It's getting frosty outside. With every passing day, more leaves fall, the temperatures drop, and each night, there's a bit more bite to the air.
Fall is in full effect, and on the Hi-Line, as well as across the entire state, that means one thing...playoff football is on its way.
The Havre Blue Ponies are virtual lock to make the Class A playoffs for yet another year, though the Ponies are still trying to secure a first-round home game. Havre's chances of capturing the Central A title are still alive, though they rest on Belgrade losing its last game by more than 38 points. Still, with a win over Browning next week, the Ponies would nail down a second-place finish and host either Sidney or Miles City in a playoff game Nov. 2. If the Ponies were to fall at Browning, Havre would likely finish third in the conference and have to travel to Laurel for the third time in four years.
Meanwhile, the Northern C playoff picture is somewhat muddled. Easily the strongest 8-man conference, the Chester/J-I Hawks have secured a playoff berth and have their sights set on a second straight Northern C title. Currently, the Hawks are in a three-way tie for first with Belt and Simms. Belt has a tiebreaker over C/J-I, but the Hawks and Tigers will do battle Oct. 26, with at least a share of the Northern C title on the line in Chester. If the Hawks finish first, they'll host the No. 4 team from East Nov. 2. If they finish second, they'll host the third-place team from the East, while a third-place finish would send C/J-I on the road to the East No. 2.
In the same conference, the Chinook Sugarbeeters are fighting for their playoff lives. Last week's loss to Fort Benton left the Beeters in a three-way tie for the final Northern C berth. An upset win over Belt tonight in Chinook would almost guarantee a playoff spot for Chinook, while a loss means the Beeters will need help on the final weekend of the season. Chinook does have tiebreakers over both Power-Dutton-Brady and Great Falls Central, which are also tied for fourth right now.
In the Six-Man ranks, the North Star Knights have secured a playoff berth, but a third-place finish in the North Division, which now appears likely, will send North Star to the East Division No. 2 seed. To finish second or better the Knights will need help on the final weekend of the regular season. Meanwhile, the Big Sandy Pioneers, last year's Six-Man runner's up, are on the outside looking in. The Pioneers will need to upset Geraldine-Highwood next week, and then hope for a Valier loss in order to reach the playoffs.