Class A football guide
2019 champion: Miles City
Well, here we go.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined the start of the Class AA season, but Class A and B are slated to open this Friday in what will be Montana's first 11-man football action following an offseason that could be aptly described as unusual. The first kickoffs that take place will bring to an end months of uncertainty about how, when or even if high school football would take place in Montana this fall.
And though this season is shaping up to be unlike any other, for the 20 Class A teams gearing up to hit the field, the ultimate goal remains the same — hoisting a state trophy.
Here's a look at some story lines heading into the 2020 Class A season.
Cowboy Up: Miles City steamrolled its way to an undefeated season and the 2019 Class A title, outscoring its postseason opponents 103-24 and capping off its first championship in nine years with a 35-7 win over Laurel. Though the Cowboys have graduated 15 seniors from that group, Miles City returns all-state quarterback Carson Hunter who is now a senior. Hunter had a hand in all five of the Cowboys touchdowns in the championship game.
The road narrows: On the same day the Montana High School Association announced it was cutting Class AA non-conference games, the MSHA also made the decision to eliminate the opening round of the 2020 Class A playoffs. The move trimmed the Class A postseason from a 12-team to an eight-team bracket that opens with the quarterfinals meaning there will be two less playoff seeds up for grabs in both the Western and Eastern divisions. In 2019, the Southwest A and Northwest A divisions consolidated into the Western A. With the playoff field narrowed for the upcoming season, 12 teams from the Western A will now be battling for four postseason spots. Comparatively, the Eastern A is comprised of eight teams.
Looking back: This year’s high school football season will be unfolding in a new decade, but looking back there’s little doubt that the 2010s belonged to Dillon. Under now-retired coach Rick Nordahl, the Beavers seized a Class A-best four titles (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016). Under third-year coach Zach McRae, the Beavers have returned to being a playoff contender and advanced to the semifinals last season...With Miles City’s 2019 title to complement its 2010 championship, the Cowboys finished the decade tied with Billings Central (2012, 2018) with two rings apiece. Whitefish (2015) and Columbia Falls (2017) each claimed a championship during that span.
Always in the mix: To find the last time Hamilton failed to advance to the postseason, you need to go all the way back to October of 2012 to a time when Anaconda was still a Class A program and the Copperheads rolled Columbia Falls in the first round before falling to Livingston in the quarters. Since that year, the Broncs have been an all-too familiar face in the postseason and advancing to the championship game in 2017 and 2018. However, Hamilton still remains in the hunt for its second championship title since 1998 when the Broncs shutout Sidney 28-0 in the title game.
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