With teams out there like Polson, Laurel and Miles City, the Central A conference isn’t known for exactly being a powerhouse in Montana prep football right now.
But with five solid teams making up the league, the Central A isn’t a slouch either. The race for the Central A titles gets under way tonight all around the state, and it should be an interesting next month of games.
The Havre Blue Ponies, Belgrade Panthers, Lewistown Golden Eagles, Livingston Rangers and Browning Indians all make up the Central A division. The Butte Central Maroons used to be a dominant figure in the Central A, but after last season the Maroons were relocated to the Southwestern A.
As the powerhouse of the Central A, the Maroons had a nice streak of conference championships behind them. But now in the Southwestern A, they are just a tough nonconference game on the schedules of those left in the Central A.
One good thing has come from the exit of Butte Central. Now with just five teams left, the Ponies and the rest of the conference have an excellent chance at making the Class A playoffs. The top three teams in the conference will make the postseason this year, leaving just two teams without a playoff berth. The Central A champion will also receive a first-round bye in the playoffs, as well as host a quarterfinal playoff game.
Twelve total teams from Class A will make up the 2011 playoff bracket, which starts Oct. 29.
And with the Maroons gone, the door is also wide open for somebody else to claim the throne of conference champions.
Lewistown is a very solid team all the way around. The Eagles play hard and take full advantage of a very dominant set of running backs. The Eagles like to run first and set up the pass after exploiting defenses, and could very well take over as the No. 1 team. And Belgrade also has the personnel to move up the ranks, as they too are well rounded in their play and are very well coached.
Livingston and Browning improve each and every year as well, but still have some work to do before they can be considered a top favorite.
The Blue Ponies can, however, be considered a favorite to take the Central A this year.
HHS has grown accustomed to making the Class A playoffs, but has failed to move out of the first round the last few seasons. They have landed some very tough first round games on the road, and are really looking to take the No. 1 spot and having the chance to host a first round game.
The Ponies' conference schedule will put them at Belgrade Saturday afternoon, and they have conference home games against Lewistown and Livingston. Havre's other conference road game is at Browning.
And while the Ponies look to be the strongest team in the league on paper, they still have to go out and prove it on the field.
Even head coach Jason Christenson knows they can’t be crowned just yet.
“It is hard to tell right now,” Christenson said. “Nobody has really stepped up and won a big game to kind of separate themselves from the rest of the Central A. It is just hard to tell. I can’t even tell where we are yet just yet. I would like to say that we are the favorite, but we just can’t say that yet. But I know that if we play football like we can for four quarters, and as hard as we can with the weapons we have, I don’t think anybody can beat us.”