There’s finally a bit of separation in Montana’s high school football standings after Week 6.
The Western AA has four teams fighting for two spots to have a home game in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs. Defending Class A champion Billings Central fell to a rival for the first time in 17 years, opening the door for a new champion out of the Eastern A.
Eureka and Manhattan each picked up wins over the weekend, solidifying their statuses as conference title contenders. The top teams in the 8-Man West all picked up wins over the weekend, meaning the season’s final weeks will essentially serve as elimination games.
Hot Springs and Shields Valley kept their regular-season conference title hopes alive, while Richey-Lambert rebounded from a tough start to conference play to pick up its first win in the 6-Man East.
That and more highlight what caught my eye during a busy Week 6.
- After finishing as the Class AA runner-up in 2018, Kalispell Flathead had lost its first five games of the 2019 season. The Braves pulled off a shocking win over Helena High last Friday, 13-9, to hand the Bengals their second loss of the season and further complicate the Western AA playoff picture. Four teams are at 2-2 in conference play and fighting for two spots to host a playoff game in the first round, and Flathead has suddenly put its name into play for one of those spots.
- Kalispell Glacier improved to 2-2 in Western AA play with a win over Missoula Hellgate on Friday and dropped the Knights to 2-2 in conference play. Glacier, Hellgate, Helena High and Helena Capital are the four teams at 2-2 looking to host in the opening round of the playoffs. With three weeks of head-to-head matchups left, plenty is still to be decided.
- For the first time in 17 years, Laurel beat Billings Central on the football field. In a streak that spanned 16 regular-season and three playoff games, the Locomotives saw it come to an end in dominant fashion, as Laurel trounced Central 33-0. It was the first loss of the season for Billings Central, which must play conference-leading Miles City this weekend. It appears as if there will be a new Eastern A champion this season, and Central is now in jeopardy of having to play on the opening weekend of the Class A playoffs.
- Libby kept its perfect record intact with a 29-21 victory at home over Butte Central on Friday night. The Loggers have certainly proven capable of being a playoff team, even leaping into the top five of the MontanaSports.com power rankings. Libby finishes with likely its three toughest opponents – at Dillon, at Hamilton and home to Frenchtown – so its hopes of a first-round bye still hinge on future success.
- Eureka maintained its perch atop the Western B with a 34-14 win at Florence, handing Florence its first loss in conference play this season. The 14 points tie the most Eureka has allowed this season, as the Lions are giving up just eight points per game. Eureka and Missoula Loyola are both undefeated in conference play, essentially setting up the Western B regular-season title game in Week 7.
- Manhattan is still perfect after a 40-20 win over Columbus in Week 6, leaving the Tigers tied with Townsend atop the Southern B. It also puts Columbus in a tie with Big Timber for fourth-and-final playoff spot in the conference. Manhattan still has conference title dreams, but Columbus is now fighting to make the postseason.
- Perhaps the most surprising score I saw all weekend was Colstrip beating Glasgow 25-22 to hand the Scotties their first loss of the season. Colstrip has now won back-to-back games after opening with three consecutive losses and has a shot at a playoff spot out of the Eastern B. Glasgow still has hopes of a Northern B conference title, but this loss could be an indication of what’s to come, as Glasgow’s schedule picks up intensity in the final weeks.
- Scobey made it clear that it's the top team in the 8-Man East ‘B’ sub-conference with a 48-14 victory over Ekalaka in Week 6. The win gives Scobey the inside track to a top-two seed out of the 8-Man East and, with a win and a Fairview victory this weekend, sets up a rematch against the Warriors for the 8-Man East regular-season title. Fairview thumped Scobey in Week 1 in Scobey, 46-8.
- Circle could keep the Fairview/Scobey rematch from happening, though, as the Wildcats are still perfect in conference play in the 8-Man East ‘A’ sub-conference after a 42-6 win over Plentywood. Circle essentially locked up a spot in the 8-Man playoffs with a victory and now turns its sights to top-ranked Fairview in Week 7. Also of note, Circle and Scobey met in Circle on Sept. 21 with Scobey winning 44-6.
- Outside of unbeaten Alberton-Superior, the 8-Man West is a mess. Thompson Falls and St. Ignatius both won over the weekend to improve to 4-1 in conference play, while Seeley-Swan won to move to 4-2. Two-time defending champion Drummond-Philipsburg and Darby both improved to 3-2 in 8-Man West action. Those five teams are competing for three playoff spots behind Alberton-Superior, so the final weeks of the season will serve as elimination games.
- 2018 semifinalist Richey-Lambert got off to a tough start in conference play with losses to No. 1 Wibaux and No. 3 Jordan, but the Fusion rebounded with a come-from-behind win against Westby-Grenora in Week 6. Richey-Lambert trailed 32-8 at halftime before making the comeback and shutting the Thunder out in the second half. It’s the second consecutive year Richey-Lambert has defeated Westby-Grenora, as last season’s win snapped the Thunder’s 16-game winning streak. Richey-Lambert is back in contention for a playoff spot out of the loaded 6-Man East and will need to continue to pile up victories as the season winds down.
- Shields Valley remained perfect in 6-Man South action with a 47-15 win at Broadview-Lavina and has essentially locked up a playoff berth. Shields Valley is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the 6-Man South ‘B’ sub-conference. The only loss Shields Valley suffered came by 12 at the hands of No. 4 Hot Springs on the road. The Rebels have their sights set on a regular-season conference title and home field in the opening rounds of the playoffs, but they’ll need to win out in order for that to come to fruition.
- Hot Springs handed Noxon its first conference loss, a 67-28 thrashing, and improved to 6-0 on the season. The fourth-ranked Savage Heat have decimated most of their opponents, as the 28 points are the most they’ve allowed all season. If Hot Springs and White Sulphur Springs win this weekend, the two will meet in Hot Springs on Oct. 19 for a de facto 6-Man West regular-season conference title game.