DILLON — DILLON—When Dillon and Sidney — two schools separated by a short jaunt of 550 miles — played a Week 4 non-conference game, they met in the middle at Lockwood High School.
But the Eagles weren't as eager to surrender home field advantage this time.
"Jokingly, we tried to call Sidney and see if they'd come back to Lockwood to play us," said Dillon football coach Zach McRae during a Wednesday practice at Vigilante Stadium. "But boy I don't know what it'd take to give up a home playoff game."
The Beavers, the No. 5 seed out of the West, will take on Sidney, the No. 4 East seed, on Saturday in the first round of the Class A playoffs. It'll also be a regular season rematch after the two teams decided to forgo their Week 4 byes and play in Lockwood. Dillon handily won that game, 36-14. With that victory, the Beavers improved to 2-2 on the season.
"It was great, we had a lot of energy," said Dillon senior wide receiver Jon Kirkley. "You could kind of tell were on a mission to get out of that losing slump."
Sidney heads into the playoffs at 4-5 overall and 4-4 in the Eastern A while Dillon is 7-2 overall and 6-2 in the Western A.
The Beavers dropped their first two games of the regular season and then went on a seven-game win streak. They were hoping to clinch a West No. 3 or No. 4 seed to guarantee a first-round home game but ended up in a three-way tie with Columbia Falls and Whitefish.
Whitefish had beaten Dillon in Week 1, and the Bulldogs were awarded the No. 3 seed. And Columbia Falls had beaten Whitefish, and so the Wildcats earned the No. 4 seed.
After the tiebreakers were sorted out, the Beavers slipped to the West No. 5 seed and the overall No. 10 seed in the Class A playoffs, meaning that the Beavers will — barring some fantastical postseason scenario — be on the road for the duration of the playoffs.
"What it comes down to is we lost some tough ones early, so we lost control of our destiny a little," McRae said. "Got shuffled into a three-way tie, came out on the bottom of it. We're taking it one day at a time, it is what it is. We're just excited to go play football over in Sidney."
Whether at home or on the road, Dillon has become a mainstay of the Class A playoffs. The Beavers haven't missed the postseason since 2004 and, during that span, advanced to the title game nine times and brought home six championships.
Dillon's biggest objective against the Eagles will be keeping junior quarterback Zander Dean in check. The 5-foot-10, dual-threat has thrown for 726 yards and five touchdowns while adding 585 yards and five scores on the ground. Running back Aden Graves will also pose a challenge as the senior has rumbled for over 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.
"No. 7 is as a good an athlete as we've faced," McRae said. "He's fast, he's shifty, he's a great runner. He does a great job at extending plays. We'll do our best to keep him contained."
Beating a team twice in a season is never easy, but the Beavers are confident their earlier meeting against Sidney will prove beneficial.
"Definitely glad we played them earlier in the season," said senior receiver Treyton Anderson. "I think they've gotten a lot better but I think we definitely have too. So we're just gonna do our best and have some fun."