No. 3 Columbia Falls will look to outgun another high-flying offense while Whitefish hopes to avenge an early-season loss when the Class A football quarterfinals kick off today.
Columbia Falls (8-0) hosts Havre (6-4) at noon while Whitefish (8-2) travels to Central A champion Belgrade (7-2) for a 1 p.m. start. Belgrade beat Whitefish 21-19 earlier this season.
Columbia Falls and Havre boast two of the best passing offenses in Class A as Columbia Falls quarterback Jared Trinastich averages 266 passing yards per game while Havre’s Dane Warp averages 271 yards per contest. Both have completed more than 60 percent of their pass attempts.
“They have a really good quarterback” Columbia Falls coach Jaxon Schweikert said of Havre. “He throws the ball well, throws a high percentage and appears to be a pretty well-coached kid.”
Columbia Falls will be without safety Josiah Osborne, who suffered a broken leg in the regular season finale against Polson, but Schweikert said his secondary should be fine if the Wildcats can get pressure on Warp.
“We have to move him off his mark, his launch point,” Schweikert said. “He doesn’t throw the ball as well if you move him off his launch points. We have to build pressure, we prefer without blitzing.”
Both quarterbacks have plenty of weapons. Columbia Falls’ Ty Morgan leads the Northwestern A conference with 98 receiving yards per game, 50 receptions and 14 touchdowns. Havre has three different players more than 50 receiving yards per game.
Columbia Falls has the better running game, averaging 125 rushing yards compared to 96 for Havre.
While Havre spent last week edging Miles City in a 21-20 nail-biter, Columbia Falls, which won the Northwestern A title, was on a bye.
Havre and Columbia Falls have three common opponents in Whitefish, Lewistown and Browning. Both defeated Browning and Lewistown but Havre lost 45-27 to Whitefish in its season-opener. Columbia Falls beat Whitefish 21-0.
“For us to win, we just have to be us,” Schweikert said. “Our kids have to realize that they don’t have to be something different, they don’t have to be something special, something that they’re not. They just have to be them.
“I think we’re in great shape. Our kids are mentally and physically ready to go. If we go out and play our game, we’re going to be pretty hard to beat.”
Whitefish advanced to the quarterfinals with a resounding 43-12 win over Butte Central in the first round and is on a five-game winning streak. Now the Bulldogs head back to Belgrade, the site of a loss on Sept. 14. Special teams were the difference as Whitefish missed an extra point and failed a 2-point conversion attempt.
Belgrade’s high-scoring offense averages 38.6 points, 232 rushing yards and 98 passing yards per game. Whitefish’s biggest challenge will be containing quarterback Brayden Konkol, who leads the Panthers with 119 rushing yards per game and averages 7.9 yards per carry.
Whitefish has a dual-threat quarterback of its own in Luke May, who leads the Bulldogs with 62 rushing yards and 141 passing yards per game. His top target is Sean Foley, who has 29 catches for 495 yards.
In other Class A quarterfinals, defending state champion and No. 2 Billings Central (7-1) hosts Hamilton (7-3) and top-ranked Dillon (8-0) hosts No. 5 Laurel (7-3).