Ronan (5-4) at Dillon (6-2), 4:30 p.m.
At stake: The winner travels to top-ranked Billings Central, the Eastern A champ, for a quarterfinal matchup next week.
Dillon, the Southwestern A runner-up, begins its quest for a fifth football championship with a game against Ronan, the No. 3 seed from the Northwestern A.
The Beavers, and veteran head coach Terry Thomas, are making their fifth consecutive postseason appearance, while the Chiefs are in the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Dillon made the title game every year from 2005-07, winning back-to-back titles in '05 and '06.
The Beavers come into the game on a two-game winning streak. Their only losses so far this season are to second-ranked Frenchtown (on Oct. 9) and No. 3 Laurel (on Sept. 11). Dillon averages nearly 350 yards per game on offense, including 210 through the air.
People are also reading…
Sophomore J.T. Linder has split time with senior Pete Walde at quarterback, but Linder has 14 touchdown passes to Walde's four. Their main targets are senior receivers MacKenzie McGrath and Toby Shepherd, who've combined for 60 catches, more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.
On defense, Beavers' junior linebacker Monte Folsom tackles everything he can get his 6-foot-3, 250-pound frame wrapped around. Folsom has a team-high 71 stops.
Ronan lost to NWA champ Polson, 26-7, last week to conclude the regular season. The Chiefs started out 1-2, but went on a midseason tear, winning four of their next five games, to make the playoffs for the first time in head coach Jim Benn's two seasons.
Ronan is much more run-oriented than its opponents. Three weeks ago against Libby, the Chiefs handed off 87 times in a 70-36 win, which would be a National High School Federation record for handoffs if Ronan chooses to report it.
Senior running back Xavier Morigeau has rushed the ball 230 times this season for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Chiefs' top passer has attempted just 32 forward passes. Their defense is spearheaded by two-way standout Micky Cheff, who has five sacks among his team-leading 40 tackles.
The last time these two teams met, Dillon won 35-0 in Ronan in 2001.
Points scored: 272 (30.2 ppg)
Points allowed: 236 (26.2 ppg)
Top rushers: Xavier Morigeau 230-1,380 yards (6.0 avg.), 12 TDs; Lucus Black 65-604 (9.3), 5 TDs; Cory Hardy 59-362 (6.1), 4 TDs.
Top passers: Jackson Jore 22-32-2 255 yards, 3 TDs; Robbie Gauthier 17-28-2 220 yards, 1 TD.
Top receivers: Westyn Kiehn 8-122 (15.3), 3 TDs; Morigeau 8-103 (12.9), 1 TD; Hardy 5-113 (22.6).
Top defenders: Micky Cheff 40.5 tackles, 5 sacks; Dilan Starkle 36 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fum rec.; Kiehn 32 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 fum rec.; Matt Detwiler 27 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 sacks; Gauthier 22.5 tackles, 5 INTs.
Points scored: 264 (33.0 ppg)
Points allowed: 130 (16.3 ppg)
Top rushers: Sam Parke 65-530 yards (8.2 avg.), 7 TDs; Evan Helle 47-231 (4.9), 1 TD; JT Linder 82-120 (1.5), 2 TDs.
Top passer: Linder 94-169-10 1,308 yards, 14 TDs.
Top receivers: MacKenzie McGrath 29-537 (18.5), 7 TDs; Toby Shepherd 31-502 (16.2), 2 TDs; Garrett Banning 11-168 (15.3), 2 TDs; Hunter Johnson 10-165 (16.5), 3 TDs.
Top defenders: Monte Folsom 71 tackles, 2 INTs; Zeke Koslosky 70 tackles, 1 INT; Torrey Vezina 39 tackles, 4 fum rec., 1 INT; Trevor Rehm 33 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fum rec.; McGrath 27 tackles, 4 INTs.
- Nick Lockridge, Missoulian
Hamilton (5-3) at Columbia Falls (6-3), 1 p.m.
At stake: The winner travels to fifth-ranked Butte Central, the Central A champ, for a quarterfinal matchup next week.
Columbia Falls, the Northwestern A runner-up, is looking to improve on its recent postseason success, while Hamilton looks to add to an already successful history against the Wildcats.
Columbia Falls, which is under the direction of first-year head coach Bill Coleman, advanced to the Class A playoffs for a third straight season. Two years ago the Wildcats lost to Hamilton in the first round, which was the Broncs' last postseason victory. Last year, though, Columbia Falls won its first playoff game in more than two decades, before losing to eventual state runner-up Billings Central in the quarterfinals.
