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What I'll be watching: Conference championships on the line in Week 8

Posted: 3:44 PM, Oct 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-17 18:33:29-04
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Postseason football is nearly upon us.

Week 7 of Montana’s high school football season has come and passed, and the season’s final two weeks are in sight. Sub-division playoffs commence for the 8- and 6-Man classifications this week to kick off a weekend full of elimination and seeding games.

The 8-Man North will play its sub-division games this weekend to determine four of the conference’s five playoff teams. The No. 1 seed is on the line in a rematch of two teams in the top five of the latest MontanaSports.com power rankings . The 8-Man East will also be a rematch, where top-ranked Fairview looks to clinch home-field advantage throughout.

The 6-Man North won’t determine its top seed this weekend but, like the 8-Man North, will determine two of the other three playoff spots in the conference. The 6-Man South has a pair of elimination games this weekend. The winners will play for the conference’s third and fourth spots next week.

There will be a playoff atmosphere across the entire state this weekend, though, as Classes AA, A and B all feature games between conference title contenders, as do the conferences in 8- and 6-Man without sub-division playoffs.

The Western AA could have a clear No. 3 team after Friday night. An upset, though, would throw the playoff picture in a blender. Libby is looking to bounce back from its first loss and keep its Western A regular-season title hopes alive, but the Loggers hit the road to face one of Class A’s best again.

The Northern B and Southern B regular-season titles are in the grasps of multiple teams and will be on the line Friday night, too. Defending champion Fairfield has yet to lose, but it’ll welcome in an unbeaten opponent. Manhattan appears to be back among the state’s elite teams and can clinch the Southern B’s top seed at home on Friday night.

That and more highlight what has my attention in a jam-packed Week 8.

Class AA

  • The No. 2 spot in the Western AA is up for grabs in Helena on Friday nigh when Helena High hosts No. 3 Missoula Sentinel. Sentinel has been crushing opponents outside its loss to unbeaten Butte. The Spartans can lock up the conference’s No. 2 seed with a win, while Helena is battling for a home game in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs.
  • Helena Capital can pull one step closer to a home game in the opening round of the Class AA playoffs with a win at Missoula Hellgate on Friday night in Washington-Grizzly Stadium. After starting 3-0, Hellgate has lost three consecutive games, all of which were in conference, and sits outside the top five in the Western AA. Hellgate needs a win to keep hope alive for a top-four seed.

Class A

  • No. 2 Miles City rolled Billings Central last Friday to remain unbeaten, and the Cowboys are the only team in Class A to do so to this point. Miles City can lock up the Eastern A regular-season title and a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs with a win at Lewistown on Friday night. Lewistown is still looking to grab one of the Eastern A’s top four seeds to host in the first round of the playoffs. A Lewistown win could throw the Eastern A playoff picture into a frenzied final week.
  • Libby suffered its first setback of the season at Dillon last week, and the road doesn’t get any easier for the Loggers. Libby travels to top-ranked Hamilton on Friday night. Both teams have aspirations of a Western A title and first-round bye, and this game will likely force the loser to play on the opening weekend of the playoffs. Hamilton’s only loss this season also came to Dillon on the road.

Class B

  • Malta and Fairfield will meet on Friday night in Fairfield with the top spot on the line in the Northern B. Malta can clinch the Northern B regular-season title with a win over the top-ranked Eagles. Fairfield can’t lock up the conference title until next weekend, barring a Glasgow loss this weekend.
  • The Southern B regular-season conference title will be up for grabs Friday night in Manhattan when the No. 3 Tigers host Townsend. Townsend is unbeaten in conference play and has only lost at No. 2 Eureka. Neither team can clinch the conference title this weekend, but with Manhattan being the only unbeaten team in conference play Townsend must find a way to pull them back to the pack. Otherwise, the Tigers will likely be the South’s top seed.
  • Missoula Loyola has had quite the schedule in 2019. The Rams have lost to the top three teams in the MontanaSports.com power rankings – Fairfield, Eureka and Manhattan – and have defeated likely Eastern B No. 2 seed Huntley Project. Despite that difficult schedule, Loyola has an opportunity to grab the Western B’s No. 2 seed. The Rams host Florence on Friday night, as the Falcons are also looking at the No. 2 seed. Friday’s winner will host in the opening round of the Class B playoffs, while the loser will hit the road.

8-Man

  • The 8-Man North conference title is on the line this Saturday when Fort Benton travels to Great Falls Central. The two teams met just back on Sept. 27 in Fort Benton, where the Longhorns won 46-35. Great Falls Central is looking for its second consecutive 8-Man North title, while Fort Benton hasn’t won the conference since 2010.
  • The 8-Man North will also determine two more playoff spots this weekend. Shelby will visit Belt and Choteau will visit Centerville with the winners meeting next week to determine the North’s No. 3 and 4 seeds. The North takes five teams to the playoffs, so the losers will play next week for the North’s final playoff spot.
  • The 8-Man East title game is a rematch between Scobey and top-ranked Fairview. The Warriors throttled Scobey in the season opener, 46-8, and have run roughshod on the rest of the 8-Man East since. Fairview can ensure the rest of the state has to come to them, as the Warriors can lock up home-field advantage in the playoffs with another win on Saturday. The loser doesn’t have a lock on the conference’s No. 2 seed, though, as it could be challenged.
  • That challenge would come from the Circle/Ekalaka winner if the two teams aren’t from the same sub-conference. The loser of the Circle and Ekalaka game on Saturday afternoon in Ekalaka could be subject to a challenge for the No. 4 seed from the winner of Plentywood/Culbertson, which is Saturday in Culbertson, if the teams aren’t from the same sub-conference.
  • Drummond-Philipsburg, the two-time defending state champion, is on the fringe of the playoff hunt in the 8-Man West. The Titans can essentially lock up a playoff berth with a win at St. Ignatius this weekend. That will be no easy task, though, as St. Ignatius is 6-1 overall and 5-1 in conference play. St. Ignatius is looking to clinch a playoff berth in one of the most competitive conferences in all of Montana high school football.

6-Man

  • There's a lot of action in the 6-Man North this weekend with the sub-division playoffs getting under way. Geraldine-Highwood will visit North Star and Valier will play at Denton-Geyser-Stanford on Saturday afternoon with the winners playing next week for the conference’s third and fourth seeds. The losers of those games will play next weekend for the conference’s No. 5 seed. No. 1 Big Sandy and No. 5 Power-Dutton-Brady, both still unbeaten, will play for the 6-Man North conference title next week.
  • Two teams will be eliminated from playoff contention in the 6-Man South this weekend. Harlowton-Ryegate plays at Custer-Hysham and Fromberg visits Roy-Winifred. The losers will see their postseason hopes fade, while the winners will meet next weekend for the conference’s third and fourth seeds. Shields Valley and Bridger will play next week for the 6-Man South regular-season title.
  • No. 3 Wibaux is coming off its first loss of the season after losing a rematch of the 2018 title game to Jordan over the weekend, 47-41. The Longhorns don’t get much time to catch their breath, as they travel to Grenora, N.D. to face Westby-Grenora on Friday night. The winner will likely wind up as the conference’s No. 2 seed and force the loser to travel in the first round of the playoffs.
  • The 6-Man West regular-season conference title will be on the line Saturday afternoon when White Sulphur Springs visits No. 4 Hot Springs. White Sulphur Springs has lost twice this year, to likely playoff teams Richey-Lambert and Big Sandy. Hot Springs has victories over Harlowton and Shields Valley on its resume. The 6-Man West champion would also be on the opposite side of the bracket as the 6-Man North and East champions.