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What I'll be watching: Conference play ramps up in Week 3

Posted: 4:48 PM, Sep 12, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-12 19:19:21-04
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Week 3 of the high school football season will feature the onset of conference play for several schools.

It's early in the season, but every game in conference will matter for playoff positioning down the stretch. How will Bozeman bounce back from its first loss with its first Eastern AA opponent? The Eastern B has a pair of intriguing games this weekend that will offer a glimpse at how the conference may shake out.

Non-conference games highlight the 6-Man slate this weekend, as 2018 playoff teams meet up to prove early season supremacy. That and more highlight what I'll have my eyes on in Week 3.

Class AA

  • Butte has been impressive in its two wins to start the season, but the Bulldogs will be tested on Friday night when Helena High comes to town. Helena has allowed just 15 points through its first two games of the season. The Bengals will need their defense to slow down Butte's high-flying offensive attack, as the Bulldogs are averaging 49 points through two games. Friday's game could prove pivotal late in the season.
  • Bozeman was stunned at home last week by Missoula Big Sky, and Billings Senior has gotten of to an 0-2 start. The Broncs travel to Bozeman to face the Hawks on Friday night. How will Bozeman bounce back from an early season setback? Can Billings Senior right the ship and be a contender for the Eastern AA title? Both Billings Senior and Bozeman have a lot to prove on Friday night.

Class A

  • Laurel and Miles City came in at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, in the most recent edition of the Treasure State Media Poll, which is conducted by Anthony Nachreiner out of Kalispell. Miles City will hit the road to face Laurel on Friday night. Both teams are looking to unseat Billings Central atop the Eastern A, but this game could potentially decide which team receives a first-round bye and a home game and which team has to play on the opening weekend of the Class A playoffs.
  • Whitefish and Columbia Falls sit at 1-1 early in the season. The Bulldogs travel to Columbia Falls this weekend for a big early season tilt. With the Western A bringing six teams to the playoffs, each conference game has added importance. These two teams could find themselves in the playoffs this season, but the loser of this game will have a much tougher path.

Class B

  • Red Lodge has come out of the gates with two big wins to open the season, but the Rams will face another challenge in Eastern B foe Colstrip on Friday night. Colstrip finished second in the conference last season but is facing significant roster turnover from last year. Red Lodge can make a statement early in the Eastern B that it’ll be a conference title contender.
  • Huntley Project had a big win last week after an early loss to Missoula Loyola, but the Red Devils will turn to conference play this weekend when they host rival Shepherd on Friday night. Huntley Project should again compete for the Eastern B title, but Shepherd, under first-year head coach Chris Dixon, is looking to make some noise in the conference, too.

8-Man

  • Seeley-Swan has a pair of wins this season and is allowing just 12 points per game while scoring 46. The Blackhawks have tremendous speed on the field and are looking to take the next step in the 8-Man West. Arlee, though, should test Seeley-Swan on Friday night in Seeley. Arlee fell to Charlo last week, but the Warriors finished second in the conference last season and made an appearance in the quarterfinals. If Seeley-Swan is to be a contender for the conference title, it will need to top Arlee.
  • Alberton-Superior looks like it could be the team to beat in the 8-Man West this season, but Thompson Falls, the newest member of the conference after dropping down from Class B, has been impressive in a pair of wins to open the year. Can Thompson Falls compete with the top teams in 8-Man football?
  • Fort Benton will travel to Centerville on Saturday afternoon for an 8-Man North battle. The Miners are looking to build off a playoff appearance in 2018 that saw them fall to Arlee in the first round. Fort Benton is trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since winning the North in 2010. Fort Benton and Centerville came in at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, in the Treasure State Media Poll.

6-Man

  • We’ve talked extensively about the 6-Man East already this season, but here’s an opportunity for the conference to flex its muscles again. Big Sandy, the No. 2 team in the Treasure State Media Poll, will travel east to face Westby-Grenora on Friday night. Westby-Grenora has a pair of eye-opening wins early, and Big Sandy has already beaten 2018 runner-up Jordan. Both teams made the playoffs in 2018 and are looking for deeper runs this season. This could potentially be the game of the weekend.
  • In another test for the 6-Man East, Roy-Winifred will travel to Richey-Lambert. Roy-Winifred finished second in the 6-Man South last season and is among the favorites for the conference title early in the season. The Outlaws were smacked by Westby-Grenora in the season opener and will likely be looking for a stronger performance against another strong 6-Man East team. Richey-Lambert narrowly avoided disaster at White Sulphur Springs last weekend and can pick up its second win of the year over a 2018 playoff team after throttling Geraldine-Highwood in the opener.
  • Another contender for the 6-Man South crown is Shields Valley. The Rebels have been dominant in their two wins this season, averaging 53 points and giving up just seven. Shields Valley will visit Hot Springs on Friday night. Hot Springs was the 2018 6-Man West champion, while Shields Valley finished fourth in the South. Both teams are looking to solidify their status as contenders in the 6-Man ranks this season and add impressive early-season victories.