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Thompson Falls, West Yellowstone, Harlowton among those to change football classifications

Posted: 9:59 PM, Nov 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-19 23:59:06-05

HELENA — High school football teams continue to shuffle classifications.

The Montana High School Association made final decisions on 10 teams within the 8-Man and 6-Man classifications at its executive board meeting on Monday.

Arlee and Great Falls Central, which will participate in Class B in all sports except football beginning in the 2019 school year, were approved to remain playing 8-Man football. Arlee plays in the 8-Man West and Great Falls Central plays in the 8-Man North. The Mustangs lost to Drummond-Philipsburg in last weekend’s 8-Man state championship game at historic Naranche Stadium in Butte.

Thompson Falls will join Arlee in the West after successfully petitioning to move from Class B 11-man football to 8-Man football. The Blue Hawks will remain in Class B for other sports. The MHSA waived the enrollment requirement of 140 students or fewer to petition to play 8-Man because of extenuating circumstances. Approximately 25 percent of students enrolled at Thompson Falls are ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities. Thompson Falls’ two-year average enrollment is 164.4 students.

Ekalaka and West Yellowstone will be moving up from 6-Man football. Ekalaka, which had a fall 2018 enrollment of 37 students, requested to move up to 8-Man football. West Yellowstone, meanwhile, was denied its petition to stay at the 6-Man level due to enrollment projections of more than 80 students in each of the next two years.

To play 6-Man football, schools must have an enrollment of fewer than 70 students.

While 6-Man lost Ekalaka and West Yellowstone, it kept Denton-Geyser-Stanford, which faces declining enrollments and an uncertain future, and added Box Elder, Frazer, Harlowton-Ryegate and Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap.

Box Elder successfully petitioned to move back down to 6-Man football after spending the past two seasons playing at the 8-Man level. Frazer will be joining the classification after the dissolution of the Bearcubs’ co-op with Wolf Point and Lustre Christian.

Harlowton-Ryegate and Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap will move from 8-Man to 6-Man after projecting declining enrollments and participation numbers. All moves are evaluated after each year, but the MHSA board specifically mentioned that Harlowton-Ryegate’s move will be revisited after the 2019 season.

The updated 8-Man divisions for the 2019 football season are as follows:

East (11) — Broadus, Circle, Culbertson, Ekalaka, Fairview, Forsyth, Lame Deer, Lodge Grass, Plentywood, St. Labre, Scobey.

South (7) — Absarokee, Ennis, Joliet, Lone Peak, Park City, Twin Bridges, West Yellowstone.

North (12) — Belt, Cascade, Centerville, Chester-Joplin-Inverness, Chinook, Choteau, Fort Benton, Great Falls Central, Hays-Lodgepole, Rocky Boy, Shelby, Simms.

West (11) — Alberton-Superior, Arlee, Charlo, Darby, Drummond-Philipsburg, Plains, St. Ignatius, Seeley-Swan, Thompson Falls, Troy, Victor.

The updated 6-Man divisions for the 2019 football season are as follows:

East (8) — Bainville, Frazer, Froid-Medicine Lake, Jordan, Richey-Lambert, Savage, Westby-Grenora, Wibaux.

South (11) — Bridger, Broadview-Lavina, Custer-Hysham, Fromberg, Grass Range-Winnett, Harlowton-Ryegate, Northern Cheyenne, Plenty Coups, Reed Point-Rapelje, Roy-Winifred, Shields Valley.

North (10*) — Big Sandy, Box Elder, Denton-Geyser-Stanford, Geraldine-Highwood*, Heart Butte, Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap, North Star, Power-Dutton-Brady, Sunburst, Valier.

*The future of the co-op between Geraldine and Highwood is in question and could be dissolved. The MHSA executive board does not yet know the schools’ intentions.

West (8) — Gardiner, Hot Springs, Lima, Lincoln, Noxon, Sheridan, Valley Christian, White Sulphur Springs.

The MHSA executive board placed teams in the above 8-Man and 6-Man divisions, but the respective divisions will create their schedules and determine playoff seeding scenarios. The divisions, schedules and playoff seeding scenarios will be finalized at the January and/or April meetings.

The MHSA executive board discussed and voted on a number of items at Monday’s meeting, which lasted more than 10 hours. MontanaSports.com had the only media representation at the meeting and will have more on the discussions and votes on Tuesday.