Anaconda travels to Deer Lodge tonight to wrap up the regular season, and just like last year playoff implications are on the line.
The Copperheads beat Deer Lodge 38-14 last year at Mitchell Stadium, propelling them as the No. 2 seed out of the 6B.
Here’s where the story slightly changes this time around. Last season after losing to Anaconda, the No. 3-seeded Wardens earned the wildcard for the West and North divisions. This year, the wildcard is already secured by Shelby out of the 1B.
Anaconda can make the playoffs, but they need some help. Anaconda needs to beat Deer Lodge and have Ronan fall to Mission — the latter seems to be a tall order. If the Copperheads win and Ronan wins, both would have 3-2 district records and Ronan would advance due to their 43-7 win over Anaconda earlier this season.
Deer Lodge controls their own destiny. Beat Anaconda and they are in and Ronan is out. Any other scenario doesn’t matter. No three-team tiebreaker gives the 6B enough bonus points to eclipse Shelby even though they lost to Cut Bank 21-0 Thursday.
But now let’s revisit an earlier week in Class B. On Monday, Oct. 3, word spread quickly about a “mutually agreed upon” game cancellation between Manhattan and Huntley Project. It was later revealed officials from Huntley were upset about the cancellation while Manhattan admitted injuries would make this matchup too one-sided and wanted the forfeit.
Personally, I knew this wasn’t right. I knew this could affect possible playoff implications down the road. How? Try to keep up.
In Class B, a team gets 45 points for a win and 25 points for a loss. Then, at the end of the regular season, a team will receive three points for every opponents win (except if the team lost to that opponent). Add the number and divide by the number of games played on the teams schedule and you have your tiebreaking number.
To save the reader the time I spent working the numbers of wins/losses and their opponents’ wins/losses, Shelby was significantly in front of any possibly third-place team in the 6B or 7B.
Back to Manhattan. For arguments sake say Anaconda misses out by three opponents points. Manhattan forfeited and gave away their chance at three points against Huntley. Were they going to win? Possibly not. But hypothetically, they could have. And it could’ve affected the playoffs. That’s why, when Manhattan cancelled the game because they had too many varsity level players on the cusp of not playing after being banged up from a division win over Whitehall, their decision to forfeit was a cop out. And honestly, the decision was bigger than them.
Yes, safety of the kids comes first. But that’s why you have a JV squad. I can’t imagine having a coach look me in the eye and basically say, “You know what guys, we just don’t have what it takes to play against that team. Let’s take the week off, heal up and see how we look afterwards.”
In my opinion, the MHSA should’ve intervened and made the game happen. I can understand if you don’t have enough to field a team and be forced to forfeit, but this wasn’t the case. They were banged up on three or four skill positions and didn’t want another game against what seems to be a pretty solid squad to get in the way of winning a 7B district title. But Huntley suffered for it as well. They lost another game to improve and possibly play some younger kids to get them exposure to the varsity level. That raises morale around the whole program. Believe it or not, they were losers too.
In the end, it sets a bad precedence. Play the games that are on your schedule. Hell, Anaconda has had to deal with those circumstances for years against Dillon. And not once can I remember coaches Peterson or Orrino looking their players in the eyes and doing their very best to get the players to believe they could overcome adversity — it’s the essence of sports. Blockbuster Hollywood movies are based upon large odds being overcome.
Those large odds need to be in Mission’s favor tonight for Anaconda to go to the playoffs. That however is out of their control. What is in their control is ending the season of the same school that ended theirs in the Western B Divisional tournament in Kalispell last year.
If that’s not motivation enough, nothing will be.