GRANITE COUNTY – For the Flint Creek Titans, it’s a different road with the same intended destination at the end - Titletown.
The Montana High School Association (MHSA) announced it’s bracketing for the 2018 Class C 8-man Football postseason Sunday morning, setting the stage for a 16-team battle royale that will culminate November 17.
Like 2017, The Titans sit atop the rankings as they prepare for the opening round this Saturday, October 27. But as Head Coach Mike Cutler and his team will tell you, that rank and a buck-fifty will get you a cup of coffee. In short, rankings and your record get you a seat at the table. After that it’s all settled between the goal posts.
Choteau Bulldogs (6-2) at Flint Creek Titans (9-0)
Site: Drummond High School
Date & Time: Oct. 27 at 1 p.m.
Travel Distance: 166 miles (Choteau)
Weather: 57/34, Rain & Drizzle possible
The 2018 bracket features 10 teams that played in the postseason last year. Along with Flint Creek are the Choteau Bulldogs, Fairview Warriors, Great Falls Central Mustangs, Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap Titans, Circle Wildcats, Joliet J-Hawks, Scobey Spartans, Ennis Mustangs and Arlee Warriors.
Not among the returning squads is the Titans championship game foe – the Forsythe Dogies. The Dogies finished just 3-6 (7th) in the East, managing to beat only Lame Deer, Lodgepole and St. Labre this year.
Also missing is Charlo, who actually could have been in the field. The Vikings are absent due to disciplinary actions taken by the school after a large number of students were caught violating player conduct rules by drinking. That caused Charlo to forfeit its last two games and opt out of a lower playoff spot, allowing 5-4 Darby to get into the postseason.
Also changing this year is the format of the bracket itself. It’s still a 16-team bracket with a team needing four wins to claim the title. But this year the championship will be played on a neutral field, Butte’s Naranche Stadium. Flint Creek is already familiar with the site, having beaten Alberton-Superior 50-16 in the season opener.
The Titans will also no longer have the ‘golden ticket’ that they did in 2017 that assured them of a home game in every round through the championship. The portions of the bracket with the No. 1 teams from the North and the South are designated as home team for the semifinals, meaning Flint Creek would be on the road in the third round.
The only way for the Titans to play back in Granite County in that game would be if Darby managed to win its first two games, beating Shelby and then the winner of the Hobson-Moore-Judith Gap vs. Circle game. Being from the same conference and with a better record, Flint Creek would get that third round home game.
It’s a tall order that the Tigers will likely have trouble filling.
Typically brackets are split using rankings, placing the No. 1 and 4 teams in one half and the No. 2 and 3 teams in the other. According to the 406mtsports.com ranking of October 15, the top two teams reside in the lower half of the bracket. No1. Flint Creek and No. 2 Shelby could meet in a semifinal, while No. 3 Fairview and No. 4 Joliet could meet in the other.
The final anomaly in the bracket is that there is no No. 4 represented from the South. Instead the No. 5 team in the east, Chinook,, is inserted in their place. That places three teams from the North in the upper bracket instead of the usual two.