The Wildcats won two straight games to close out the regular season. Their last loss was to No. 5 Polson, which earned the Northwestern A's first-round bye. Hamilton ended the regular season with a 30-8 loss at Dillon. Both the Broncs and Wildcats lost only to playoff-bound teams this season.
Of Hamilton's five wins this fall one was a 32-12 victory at Columbia Falls in the second week of the season. Another one was a 2-0 forfeit win over Anaconda, which had an outbreak of the flu at its school.
The Broncs are led by the rushing of Cody Noffsinger and Paul Donaldson, who had three TDs against the Cats earlier this fall. C. Falls is led by senior QB Mitchell Wassam, who has 16 touchdown tosses this season.
Points scored: 156 (19.5 ppg)
Points allowed: 137 (17.1 ppg)
Top rushers: Cody Noffsinger 161-800 yards (5.0 avg.), 6 TDs; Paul Donaldson 103-626 (6.1), 9 TDs; Josh Brenneman 53-176 (3.3), 3 TDs.
Top passer: Brenneman 59-132-8 616 yards, 4 TDs.
Top receivers: Eddie Anzo 19-175 (9.2), 1 TD; Tyler Pigman 10-120 (12.0); Donaldson 9-92 (10.2), 1 TD; Josh Peterson 8-108 (13.5), 1 TD.
Top defenders: Brenneman 24.5 tackles, 5 INTs, 3 fum rec.; Cody Sellers 23 tackles, 2 sacks; Wes Sherman 22 tackles, 2.5 sacks; Noffsinger 20.5 tackles, 3 fum rec.; Pigman 20.5 tackles, 3.5 sacks.
Columbia Falls (6-3)
Points scored: 226 (25.1 ppg)
Points allowed: 167 (18.6 ppg)
Top rushers: John Woody 134-727 yards (5.4 avg.), 2 TDs; Nate Thompson 88-437 (4.9), 1 TD; Chris King 32-118 (3.7), 2 TDs.
Top passer: Mitchell Wassam 84-176-8 872 yards, 16 TDs.
Top receivers: Kaleb Johnson 30-646 (21.5), 12 TDs; Thompson 22-241 (11.0).
Top defenders: Kyle Howell 4 INTs; Wassam 2 INTS.
- Nick Lockridge, Missoulian
No. 7 Plains-Hot Springs (7-1) at No. 6 Loyola Sacred Heart (7-1), 1 p.m.
At stake: The winner takes on the winner between Colstrip and fourth-ranked Townsend in next week's quarterfinals.
Plains-Hot Springs is making its first appearance in the postseason since it became a co-op in 2001.
The Savage Horsemen, who tied for the District 7-B championship with Eureka and Bigfork, have won five straight since falling 35-29 in overtime to Bigfork in their conference opener on Sept. 18. That was the only time Plains-Hot Springs allowed an opponent to score more than 19 points in a game.
Senior quarterback Reiley Winebrenner drives the ground-based Plains-Hot Springs offense, which averages 376.9 yards per game.
Winebrenner is also a leader on a defense that yields just 13.5 points per game and has totaled 13 interceptions.
The Rams, who reached the state semifinals last year and the title game in 2006, haven't missed the postseason since 2005.
Loyola has won four straight, but aside from a 42-0 blowout of Darby, none of those wins has been lopsided. The Rams won at Deer Lodge 28-21 and edged Florence 14-7 at home before closing the regular season with a 13-0 defeat of Superior.
On offense, a two-back running attack is led by junior Shiloh Kerr, who averages 106 yards a game. Not far behind is senior running back Kevin Berland, who averages 93 yards a contest.
Senior quarterback Brandan Haggarty averages 88 yards per gamein the air, so watch for Loyola to try to grind it out on the ground.
Points scored: 243
Points allowed: 108
Top rushers: Reiley Winebrenner 118-1,116 (9.46), 10 TDs; Dillon Fryxell 83-481 (5.80), 6 TDs.
Top passer: Winebrenner 68-123 1,058, 12 TDs.
Top receivers: Brian Green 25-433, 8 TDs; Fryxell 14-307, 3 TDs; Carson Lilja 14-185, 1 TD.
