Then there were four — Fairfield/Augusta (Northern Division), Manhattan/Manhattan Christian (South), Lincoln County/Eureka (West) and Red Lodge/Roberts/Belfry (East).
The four teams remaining are each the number one seed from their division. To top it off, the four teams are all undefeated going into the semifinal games on Saturday, Nov. 16. The games will kick off at 1 p.m. with Manhattan/Manhattan Christian traveling to Fairfield and Red Lodge/Roberts/Belfry on the road to Eureka.
It doesn’t happen often that all four teams in the semifinals are number one seeds. Looking back at playoff records for Class B going back to 1990, there have been six times that four number one seeds have made it — 1993, 1995, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009.
“It is pretty special we have this opportunity to play in a state semifinal game,” Fairfield/Augusta head coach Les Meyer said, Sunday night. The Eagles defeated Florence-Carlton in the quarterfinal game, 55-20, to advance to the semifinal game.
The Eagles are very familiar with the Tigers, as the two teams have previously played each other four times during the playoffs. The Eagles are 4-0 against Manhattan/Manhattan Christian.
Three of the playoff games have been held in Manhattan — the 2010 semifinals, the 2011 quarterfinals, the 2016 quarterfinals; and last year in Fairfield quarterfinals.
“We aren’t surprised Manhattan/Manhattan Christian is where they are this year after playing them last year,” Meyer said. “The kids on the team were good a year ago and even better this year. They are a solid team up front, have good returning linemen and a strong coaching staff at the helm.” He also said they have good numbers and depth on the team.
Meyer told the players after the win last weekend to enjoy the victory for a day and to be ready to practice and prepare for the next game come Monday.
The coach spoke of how this year’s team has grown up on the field throughout the season. Several of the players are seeing varsity play for the first time this year. With a smaller senior class than previous years, there are sophomores and juniors playing key roles. With that said, Meyer emphasized the younger players have gained invaluable experience practicing against those teams that have come before them. “Just as the Red Raiders are today, giving the varsity teams great looks at their opponents each week as we prepare for the game at hand,” Meyer said.
Looking back at the game against Florence-Carlton, Meyer singled out the playing of the offensive line. “They did a good job throughout a very physical game,” he added. In a game that started off with the teams exchanging scores in the first quarter, 19-14, Meyer didn’t name just one turning point in the contest. He said for sure the goal line stand at the end of the second quarter was one. The second was when the team, despite not scoring after taking over possession at that point, made good yardage before time ran out.
“We went to the locker room with a three-score lead (35-14) and good momentum, knowing we had to kick off to them at the start of the second half,” Meyer said.
Meyer said he thought the team kept up the intensity in the second half and was patient in working the field. He praised Gabe Roberts for stepping up when Conner Klick was injured.
He said the team was successful in moving the ball with 356 yards rushing. Senior quarterback Keeley Bake carried the ball 19 times for 171 yards. Fellow senior running back Gaice Blackwell had 91 yards on 13 carries and sophomore Miguel Perez hauled the ball 11 times for 72 yards. In the air, the Eagles had 137 yards on 12 passes. Gavin Mills led the team in catches with five for 53 yards. Perez had two catches for 54 yards.
The Eagles spread out the scoring with Bake running in for one touchdown and tossing touchdown passes to Perez and twice to Mills. Perez scored three more rushing touchdowns and Blackwell added another touchdown on a 10-yard run.
This is Fairfield’s 18th trip to the semifinals. They have a record of 10-7 in these games. The Eagles’ last home loss in the semifinals was in 1975 to Thompson Falls, 7-0.
This is Manhattan’s second trip to the semifinals in Class B. Manhattan is 11-11 all-time in playoffs, and 10-3 at home. They are 1-8 on the road in the playoffs. The Tigers’ only road win was at Columbus in 2015, a 67-41 victory, which is the highest scoring game ever in the playoffs.
Manhattan also owns a win in Fairfield in 2012 which is the last home regular season loss for the Eagles.
Fairfield/Augusta 19-16-8-12 — 55
Florence-Carlton 14-0-0-6 — 20
FHS — Miguel Perez 39-yd. pass from Keeley Bake. (Bake kick.)
FCHS — Dolby Kohlman 5-yd. run. (Caden Zaluski kick.)
FHS — Perez 18-yd. run. (Kick blocked.)
FHS — Bake 20-yd. run. (Run failed.)
FCHS — 22-yd. pass. (Kick good.)
FHS — Gavin Mills 8-yd. pass. (Daniel Faith 3-yd pass from Guidry Giles.)
FHS — Perez 4-yd. run. (Mills 3-yd. pass.)
FHS — Mills 24-yd. pass from Bake. (Bake run.)
FHS — Gaice Blackwell 10-yd. run. (Kick failed.)
FCHS — Kohlman 1-yd run. (Kick failed.)
FHS — Perez 8-yd run. (Kick failed.)