It’s going to be an all-out sprint to the finish as teams jockey for playoff spots.
Teams continue to battle cancellations, but Montana’s high school football regular season now has just three weeks remaining – two for Class A and 6-Man – with Week 6 in the books.
Kalispell Glacier’s Jake Rendina nearly ran himself right into the record books with his performance against Missoula Hellgate to keep the Wolfpack in the Western AA hunt. In the Eastern AA, Billings West won a rivalry game to grab sole possession of the top spot in the conference.
There were some monster numbers across the state in Class A in Week 6. Frenchtown and Polson combined for nearly 100 points, while Polson quarterback Jarrett Wilson is in a class of his own after his effort in the loss. Miles City’s Carson Hunter hasn’t slowed down in 2020, as he and fellow senior Jayden Venable had huge games to lead the Cowboys to another win.
There weren’t many competitive games on the Class B fields in Week 6, but Florence and Eureka delivered on a much-anticipated matchup between top teams in the Western B. Shepherd and Manhattan also had convincing victories to remain in their respective conference title hunts.
Don’t count out reigning 8-Man champion Fairview just yet. The Warriors are right back in the thick of the 8-Man East after knocking off a previously unbeaten team. Shelby locked up the 8-Man North ‘B’ sub-division over the weekend, as the Coyotes have ripped off four consecutive victories.
Big Sandy’s revenge tour rolls on, as the Pioneers moved one step closer to the 6-Man North regular-season title in Week 6. Broadview-Lavina will have to wait to seal a playoff berth out of the 6-Man South, as the Pirates couldn’t keep pace with Bridger. Froid-Medicine Lake controls the 6-Man East, but Savage made a statement with its victory last Friday.
That and more highlight what caught my eye in Week 6, as several teams locked up playoff spots with wins.
- Have yourself a game, young man. Kalispell Glacier's Jake Rendina ran for seven (!!) touchdowns in the Wolfpack's 54-38 win over Missoula Hellgate. The Montana High School Association record books have the record for touchdowns in a game at nine by Missoula Loyola's Bo Hughes in 2012. With the win, Glacier improved to 4-0 on the season and clinched a playoff berth out of the Western AA. Also of note in the game, Hellgate's Leo Filardi had 348 receiving yards and three scores. The yardage total is an 11-man record, according to the MHSA record books, though they haven't been updated online since March of 2018.
- The path to a state title is likely going to go through Billings West. The Golden Bears took control of the Eastern AA with a 41-14 win over rival Billings Senior in Week 6, setting West up to win the conference and take home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. West showcased its abilities on both sides of the ball, as the 14 points Senior scored were easily a season low. The Bears will finish the season against some of the conference's bottom feeders, too, so Week 6's win likely decided the conference champion.
- There was no shortage of offense in Frenchtown this past weekend, as the Broncs held off Polson, 56-46. The win is huge for Frenchtown's playoff hopes while it's a dagger to Polson's, but the Pirates have an extremely bright future. Sophomore quarterback Jarrett Wilson threw for 441 yards and five touchdowns. It's the third time this season Wilson has thrown for at least 400 yards. He's the only Class A player to throw for 400 yards three times in a career, let alone within the same season. Wilson is well on his way to re-writing the record books.
- Miles City's Carson Hunter and Jayden Venable tore apart the Havre defense in Week 6. Hunter threw for 331 yards and five touchdowns, marking the fourth time in his career he's thrown for at least 300 yards. He is seventh all-time in Class A in passing touchdowns and 12th in yards. Venable had six receptions for 238 yards and three scores in the game, with his yardage now the second-most in a single game in Miles City. Venable has 1,944 receiving yards and is on the doorstep of joining the 2,000-yard club, which only nine Class A players have done.
Note: All Class A statistics courtesy of Class A historian Brian Reed.
- Florence has one blemish on its resume -- an overtime loss to Manhattan to begin the year -- but the Falcons are now alone atop the Western B after a 35-20 win over defending champion Eureka. Manhattan has been the top-ranked team in the Treasure State Media Poll for a large chunk of the year, so not many teams are going to have a better-looking loss than Florence. The Falcons have clinched the Western B, having beat both Florence and Bigfork this season and just a date with Missoula Loyola remaining.
- Shepherd and Manhattan won conference games in Week 6 to remain unbeaten in conference play and in control of their own destinies, too. Shepherd waxed Roundup, 52-0, and is the only flawless team in Eastern B play. Shepherd's meeting with Red Lodge in Week 9 will likely determine the conference champion. Manhattan drilled Columbus, 58-6, to keep its perfect record intact. Manhattan and Townsend are perfect in Southern B play and will meet in Week 8, likely with the conference title on the line.
- A week after being blown out for its first loss of the season, Fairview bounced back with a 40-8 win over Westby-Grenora to hand the Thunder their first loss of 2020. The 8-Man East now has three teams with one loss in conference play and all have played each other. A tiebreaker scenario will potentially determine the regular-season conference champion, but it's highly likely a one-loss team will hit the road in the opening round of the playoffs.
- Shelby dominated Chester-Joplin-Inverness, 59-21, for the Coyotes' fourth consecutive victory. It also clinched the 8-Man North 'B' sub-division regular-season title and ensures Shelby a berth in the postseason. Shelby's only loss was in Week 1 to Joliet, which has yet to lose and looks like the favorite in the 8-Man South. Shelby is going to be well-prepared for the postseason, as the Coyotes will get Belt in Week 7 then likely Fort Benton in Week 8.
- Big Sandy is on the cusp of winning the 6-Man North regular-season title yet again. The Pioneers blasted Sunburst, 74-34, to remain unbeaten and hand the Refiners their second consecutive loss. It sets up a two-horse race in the North with Power-Dutton-Brady, which Big Sandy will face in Week 7. The Pioneers have been my top-ranked team all season and haven't shown many weaknesses through the fist six weeks of the season. Big Sandy is one win away from back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons.
- Broadview-Lavina couldn't punch a ticket to the 6-Man playoffs, at least not yet. The Pirates fell at home last Friday night to Bridger, 50-25, giving the Scouts the South's No. 2 spot. Broadview-Lavina isn't quite ready to challenge for the 6-Man South title, but that could become a reality sooner than later for the two communities just north of Billings. The Pirates will still likely earn the South's third and final playoff spot, but the reward is likely a trip to Froid-Medicine Lake.
- Savage made a statement in Week 6, as the Warriors beat Richey-Lambert, 64-13, to take sole possession of second place in the 6-Man East. Savage's lone loss came to Froid-Medicine Lake in a game that the Warriors battled with the Redhawks for almost a full three quarters before running out of steam. Keep an eye on Savage in the postseason. It's a school rich in tradition, as the Warriors played in the 6-Man title games in 2010 and 2011, losing to Denton both times.