The Class B football playoffs are loaded with perennial contenders — teams like Fairfield, Huntley Project, Malta, Bigfork, Missoula Loyola and two-time defending state champion Eureka are included in the bracket. But some relative newcomers — teams like Big Timber, Roundup and Colstrip — are also in position to make waves this postseason.
All eight first-round games kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday, making for a thrilling day of action in the Class B playoffs. A brief overview, including the MontanaSports.com favorite and some players to watch this postseason, is below.
Florence (6-3) at Big Timber (7-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Glasgow (5-3) at Colstrip (8-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Three Forks (4-4) at Missoula Loyola (8-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Huntley Project (5-3) at Malta (5-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
Cut Bank (4-4) at Roundup (8-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
Townsend (5-3) at Bigfork (7-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
Red Lodge (2-6) at Fairfield (8-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
Eureka (6-2) at Manhattan (5-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
Defending champion: Eureka
Eureka seemingly came out of nowhere to win the 2016 state championship on a last-second Hail Mary at Missoula Loyola. The Lions left little doubt in 2017, though, running roughshod over opponents on their way to an undefeated season, which they capped with a dominant 47-7 win over Shelby in the Class B state championship.
Best first-round game: Eureka at Manhattan
Eureka saw its winning streak, which started early in the 2016 season, snapped by Bigfork this year. The Lions then lost to Missoula Loyola before finishing the season with three consecutive wins to clinch the No. 3 seed out of the West. They’ll now hit the road to open the playoffs, traveling to a Manhattan team that has seemingly found its rhythm in the second half of the season. The Tigers, who were eliminated by Eureka in last year’s playoffs, started the 2018 season off with three consecutive losses — to Bigfork, Huntley Project and Big Timber — but they finished the season winning five straight to get the No. 2 seed out of the South. Michael Nehring, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback/linebacker, is a big-time player for Manhattan.
MontanaSports.com favorite: Fairfield
The Class B season previews annually peg Fairfield as one of the teams to watch. This year was no different as the Eagles entered the 2018 campaign as the favorite, and they’ve so far lived up to the billing, winning every game by at least 32 points. Their closest contest came at Missoula Loyola — a 38-6 Fairfield win. Ryder Meyer, a University of Montana commit, Dawson Allen, Libien Becker and Keeley Bake give coach Les Meyer as good of foursome as there is in Class B. Fairfield is making its 15th consecutive trip to the playoffs and has advanced to at least the semifinal round each of the past three seasons, defeating Huntley Project for the 2015 state championship.
Names to know: Brody Grebe put up some ridiculous stats — 2,265 all-purpose yards and 34 total touchdowns — in helping Roundup to its first conference championship since 1997. The Panthers join Fairfield as the only undefeated teams in the Class B playoffs. Missoula Loyola’s Ryan Tirrell has committed to play at the University of Montana, and Bigfork’s Randy Stultz, Colstrip’s Nakoda Siegel, Eureka’s Hank Dunn and Big Timber’s Blake Finn and Casey Gunlikson are others that will likely make noise in these playoffs.