MISSOULA — Nine Western Montana football games were postponed and two soccer matches were outright canceled on Friday due to unhealthy air quality created by wildfire smoke.
And as Montana's wildfire season presses on, games that were rescheduled for Saturday and Monday may also be in jeopardy.
"It's a mess right now," Columbia Falls athletic director Troy Bowman said of the challenges facing him and his counterparts. "None of us know our schedules."
All 12 of Montana's Department of Environmental Quality air monitoring stations west of the Continental Divide read as unhealthy at 2 p.m. Friday, prompting the schedule shuffle. Seeley Lake remained in the hazardous zone, the DEQ's most dangerous air-quality threshold.
It's taken a particularly tough toll on the Blackhawks, who haven't even been able to use their gym, although the volleyball team will play against Clark Fork in Superior on Friday.
"High school sports, they’ve been coming to Missoula for practice. They’ll end up having some off-site games," Seeley's superintendent Chris Stout said. "Junior high sports are postponed for at least a week. There’s a real potential it might turn into an intramural type of season for volleyball and football.
"They’re just such short seasons, by the time they get going they’ll be over."
The smoke has coaches getting creative to come up with practice space for some of their school's biggest squads. Frenchtown football has practiced in its cafeteria, according to the school's principal. Hellgate cross country, with over 100 participants on the roster, has taken to running on treadmills with some training runs totaling 16 miles.
"I just sent an email to a coach in Helena and my title was 'This sucks,'" Hellgate coach Anders Brooker said after the Missoula Coaches Invite last week. "When it comes to the team, it's been a challenge to get runs in.
"But we're all dealing with it."
But game day events are a different monster. Below are the postponements, cancellations and weekend games that have been rescheduled as of 5 p.m. Friday. This story will be updated Friday as needed.
Great Falls at Missoula Sentinel will be played Friday, but it was moved to Butte's Naranche Stadium. Kickoff is still slated for 7 p.m.
- Ronan at Stevensville, rescheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in Stevensville.
- Browning at Hamilton, rescheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Butte.
- Libby at Frenchtown, rescheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday in Fairfield
- Polson at Corvallis, rescheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday. Game will be played either in Corvallis or Butte, depending on air quality.
- Plains at Troy, rescheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday in Troy.
- Thompson Falls at Eureka, rescheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, location TBD.
- Arlee at Charlo, rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday at Charlo.
- West Yellowstone at Noxon, rescheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in West Yellowstone.
- Victor at Seeley-Swan, rescheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in Victor.
- Deer Lodge at Anaconda, postponed Friday. The game is expected to be rescheduled Monday.
Plans for Florence and Bigfork's Saturday football game are being discussed with a decision expected early Saturday morning, according to Marsh. Among possible scenarios are keeping the game at Florence at 5 p.m. Saturday, playing at Missoula County Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday, playing at Stevensville on Saturday, playing at Bigfork on Saturday and playing at Butte on Saturday.
Belgrade boys' and girls' soccer was scheduled to play Bigfork on Friday and Columbia Falls on Saturday. Both games have been canceled and there will be no make-up game.
Livingston's soccer teams were scheduled to play Columbia Falls on Friday and Bigfork on Saturday. Both games have been canceled and there will be no make-up game.
Saturday's soccer games between Missoula Hellgate and Kalispell Glacier in Kalispell will be rescheduled, although no make-up date has been announced.
Saturday's soccer games between Missoula Big Sky and Kalispell Flathead were postponed with a reschedule date to be announced.
School officials will wait to decide the fate of Saturday's soccer games between Loyola Sacred Heart and Stevensville in the morning. A similar plan is in place for the soccer games between Corvallis and Frenchtown.