Home again, but Eureka expects a much different and stiffer challenge today.
The Lions (9-0) opened the Class B football playoffs by crushing and hosting Cut Bank 40-6 and Manhattan/Manhattan Christian 36-0.
Up next for the defending state champions, however, is perennial power Fairfield (10-0) in a semifinal match at 1 p.m. today in Eureka.
Fairfield boasts a 40-2 record over the last four season, won a state title in 2015 and lost a year ago in the semifinals to Missoula Loyola.
“They know how to win,” Eureka coach Trevor Utter said.
“Extremely solid. They always look at where they can we take advantage of a team. We’ll line up our athletes on their athletes and make plays, hopefully more than they do.”
Fairfield opened the playoffs at home with a 56-14 victory over Florence/Carlton. Last Saturday the Eagles knocked off Huntley Project 36-21 on the road.
The winner of today’s game will host the state champion game on Nov. 18.
In today’s other semifinal matchup, at 1 p.m., Shelby (7-3) entertains Loyola (8-3).
Loyola defeated Shelby in the second game of the regular season 9-0.
Fairfield and Eureka did not play during the fall campaign.
“We studied a ton of film (on Fairfield),” Utter said.
“They are so solid across the board. Very well coached. I’m not sure how this game will go, but our kids are ready to play.”
Utter said Fairfield has a special athlete directing the offensive attack in Ryder Meyer. He passed for a touchdown and ran for another last week.
“Their quarterback is a phenomenal athlete,” Utter said.
“A tough kid who runs ball well and makes plays in the passing game. Very smart.”
Eureka’s defense has met the playoff challenge thus far, allowing just one score. Last week the Lions intercepted Manhattan twice to end scoring threats.
“When they were driving, our kids made some timely plays that kept them out of the end zone,” Utter said. “Manhattan was a good football team. They moved the ball against us at times.”
Offensively, Eureka has shown great balance all season with senior quarterback Garrett Graves directing the attack. Last week he ran for three touchdowns and passed for another against Manhattan. He rushed for 77 yards and was 15 of 25 passing for 230 yards.
Chet McCully rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown. He has rushed for 820 yards to date.
Hank Dunn had three receptions for 72 yards and a score.
“Our boys are confidence,” Utter said.
“They know what’s at stake. It’s a huge challenge. Keeping a good focus has not been an issue. They are ready to go. Let’s get this game on.”