By George Ferguson
It's post season football time around the state of Montana, and nowhere will that be more evident than in Havre a week from Saturday. The Ponies, thanks to a little help from the Belgrade Panthers, won the Central A championship and will host a second-round playoff game next weekend.
The Western A champ Whitefish Bulldogs, Eastern A champion Miles City Cowboys and Southwest A champion Dillon Beavers will also have this weekend off.
The rest of the Class A playoff picture looks like this: Corvallis (4-4), who finished third in the Southwest, will travel to West second place finisher Polson (6-2) and play Friday night. On Saturday, Belgrade (3-5), who finished third in the Central A, will visit the Sidney Eagles (6-2), who finished second in the East. Hardin (3-5), the Eastern A third place finisher, will travel to Laurel (5-3), who finished second in the Central A. And Bigfork (4-4), third place finisher in the Western A, will visit Southwest A runner-up Butte Central (6-2). Surprisingly, there are four teams in the Class A playoffs that are in with .500 or worse record this season.
In the Class B playoffs, there are no first round byes as 16 teams qualify for the post season. The first round pairings feature a regional schedule. Saturday, Eureka (6-2) will travel to second-ranked Frenchtown (8-0). Ennis (4-4) will travel to undefeated and top-ranked Baker. Missoula Loyola (7-1) will visit Seeley-Swan (7-1). Plentywood (5-3) will visit fourth-ranked Fort Benton (8-0). Broadus (7-3) will travel to third-ranked Columbus (8-0). Malta (6-2) will visit Fairfield who is also 6-2 on the year. Absarokee (7-1) will travel to Boulder (6-2), and Conrad (6-2) will travel to fifth-ranked Glasgow (8-0).
Fort Benton, Glasgow, Baker, Boulder, Columbus, Frenchtown, and Thompson Falls were all champions of their respective districts.
The Baker Spartans are riding a 23-game winning streak coming into the 2002 playoffs and are looking to defend their Class B state championship for the second straight year.
Sixteen teams also qualify for the Class C playoffs. All first round games will be played on Saturday as well.
Park City (6-2) will travel to third-ranked and Southern C-North champion Harlowtown (8-0). St Regis (6-2) visits Western C-South champion Sheridan (6-2). Second-ranked and Northern C champion Belt (8-0) hosts the Big Sandy Pioneers (5-3). Fifth-ranked Terry (7-1) will travel to Eastern C-North champ Scobey (7-1). Fairview (5-2) will visit top ranked and undefeated Wibaux (8-0). Chester (6-2) will go to eighth-ranked Power-Dutton-Great Falls Central (7-1). Drummond (5-3) will visit fourth-ranked and Western C-North champ Superior (8-0). Ninth-ranked Winifred (6-2) will travel to seventh-ranked and Southern C-South champ Shields Valley (8-0). A total of five teams are entering the playoffs without a loss.
The volleyball action around the state was very quiet over the weekend due to the Montana Education Association meetings in Missoula, but things will heat back up this weekend with less than a week to go before district and divisional tournaments.
The Havre Blue Ponies have just two weeks left in their season before heading to the Central A Divisional tournament in Browning on Nov. 7-9. The Class A season will culminate with the state tournament in Havre in just three weeks time on Nov. 14-16.