Monday, November 09, 2009

Purple Passion and the Wibaux Standard

No Photoshop Here
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
It was a day to fight for the purple as both Sheridan and Charlo claim purple as their dominant school colour. Everywhere you looked during the Montana Class C eight-man quarterfinal there was purple—which made me think fondly of those select (but few) Stanford fans way back in 2005 who throttled me for wearing purple wind pants to one of their games on this same blog. Too bad they couldn’t have attended this clash of purples between the Panthers and Vikings.

Panther personalities
I continually feel a need to apologize to the kind folks in Sheridan these days for neglecting to cover any of their home games until just this past weekend. Having been to other gridirons like Sunburst, Noxon, Scobey and Ekalaka, I can’t stand on the leg that says Sheridan has always been too far for me to drive. And even if their home games are at night (my least favorite environment to photograph), I confess to once driving all the way to Eureka for a Lion Friday night game. I suppose it has something to do with seeing the Panthers on the road three previous times—Alberton, Big Sandy and Sunburst and coming away from those games feeling as if I had encountered everything that was Sheridan.

I’ll admit it’s my loss for not having attended a Sheridan game years earlier given the warm reception I received this past week. Sheridan principal Jory Thompson approached me before the game and ask me if I was that “small town football guy” (or something like that in so many words) and informed me while we chatted that there was a complimentary Polish dog from their concession stand waiting for me whenever I wanted it.

Quarterback's Dad
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Then there was Rob Crippen, the father of Sheridan quarterback Casey Crippen. He was working the sidelines keeping stats of the day’s game and also tagged me regarding my work while inviting me over to his house after the game for tacos and the Griz game on TV. That kind of hospitality is downright bold and somewhat uncommon, but if it’s ever going to happen to a stranger, you can be sure it will happen at one of these small town high school football games like Sheridan. I suppose even bolder than Crippen’s invite is that I showed up at his home after I secured my motel room.

Speaking of bold, Sheridan defensive coordinator Clint Layng is right out of the movie Top Gun when he’s sending in signals to his defensive unit on the field. Watch him long enough and he’ll convince you that he directs fighter planes for takeoff on an aircraft carrier during the weekdays.

Wibaux… not your usual playoff game
Following the Panther’s 36-20 victory over Charlo, my ears perked up when I heard Layng tell the team that he’s always wanted to play Wibaux. One hundred years ago, that would have been the talk of a gun fighter. Which found me thinking how (over the years) Wibaux has somewhat, informally (at least in my tiny brain) become the standard of measure in Montana Class C eight-man football. I mean, there’s few conversations around Montana about this class of football that Wibaux doesn’t come up in the conversation sooner or later. Might as well paint a target on every Wibaux player’s chest. Even in previous years when another team has defeated Wibaux in a quarterfinal, semifinal or in the finals, they probably take more pride in defeating Wibaux than anything that followed.

Once I had the opportunity to talk to the starting line-up of Drummond’s 2005 championship team and when asked to pinpoint their toughest opponent in their three-year domination, they all agreed it was the 2004 semifinal game with the Longhorns. Despite winning 30-0, one Trojan recalled, “Yeah, Wibaux really brought the wood.”

Horns Relax
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
And so, the Montana Class C eight-man semi-finals are decided again—reminding me of a popular play that keeps on showing year after year. Mind you, I’m not complaining, I’m just saying (as they say). It’s Centerville, Drummond, Wibaux and Sheridan—with Sheridan the freshest of this tested line-up. Should we be surprised? Each is undefeated and ranked number one from their respected division.

I started thinking about how the world might be today if none of these teams advanced to the semifinals. Imagine if Joliet, Twin Bridges, Charlo and Fort Benton advanced instead. I know there are several signs that signify the end of time—this semifinal scenario would surely have been one of them.

Back in August I was confident the addition of Ennis and Fort Benton would really shake things up—given their newcomer status in stepping down from Class B eleven-man play. And less we forget, it wasn’t that long ago that the Longhorns of Fort Benton won the Class B state title in 2002 and were runner-up in 2004 while Ennis secured their own Class C titles in 1978 and 1982. Well, Fort Benton almost pulled it off until they tangled with those other Longhorns way out/back east.

Of course, there’s the riddle of the Superior Bobcats—formally Class C for several years, then they moved up to Class B for several years after, followed by a short two-year stint back down to Class C—just long enough to defeat Wibaux in the title game last year. They moved back to Class B (again) this year and probably haven’t stopped talking about beating Wibaux in last year’s title game.

Ah yes, Wibaux, the standard of measure—beyond Class C perhaps.

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