As I sit here on the eve of the 2014 high school football season, I still can’t really believe it’s already upon us. It wasn’t long ago that Bozeman, Dillon, Missoula Loyola, Ennis and Geraldine-Highwood were hoisting the championship hardware.
Those teams may be the defending champions, but as this weekend’s games set to kick off, the slates are clean. The pursuit of the 2014 state titles starts now.
Here are my picks for who’s going to get started off on the right foot:
(Note: Last season, I had some free time one Friday afternoon, so I decided to attempt to pick the winner in every game on the high school football schedule. It turns out I wasn't terrible at making picks, and I'm told people liked to read who I thought would win each game. So I'm going to be making picks every week this season. I assure you I have no allegiance to any team and I never pick "against" a team. It's all in good fun. I'm picking games listed at gazprepsports.com/scores, so let me know if you see any inaccuracies on those schedules. I'll pick a "game of the week" in each class and provide a few brief comments on what I think are some of the more interesting matchups. Good luck to all the players, coaches, teams and fans this season!)
* indicates each classification’s “game of the week”
Billings Senior over Butte – The Broncs claim to have a lot of team speed. Butte has Montana’s fastest prep athlete in Dalton Daum. This one could be a shootout.
Kalispell Glacier over Billings West – Glacier is the popular preseason pick, while West is coming off a winless season.
*Billings Skyview over Bozeman – The Hawks may be the defending champs, but this is a completely different team. They’ll have their hands full with a Skyview team featuring a talented group of skill-position players.
Great Falls CMR over Missoula Sentinel
Helena over Missoula Big Sky
Great Falls over Kalispell Flathead
Helena Capital over Missoula Hellgate
(I admit that I know nothing about the teams from Idaho, Wyoming and Alberta, so I’m just picking the Montana schools.)
*Belgrade over Butte Central – These are two of the teams that figure to challenge Billings Central and Dillon atop the Class A. You won’t find a better opening-week game on the schedule.
Hamilton over Salmon, Idaho
Miles City over Powell, Wyo.
Polson over Raymond, Alberta
Frenchtown over Timber Lake, Idaho
Havre over Whitefish
Laurel over Cody, Wyo.
Columbia Falls over Lewistown
Libby over Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Sidney over Livingston
Big Timber over Three Forks
*Jefferson over Deer Lodge – Both of these teams are filling some holes after graduating a lot of starters, but they’ll likely contend for playoff spots. Jefferson coach Clint Layng is expecting a good game, and I agree.
Florence over Thompson Falls
Huntley Project over Columbus – This is another intriguing matchup, as Columbus returns a wealth of players on the perimeter. Huntley Project is deeper and more balanced, though, which is why the Red Devils are one the preseason favorites in Class B.
Shepherd over Joliet
Eureka over St. Ignatius
Plentywood over Wolf Point
Glasgow over Colstrip
Ronan over New Plymouth, Idaho – Like in Class A, I don’t know anything about the out-of-state team, so why not pick the Montana boys?
*Belt over Simms – You know what I love about the Northern C? It’s tough, deep and every game matters. It doesn’t get much bigger than this one, as Belt and Simms are slotted as the division’s top two teams.
Wibaux over Broadus
Ennis over Broadview-Lavina – The last time Walker McKitrick was on an 8-Man field he had a hand in 10 touchdowns in the Mustangs’ championship win over Wibaux. What does he have in store for an encore this season?
Scobey over Circle
Victor over Kamiah, Idaho
Power-Dutton-Brady over Seeley-Swan
Chester-Joplin-Inverness over Centerville
Great Falls Central over Chinook
Culbertson-Bainville over Fairview
Cascade over Darby
Gardiner over Absarokee
White Sulphur Springs over Park City
Shields Valley over Harlowton
Alberton over St. Regis – The MHSA broke up the Alberton-St. Regis co-op after just one season, and now St. Regis is only playing a JV schedule. Alberton could still be a playoff team, though.
Big Sandy over Heart Butte
Bridger over Billings Christian
Richey-Lambert over Ekalaka
Rosebud over Frazer
Geraldine-Highwood over Augusta
Savage over Froid-Lake
Box Elder over Valier – I’m intrigued by this Box Elder team. I think the Bears can make the playoffs, but they have to start with a win.
Westby-Grenora over Grass Range-Winnett – These were two of the top teams at the end of last season, and both should be solid again. Expect a lot of points between these two when they meet up in Hobson.
*Denton-Geyser-Stanford over Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap – The nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader pits two of 6-Man’s top teams against each other. Denton-Geyser-Stanford has serious title aspirations, and Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap could be in the mix, too, if it can stay healthy.
North Star over Sunburst
Terry over Jordan
Reed Point-Rapelje over West Yellowstone