The Montana High School Association’s Class A football tournament is down to eight teams
Dillon, Columbia Falls, Laurel and Whitefish survived the opening round last weekend to move into the quarterfinals with Billings Central, Lewistown, Polson and Hamilton.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s foursome, with a place in the semi-finals for the winners:
Whitefish Bulldogs (7-3) at Hamilton Broncs (9-0), Saturday at
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, high 44
When you have a dual-threat quarterback in a game, it’s exciting. When you have two dual-threat quarterbacks in a game, scoreboards get as nervous as coaching staffs, players and their fans do.
It has been two seasons since these two strong squads met. In 2020, Hamilton won 54-23.
Tyson Rostad threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, while Ben Tack ran for 80 yards in a 483-yard offensive attack for Hamilton.
Fynn Ridgeway, then the Whitefish’s sophomore quarterback, went 21 of 35 for 237 yards passing and threw two touchdowns.
The Whitefish struggled in the opening round last week against Havre’s tough defense. Although held to a season low in scoring, the Bulldogs defeated the Blue Ponies, 17-7.
Ridgeway was held to 152 yards passing. However, the senior quarterback racked up 112 yards rushing.
Mason Kelch had 100 yards receiving and a touchdown reception for the Bulldogs.
Ridgeway (1,684 yards passing, 1,259 yards rushing, 32 combined touchdowns) and Hamilton’s Tyson Bauder (1,290 yards passing, 701 yards rushing, 35 combined touchdowns) have combined for 4,934 total yards and 67 touchdowns.
That says a lot about the roles that the running backs, receivers and offensive linemen have played for the two quarterbacks.
Hamilton is averaging 218.3 yards rushing and 150.3 yards passing per game.
Bauder and Andrew Fredrick (121-689, 5.7 ypc, six TDs) carry the load on the ground for the Broncs.
In the receiving game, Eli Taylor (37-678, nine TD receptions) is the big game receiver for Hamilton.
Taylor (297 punt return yards) and Taylor Searle (312 punt return yards) are the key special teams returners for the Broncs. Searle is 30 of 39 on extra point attempts.
Dane Hunt (three INTs), Mason Kelch (two picks) and Carson Crack (two picks) have seven of the Whitefish’s 13 interceptions this season. Clayton Godsey and Rylan McDaniel have also recovered fumbles for the Bulldogs.
Sik is averaging 180.1 yards rushing and 171.3 yards passing per game.
Ridgeway and Ty Schwaiger (92-418, five rushing TDs) account for the bulk of the ground production.
Whitefish has four players over 200 yards receiving. Kelch (45-557, five TDs), Clayton Godsey (21-470, six TDs), Ryder Barinowski (12-218, two TDs) and Hunt (24-215, TD) give Ridgeway plenty of support in the passing game.
Ryder Barinowski is 26-of-28 on extra points and 2-of-2 on field goals. Kelch is 3-of-4 on point-after attempts and 2-2 on field goal attempts.
The Broncs defense has recorded 21 sacks, 14 interceptions and six fumble recoveries in 2022.
Lucas Lant (62 tackles, 30 solos, 2.5 sacks), Isaiah Van De Baan (61 tackles, 31 solos), Hunter Stewart (47 tackles), Noah Johnson (46 tackles, two sacks), Andrew Burrows (42 tackles, five sacks). ), Fredrick (41 tackles) and Derrick Saltzman (41 tackles, five sacks) anchor the Broncs’ defense.
With both teams averaging over 350 yards per game offensively, the defenses will be sorely tested.
Dillon Beavers (8-1) at Billings Central (8-1), at Herb Klindt Field, Saturday at 1 p.m
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, with a high of 55
While the Rams had the opportunity to rest and recover for the quarterfinals, the Beavers appeared to have their first-round playoff game with Frenchtown in hand through the first three quarters. However, they held off a ferocious fourth-quarter gallop by the Broncs to clinch a quarterfinal spot with a 42-34 victory.
Dillon led 14-0 in the first quarter and had a 35-7 lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Broncs rallied back to score 27 points in the fourth quarter.
Frenchtown hacked the margin down to seven points late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Kee Christiansen’s fifth rushing touchdown of the night, a 42-yard run, gave the Beavers an insurance score.
The Broncs scored a touchdown at the horn to cap off an eight-point Dillon win.
Christiansen threw for 143 yards and rushed for 110 yards and five touchdowns, four from one yard out.
It has been four years since Dillon and Billings Central met. In the 2018 Class A quarterfinals, the Rams defeated the Beavers 38-13, which was Central’s first step in their state title run.
In 2022, Dillon is averaging 193.8 passing yards and 176.1 rushing yards per contest.
Christiansen (1,733 yards passing, 16 passing TDs, 14 INTs, 587 yards rushing, 12 rushing TDs) and Kale Konen (79-544 rushing yards, seven rushing TDs) handle the duties in the ground game.
Eli Nourse (34-624, eight receiving TDs), Treyton Graham (26-522, seven receiving TDs) and Konen (15-241) are the key receivers in the Beavers’ offensive attack.
Dillon is 36-of-42 on extra point attempts, led by Casper Schretlen’s 24-of-25 in PATs.
Defensively, the Beavers are solid across the board with 13 interceptions, seven sacks and 32 passes defensed.
Kaden Pittman (68 tackles), Tanner Mussard (50 tackles), Jon Peterson (47 tackles), Max Davis (46 tackles), Jesse Hughes (45 tackles), Caden Hansen (37 tackles, four INTs, four passes defensed) , and Eli Nourse (37 tackles, six passes defensed, two INTs) are the defensive leaders for Dillon.
