As Week 7 of the high school football season approaches, teams are gearing up for the homestretch of the season.
Some teams have already clinched playoff berths and are positioning for seeding. Others, however, must win this weekend to keep their playoff hopes alive. Conference championship races are also heating up for teams such as Frenchtown, Lewistown, Geraldine-Highwood and Denton-Geyser-Stanford.
- No. 1 Bozeman is set to host No. 3 Helena High on Friday night. The Hawks will be without running back and Montana State University commit Joe Olson, who suffered an injury in last week’s game. Bozeman remains the only unbeaten team in Class AA this season. With a win, Bozeman can take another step toward locking up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bengals, too, can keep home-field advantage alive with a win.
- Missoula Sentinel is currently tied with Helena Capital for the No. 7 spot in Class AA this season. The Spartans will be battling to keep their playoff hopes alive against Missoula Hellgate. If Hellgate were to win, it would leapfrog Sentinel in the standings and have a legitimate chance at a playoff berth.
- Two of Class A’s best will meet Friday night when Dillon travels to Frenchtown. Both teams are still unbeaten in the Southwestern A, but so is top-ranked Hamilton. Only one team out of the Southwestern A gets a first-round bye and avoids the wild card games in the state playoffs. The winner of this game keeps conference championship aspirations alive, as well as the opportunity for a bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
- After a season-opening loss to Laurel, Lewistown has ripped off five consecutive victories. The Eagles travel to Belgrade Friday night to take on the 4-2 Panthers. Lewistown still has hopes of an Eastern A championship if it can run the table. The Eagles also have a chance for a first-round bye in the playoffs if they continue to win.
- No. 1 Bigfork hits the road for a non-conference game against Townsend. This is a chance for the Bulldogs to reassert themselves as a team to contend with in Class B. Bigfork has dominated opponents this season and will look to keep its unbeaten record intact. The No. 1 seed from the Western B matches up with the No. 4 seed from the Southern B, so this could be a preview of a first-round playoff matchup.
- Manhattan and Columbus are two of the teams vying for a playoff spot out of the Southern B. Manhattan sits second currently, while Columbus sits one game back in fifth. With a win, Columbus jumps into the playoff picture and puts Manhattan on the ropes. If Manhattan can pick up a win, the Tigers dramatically increase their odds at a home playoff game. If the Cougars lose, they would need to win out and get help to make the playoffs.
- Defending state champion Eureka suddenly finds itself in fourth place in the Western B. The Lions host third-place Florence Friday night. While Eureka and Florence are out of the picture in terms of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the winner of this game likely avoids traveling to the No. 1 seed out of the Southern B, likely unbeaten Big Timber, in the first round of the playoffs.
- The 8-Man South takes only three teams to the playoffs, so Friday night’s battle between Park City and Twin Bridges is essentially an elimination game. The Panthers and Falcons sit fourth and fifth in the conference, respectively. Park City would need to win out and have Ennis lose once to make the playoffs, while Twin Bridges would need to win out to make the playoffs.
- Three teams in the 8-Man West sit tied at 4-2, but there’s only room for two in the playoffs. Arlee and St. Ignatius meet this weekend with both teams needing wins. While it doesn’t serve as an elimination game, the loser of this game will have a difficult time finding its way into the playoffs.
- Scobey was a playoff team out of the 8-Man East last season, but the Spartans will need to win in Forsyth this weekend to keep their playoff hopes alive. Forsyth had a runner-up finish in 8-Man last season, but the Dogies’ playoff hopes are dwindling. Forsyth finishes the year with Fairview and Culbertson, so this game becomes even more important.
- No. 2 Geraldine-Highwood has looked like the top team in the 6-Man North all season, knocking off teams such as Richey-Lambert and Big Sandy. The Rivals get another test this weekend when they host Sunburst. The Refiners can jump into the conference title race with a win, but Geraldine-Highwood has its sights set on home-field advantage throughout the 6-Man playoffs.
- Another big showdown in the 6-Man North features Big Sandy on the road at Denton-Geyser-Stanford. DGS lost its season-opening game to No. 4 Grass Range-Winnett but has reeled off five consecutive victories since. These two teams are fighting for the 6-Man North’s No. 2 seed and home field in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs.
- The 6-Man West has beaten up on itself all season long, and it looks like that trend will continue when White Sulphur Springs hosts Valley Christian. Both teams are still alive for the 6-Man West conference title. This has more than just conference championship implications, though. With the top teams in the conference continuing to play each other over the season’s final weeks, every game has increased importance.
- Defending state champion Westby-Grenora will look to hold on to the 6-Man East’s No. 3 seed when it travels to Jordan this weekend. Jordan can jump over the Thunder in the conference standings with a win, but Westby-Grenora still has a chance at the conference’s second seed in the playoffs if it can continue to win.