MISSOULA – The Missoula Sentinel Spartans had big dreams, but suddenly the entire Class AA football season comes down to one night.
The Spartans have slipped to a 4-5 record after an overtime loss to Helena last Friday. That game followed a season-long trend. Sentinel has fallen in overtime three times and hasn’t lost by more than six points in any of its five losses.
The Spartans have proven they can play with anybody, but now they must finish the regular season with a win at Helena Capital on Friday night to have any shot at making the playoffs.
“Games haven’t gone the way we wanted,” said running back Elias DeWaters. “So we’ve just got to come out and win this week. And we’ve got to win going into the playoffs, so we can make the run we want to.”
“It hurts right now. It’s obviously not where we want to be, but it’s where we’re at,” said head coach Dane Oliver. “So we’ve got to manage it, handle the difficult circumstance, and find a way to get it done.”
The game between the Spartans and the 4-5 Bruins serves as an elimination for one. The loser likely will not make the Class AA playoffs.
The winner might still need some help. Five teams entered the final week tied at 4-5 (Sentinel, Capital, Kalispell Glacier, Butte and Great Falls). They’re all battling for the final three playoff spots. Glacier already won on Thursday night to clinch a spot. Butte travels to Missoula Big Sky on Friday, while Great Falls takes on crosstown rival Great Falls CMR.
Sentinel has lost to Great Falls and Butte. Capital has lost to Great Falls and Glacier. So tiebreakers could work against the Spartans and Bruins even if they win on Friday.