Wildcats poised to begin playoff run

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  • Columbia Falls quarterback Drew Morgan hands off to running back Colton McPhee against Hamilton in the Wildcats’ season opener. With a win Saturday, the Wildcats could see Hamilton again in the Class A state semi-finals. (Jeremy Weber photo)

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    Lane Sapa and Wildcats will open the 2018 Class A playoffs at home Saturday as they host Fergus at 1 p.m. (Jeremy Weber photo)

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  • Columbia Falls quarterback Drew Morgan hands off to running back Colton McPhee against Hamilton in the Wildcats’ season opener. With a win Saturday, the Wildcats could see Hamilton again in the Class A state semi-finals. (Jeremy Weber photo)

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    Lane Sapa and Wildcats will open the 2018 Class A playoffs at home Saturday as they host Fergus at 1 p.m. (Jeremy Weber photo)

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After a bye in the first round last week, the Columbia Falls Wildcats are set to begin the 2018 football playoffs as they host the Fergus Golden Eagles of Lewistown at Satterthwaite Field Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Wildcats (7-1) will be looking to defend their 2017 Class A state title while the Golden Eagles (8-2) are coming off their first playoff victory in nearly two decades, a 21-0 win over Sidney last week.

Season statistics would have the Wildcats as a heavy favorite coming into the contest as Columbia Falls leads the Golden Eagles in nearly every category, including rushing, total yards, tackles, sacks, interceptions and points per contest. In fact, the only category the Golden Eagles led over Columbia Falls this season was passing yards per game, where Fergus threw for 203 yards per game to the Wildcats’ 176.

Both teams opened the 2018 season with losses as Columbia Falls fell to Hamilton at home while Fergus lost to the Laurel Locomotives. The Wildcats bounced back with seven straight wins to earn the Northwest A Conference title while the Golden Eagles ripped off six straight wins before suffering their second loss of the season to Billings Central, 49-18, on Oct. 12. Fergus bounced back with a win over Glendive in the final game of the regular season to finish third in the East/Central Conference.

The Wildcats come into the contest averaging 54.1 points per game with an offense led by senior running back Colten McPhee, whose 1,577 rushing yards in the regular season was 23 yards more than Fergus had as a team. Senior quarterback Drew Morgan finished the regular season with 1,262 passing yards and 21 touchdowns to eight different receivers.

McPhee leads all Wildcat receivers with 326 yards and seven touchdowns while Parker Greene has caught five touchdown passes and Lane Sapa has four.

The Golden Eagles come into the contest having averaged 31.9 points per game in the regular season, led by senior quarterback Mitchell Norslien’s 1,720 yards and 16 touchdowns. Norslien had five games this season with more than 200 passing yards, including a 255-yard game against Livingston in week 3. The Golden Eagles are 4-1 in games in which Norslien throws for 200 or more yards.

Like the Wildcats, the Golden Eagles passing offense spreads the ball around as seven receivers had caught touchdown passes this season, led by Jacob Clinton’s six. Clinton’s best game of the season came in a loss against Billings Central in week 8 when he finished with 167 yards. Tanner Trafton also had a pair of 100 plus yard receiving games.

On the ground, Fergus is led by running back Wesley Jameson, who had three 100 plus yard rushing games during the regular season.

Defensively, the Golden Eagles have allowed 14.1 points per game and have recorded five shutouts this season, including their playoff win last week. The Fergus defense is led by Jameson, with 100 tackles, and Duane Otto, who has 87 tackles, including five sacks. The Golden Eagles have 10 interceptions this year.

The Wildcats have no shutouts this season, but have given up only 15.75 points per game, with many of those points coming at the end of blowouts. The Columbia Falls defense is led by McPhee with 87 tackles while Tanner Gove has 73. Sam Despain and Zack Pletcher led the team in sacks with three each while McPhee and Gove each have 2.5. The Wildcats also have 12 interceptions, led by Brayden Stone with three and Morgan with two.

The winner of Saturday’s game will take on the winner of Hamilton and Miles City in the Class A state semi-final.

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