Sports

Title Time

Northwest Montana has five teams vying for state championships this weekend

I can’t remember the last time there were so many high-quality teams covering every classification from one geographical region of the state. You may not see this again for some time. There is Glacier in AA, Columbia Falls in A, Eureka in B, Charlo in eight-man Class C, and Hot Springs in six-man Class C. All these teams are playing in state title games this week in their respective classifications. Truly, it is title time in the West.

Glacier (11-1) will be on the road to face undefeated Billings Senior. Without question, these are the two best teams. The Broncs were last year’s runner-up and return a roster loaded with talent and experience. They have only been pushed in the first half of a couple of games (CMR, Capital). In other words, they have been dominant on both sides of the football. They lead the state statistically in scoring offense and scoring defense.

But Glacier is also extremely talented with lots of experience and a great core of seniors. The Wolfpack are making their third state title appearance in the last four years. One thing I have noticed this year is how much Glacier has improved through the course of the season. This is good coaching — the staff at Glacier has been outstanding. 

In my thinking, Glacier has been the only team that can beat the talented Billings Senior Broncs. And don’t be surprised if they do. Big games require a mental toughness and joyful energy along with an embracing of the moment that enables you to play your best. Glacier, it seems, is a big-game team that knows what it takes and will stick to the process to get it done.

Now, is it true that Columbia Falls has never won a state title in football? That is really hard to believe. In fact, the Wildcats’ last appearance in a title game was 1970. But this year’s team knows it’s good enough to get the job done. There is something very different about this team. But what is not different is the opponent. The Dillon Beavers are making their sixth straight title appearance. Earlier in the year, the Wildcats beat the Beavers in Columbia Falls 28-21. 

Sometimes it is hard to beat a good team twice in the same season, but I think there are a couple of reasons why the Wildcats will win. First of all, they have a quarterback who has a habit of making those around him better. It will take his leadership to win. Young men like Dakota Bridwell love these moments, and he has a bunch of linemen who can really play along with a receiving core that can catch and run. Secondly, the Wildcats, like the Wolfpack, have improved over the course of this season. Again, this is coaching. Coach Schweikert and his staff have done a great job preparing this team for the stretch run, which has been the plan all year long. They have built momentum and believe they can win.

And then there are those Eureka Lions. I think these Lions knew they were going to be good this year, but they may not have believed they would be this good. I know they are on the road at Missoula Loyola, which is a very difficult place to win, but the Lions have great line play. That may just be the difference. One thing that will be important for the Lions is their resolve. The Rams have it, and the Lions will need it as this game unfolds. 

And don’t forget our Class C teams in the region. Good luck to the Savage Heat of Hot Springs and the Charlo Vikings. I would dare to say there will be a few titles residing in the West come Saturday evening. How many? I am hoping for a clean sweep. Aren’t you?