Top defenders: Cody Hoff 85 tackles; Winebrenner 74 tackles, 4 interceptions; Green 54 tackles, 3 interceptions; Bryce Benson 32 tackles 4.5 sacks.
Points scored: 224
Points allowed: 77
Top rushers: Shiloh Kerr 127-844 (6.6), 12 TDs; Kevin Berland 97-746 (7.7), 10 TDs; Brandan Haggarty 40-175 (4.4), 5 TDs.
Top passer: Brandan Haggarty 45-101 707, 2 TDs.
Top receivers: Peter Shaughnessy 21-325, 2 TDs; Carter Bermingham 6-119, MIchael Kuntz 7-104.
Top defenders: T Trevor Price, DB Erik Loran, LB Andy Hollenback.
- Michael Heinbach, Missoulian
No. 10 Florence (6-2) at Eureka (6-2), 1 p.m.
At stake: The winner faces the winner between Choteau and eighth-ranked Glasgow in next week's quarterfinals.
The Falcons, the second seed from District 6-B, earned their berth in the postseason by drubbing Deer Lodge 45-13 last Friday, a week after being edged by league champion Loyola Sacred Heart, 14-7.
They do most of their damage on offense on the ground, averaging 192.4 yards per game. The Florence rushing attack is paced by junior quarterback Spencer Burns, senior running back/wide receiver Corbin Newbary and junior running back Kendall Cotton.
Newbary is very dangerous on special teams, where he returns punts and kickoffs. In seven kickoff returns, Newbary averaged 30.4 yards and has an 85-yard return for a score to his credit. Bryce Chacon has returned just two kicks, but one went 80 yards for a touchdown.
Eureka tied for the District 7-B title, but earned the league's top seed in a point-differential tiebreaker over No. 7 Plains-Hot Springs and Bigfork.
The Lions also stick to the ground game with much success, averaging of 287.1 yards a game. They rely heavily on senior running back Chad Price, an all-state selection from a year ago who gains 195 yards a game. No other Eureka rusher has gained more than 290 yards this season.
A stingy Lions defense allows just 11.1 points a game and has surrendered more than 13 only twice - a 26-13 loss to Loyola on Sept. 11 and in their 62-26 thumping of Bigfork on Sept. 25.
Eureka enters on a three-game winning streak in which the Lions outscored their opponents by a combined 95-8.
Points scored: 234
Points allowed: 219
Top rushers: Spencer Burns 129-515 (3.99), 11 TDs; Corbin Newbary 39-193 (4.95), 2 TDs; Kendall Cotton 23-193 (8.39).
Top passer: Burns 52-107 627, 6 TDs.
Top receivers: Riley Phillips 18-325, 2 TDs; Bryce Chacon 8-195, 3 TDs; Newbary 10-104, 1 TD.
Top defenders: Cotton 28 tackles, 1 interception; Newbary 24 tackles, 1 interception; Zac Haskell 22 tackles, 1 sack.
Points scored: 242
Points allowed: 89
Top rushers: Chad Price 179-1,560 (8.72), 16 TDs; Taylor Vaughn 58-286 (4.93), 4 TDs.
Top passer: Colin Gillard 24-53 717, 5 TDs.
Top receivers: Andrew Sanders 8-314 2 TDs; Alex Lesowski 9-238 2 TDs.
Top defenders: Vaughn 44 tackles 1 interception; Taylor Brown 23 tackles, 4 sacks; Gillard 26 tackles; Price 26 tackles 1 sack.
- Michael Heinbach, Missoulian
Arlee (5-2) at No. 5 Fort Benton (8-1), 1 p.m.
At stake: The winner faces the winner of the game between No. 1 Wibaux and Harlowton in next week's quarterfinals.
The Warriors are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2000 and happy to be there.
"They're excited," Arlee coach Scott Palmer said. "It's the first time in almost a decade. It's a neat feeling throughout the community and the school as well. The kids are ecstatic that they accomplished this goal. They can see all their hard work come to fruition."
They face a tough task in the fifth-ranked Longhorns, although Fort Benton will be without leading rusher and tackler Kelsey Lippert. Lippert has a broken femur and will not play.
Still, the Longhorns have QB Derek Kittredge (547 yards rushing, 392 yards passing) and a pair of capable backs in Jackson Bramlette and Nathan Maughn.
"They're a power running team," Palmer said. "They have a lot of speed and good discipline. They were a perennial powerhouse in Class B and now coming down to C they've maintained that high caliber."
