Can you believe it’s already Week 4 of the high school football season? The playoffs start Halloween weekend – just more than six weeks away.
We’re starting to see separation in the standings among teams that have played the past two or three weeks. Class AA may take some time to sort out, while the Eastern A seems to have a clear top two through just one week.
Barring cancellations or postponements due to air quality, Week 4 fires up Friday night, and there’s a huge Eastern AA battle in Billings. Great Falls High and Billings Senior were impressive winners in Week 1, but only one team will stand unbeaten by the end of the evening. Missoula Big Sky was impressive in its opener, but the Eagles hit the road in a critical Western AA game this week.
The Western A will lose at least one of its three unbeaten teams this weekend. Two powerhouse programs meet for an early leg up in the conference. Billings Central will be at home this weekend, but the Rams won’t be playing at Rocky Mountain College.
There’s a big-time battle up on Flathead Lake this weekend, as two of the Western B’s best square off in Bigfork. There does not appear to be many games that will be competitive, but watch out for Baker at home against Red Lodge. What team will the Rams be in Week 4?
Two of the 8-Man North’s best teams meet up Friday night in Belt, with the winner hopping in the driver’s seat for a top seed in the playoffs. 2019 runner-up Alberton-Superior could be in trouble if it doesn’t pick up a win this weekend, but the Mountain Cats visit a team that’s won two of the past three 8-Man titles.
The 6-Man slate looks like it could have several blowouts, but I’m interested in a pair of games. Richey-Lambert can maintain its unbeaten season out East with a win over a perennial power. Hot Springs can essentially lock up a top-two seed in the 6-Man West if it can win at home this weekend, but the Savage Heat might not waltz to victory.
Just two weekends remain in September and the playoffs are on the horizon. Here’s what I’ll have my eye on in Week 4.
- Levi Torgerson powered Great Falls High to a 48-12 win at Bozeman Gallatin in last week's season opener. The Bison are going to need more of Torgerson's magic on the road in Week 4 at Billings Senior. Senior stunned reigning champion Bozeman last Thursday behind Junior Bergen's monster night. The number of unbeaten teams in the Eastern AA will be cut in half, as Billings West and Great Falls CMR also play Friday night. A win for either side puts them in prime position to lock up a playoff spot.
- Missoula Big Sky steamrolled Missoula Hellgate, 48-20, last week and is riding high traveling to Helena High on Friday night. The Bengals are coming off a 14-9 win over Butte as both sides look for early 2-0 starts in conference play. Sentinel will likely occupy one of the conference's top two seeds, so just one spot is up for grabs for a home game in the opening round of the playoffs.
- Class A football fans are used to seeing Dillon and Hamilton deep in the postseason. Both teams look to be the class of the Western A once again, but only one will still be unbeaten by the end of Friday night. Hamilton has owned the Western A in recent years. Is it Dillon's turn to reign supreme over the conference, or will the Broncs keep running rampant?
- Billings Central opened its 2020 season with a dramatic win at Sidney in Week 3, but the Rams return home this weekend to host Hardin. Central won't be playing at Herb Klindt Field on the campus of Rocky Mountain College, though, due to concerns with COVID-19 voiced by the college. Instead, Central will use the facilities in Lockwood to host Hardin, as the Rams will break in another home away from home.
- Bigfork fell to Class A Lewistown in overtime at home last weekend, and Week 4 doesn't get any easier for the Vikings. Western B foe Florence will be in town for a game that could ultimately decide the conference's regular-season champion. Florence's only loss came in overtime to the top-ranked team in the Treasure State Media Poll, Manhattan. Who will be the front-runner come Saturday morning?
- Red Lodge has an extremely important game on Friday night at Baker. The Rams gave up 62 points in a loss to Columbus in Week 2 but settled in to Eastern B play with a win last week. Baker lost to Glasgow last week and will certainly have its hands full with Red Lodge, but that's a long trip out to Baker. If Red Lodge doesn't come ready, it could be in a battle.
- The 8-Man North has two separate sub-divisions, but it looks like the top two teams reside in the 'A' sub-conference. Fort Benton and Belt have established themselves as upper-echelon teams early in the year, but one will take a step above the other on Friday night. The Longhorns are on the road, but the 2019 semifinalists can be well on their way to a home playoff game with a win against the Huskies on Friday. Belt's looked every bit the part of a championship contender, too, though.
- Drummond-Philipsburg and Alberton-Superior are in for a big showdown in Week 4. The Titans are 2-0 and eyeing another deep run in the postseason after titles in 2017 and 2018, while the Mountain Cats finished runner-up in 2019 but were thumped by Thompson Falls in Week 2. Alberton-Superior's playoff life could be in jeopardy with a loss on the road, but a Drummond-Philipsburg loss would create a group of teams bunched together in the middle of the conference.
- Richey-Lambert can really put some separation between itself and the teams in the middle of the 6-Man East this weekend. The Fusion host Wibaux on Friday night, and a win would mean only Savage and Froid-Medicine Lake stand between Richey-Lambert and a conference title. Wibaux beat defending champion Jordan last week, but the Mustangs appear to be taking a step back after last year's title. I expect Richey-Lambert to handle its business against the Longhorns.
- Hot Springs hosts Noxon on Friday night with a chance to turn the 6-Man West into a two-team race with White Sulphur Springs. Noxon gets both the Savage Heat and the Hornets in back-to-back weeks, so it's a make-or-break stretch for the Red Devils. Hot Springs can move one step closer to a home playoff game with a victory this weekend.