MISSOULA — Sporting a four-game win streak and with just one loss on the season, Missoula Sentinel is ready for the Class AA playoffs to get going.
The second seed out of the western half of the classification, the 8-1 Spartans will face 0-8 Billings Skyview on Friday at 7 p.m. in Missoula County Stadium. It is the first Class AA playoff game to be played in Missoula since a 2017 first-round crosstown matchup that Sentinel won in upset fashion over Missoula Big Sky.
The Spartans got bounced in the second round that season. They are looking for quite a bit more this year.
“I’m super happy for the kids,” Sentinel head coach Dane Oliver said. “They’ve played extremely well the past two weeks, finding ways to win ballgames. This feels rewarding for all the people who have invested time, it has taken a large contingent people to get us here.”
Sentinel boasts a versatile offense that is averaging 353.8 yards per game — 195 through the air and 158.8 on the ground. Dayton Bay, arguably the most efficient quarterback in Montana high school football, has completed an even 75% of his passes this season.
The junior quarterback has 141 completions on 188 attempts this year, throwing for 1,634 yards and 19 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Bay has three wide receivers with 25 or more catches (TJ Rausch, Preston Jones and Jaxon Lee) who have combined for 89 grabs and 1,045 receiving yards.
Lee is also the team’s leading rusher, with 196 carries for 987 yards and 14 scores on the ground.
“It makes you multiple,” Oliver said. “A lot of teams have keyed in on Jaxon, but we’ve got other guys and other weapons on the edge.”
On defense, the Spartans are led by Soren Syvrud and Brandon Schmid, who have combined for 11 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Sentinel has had seven different players pick off a pass this season.
Skyview brings in one of worst offenses in Class AA as the Falcons average just 145 yards per game and have scored only 30 points this year.
Hellgate at Billings Senior
The Knights will be looking for their first playoff since a magical 1994 season when it lost to Big Sky in the state title game.
Hellgate heads to Billings for a Saturday matchup at 1 p.m. with Billings Senior (4-4, 4-2), the third seed out of the east. The Knights are the sixth seed from the west and finished the regular season at 3-5 with a 2-5 mark in conference play.
Without dynamic senior quarterback Rollie Worster against Butte in the regular season finale after the Utah State basketball commit was injured against Helena Capital, it could be tough sledding for the Knights if he is out for the playoff game.
Big Sky at Bozeman
Can the Eagles repeat their second-week magic against the Hawks?
Big Sky is the only team to beat Bozeman this season — a 21-18 slugfest — and that game happened to be the Eagles' only win of the regular season. Since that game, Big Sky has lost seven straight games and has scored just 41 points over the last four weeks.
The Hawks boast one of the best defenses in Class AA and are outscoring opponents 291-74. Kickoff is slated for Friday at 7 p.m. in Bozeman.
Loyola Sacred Heart at Huntley Project
Coming off a 35-20 win over Deer Lodge, the Rams finished the season 5-4 and are the third seed out of the Western B conference.
The Red Devils are 6-2 on the year and have outscored opponents 191-94. One of their two losses was in the season opener to Loyola, which the Rams took 25-20. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. on Saturday and the winner faces either Manhattan or Cut Bank in the state quarterfinals.