Central has a solid stable of offensive and defensive power that averaged 41.8 points per game and allowed a small number of points per game. The Rams have allowed double-digit scoring twice this season (Miles City in a 42-13 win, Lewistown in a 17-7 loss).
Columbia Falls (7-2) at Lewistown (9-0), Saturday at 1 p.m
Weather forecast: Mostly sunny, maximum 50 degrees
While the Golden Eagles earned an extra week of playoff preparation, the Wildcats were in high gear against the Miles City Cowboys.
Cody Schweikert passed for 249 yards and rushed for 87 more as the Wildcats’ defense helped shut out the Cowboys 48-0.
Justin Windauer and Jace Hill caught touchdown passes. Schweikert had three rushing touchdowns, and Windauer and Reggie Sapa each added one.
Hunter Goodman led the defense with 15 tackles, Alihn Anderson had two interceptions, and the Wildcats’ defense combined for five sacks.
It has been four years since the Golden Eagles and Wildcats have met. In the 2018 quarterfinals, Columbia Falls edged Lewistown, 23-22.
Colten McPhee, now a sophomore at Montana Western, rushed for 260 yards and two touchdowns in the win for the Wildcats.
Columbia Falls is averaging 511 yards per game, accounting for 38.9 points per game.
Schweikert (164-of-228, 71.9% completion rate, 2,301 yards, 23 TDs, four INTs, 340 rushing yards, nine TDs) is a challenge for opposing defenses. With Schweikert and Sapa (80-445, six TDs) rushing the ball out of the backfield, it opens up the passing game.
Hill (34-653, six TDs), Jace Duval (27-430, three TDs), Mark Robison (28-396, two TDs), Windauer (34-370, four TDs) and Anderson (7-157, two TDs) is a consistent contributor in the passing lanes for the Wildcats.
The Golden Eagles’ defense has accounted for 16 sacks, 14 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries.
Netburn (56 tackles, 1.5 sacks), Boyce (47 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Golik (44 tackles, three sacks, two INTs) and Brody Janness (33 tackles) are the leading tacklers for the Golden Eagles.
Lewistown has spread the wealth in the turnover game, as nine different Golden Eagles have fumble recoveries, and seven different players have interceptions.
The Golden Eagles average 264.2 yards per game, accounting for 38.9 points per contest.
Gage Norslien (679-of-110, 1,127 passing yards, 18 TDs, four INTs, 427 rushing yards, five rushing scores) has been a force for the Golden Eagles at quarterback.
Jett Boyce (79-526, eight rushing TDs) is the leading rusher for Lewistown.
Matthew Golik (22-438, seven receiving TDs), Kieran Netburn (16-237, three TDs), Royce Robinson (11-179, three TDs) and Maxx Ray (11-155, two TDs er) gives Norslien passing opportunities.
Schweikert is the leading tackler on defense for Columbia Falls with 85 stops. Goodman (78 tackles), Hill (60 tackles), Robison (60 tackles) and Windauer (50 tackles) lead a defense with 30 sacks (Chance Miller leads with six), 12 interceptions (Anderson with three picks) and four fumble recoveries .
Laurel Locomotives (8-2) at Polson Pirates (8-0), Saturday at 1 p.m
Weather forecast: Cloudy, high 45
Polson got some rest and recovery during the bye week in preparation for their quarterfinal game against Laurel.
The Locomotives moved out to a 24-6 halftime lead and cruised to a 45-6 victory over the Libby Loggers last Saturday at the Laurel Sports Complex.
Montana held Cy Stevenson to 53 yards on the ground, Laurel Libby to 167 total yards.
Offensively, Laurel racked up 348 yards. Lokomotiv quarterbacks Gus Robertus and Tanner Schwend combined for 110 passing yards and two passing scores.
Saturday’s game is a rematch of the Class A semifinal from a year ago, when Laurel held off Polson, 28-14.
The Lokomotives led that game 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, and 14-7 at the half. Laurel scored twice to extend the lead to 21 points in the third quarter. The Pirates scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter of that contest.
Polson’s offense is averaging 256.6 passing yards and 187.8 rushing yards per contest, leading to a 43.8 scoring average in 2022.
Justin Wilson (2009 yards passing, 31 TDs, INT, 679 rushing yards, 14 TDs) has been Polson’s driving force at quarterback the last three years, surpassing the 8,000 yard passing mark a couple of weeks ago and is 153 yards away. from amassing 10,000 total yards over the last three seasons (8,205 passing, 1,652 rushing). Between rushing and passing, Wilson has had a hand in 135 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
With a production like this, the supporting cast is just as amazing. Keyen Nash (67-470, four TDs) provides a change of pace return.
Four Pirates have over 250 yards receiving. Trent Wilson (41-564, nine TDs), Brock Henriksen (25-294, six TDs), Tyler Wenderoth (25-294, four TDs) and Dawson Dumont (11-254, five TDs ) have been the high producers in passing yardage.
Polson has combined for 21 sacks, 12 fumble recoveries and nine sacks this season.
The triplets, Colten Wilson (55 tackles) Justin Wilson (39 tackles, two INTs, fumble recovery), and Trent Wilson (35 tackles, five INTs) are three keys in an aggressive defensive unit. Keene Jaren (53 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Dumont (24 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Nash (18 tackles, three sacks) had been big contributors this season.
Robertus, Johnson, Burrows, Schwend and Younger will be relied upon heavily for Laurel in the ball game.