Monday, November 24, 2008

A Championship Sabbatical

King Of West Yellowstone
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Not since 2002 have I missed a Wyoming or Montana high school championship football game—that was the year that I dedicated myself to following the Belfry Bats to everyone of their games, including their playoff game in Geraldine. Once they were eliminated from the playoffs, I thought it was only fair that I removed myself from the season as well.

This year, my excuse for missing a title game isn't as convincing, certainly not as clear.

Because I've been to plenty of big games in Wibaux and Geraldine over the years, I'd guessed the scenery in either location wouldn't be too different with the exception of uniform colours and fans (from a photographic perspective). Yet, the football lover in me found Superior at Wibaux too good to be true—it was the ultimate in "East Meets West" because when it comes to Montana, there aren't too many places further west of Superior while Wibaux is the last stop in Eastern Montana before crossing into North Dakota. Despite my reluctance to hit the road, I found myself restless during mid-week. Wide awake at 2:30 a.m., I was considering the idea of driving to Laurel and loitering along Interstate 90 in an effort to capture the Superior team bus crossing the vastness of Eastern Montana with its small entourage of fans and parents in tow.

Highwood at Geraldine tempted me too. Earlier this season, I had received my wish to witness and photograph a typical Highwood vs. Geraldine shootout (read about it here) and so, like a fisherman who had caught the ultimate fish, I didn't want to be greedy by casting my line back into the water. Besides, there are those image-rich photographic moments when one should simply put away their camera and let someone else have a go at it. The same held true of the game in Wibaux.

Even if I had decided to make another title day pilgrimage, not long after leaving the semi-final game in Superior last week, the early signs of a head and chest cold surfaced and by mid-week, I was completely inundated. Without fail it seems, every year I get one of these during the season, but never this late. Undoubtedly it's a good thing I hadn't planned on going anywhere, otherwise I would have really been either bummed or just plain miserable.

Despite the lingering cold symptoms, it was weird Saturday morning to be up and about, putzing around the house at my leisure with nothing to do and nowhere to go—not on the way to Geraldine or not in a motel in Miles City preparing for the remaining drive to Wibaux.

I'm already looking forward to next year's offering of six-man football in Wyoming and all its new photographic venues such as Farson, Kaycee and Baggs. No doubt, my travels into Montana will likely suffer, but given that Montana's playoffs usually run a week longer than Wyoming, I'll probably be in one of Montana's Class C towns at this same time next year.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Smash-Mouth Euphoria

Picture Perfect Kick
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
It was another one of those playoff weekends when there are heaps of potentially well-contested games all over the place and I'm faced with a gridiron location to photograph where I've never travelled.

I had considered travelling to Superior for the Class C eight-man game with Absarokee, but rain in the forecast made me think twice—and one doesn't think twice when a long road trip like that comes up.

Games in Denton and a return trip to Bridger were calling me too, but a nagging little conscious kept on reminding me of the Wyoming 2A semi-final game in Big Horn (near Sheridan) against Lusk.

I'd visited Big Horn's gridiron a couple summers ago and found it right up there with Tongue River's old field in terms of a landscape setting for football. But many BHHS games are played on Thursday and Friday afternoons (no lights) which make it logistically impossible for me to get over there for a game. So along comes a playoff game at Big Horn on a Saturday—how could I live with myself if I passed it up?

Holding On
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Despite the overcast skies, the setting didn't disappoint albeit the game was one of those typical 11-man defensive slugfests. Only one touchdown was notched the entire game—Big Horn 6, Lusk 0. Surely if one is a fan of either team, it was a very exciting game.

Walking back to my car after the game, I wondered what fireworks I missed up in Montana's Class C ranks of eight-man and six-man. I thought about all the snobby, armchair quarterbacks in the world that go on and on about how superior eleven-man football is to eight-man or six-man. I was ready to take them to task.

In the early morning when I stopped at the Maverick store in Bridger, I'd heard about one of the Montana six-man headlines from the night before. The employees there told me about Reed Point-Rapelje downing Hysham on the Pirate's home field! What other big news went down while Big Horn and Lusk smash-mouthed each other to a near stalemate?

With Sheridan in my rear-view mirror, I fantasized how the game would have gone if Big Horn and Lusk had played an 8-man game. It didn't seem to fantastic considering each team fielded between 30 to 35 players. Those were the same numbers posted by several Montana eight-man teams like Absarokee or Drummond. Still, the game would have been close, but I doubt it would have ended in such a low score.

Since I've never been to Superior for a game, next week I'm looking real hard at getting my eight-man fix there—regardless of the long drive or any bad weather.