BILLINGS — This weekend is one of the biggest on the Montana high school sports calendar. Four state volleyball tournaments and eight playoff football games are on the schedule, including state championship contests in 6-man and Class A.
Yellowstone County will host perhaps the two biggest football matchups- the aforementioned State A title game between Billings Central and Laurel and a State AA semifinal between Billings West and Bozeman. The two sets of rivals normally draw thousands of fans each, but if you're thinking you'll head down to Daylis Stadium or Lockwood on a whim, think again. COVID-19 gathering limits dictate that if you aren't on the list, you're not getting in.
Yellowstone County hasn't allowed public walk-ups at all this year. Instead, players and staff are given a certain number of tickets each, for which they must submit names beforehand to be checked at entrance gates.
Last month, the Montana High School Association announced a maximum of six tickets per player would be allowed, plus four tickets each for coaches and two each for up to 12 cheerleaders. However, there will be no student sections and no pep bands. These are the exact guidelines Central and Laurel are going by Saturday, as approved by the Yellowstone County health department.
However, Billings School District 2 has been more strict this season, only allowing two tickets to everybody (players, coaches and cheerleaders), and SD2 Activities Director Mark Wahl says that won't change for Friday's game. Even though they are technically allowed more, Wahl says this rule has worked well all year and won't be changed, especially with continually increasing COVID numbers in the county.
Those headed to state volleyball tournaments in Sidney, Shelby, and Malta should check with your school to see how many tickets per player they're allowing. Per MHSA rules, it has to be at least two but no more than six, so casual fans will likely have to watch from home.
All games are streamed online through the NFHS Network, though viewers will likely have to pay a subscription fee. Click here for more information.