Week one of the high school football season is in the books.
Now, we turn our attention to the first 406mtsports.com rankings of the season.
We're doing things a little differently this time around. During the past three high school football seasons, I put together rankings for the five Lee Montana properties — Missoulian, Billings Gazette, Montana Standard, Independent Record and Ravalli Republic — and we ran a separate short story that explained the movements as the season went along.
This season, I'm still handling the rankings but with more input from my colleagues, and we're doing them in more of a commentary style with a byline and face added to the decisions that are made. I have the final say on where teams are placed so if you're mad about where your school lands, you'll at least know who is making these boneheaded decisions throughout the year, and where to turn to with complaints.
The story itself will give a brief rundown of why I chose what I did, followed by the rankings themselves. As we've done in the past, we'll have a top five for Class AA and A followed by a top 10 for Class B, 8-Man and 6-Man.
I also participate in the Treasure State Media Poll, which is a statewide high school football poll headed by Anthony Nachreiner, the host of the Nach On Sports show, at KGEZ in Kalispell. Nachreiner has media members of all mediums — print, radio, TV, etc. — from across the state vote in his poll. You can see our preseason poll here.
The rankings you see here are the ones I submit to the Treasure State Media Poll each week.
Now that that's out of the way, shall we begin?
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At long last, football season is finally here with the college and high school ranks gracing us this weekend. And in Montana, there was no shortage of good games.
Billings West of Class AA and Wibaux of 6-Man are the two defending champions I have returning as my top-ranked teams to begin the season. West opened the year with a 41-6 victory over Missoula Big Sky while Wibaux topped Bridger 61-6.
West (1-0) lost a lot of talent from last year's state championship team but looked sharp in the opener. Following them is Butte (1-0), which topped Belgrade, with Helena Capital (1-0) cracking the top three after beating Billings Senior on the road. Butte and Capital return a strong core of players ready to make noise. Missoula Sentinel (1-0) and Bozeman (1-0) round out the top five.
Carson Rostad reminded everyone why he's the defending Gatorade Player of the Year with a six-touchdown performance against Butte Central to lead Hamilton (1-0) to victory. The Broncs, the two-time Class A runners-up, open as my top team. Defending champion Billings Central opens the season against a tough Lewistown squad on Friday. The Rams begin as my No. 2 team. The Golden Eagles (1-0) opened the season with a 55-0 win over Livingston. Laurel (1-0) and Frenchtown (1-0) open as my third and fourth teams while Polson (1-0) slides in at No. 5 after beating Columbia Falls 20-6 to open the season. The Wildcats (0-1) were one of my preseason top five teams entering the weekend. The Pirates opened the season with a new coach in Kaden Glinsmann.
Missoula Loyola opened the season with a 25-20 victory over Huntley Project at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman. With some of the key components the Rams bring back, they open as my top-ranked team. However, they will be put to the test early, as they hit the road on Friday to take on reigning Class B state champion Fairfield in a rematch of last year's state title game. The matchup serves as Fairfield's season-opener. The Eagles come in at No. 2 on my board.
Flint Creek coach Mike Cutler told me that Clark Fork was a team to keep an eye on in the 8-Man West and he was spot on. The two-time reigning 8-Man champions saw their 25-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Mountain Cats on Friday night, 74-42. Because of that, Clark Fork opens the season at No. 3 on my list. Fairview (1-0) begins as my top team after graduating just two seniors from last year's semifinal squad. Shelby (1-0), which fell to Flint Creek in the 8-Man semifinals last season, comes in at No. 2.
Behind Wibaux in the 6-Man ranks, Big Sandy (1-0) comes in at No. 2 after defeating last year's runner-up Jordan 44-28. Hot Springs (1-0), Richey-Lambert (1-0) and White Sulphur Springs (1-0) round out my top five.