There’s one more game and possibly the biggest challenge of the season left before the state championship game.
That’s the case for a pair of local teams, both looking to host the most coveted game of the season next week.
Columbia Falls is on the road at Sidney and Eureka at home against Fairfield on Saturday in the state football semifinals, each with a chance to host the state title game.
Columbia Falls was in this same position last season at a few different points. The Wildcats played on the road in the semifinals with the chance to host the last game of the season at home. They dominated that game, topping Belgrade 38-7. They also traveled to Sidney in the playoffs, beating the Eagles on the road 35-20.
The experience bodes well for the Wildcats, facing what seems to be a much stiffer test this postseason. Sidney is undefeated at home this season and brings back a lot of the same talent from last year. With Columbia Falls, the Eagles are the only other team to beat one of the other two semifinalists.
If Columbia Falls gets to host the championship for a second straight year, it will have earned it the hard way, going through an 8-win team and a 9-win team to get the opportunity.
Eureka is also back in the same place it found itself last year.
The defending state champion Lions are dominating again, riding the best run of success in school history, winning their last 18 games.
While some could have considered last year’s title a fluke, coming on a last-second Hail Mary, this year has left no doubt about the talent in the Tobacco Valley. Eureka has won all nine of its games this season, winning by an average of five touchdowns in possibly the toughest division in the state.
To earn the chance to repeat and host the first state title game in Eureka, the Lions will have to go through a Class B powerhouse. Fairfield has been the best program of the last 10 years, finishing with at least 10 wins six times in that span, making the championship game five times.
With so much on the line for both teams, playing such a tough game can only help. There’s no daydreaming, no chance of looking ahead to what’s still out there with such a tough opponent on deck.
Columbia Falls and Eureka have plenty still to look forward to, but enough on their plate to focus on this weekend.