BOZEMAN – While the overall game of the week for Sept. 17-18 fittingly took place in Missoula’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium between Class B powers Florence-Carlton (No. 1) and Townsend (No. 3), the class of the week was 8-Man with its three top-10 showdowns.
And here’s what we learned from all four games: There are no clear-cut favorites in either class.
Florence-Carlton and Townsend went to the wire, the Falcons escaping with a 20-14 victory to hold their top Class B spot in the weekly 406mtsports.com high school football rankings. It’s standard form to drop any team that loses, but the Bulldogs did nothing in defeat to suggest a slip was merited and thus remain No. 3 after what could be a sneak preview of the state-title game in November.
Ditto for 8-Man, where No. 2 Fort Benton held off No. 8 Belt 27-20, No. 6 Culbertson (4-0) — the surprise team of the season in all of Montana high school football — slipped past No. 4 Scobey 26-22 and No. 5 Thompson Falls (4-0) pummeled No. 7 Alberton-Superior 49-0. The result: Fort Benton (3-0) holds steady behind defending champion Drummond-Philipsburg (3-0), Thompson Falls and Culbertson move up a notch, and Scobey (3-1) dips only to No. 6. Alberton-Superior drops out to make room for red-hot Chinook (4-0) in the 10th spot.
Class AA proved decisively that it is very much a class of haves and the have-nots. Top-ranked Missoula Sentinel toppled No. 3 Kalispell Glacier 29-21 on a Friday night where the other six games were decided by 57, 49, 42, 42, 41 and 31 points; the only other semi-interesting Class AA game was Billings Senior’s 35-21 win over Bozeman Gallatin on Thursday night.
Here’s to a more competitive Friday night this week.
Upcoming Class AA game of the week. No. 1 Missoula Sentinel (3-0) takes its perfect record to No. 5 Helena (3-1), where Bengals QB Kaden Huot will try to match his blowout performance at Missoula Hellgate in which his seven TDs broke an 86-year-old school record.
As for Class A, the top five teams all won convincingly, with Hamilton (4-0) solidifying No. 1 by trouncing Butte Central 49-14 and No. 2 Laurel (3-0) fending off the toughest challenge by downing previously unbeaten Lewistown 28-21 on the road.
Upcoming Class A game of the week: High-flying No. 5 Polson (4-0) and its aerial circus travels to unranked Libby (2-2), where QB Jarrett Wilson will try to pad his already absurd passing statistics. In three counting games, Wilson is 88-for-118 passing for 1,182 yards and 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions; he also tossed four TD passes in a 49-21 exhibition victory over the Kalispell Glacier junior varsity, a game scheduled after Butte Central forfeited the season opener to the Pirates.
In Class B, Columbus (3-0) leapfrogs No. 3 Townsend (2-1) and No. 4 Fairfield (3-0) into the second spot after Fairfield struggled to win at winless Whitehall. The overall competitiveness of the class is reflected in five top-10 teams having one loss, including newcomer Missoula Loyola (3-1) at No. 10.
Upcoming Class B game of the week: Look for a cat fight when the No. 2 Columbus Cougars play host to the No. 8 Jefferson Panthers (2-1), who were nipped 20-19 by No. 5 Bigfork (4-0) last week. Honorable mention: Townsend attempts to right the ship by hosting No. 9 Three Forks (3-1) in a dogfight and Loyola travels to No. 6 Eureka (3-1).
On the heels of its big week, Drummond-Philipsburg (3-0) remains No. 1 in 8-Man after a wild 76-62 win over St. Ignatius. The Titans had to overcome an 18-point first-quarter deficit and an eight-touchdown performance by the Bulldogs’ Kellen McClure.
Upcoming 8-Man game of the week: It's a night to be hawk-ish as No. 4 Thompson Falls puts its gaudy mark on the line at a 3-0 Seeley-Swan squad that has been lurking on the fringes and waiting to prove its mettle against a top-tier opponent. The Blackhawks, who host the Blue Hawks at 7 p.m. Friday, have outscored their three opponents 156-16, but those foes’ combined record is 0-8.
Keep an eye on: Plentywood (3-1), which has lost only to No. 6 Scobey by a 28-15 count.
If there’s one standout favorite, it might be in 6-Man, where defending state champion and No. 1 Froid-Lake (4-0) dusted off No. 8 Shields Valley 36-14 and has dominated a schedule in which two of its first four opponents are ranked.
At this point, the only threat might be if No. 8 Denton-Geyser-Stanford/Grass Range-Winnett were to co-op with the Bobcats and become DGS-GRW-MSU.
Potent teams in the shadows, though, include No. 2 and defending runner-up White Sulphur Springs (2-0) and No. 3 Hot Springs (3-0), both of which should cruise to decisive victories this weekend against West Yellowstone and Valley Christian.
Upcoming 6-Man game of the week: No. 4 Broadview-Lavina (3-0), a recent class heavyweight, heads south to face No. 5 Bridger (4-0), a perennial power, at 7 p.m. Friday.
The rankings (+/- = movement upward or downward):
1. Missoula Sentinel (3-0)
2. Billings West (3-1)
3. Butte (3-1) (-1)
4. Kalispell Glacier (3-1) (-1)
5. Helena (3-1)
1. Hamilton (4-0)
2. Laurel (3-0)
3. Billings Central (3-0)
4. Whitefish (4-0)
5. Polson (4-0)
1. Florence-Carlton (3-0)
2. Columbus (3-0) (+2)
3. Townsend (2-1)
4. Fairfield (3-0) (-2)
5. Bigfork (3-0)
6. Eureka (3-1)
7. Malta (3-0)
8. Jefferson (2-1)
9. Three Forks (3-1) (+1)
10. Missoula Loyola (3-1) (+1)
1. Drummond-Philipsburg (3-0)
2. Fort Benton (3-0)
3. Joliet (3-0)
4. Thompson Falls (4-0) (+1)
5. Culbertson (4-0) (+1)
6. Scobey (3-1) (-2)
7. Simms (4-0) (+3)
8. Belt (3-1)
9. Sheridan (3-0)