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2023 Flathead Valley Prep Sports Preview

What to look forward to this fall: Bigfork’s bump to Class A, dynastic soccer programs and strong distance runners

By Micah Drew
Football referee Warren Dobler makes his final coin toss at Legends Stadium in Kalispell on Oct. 14, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

While classes are set to begin this week at schools across the state, students have already been logging hours on campus as fall sports began during the waning days of summer. Golf tournaments have been going on since mid-August, inter-team scrimmages have taken over soccer fields and volleyball courts and last Friday the first games were played on the gridiron.

With hundreds of student-athletes in action this fall, the Flathead Beacon broke down some of the biggest storylines to watch this season. Between individual athletes that will dazzle on the field and teams seeking championships berths, there’s a lot to keep up on. But the biggest storyline across all sports is the jump to Class A by Bigfork High School.

Last spring, the Montana High School Association (MHSA) Executive Board approved the reclassification of Bigfork for all athletics, beginning this fall, after two years of enrollment figures showed Bigfork above the 301-student threshold that delineates Class A and B.

“People knew it was coming. Our numbers have been going up, so it’s been a conversation over the last few years,” Bigfork Activities Director Matt Porrovecchio told the Beacon. “Now it’s real.”

The move will put the Vikings and Valkyries in direct competition with the Flathead Valley’s two other Class A schools — Columbia Falls and Whitefish. Currently, the Bigfork soccer program competes at the Class A level while the girls swim team is the only Class B school that competes in the Class A-B division at the state swim meet.

Bigfork was previously a Class A school from 1996 until the fall of 2009, when it was reclassified to B. In 2017, both Libby and Ronan were bumped up to Class A and, along with Browning, Polson and both northern Flathead Valley schools, they make up the Class A Northwest Conference for all sports (soccer is technically called the “northern division”) except swimming and cross country.

“In the end, we’ve been competitive in Class A before, we’ve been competitive in Class B and we’ll continue to be competitive,” Porrovecchio said. “Regardless of classification, the aim is the same. You put great coaches with great kids and hope they have valuable experiences. We want our kids to be competitive, but ultimately we want them to be better young adults when they leave.”

Read the individual sport previews below to see how Bigfork will stack up against their new class of competition.

Flathead Valley Football Preview

All five local schools kicked off their seasons last week to mixed results

There is nothing quite like the epic highs and lows of high school football, and the Flathead Valley schools have experienced their fair share of both in recent years. All five local schools face big questions this season. Will Bigfork continue its playoff success against Class A competition? Can Flathead win another football game this year? Can the Wildcats make the state final? Can a nationally ranked transfer QB be Glacier’s secret to success? Read more

Flathead Valley Cross Country Preview

Kalispell will host the 2023 state meet, offering local teams a home course advantage

The MHSA State Cross Country Championships will take place at Rebecca Farm in Kalispell at the end of October, offering the chance for local teams to compete on their home turf. Throughout the season, Flathead and Glacier high schools will both host meets on the state course, and both are likely to draw schools from all divisions across Montana as teams look to preview the championships terrain. Read more

Flathead Valley Soccer Preview

Columbia Falls and Whitefish will again battle to keep the Class A title in Flathead Valley

For five straight years the Class A State Soccer final has been won by a team from the Flathead Valley, a streak unlikely to end this year. Last year, Columbia Falls emerged as the new kings of Montana soccer with a 5-2 win over Livingston. Whitefish, which had a four-year dynastic stranglehold on the podium, lost to the Rangers in the semifinal, but both local teams are looking to renew their rivalry and return to the state final. Read more

Flathead Valley Golf, Volleyball and Flag Football Preview

Bigfork golf champions look to repeat in Class A, western volleyball teams hope to earn tournament berths and flag football teams aim to keep state trophy local

The first sport to start competition each fall is golf, with class AA kicking off the season with the two invitationals already completed. The Glacier boys were the victors of the Great Falls Invite for the second year in a row, led by Sam Engellant, who shot a two-round total of 138 but lost a scorecard playoff to former state champion Kade McDonough of Sentinel. Glacier lost the state title to Capital by 17 strokes last year, but handily beat the Helena team at Great Falls. The Wolfpack also won the Missoula Invitational last week. Read more