Friday, November 09, 2007


Sidelined with Crutches
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I'm not going to Wibaux this year for the trilogy; that is, the rematch with Drummond in the semi-finals.

All week long I've been telling people and myself that I'm just too tired from last week's trip to Sunburst, and its 900-plus-miles of driving. That excuse is probably good enough.

But, laying in bed this morning, I started thinking about the game. In fact, I even felt this tug that said, "Get up early Saturday morning anyway, and just go to Wibaux. Go on."

I tried to picture what I'd photograph once I arrived. I was rolling around in my mind what could be visually different than last year's blockbuster at Wibaux. I could see myself up on the hill—not the sidelines—by the statue of Pierre Wibaux watching from a distance. Like a little kid at a horror movie for the first time watching with my eyes half covered by my hands and wincing the entire time.

Wibaux and Drummond are two great football programs—traditions some might say. Who could argue the claim? I think of them as iconic in their own unique style.

I saw the first match-up at Drummond in 2004 where, what seemed to be, an over-confident Wibaux team walked off the bus to the gridiron like Roman soldiers about to capture another unsuspecting, miniscule chunk of distant land. Drummond was a machine, but even with one state title under their belt from the previous year, there was a feeling that many folks around the state believed they still hadn't been truly tested—that is the Wibaux test. We know what happened that day.

Then last year, I watched the same two teams who clearly held mutual respect for one another battle it out again in Wibaux. Many expressed that Drummond wasn't as invincible as previous years, but still had a long string of consecutive victories on their resume. Wibaux only had a score to settle.

I suppose it's safe to say that both Wibaux and Drummond know how unbearably long the bus drive is between the two opposing towns, especially after the game has concluded.

On one hand I hate to see Drummond make that same drive home from Wibaux as they did last year, but I know Wibaux duplicated the same drive a week later after their state title loss in overtime at Centerville. I know, it's all part of the game.

On the other hand, Wibaux has been teased enough since their last title in 2001. You'd think they'd never won one at all—reminiscent of the Cubs in baseball. Yet, they're due because they keep coming back year after year no matter who graduates.

As a neutral observer for most of the games I attend, I neither drive away from any gridiron feeling elated or dejected regarding the game's outcome. My formula for elation and dejection is related to whatever images I come away with that day; multiplied by the mileage. Yet, there are those teams like Drummond and Wibaux that I've seen play enough times that it's difficult to not wish them the best. And when they play each other in their little corners of Montana, it's always bittersweet, emotionally draining... simply exhausting.

I'm going to regret not going—I just know it.


Stuart Griffin said...

Very well written, as always Morgan. Your blog is a joy for small town football lovers to read. I will be in Wibaux... I hope that you miss one amazing game.

Stuart Griffin said...

Now there is an all west championship hosted in Sheridan. From what I hear the twelve point victory Drummond came up in the regular season was due in part to an injury to Sheridan's QB.

Have you been following the story of Sheridan's fallen comrade, a 25 year old former panther player and junior high coach who died tragically in Denver last week. His funeral was sunday and Sheridan is sure to be full of emotion. If nothing else I wish the best of luck for them due to that circumstance.

Morgan said...

Too close for me to call. I'm not sure how much a factor Ingram's (Sheridan QB) injury was in the first meeting as I believe it came late in the game. Perhaps someone who was there will chime in on this. However, that game was at Drummond. I'm sure everyone on both sides will say this is an entirely new set of circumstances; especially in light of the Sheridan alumni tragedy. It could be every bit as good as last year's thriller in Centerville. I haven't seen the Trojans play this year, only Sheridan and they look pretty complete to me.

joerob said...

At Drummond, the Trojans pretty much dominated the game against Sheridan. It was 16-6 at halftime I believe, and Ingram did not suffer his concussion until there were only about 2 minutes left in the game, so it was not a factor in the outcome.

Doesn't really mean much though, as this will be a different game under different circumstances. It is true that the Sheridan community has suffered a difficult loss and nothing would avenge it better than a state championship.

For Drummond it has been a difficult course to the state championship---beating Centerville on their field, and then Wibaux on theirs. This would appear to be an easier game by comparison.

But really, all bets are off and it will get decided on 80 yards of turf in a monumental game of intense football. Can't wait to see it!

Morgan said...

Profoundly stated joerob. Thanks for filling us in.

Yes, Drummond's trek to the state title game has been impressive. I suspect Coach Oberweiser may be proudest of this team should they come away with the title since this team isn't oozing with the abundant talent that was so prolific in their other championship teams. This team appears to be made of mortals!

I wonder if anyone from Twin will come down to watch the showdown. How bittersweet for them. As John Prine said once, "It's a big ol' goofy world."

Stuart Griffin said...

I agree with Morgan, very well put JoeRob, but I still have some questions since I was not at the game.

When, in eight man football, has a ten point halftime lead and a twelve point victory ever been 'dominate'?

What was Sheridan's field position in the two possession ball game when their QB got hurt with two minutes left? Were they moving the ball?

