 44-42 win over DGS, as the kick would have tied the game. Harlowton-Ryegate lost in Week 3 to Roy-Winifred, so tiebreaker scenarios could come in to play later in the season to determine playoff positioning.