I don’t know whether to say championship weekend is finally here or championship weekend is already here. Either way, Montana’s five football champions will be crowned by the end of this weekend.
Class AA will get the action started first, with undefeated Kalispell Glacier hosting Great Falls CMR on Friday.
The rest of the games – Dillon at Butte Central, Townsend at Huntley Project, Chinook at Wibaux and Westby-Grenora at Geraldine-Highwood – will kick off Saturday afternoon.
The home teams appear to be slight favorites, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple road teams celebrating on their opponents’ fields.
I had a rough time picking the semifinal games (only going 6-4), but here’s who I’m taking in the championships:
Last week: 2-0
Great Falls CMR (10-2) at Kalispell Glacier (12-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
CMR was the only team to give Glacier any trouble during the regular season, and the Rustlers get another shot after upending second-seeded Helena last week. Andrew Grinde and Karl Tucker II were built for November football, and you can bet CMR will try to establish its rushing attack.
Glacier will run the ball, too, but the Wolfpack are a little more balanced offensively. Brady McChesney is arguably the best quarterback in the class, and he has a lot of different options in the passing game. Glacier has scored 40 or more points in nine of 12 games this season.
The pick: Kalispell Glacier 34, Great Falls CMR 24
Last week: 2-0
Dillon (9-2) at Butte Central (10-1), Saturday, 1 p.m.
Butte Central won the regular-season meeting between the two teams and was the most impressively consistent Class A team all season. The Maroons steamrolled Whitefish in last weekend’s semifinal game, with Kyle Harrington rushing for 238 yards on 22 carries. He and Danny Peoples form a dangerous combination for Butte Central.
Dillon beat Billings Central last week to advance to its fourth consecutive championship game. J.D. Ferris passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in last week’s win, and is one of the top signal-callers in the class.
The pick: Butte Central 28, Dillon 27
Last week: 1-1
Townsend (10-1) at Huntley Project (12-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.
Don’t expect many points when Townsend and Huntley Project tangle, as the teams boast two of the top defenses in Class B. The Red Devils did a solid job containing Bigfork’s Josh Sandry last week, but Townsend’s Jace Lewis presents another tough matchup.
Both teams will play hard-nosed defense supplemented by ball-control offenses. They can really run the ball with different players out of the backfield. Whichever team can first establish a consistent running game will certainly have a leg up in this one.
The pick: Huntley Project 21, Townsend 14
Last week: 1-1
Chinook (10-2) at Wibaux (11-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.
Wibaux and Chinook are perennial contenders in Class C 8-Man football. They play similar styles, where the offenses want to run the ball as first, second and third options.
For Wibaux, this season has been a bit of a redemption tour after losing in last year’s championship game to Ennis. The undefeated and top-ranked Longhorns will be the favorites in this one, but Chinook has steadily improved as the season has progressed. The Sugarbeeters easily dispatched Fairview last week, and they match up well with Wibaux.
The pick: Wibaux 48, Chinook 34
Last week: 0-2
Westby-Grenora (11-1) at Geraldine-Highwood (10-1), Saturday, 1 p.m. (in Geraldine)
Both Westby-Grenora and Geraldine-Highwood served stretches this season with their starting quarterbacks on the sideline. With Cooper Olson and Darren Malek back the teams seem to be clicking on all cylinders.
It’s the defenses, though, that have really come to play in the postseason. Westby-Grenora has posted impressive back-to-back wins over Hot Springs and Denton-Geyser-Stanford, while Geraldine-Highwood beat Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap and Savage.
The pick: Geraldine-Highwood 36, Westby-Grenora 34