I completely agree with you and Morgan that this is Drummond's most impressive route through playoffs yet, beating both Wibaux and Centerville on the road. However, I cannot help but wonder about the statement "This game seems easier by comparision."

Lets try this for comparision: Drummond is once again on the road. Not as far to travel, but with an all west final the house will be packed and I can only guess that as many Western Montanans are as tierd of seeing Drummond dominate as Eastern Montanans are of losing to Wibaux. I imagine since Sheridan is an underdog, coupled with the tragic loss of their alumn, that they will be the sentimental favorite of most otherwise nuteral observers. Those facts are also likely to help Sheridan play with heaps of emotion.

In more football related facts, Drummond now faces the difficult stigma of having to beat a good team twice in the same year (Which obviously tripped Twin Bridges up). They won in Drummond, when Drummond (although not as talented)probably still had an air of invincibility around them to any western rivals. Twin Bridges stole that invincibility with an inpressive 25 point victory... and lets not forget that a healthy Sheridan team beat that Twin team in the first round. Also consider this, Drummond has had two dogfights with two powerhouses in the last two games... Since the overtime game against Twin, Sheridan seems to have had a cake-walk into the championship. They should come in better rested, physically and mentally.

My best guess is that Drummond has improved to a ten times better team than the one that lost to Twin earlier this year. But, I will also guess that Sheridan is also a way better team since both their regular season losses.

All things considered... I think this might be Drummond's toughest test of the playoffs, by comparision.

Morgan said...

That's good tobacco worthy of smoking Stuart.

After reading the Billings Gazette story and the comments of Wibaux's coach regarding Drummond's size up front, this will likely be Sheridan's challenge too. The Panthers probably don't match up with the same "tonage" in the trenches, but they know how this works already, so that will be to their advantage.

I think Sheridan will have to get out in front early to pull this off... make Drummond play catch-up and resort to something other than their strong running game. If the game is close come the beginning of the fourth, my money is on the Trojans.

I wouldn't put anything past these two coaches in what they might detect as a weakness in their opponent.

And as we all know, when it comes to this game, it won't be the size of the dog in the fight that matters.

Stuart Griffin said...

Good points all. Too bad we dont have rosters from both schools, as well as a list of starters to help us compare size up front. The only game I saw either of these two play this year was in Wibaux. Drummond's front line was big, but more impressive was their technique and tenacity.

I do have my program from the Wibaux vs. Drummond game if any readers have a Sheridan roster to share. Wish I could see for myself at the game... sounds like a fun match up.

Morgan said...

Ah yes, to have those programs now... yet, perhaps it's best we don't. After all, this is small town high school football and we have to accept that we'll always be without those volumes of information that NFL game day possess. As for myself; this is fun just talking and speculating about all the variables of any game as we've been carrying on all season long. I can't quite explain, but it reminds me of Christmas Eve...

All this talk about the Sheridan-Drummond game makes me want to go, but I've decided I'm overdue for a six-man title game. And I've never shot a game in Hysham either.

joerob said...

Stuart--- you make some good points about Sheridan being ready for the championship game, and while it is fun to "armchair" this playoff, the thing that really matters is what happens on a chalk-marked cow pasture in southwest Montana, not far from where vigilante justice took place in the dim beginnings of Montana history.

When it's all over, we'll say (Sheridan winning): the boys were on a mission to assuage the grief of the community---plus they got their quarterback back and then pulled off that miracle in Twin---it was downhill all the way after that.

Or it will be (Drummond winning):the boys sure got a wake up call with that regular season loss to Twin. They had a choice, either fold up for the season, or really lean into it and restore the pride of Trojan football. They set a tough path for themselves--having to beat Centerville on their field and then turn around and do the same thing to Wibaux--so that by the time they got to Sheridan, they knew exactly what they needed to do to claim the title.

Which will it be? As a Grizzly season ticket holder I would normally be at the Cat/Griz game, but this matchup is too good to miss.

Stuart Griffin said...

Good luck in Hysham tomorrow. I cant wait to see the images you capture.

I think this year's 8man contest might be the most fun game to debate because they are are familiar opponents year in and year out. The fact that they have so many shared opponents gives us plenty of blogging fotter. All the extenuating circumstances only make it more exciting. And you are exactly right JoeRob... We will be saying one of those two things when all is said and done tomorrow.

I can't wait to read your first hand account of the game JoeRob. This is not the first time I have heard of people giving up their cat-griz tickets to go watch a high school championship game.

With all that enthusiasm and with the beautifully redone stadium in Billings, wouldn't it be amazing if we could convince the MHSA to host all the state championship games on that field in the same day. Wouldn't it be even better if they would adjust the schedule forward or back one week so the extravaganza wouldn't coincide with cat/griz... and then convince both the cats and griz to schedule away games for that week? Imagine the atmosphere that would create.

Morgan, I don't know how you feel about that idea. On one hand, it would take away a weekend for you to photograph a new and distant land. On the other, you wouldnt have to choose between championship games. I think having Montana's entire football community able to gather in one location to watch the best of the state would be amazing. I think it would also go a long ways to highlight the 'grass roots' nature of small town football, as I think class B and C crowds would likely out number A and AA.