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6-Man football playoffs preview: Unbeatens Grass Range-Winnett, Wibaux among championship contenders

Posted at 12:12 AM, Oct 26, 2018
Westby-Grenora defeated Bridger for the 2017 6-Man state championship. (MTN Sports photo)

The 6-Man football playoffs start Friday when Bridger and Richey-Lambert kick off in a fun first-round matchup. The Scouts, who were the 2017 runner-up, and Fusion can both light up the scoreboard, so fans can likely expect a high-scoring affair on Friday night.

The rest of the first round is Saturday with seven games. Below is an overview of the 6-Man state playoffs, highlighting some players to watch and the MontanaSports.com co-favorites to win the state championship.

First-round matchups

Denton-Geyser-Stanford (5-4) at Hot Springs (7-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Jordan (7-2) at Roy-Winifred (8-1), 1 p.m. Saturday (at Winifred)
Noxon (5-3) at Geraldine-Highwood (8-1), 1 p.m. Saturday (at Highwood)
Bridger (8-2) at Richey-Lambert (7-2), 7 p.m. Friday (at Lambert)
Shields Valley (6-4) at Wibaux (8-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
White Sulphur Springs (7-1) at Big Sandy (6-2), 1 p.m. Saturday
Westby-Grenora (6-3) at Grass Range-Winnett (10-0), 1 p.m. Saturday (at Grass Range)
Sunburst (6-3) at West Yellowstone (7-1), 1 p.m. Saturday

Defending champion: Westby-Grenora

Since creating the Westby-Grenora co-op in 2012, the MonDak Thunder have established themselves as one of the top 6-Man programs in Montana. That peaked last fall as the Thunder, led by record-setting quarterback Jeremiah Paine, defeated Bridger, 68-37, for the first state championship in co-op history.

Best first-round game: Westby-Grenora at Grass Range-Winnett

With the graduation of Paine and Brian Field, who both signed to play college football after finishing their 6-Man careers, expectations were somewhat tempered for Westby-Grenora entering the season. But then the Thunder defeated the Wyoming 6-Man state champion, Kaycee, in the season opener and rallied for a hard-fought win at Big Sandy, the second seed out of the always-competitive North. League losses to Wibaux, Richey-Lambert and Jordan, though, ultimately dropped Westby-Grenora to the No. 4 seed out of the East, setting up a first-round game at Grass Range-Winnett.

The Rangers have the best record in the state at 10-0, which includes two forfeit wins, and they boast one of the classification’s best defenses. GRW has allowed only 54 points all season and has shut out four opponents. The Rangers topped previously unbeaten Roy-Winifred 47-30 in the regular-season finale to win the first conference championship in co-op history. Toston Browning, Ryan Drollinger, Caleb Hess, Jacob Jessen, Charlie Keith, Caden McCarthy and Zane Stahl lead a deep and talented GRW team.

MontanaSports.com co-favorites: Geraldine-Highwood and Wibaux

Wibaux, which is in just its second season playing 6-Man football, has long been considered one of the favorites for this season. The Longhorns burst onto the 6-Man scene last fall to place second in the East. They beat Geraldine-Highwood to advance to the 2017 quarterfinal round, where they lost to White Sulphur Springs. Wibaux has been dominant this season and has an impressive body of work that includes wins over Geraldine-Highwood, Jordan, Richey-Lambert and Westby-Grenora.

Geraldine-Highwood, meanwhile, has won eight consecutive games after starting the season with a 40-38 loss at Wibaux — a game in which the Rivals led in the second half. This could potentially be the last year of the co-op for legendary coach Rod Tweet, who has won six 6-Man state championships — the first four with Geraldine and the last two with this co-op in 2013 and 2014.

Names to know: Wibaux’s Tel Lunde is among the best 6-Man players in the state, but he also has some talented teammates in guys like Cobe Begger and Cade Dschaak. Richey-Lambert’s duo of Gabe Gonsioroski and Seth Prevost helped lead a high-scoring offense for the Fusion. Geraldine-Highwood’s Liam Laws, Big Sandy’s Kade Strutz and Hot Springs’ Tyler Knudsen and Tyler Carr are among the others to watch.