Just like that, Montana’s high school football regular season is over.
The final weekend brought plenty of fireworks, as there were still a handful of playoff spots up for grabs. Those spots are now clinched, with some coming in more dramatic fashion than others.
Missoula Big Sky put up a huge number to clinch its spot in the postseason. Billings West had its closest game of the season, but the Golden Bears are still perfect and sport home-field advantage in the postseason.
Not only will 2019 Class A state champion Miles City not have home-field advantage in the playoffs, the Cowboys will have to hit the road in the first round after another empty showing. The Western A had the potential to be a headache to figure out, but chalk held to smooth that out.
Red Lodge went through some tribulations earlier this season, but the Rams still came out as the Eastern B champions after a massive victory in Week 9. Defending Class B state champion Eureka made it be known that the Lions will still be heard from out West. And what a finish to the regular season for Fairfield. The opening round of the Class B playoffs could get wild.
St. Ignatius and Cascade punched tickets to the postseason in Week 9 in thrilling, one-score games. Their rewards? Trips across the state, of course. Westby-Grenora stopped its losing skid to lock up the No. 3 seed out of the 8-Man East, which gives the Thunder the chance to steal one on the road.
The 6-Man postseason kicked off last weekend, where top seeds rolled in the opening round.
An exciting finish to Week 9 highlights what caught my eye over the regular season’s final weekend, and I’ll take a look at potential first-round upsets to watch in the weekend ahead.
- Somebody tell Missoula Big Sky and Kalispell Flathead basketball season hasn't started yet. The Eagles and Braves combined for 101 points in Big Sky's 60-41 win, which would give Big Sky the sixth and final playoff spot out of the Western AA. Big Sky's offense has had a couple explosive performances this season and the Eagles will likely need another in the opening round of the playoffs at Kalispell Glacier, which defeated Big Sky 36-18 on Sept. 25.
- Billings West came from behind to beat Bozeman in Week 9 and seal the Eastern AA regular-season title and home-field advantage in the postseason. Bozeman has looked like a different team since the return of Kenneth Eiden IV, and the Hawks will be an awfully tough out in the playoffs. Billings West joins Missoula Sentinel in the playoff field as the only top seeds and unbeatens. Another deep playoff run could be in store.
- Miles City has laid an egg each of the past two weeks. The Cowboys' usually high-powered offense mustered zero points against Laurel, marking the second consecutive game they were shut out. With Laurel's victory, the Locomotives will host Frenchtown in the opening round of the playoffs, while Miles City will head west and take on Dillon. Laurel looks wholly capable of contending for the Class A title, too. Miles City is hoping to avoid another nightmare outing.
- Week 9 had the potential to shake up the bottom half of the Western A playoff picture, but Frenchtown and Dillon took care of business to keep the top four teams intact. Frenchtown battled through a snowstorm to hold off Libby, 14-6, for the Western A's No. 3 seed, while Dillon beat Whitefish on the road, 39-33, to keep the Bulldogs out of the postseason and give Columbia Falls the fourth and final spot. Hamilton went through the regular season unbeaten, but the top four teams in the conference have pushed one another head-to-head all season long -- a testament to the depth of the conference.
- Red Lodge needed to beat Shepherd by more than 12 points to win the Eastern B regular-season title, despite a six-point loss to Huntley Project. The Rams accomplished that with ease in their 40-14 win over the Mustangs to lock up the Eastern B's top seed in the postseason, while Shepherd claims the No. 2 seed. Red Lodge has a 22-point loss to Columbus, the Southern B's No. 4 seed, on its resume, but the Rams also have a win over Northern B champion Fairfield. This has been a true Jekyll and Hyde team this year.
- Don't count Eureka out of the title hunt just yet. The Lions shut out Bigfork, 28-0, to claim the Western B's No. 2 seed and earn a home playoff game. Eureka has a pair of losses this year, but both came to playoff teams -- Florence and Townsend. The win over Bigfork also saves the Lions a nearly 400-mile road trip. Instead, Bigfork will make the trip to Malta in the opening round. The flip side of Eureka not having to travel to Malta? The Lions host Glasgow, which is an even farther trip for the Scotties.
- Fairfield wins Northern B championships, period. Even without longtime coach Les Meyer, the Eagles reign supreme in the North behind first-year coach Greg Misner. Fairfield beat Malta, 14-6, to win the conference championship in Week 9, finishing the year with wins over the Mustangs and Glasgow in back-to-back weeks. Clearly that conference title is huge, as it keeps Fairfield at home for at least the first two rounds of the postseason. Can the Eagles go on another deep run?
- There wasn't much separation between the No. 3 team in the 8-Man West and the No. 5 team. Alberton-Superior grabbed the No. 3 seed, largely because of a 74-68 win over St. Ignatius midway through the season. St. Ignatius locked up the fourth and final playoff spot in Week 9 with a dramatic 32-26 win over Charlo, keeping the fifth-place Vikings out of the postseason. The reward for St. Ignatius, though? A trip to top-ranked Fort Benton in the first round.
- In its first season of 8-Man football, the Westby-Grenora Thunder are heading to the postseason. Westby-Grenora beat Ekalaka 34-6 to lock up the conference's third spot, while Ekalaka will be the fourth. Westby-Grenora has been used to making deep postseason runs at the 6-Man level, but how will the Thunder handle their first taste of 8-Man playoff football? At least the trip to Joliet isn't clear across the state.
- The 6-Man playoffs kicked off last weekend, as we saw all five top seeds roll into the second round. For a recap of the four Friday games, click here. For a recap of the four Saturday games, click here.
- Great Falls High. The Bison defeated Billings Skyview two weeks ago to put themselves in the position to host this game. Now, Great Falls will need a repeat performance against the Falcons to advance to the quarterfinals. If the Bison's 34-6 win on Oct. 15 is any indication, Great Falls High should be able to avoid the upset. Skyview, though, has plenty to play for, as the Falcons are in the playoffs for the first time since 2014, when the Falcons lost in the first round to Missoula Big Sky.
- Laurel. Sure, the Locomotives throttled defending champion Miles City to close the season and earn the first-round playoff game at home, but they'll welcome in Frenchtown, which lost close games to both Dillon and Hamilton. Frenchtown's two losses are by 22 total points, as the Broncs have been capable of scoring at will or grinding out a slugfest. Laurel has played well down the stretch of the season, too, but Billings Central exploited the Locomotives' defense. Can Frenchtown match that blueprint?
- Eureka. Red Lodge seems like the low-hanging fruit, as the Rams lost to first-round opponent Columbus earlier in the season. Eureka, though, will host Glasgow in the opening round of the playoffs. Glasgow suffered losses to Malta and Fairfield down the stretch after a scorching start to the campaign. The Scotties are a physical, athletic group that could stress the run defense of the Lions. Eureka, though, has come on strong following its early season loss to Townsend. Don't forget Eureka has that championship pedigree, too.
- Joliet. The J-Hawks were in position to win the 8-Man South, but they coughed up a 16-point halftime lead against Park City and will enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed. Joliet will host Westby-Grenora in the opening round, and, as stated above, the Thunder are no stranger to postseason success. Joliet stud running back and linebacker Rye Brastrup hasn't played since injuring his back against Park City. If he's unable to go against Westby-Grenora, that will be a big blow to the J-Hawks. Westby-Grenora saw championship-caliber football in the East this season. Are the Thunder up to the task of winning a playoff game on the road?