High school football realignment goes into effect this season
For long-time Cougar fans, this year’s football schedule is going to be a little different.
Gone are the familiar games against Roundup, Shepherd, and Huntley, replaced by Townsend, Boulder, and Three Forks.
During the off-season, the Montana High School Association instituted new football alignments across the state that become effective this season.
The Class B changes are fairly significant.
Gone are the seven smaller (five or six-team) districts, combined instead into four larger (seven or eight-team) divisions.
The top four teams in each division will earn a playoff spot at the end of the season.
Columbus will keep Red Lodge and Sweet Grass as conference games, but will lose Roundup and Joliet.
The new conference games include Broadwater (Townsend), Manhattan, Three Forks, Jefferson (Boulder), and Whitehall.
Cougar Head Coach Blake Hoge acknowledged that “the longer travel times are not ideal, especially in that our guys are going to miss more school, but I’m confident they’ll adapt and excel.”
These new conference games are all against teams Columbus has faced in the past, but this year the outcomes will have playoff implications, Hoge explained. The only non-conference game the Cougars have this year is the season-opener at home against Baker.
“With adding more teams, and some historically strong programs, it’s going to really mean something to win the Southern B (division),” he said. “We’re excited for the challenge.”
The Class C realignment caused some minor changes to the eight and six-man southern divisions.
For eight-player, a new team will be added to the southern division: Joliet. With the addition of Joliet also comes the loss of Shields Valley to six-player football.
This leaves the eight-man southern division at the following schools: Absarokee, Broadview/Lavina, Ennis, Gardiner, Harlowton, Hobson/Moore/Judith Gap, Joliet, Lone Peak, Park City, and Stanford/Denton/Geyser.
The addition of Shields Valley was the only change to the six-player southern division.
The following schools, then, are in the six-man southern division: Bridger, Custer/Hysham, Fromberg/Belfry, Grass Range/Winnett, Northern Cheyenne, Reed Point/Rapelje, Roy/Winifred, and Shields Valley.