As the weather begins to turn, the intensity on the high school football fields ratchets up.
Week 5 had a playoff atmosphere across the state with many teams fighting for conference supremacy. The favorites in the MontanaSports.com polls held true to form throughout the weekend, but a surprise came out of Class AA when Missoula Hellgate snapped a 57-game losing streak.
- For the first time in nearly six years, the Missoula Hellgate Knights won a varsity football game. Hellgate withstood a late rally by Great Falls CMR to win 28-20, its first win since Oct. 5, 2012. Hellgate had lost 47 consecutive games, 57 counting its forfeited 2016 season, before breaking through at home.
- No. 1 Bozeman went on the road on a short week and stunned defending champion Billings Senior in the final seconds. Bozeman remains the only undefeated team in Class AA and is in line for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is Bozeman’s second victory in the final minute this season. The Hawks knocked off Billings West in similar fashion back in Week 2.
- Belgrade is no longer unbeaten. Laurel was dominant against Belgrade last Friday night, building a 22-0 lead in the first half on its way to a 29-14 victory. The win gives the Locomotives victories over Belgrade and Lewistown, both 4-1, and puts them in position for a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs.
- No. 4 Frenchtown ran its perfect record to 5-0 with a 31-8 victory over Corvallis. Broncs sophomore running back Jace Klucewich had four total touchdowns in the victory. Frenchtown has entered the Southwestern A conference title conversation with Hamilton and Dillon. The No. 2 seed from the Southwestern A will not receive a first-round bye, so Frenchtown still has plenty of work ahead.
- The Southwestern A appears to have three teams that are contenders for the Class A state title. No. 5 Dillon joined No. 4 Frenchtown and No. 2 Hamilton at 1-0 in conference play with a 41-26 win at Butte Central. The loss puts Butte Central on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, while Dillon is still in the running for a first-round bye and the Southwestern A title.
- After 23 consecutive wins, Eureka has lost back-to-back games. The Lions were blasted by Bigfork in Week 4, and it was much of the same in Week 5 at Missoula Loyola, losing 56-12. The Rams moved up to No. 4 in the MontanaSports.com polls, as their only loss of the season is to No. 2 Fairfield. Loyola still has a shot at the Western B title if it can knock off No. 1 Bigfork.
- No. 5 Big Timber essentially has a two-game lead in the Southern B after its lashing of Townsend on the road. The Herders handed second-place Manhattan (2-3, 2-1) its only conference loss of the year in Week 4. Big Timber will be a heavy favorite in the remainder of its games and should be able to grab the South’s No. 1 seed.
- The battle for the Eastern B’s No. 2 seed may have been decided in Week 5. After suffering its first loss last week against Roundup, Colstrip rebounded with a huge road victory over Huntley Project, 41-26. The Colts picked up a win when they needed it most, positioning themselves for a home playoff game.
- Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap looks like it will again have a title contender. The Titans went on the road and thoroughly dominated previously unbeaten Park City 52-14. The Titans won the 8-Man South last season and have their sights set on back-to-back conference titles. However, conference foe Joliet is undefeated, too, setting up a showdown in Joliet Friday night that will likely decide the 8-Man South champion.
- Centerville ran its record to a perfect 5-0 after narrowly escaping in Choteau. The Miners rallied from an early 18-6 deficit to hand the Bulldogs their second consecutive loss. Centerville and Shelby are the only remaining unbeaten teams in the 8-Man North “B” sub-division. Coaches pegged Centerville as a breakout team during the preseason, and the Miners certainly look to be capable of a deep playoff run.
- No. 2 Fairview affirmed what most had thought — the 8-Man East runs through the Warriors. Fairview decimated visiting Scobey 46-14 and already own a victory over circle. All that’s standing between Fairview and its first conference title since 2015 is a showdown with unbeaten Culbertson on Friday night. Fairview has made the quarterfinals of the 8-Man playoffs in four consecutive seasons.
- No. 2 Geraldine-Highwood continues to build its strong resume. The Rivals defeated No. 3 and previously unbeaten Richey-Lambert at home last Saturday, 59-40. The Rivals now have wins over Richey-Lambert and Big Sandy, as well as a two-point loss in the season opener at No. 1 Wibaux. in the 6-Man playoffs, the quarterfinal matchup pits the North’s No. 1 seed against the East’s No. 2 seed, should all hold to form, meaning that a rematch is within the realm of possibility.
- Teams from the 6-Man West continue to beat up on themselves. After West Yellowstone handed White Sulphur Springs its first loss of the season, the Wolverines, Hornets, Hot Springs and Valley Christian all have one conference loss. There will likely be some sort of three-way tie that will determine the conference champion by the conference’s tiebreaker method at season’s end.