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Billings Central defeats Laurel in championship shootout

Billings Central celebrates after beating Laurel in a penalty-kick shootout to win the Class A girls soccer state championship at Wendy's Field at Rocky Mountain College last season. The championship was a state-best ninth over the Central girls.

2018 champions

Class AA boys: Bozeman

Class AA girls: Billings Skyview

Class A boys: Whitefish

Class A girls: Billings Central

2019 storylines

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Winning streaks: Both the Bozeman boys and Skyview girls went 15-0-0 on their way to respective state championships. Bozeman boasted six of the top seven scorers in the Eastern AA, and though five of them have graduated (including Gatorade player of the year Ted Scott), don’t raise the alarm just yet: Bozeman hasn’t finished out of the top three in eight years. Skyview, meanwhile, returns the girls Gatorade player of the year in Jordan Roe and conceded just three regular-season goals last year. Which team can keep their streak going the longest?

Will it be 12? The Billings Central and Laurel girls have played for the Class A championship each of the past four seasons. The Rams won in 2015, 2016 and 2018, with Laurel winning it in 2017. Laurel also won the title in 2014, beating Columbia Falls, which ended a run of six straight titles for the Rams. That means the two programs have combined to win the last 11 Class A championships.

Three’s a charm? Two was the charm, actually, for the Whitefish boys, which lost the 2017 final to Belgrade before winning it all in 2018 by beating Polson to finish 14-0-1. A third consecutive trip could be in the Bulldogs’ future. Whitefish had just three seniors on its championship roster, though one of them was Xander Burger, who scored 17 goals.

On the verge: Though the career scoring list for Montana girls soccer players hasn’t been updated on the MHSA website since April of 2018, Billings Central first-year coach Nolan Trafton says Rams senior Morgan Ferestad has 90 career goals. That would put her fourth on the list behind Elizabeth Pitman of Whitefish (101), Haley Nicholson of Whitefish (99) and Heather Olson of Helena Capital (91). If Ferestad has her typical year in a typical high-powered Rams’ offense, the career mark could be hers.

Out with the old: Class AA no longer has a state tournament, instead adopting the knockout-style playoff that Class A has been using for years. Under the new format, playoff games are played at the home site of the higher seed, with the winner advancing, just like the high school football playoffs. The final is hosted by the highest remaining seed, with a rotation schedule used if the championship teams have the same seed. The rotation table can be found at mhsa.org.

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Email Mike Scherting at mike.scherting@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsSchert

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