The Warriors like to run the ball themselves. Cole Rice leads the way, but QB Dylan Moran and Zach Tameler have been close behind.
"We're more of an option team," Palmer said. "(Moran's) reads are getting better every game. At quarterback, we count on him to be a leader and he's stepping into that role.
"We have a good rotation in our backfield with all three capable of producing big yards."
Arlee boasts a strong defensive line, anchored by senior Travis Christopher, junior Bryce Norling and sophomore Brady Potts.
"They free up our linebackers to make plays," Palmer said.
"The big thing is we have to control the clock," Palmer said. "They have a high-octane offense, a lot like Charlo's. If we can set the tempo, that puts momentum in our hands."
Points scored: 186 (31.0)
Points allowed: 167 (27.8)
Top rushers: Cole Rice 384 yards, Dylan Moran 348 yards, Zach Tameler 301 yards, Damon Cordier 262 yards.
Fort Benton (8-1)
Points scored: 480 (53.3)
Points allowed: 151 (16.8)
Top rushers: Kelsey Lippert 126-1,194 (9.5), Derek Kittredge 105-547 (5.2).
Top passer: Derek Kittredge 21-46-1 392 yards, 6 TDs.
Top receivers: Riley Shaw 6-100 2 TDs; Klayton Sykes 5-111 1 TD.
Top defenders: Kelsey Lippert 48 tackles, Klayton Sykes 35 tackles, Jackson Bramlette 34 tackles, 12 pass breakups, 3 interceptions.
- Bob Meseroll, Missoulian
Victor (5-4) at No. 3 Centerville (8-0), 1 p.m.
At stake: The winner will face the winner of the game between Ekalaka and Twin Bridges in next week's quarterfinals.
Making its third straight trip to the postseason, you'd think the Pirates would be a playoff seasoned team.
"The only bad part is that all the kids on those teams are all gone," said first-year coach Brandon Howell, who was hired as an assistant last spring then suddenly found himself in the head coach's position when Eric Schaefer resigned.
"But they set a tradition and a precedent for this team," Howell added. "We knew what we wanted to get and where we wanted to be and the kids knew they had done it before - and recently - so they knew they could do it."
The Pirates are up against an undefeated Centerville team that is ranked third in Class C.
"They're physical and they like to run the ball," Howell said of the Miners. "They use an unbalanced line. Their quarterback and running back are very good at running the ball. When they get down, they throw the ball fairly effectively."
QB Jared Mayernik has thrown for more than 1,000 yards and 10 TDs for the Miners. Sam Rutherford is the workhorse running back.
Victor, known as an all-out passing team under Schaefer, went more to the run this season. Dustin Harris leads the way there, averaging 4.9 yards a rush.
"Dustin is pretty fast and has gotten good at seeing holes and exploding through them," Howell said.
Howell credited the blocking of Tim Krenke and Kaleb Carlson for opening those holes, as well good lead blocks by fullback Randy Lewis.
"We struggled early on running the ball," Howell said. "And since we couldn't run, we couldn't throw. Once we established the run and how to block that, we took off."
And that will be important against the explosive Miners.
"The key this week is to run the ball," Howell said.
Points scored: 199 (22.1)
Points allowed: 294 (32.7)
Top rushers: Dustin Harris 131-644 (4.9) 8 TDs.
Top passer: Kurt Manely 51-114 531 yards, 10 TDs.
Top receivers: Alex Bishop 15-209 8 TDs.
Top defenders: Hank MacPherson 83 tackles; Alex Bishop 3 interceptions.
Top rushers: Sam Rutherford 138-724 (5.2), Mike Doran 57-396 (6.9), Jared Mayernik 50-385 (7.7).
Top passer: Jared Mayernik 56-101-4 1,099 yards, 10 TDs.
Top receivers: Dallas Koke 14-333 3 TDs, Nick Luoma 16-259 5 TDs.
Top defenders: Taylor Halko 43 tackles, Jared Mayernik 5 interceptions.
- Bob Meseroll, Missoulian
Stanford-Geyser (5-3) at No. 2 Drummond (7-0), 1 p.m.
At stake: The winner will take on the team that emerges from Joliet vs. Scobey. If Dummond is the victor, the Trojans will host a second playoff game.
