Week 1 of Montana’s high school football season is officially in the books.
Three defending champions were in action on opening weekend, but only two escaped with victories. Drummond-Philipsburg saw its 26-game winning streak snapped on Friday night.
A few big-time matchups in Week 1 offered a glimpse at those competing among the top of their respective classes. A handful of games came down to the final possession, including a double-overtime thriller in Dillon. The 6-Man East again looks strong, but a team in the North has firmly planted its flag as a contender.
· Bozeman got a little revenge last Friday night. After falling to Kalispell Flathead at home in the 2018 semifinals, Bozeman shut out the Braves, 35-0, on Flathead’s home field. Bozeman was dominant defensively, led by defensive end Kenneth Eiden IV’s four sacks. Eiden showed his versatility by hauling in a pair of touchdown receptions, too. Bozeman looks like it has something to prove early on.
· Helena Capital vaulted into the top three of the Treasure State Media Poll, which is conducted by Anthony Nachreiner out of Kalispell, with its 35-30 win over Billings Senior in Billings last Friday. Parker Johnston was terrific for the Bruins, scoring four total touchdowns – two on offense, two on defense. Capital has a strong win on its resume early in 2019 and could be the team to beat in the Western AA.
· The game of the week was in Dillon, where Frenchtown edged Dillon on a game-winning touchdown run by Jace Klucewich in double overtime. Klucewich proved he will be a problem for Class A defenses this year, as the electric junior scored all four touchdowns for the Broncs. Both Dillon and Frenchtown figure to be the top competitors to Hamilton’s throne atop the Southwestern A. With the win, Frenchtown also vaulted into the No. 3 spot in the Treasure State Media Poll with the win.
· Lewistown was one point away from the Class A semifinals in 2018, and the Eagles are off to a fast start in 2019. Lewistown throttled visiting Livingston 55-0. Lewistown again figures to be in the hunt in the Eastern A, even after replacing several key pieces off last year’s roster.
· Missoula Loyola, the 2018 Class B runner-up, pulled off a narrow win over Huntley Project at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman in Week 1, solidifying its standing as one of the favorites in Class B in 2019. As the season goes on, expect Huntley Project to continue to improve under coach Jay Santy, who is back for his second stint with the Red Devils.
· Red Lodge sent a message in Week 1 with a 42-14 thrashing of 2018 Southern B champion Big Timber. The Rams return several experienced players and are looking to compete for an Eastern B title in 2019. Week 1 was a step in the right direction for Red Lodge, which has won just three games over the past three years.
· Two-time defending state champion Drummond-Philipsburg may no longer have a stranglehold on 8-Man football. The Titans were beaten by Alberton-Superior, 74-42, last Friday night, snapping a 26-game winning streak. Alberton-Superior returns some key pieces off a team that lost in the opening round of the 2018 playoffs to eventual runner-up Great Falls Central. The Mountain Cats are also one of the most explosive offenses in the state and can challenge for the 8-Man West conference title this season.
· Fairview, the top-ranked team in the Treasure State Media Poll, throttled Scobey, 46-8, in Week 1, only solidifying the Warriors’ status among the 8-Man elite. Fairview returns nearly its entire roster from last year’s semifinal run and looks primed for a deep run in 2019. The Warriors will be tested throughout the regular season in the 8-Man East, but barring injury this team should be among the state’s best.
· Big Sandy looks like it will be the team to beat in the 6-Man North in 2019. The Pioneers return several key pieces from 2018’s quarterfinal team and opened the year with a 44-28 win over 2018 runner-up Jordan, which is also returning the majority of its roster. Big Sandy stood tall against a tough test in Week 1 and look the part of a state title contender early.
· The 6-Man East took three teams to the semifinals in 2018 and the No. 4 team, Westby-Grenora, nearly upset 6-Man South champion Grass-Range Winnett in the first round. The East looks to be strong again, as Wibaux, Richey-Lambert and Westby-Grenora all picked up impressive wins in Week 1. All three teams, as well as Jordan, return key pieces and should contend for the conference title and state title in 2019.