By George Ferguson
The 2002 high school football playoffs began this past weekend in Class A, B and C, and this weekend the AA and Six-Man playoff will join in the mix.
After the first week of playoff action, there are still two Central A teams left standing. Conference champion Havre received a first round bye and will host the Bigfork Vikings on Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium. The Vikings come to Havre fresh off a 27-13 upset last Saturday over the fifth-ranked Butte Central Maroons. Bigfork used five Maroon turnovers and the 119 yard rushing effort of Ben Haugan to advance.
The Laurel Locomotives also advanced into this weekend's quarterfinal round with a hardfought 27-24 win over Hardin. The Locomotives' Trevor Hegel scored on a 3-yard run with 2:55 left in the game and then intercepted a key pass late in the game to seal the victory. Laurel will now travel to face the second-ranked and undefeated Dillon Beavers on Saturday.
Not to get ahead of ourselves, but the Havre Blue Ponies might have a little interest in cheering for their conference foe Laurel to upset the Beavers, because should the Ponies advance all the way to the state title game the only way it will be in Havre is if their opponent is Laurel.
The Ponies will also have interest in Saturday's clash between third-ranked Miles City (8-0) and Polson (7-2). If Havre defeats Bigfork, they will host the winner of that matchup. The Pirates advanced to the second round by knocking off Corvallis 35-21 in Polson on Friday night. Derek Pluff rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Pirates.
The last quarterfinal matchup features the top-ranked Whitefish Bulldogs (8-0) hosting fourth-ranked Sidney (8-1). Sidney defeated Belgrade 43-21 behind Gary Melby's 227 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The Bulldogs and Eagles have developed quite a playoff rivalry having met in the playoffs four out of the last six seasons.
The Class B playoffs held mostly to form over the first weekend with the exception of a couple of upsets in the Northeast B division. Upstart Fairfield handed perennial power Malta its earliest playoff exit in six seasons.
Conrad upset fifth-ranked and undefeated Glasgow 30-10. The Cowboys got three touchdowns from Ross Judisch in the victory.
The featured matchup of the quarterfinal round has to be top-ranked Baker (11-0) hosting second-ranked Frenchtown (9-0). The Spartans have a 24 game winning streak on the line while Frenchtown is also undefeated on the season. This is a matchup of two of the most successful Class B football programs of the last ten years.
Three Northeast B teams still remain, but they will all have to hit the road this weekend. Undefeated Fort Benton will travel to Thompson Falls while Conrad visits Absorkee and Fairfield travels to Columbus.
Two big matchups are on tap in the Class C quarterfinals as top ranked Wibaux (9-0) hosts the high octane rushing attack of the Power-Dutton-Great Falls Central Titans, while upstart Scobey will visit second-ranked Belt.
The Geraldine Tigers will look to extend a two-year winning streak when the State Six-Man quarterfinals begin on Saturday. The Tigers are the defending state champions and they bring a perfect 9-0 mark into the 2002 playoffs.
Definite congratulations are in order to Blue Sky volleyball coach Jen Dahlke and her team. On the final night of the regular season, the Eagles upset District 6C powerhouse Sunburst in a thrilling five game match. The Eagles are the only team going into this weekend's District 6C tournament in Chester with a win over the Refiners.
Before the season began, Dahlke commented on how the Refiners kept her team from getting over the hump last season as the Eagles were eliminated by Sunburst at both the District and Divisional tournaments in 2001. Revenge was definitely a little sweet for the Eagles. However, beating the Refiners in the 6C tournament would be even sweeter.
This weekend marks the beginning of the post season in volleyball in Class B and C, as district tournament play begins around the state.
The Chinook Sugarbeeters have to be feeling pretty confident as they prepare to host the District 2B tournament. The Beeters lost only once in District play a midseason defeat at the hands of Glasgow. The Beeters only other loss in the regular season came at the hands of the Havre Blue Ponies in Havre back in September.