The Wolves and Trojans each bring power rushing attacks to the game, though Stanford-Geyser shows a more pronounced willingness to throw the ball behind quarterback Caleb Caquelin.
Undefeated Drummond has been as dominant as ever, a fact borne out by the discrepancy between points scored and points allowed. Nonetheless, Trojans coach Jim Oberweiser expects nothing but the best from Stanford.
"I know that they are mainly a senior group and as a group they really play hard," Oberweiser says. "I've seen them a couple of times on film and they look like an intense group ... I think there is an awful lot of enthusiasm."
The Wolves like to run the ball out of the Power-I, Oberweiser says, and once they establish their physicality and pitch attack, they'll try to catch you off guard with counters and some misdirection.
"It's like I was telling kids tonight at practice," Oberweiser says. "Each of them has to predict that the ball is coming their way on every play."
Drummond's option attack is led by athletic senior quarterback Neil Mannix and has three different backs averaging more than 8 yards per carry.
Mannix is also not afraid to put the ball in the air a couple of times per game. He has 10 passing touchdowns on the season - six to favorite target Parker Bignell - and zero interceptions.
Points scored: 348 (43.5)
Points against: 203 (25.3)
Top rushers: Josh Linsen 454 yards, 7 TDs; Miles Johnson 381 yards, 5 TD; Dylan Woodhall 314 yards, 8 TDs.
Top passer: Caleb Caquelin 70-141, 8 INTs, 21 TDs.
Top receivers: Derek Westveer 27-506 yards, 9 TDs; Trent Delaney 10-191 yards, 5 TDs.
Top defenders: Westveer 85 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 INTs., 1 fum rec; Delaney 78 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 2 fum rec.
Points scored: 382 (54.6)
Points against: 55 (7.8)
Top rushers: Bryan Mannix 81-654; Eric Bergerson 43-352; Neil Mannix 32-220.
Top passer: N. Mannix 25-31-440, 10 TDs, 0 INTs.
Top receivers: Parker Bignell 13-236, 6 TDs; Nate Bignell 10-161, 4 TDs.
Top defenders: Pake Morris 64 tackles, 3 sacks; B. Mannix 50 tackles, 1 INT; Gage Martell 46 tackles, 1 INT.
- Chad Dundas, Missoulian
No. 9 Power-Dutton-Brady (6-2) at No. 7 Charlo (7-1), 1 p.m.
At stake: The victor will have a second-round date with the winner of Sheridan vs. Bainville.
Coaches from the Titans and Vikings did their best to scout each other this season, but injuries and illness still cast a certain air of mystery over the game.
Nobody, including the coaches, is exactly sure what either team will look like when they take the field Saturday.
Power-Dutton-Brady has had all-state defensive end Hayden Vick out with a separated shoulder and running back Eric Sievers missing in action with an elbow injury. Both are expected to return this weekend, but lineman Logan Rothmiller is still sidelined with a broken arm.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are battling the flu.
"We're trying to stay healthy ourselves," says Charlo coach Steve Love. "We haven't played at full strength since the second game and now the flu is hitting pretty hard. We've been patching holes all week and messing around with different looks. ... A lot of it is going to depend on which kids can suit up this weekend."
The Vikings will try to run the ball, primarily with Chico Stipe and Chance Firestone. PDB will do the same behind Travis Somerfeld and Willy VandenBos.
Titans coach Brent Hitchcock says the real strength of his team is the defense, where he points to the 105 tackles of Gus Somerfeld.
Points scored: 343 (42.9)
Points against: 194 (24.2)
Top rushers: Travis Somerfeld 73-631; Willy VandenBos 80-517; Eric Sievers 36-375.
Top passer: Travis Somerfeld 37-72-371-7-7.
Top receivers: Josh Jenkins 22-209; Kyler Johnson 4-61.
Top defenders: Jenkins 65 tackles, 3 INTs, 4 fum recoveries; Gus Somerfeld 105 tackles; VandenBos 69 tackles, 2 INTs.
Points scored: 406 (50.8)
Points against: 72 (9.0)
Top rushers: Chico Stipe 578 yards, 14 TDs; Chance Firestone 438 yards, 12 TDs.
Top passer: Stipe 354 yards, 5 TDs.
Top receiver: Austin Bauer 10-145 yards, 4 TDs.
Top defenders: Jame Petersen, 40 tackles, 4 fum rec, 2 INTs; Stipe 4 INTs.
- Chad Dundas, Missoulian