Friday, October 30, 2009

Now's The Time

Sangrey Crosses Over
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Go ahead, pick a town—make it one of the smaller towns in Montana and treat yourself to all of the charm it offers along with the friendly individuals that call it home this Saturday—Halloween. While you’re at it, consider one of those listed below where you can double your fun by taking in a classic small town football game.

I’m heading just up to the road to Joliet, Montana to watch an eight-man game where the J-Hawks take on the Scobey Spartans who are making a pretty significant road trip from way up in the northeast corner of Montana. This trip will be nothing for the Spartans given last year when they travelled all the way to Superior, Montana—less than 50 miles from the Idaho border.

If Joliet is a bit too far from your home, consider these other towns where you can watch an eight-man or six-man playoff game.

Way Up North
Starting up north there is Centerville (not far from Great Falls) where the Miners are hosting the Victor Vikings. The Miners are always tough at home, this week will not be an exception. One of the things I love about Montana football playoffs, because the state is so big, often two schools will face each other for the first time in history. That could be the case in this match-up.

The Big Sandy Pioneers will be welcoming the Bridger Scouts in a rematch of last year’s six-man playoff game. The massive grain elevators adjacent to the gridiron make for a classic small town backdrop. I wonder if U.S. Senator John Tester will be in attendance cheering on his hometown team.

There’s also a game in Charlo—a nice detour on your way to Flathead Lake. The Vikings of Charlo will be facing the co-op of small schools from Power, Dutton and Brady. I have yet to attend a game in Charlo.

If history is your thing, you might want to swing down to Fort Benton (not far from Great Falls too) to visit the bridge over the Missouri River and the gravesite of the dog that defined “man’s best friend,” Shep. While your there, the Longhorns will be hosting their first 8-man football playoff game against Arlee. It wasn’t too many years ago that Fort Benton won the Class B 11-man title.

How about an out-of-the-way location like the little town of Denton where their six-man football team is undefeated and hosting Terry? Check out the hardware store in Denton—they have it all, packed tightly into the space of a Dairy Queen.

If you live in Great Falls and want that small town feeling without really leaving the comforts of the big city, I suspect the six-man game between Great Falls Central and the Custer-Melstone Cougars might be the ticket.

Go West
Western Montana, are you kidding!? If you’ve never been to Drummond, this is your chance. A football game at Drummond should be on any football junkie’s bucket list. Another strong Trojan team will be hosting the Wolves from Stanford (and Geyser). Stanford seems to have all the luck these past few years—sooner or later they face Drummond in a playoff game, and... well, they’d probably just assume not.

Purple Camo Brigade
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Down in Sheridan, the purple-clad Panthers will be entertaining the also purple-clad Cowboys all the way from Culbertson-Bainville near the North Dakota border. Many of the Sheridan fans will be decked out in their special-order, purple camouflage clothing—and if you ask nicely, they’ll even let you take their picture.

Perhaps you’re thinking about a trip through Yellowstone. If that’s the case you can double your money because the Wolverines of West Yellowstone are hosting a six-man game against the North Star Knights consisting of players from the tiny towns of Rudyard, Kremlin and Gildford (along Montana’s Hi-Line).

Last but not least is Lima, Montana—down on the Idaho border with the Bitterroot Mountains serving as a majestic backdrop. Rather than Lima High School hosting the game, the home team will be the Clark County Bobcats (of Dubois, Idaho—that’s right an Idaho team in the running for the Montana State Championship). The Cats are taking on the Reed Point-Rapelje Renegades in Lima because all Montana playoff games must be played in Montana and Lima is just over the border from Dubois.

Back East

Prairie Eruption
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Speaking of bucket lists, the same is true about a game in Wibaux—the Beast from the East. The Longhorns have one of the most successful active coaches year after year in Jeff Bertelsen and are hosting the Harlowton Engineers. After the game, I recommend a stop at the Rainbow Club for a cold one and old reruns of past Wibaux State Championship games.

Further south along the North Dakota border you’ll find Ekalaka (sometimes it’s just fun to say “Ekalaka”) way down in the southeast corner of the state and there the Bulldogs of Carter County will be hosting the Falcons of Twin Bridges. It’ll be along bus ride for the Falcons from the scenic Ruby Valley whether they win or lose.

Where the Yellowstone River turns north and approaches the Missouri River you’ll find the sleepy town of Savage where the Warriors will be hosting Augusta. The Elks have advanced deep in the six-man playoffs the last couple of years and put together a good following of fans no matter how far they have to travel.

A little farther west and north and truly out of the way is the town of Winifred. The Red Raiders are facing another isolated town’s football team in the Jordan Mustangs—maybe we should call this the “Obscurity Bowl.” Both of these teams just moved down from eight-man play in the last year and have made the adjustment without a hitch.

If Billings is home for you, this weekend might be your excuse to finally venture to Hysham. The Pirates are undefeated and their fans know how to throw a pre-game tailgate party. The Tigers of Geraldine and their stellar six-man football program are in town to take on heavily-favored Hysham. But, one should never count out Geraldine Head Coach Rod Tweet and any team he brings to a football game.

There you have it, 16 different towns (and all small with the exception of one) offering 16 different games—all starting at 1:00 on Saturday. I’d like to see them all, but there’s something very pure and honest about choosing only one and going for it.


Mark said...

Just thought I'd let you know that I took your advice and drove out to Lima today. It wasn't a stellar game, but I had lots of fun ... this could become a habit. :)

Morgan said...

Yeah, if you're anything like me, it grows on you. I find myself thinking about some game I attended years ago that (at the time) wasn't all that spectacular, but perhaps it was just the setting. I think one should also consider the miles of scenery between home and the game—for me, that's part of it too.