DILLON — The newly crowned Frontier Conference champion Montana Western football team learned its playoff fate on Sunday afternoon.
The Bulldogs — who on Saturday earned their first outright conference title for the first time since 1995 — earned the No. 8 overall postseason seed and will host a second-round game on Nov. 25.
Two other Frontier Conference teams are also playoff bound: College of Idaho is the No. 11 seed and will receive a first-round bye. And Montana Tech, coming off a decisive 23-17 win against No. 16 Carroll College on Saturday at Nelson Stadium, is set to host Dickinson State in the first round. The Orediggers concluded the regular season on a three-game win streak and return to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
The Bulldogs are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2021, when Western snagged an at-large bid as the 16th seed.
That team was just thrilled to be in the postseason. This 2023 squad already knew it had locked up an automatic bid and watched the NAIA Football Championship Selection Show with a bit more of a business-like mentality.
"When we woke up this morning we knew we were going to be in," said redshirt senior defensive lineman Tanner Harrell. "So it's just back to work and improve and win the bye week."
Western (9-1 overall, 7-1 in the Frontier Conference) rolled past Eastern Oregon 36-12 on Saturday to sew up at least a share of the Frontier Conference championship. The Bulldogs needed Southern Oregon to pull out an upset over No. 5 College of Idaho if they wanted to be in sole possession of the title and grab the league's auto bid.
The Red Raiders obliged, earning a 31-16 victory over the Yotes to hand Western the outright title — and a guaranteed spot in the postseason — two seasons after the Bulldogs settled for a three-way tie.
"This is what you play for, these opportunities," said Western head coach Ryan Nourse. "To now go and play other teams in the nation that are really good football teams as well and see how you stack up."
Western opened league play with a 37-35 road loss on Sept. 9 to The College of Idaho in a game that ended on a walk-off 25-yard pass from Andy Peters that was batted into the hands of Jon Schofield.
"We felt like we could have won that game, but we left some stuff on the field," said redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Palandri. "But we just put our heads down and started working."
The Bulldogs will look to keep that mentality as they head into their bye week and then get set to play another game at Vigilante Stadium which is set to be replaced by a new on-campus turf field next season.