Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bracket Brouhaha

While most of the Wyoming teams are beginning the playoffs battling teams they’ve already seen during the regular season, the fun really begins this weekend in Montana Class C action as inter-conference play commences. The only problem is deciding on where to go in the sixteen small town high school football games scattered across Montana.

Six Man
In six-man action there should be plenty of excitement unless you’re a Lima Bears fan who will be travelling all the way to Savage to face a very good and undefeated Warrior team. Get out your Montana road map and just zen on the distance between those two locations. There’s an entire weekend lost to one football game that will still entail a bit of night driving. It’s going to be one long bus ride for the Bears no matter the outcome.

The Bridger Scouts are going to have their hands full in hosting the Richey-Lambert Renegades. Along with Augusta, Richey-Lambert is one tough third-seeded team. Look for the also-third-seeded Elks to give Great Falls Central Catholic all the action they can handle too.

Eight Man
The best game with the most uncertain outcome will likely be Power-Dutton-Brady at Culbertson—another long bus ride. It’s not often that a third-seeded team has only one loss during the regular season.

Wibaux had a close call with Circle late in their schedule (I’m still not sure what that was all about), so we’ll know much more about their degree of “Wibauxness” when they host road-weary Chester-Joplin-Inverness from way up north.

The Lynx of Lincoln visiting Joliet could be an interesting battle too. One has to wonder if these two teams have ever faced each other.

And on a sidenote: It was an odd year up north for the leaders in both classes of play—reminiscent of an M.C. Escher drawing. Specifically, PDB defeats Fort Benton, who defeats Chinook, who then defeats PDB. While in six-man, Augusta defeats Valier, then loses to Big Sandy, followed by Valier defeating Big Sandy. Talk about chasing one’s own tail.

Lastly, it’s nice to see some new blood in the playoff mix. So best of luck to White Sulphur Springs, Lincoln, Fairview, and Valier.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lights, Action… Football

Hough's Watch
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
As was promised, the new lights at Savage were every bit as bright as the eight-man venues of Harlowton and Ennis. In fact, I would bet a dollar or two that light meter readings at Savage would exceed those of my hometown Powell and its lighted gridiron which sees action from Wyoming’s second largest class of eleven-man.

Maybe not for everyone, but one of the highlights for me was when the “light guy” trekked around the Savage gridiron before the game with a ladder and turned on each of the four separate units. That was a pure small town high school football moment.

I haven’t been to a game in Savage since the season opener against Wibaux in 2003—when they played eight-man football. A lighted gridiron allowing for Friday night play and a new game level was all I needed as an excuse to return in 2010.

The actual game between the hometown Warriors and the visiting Terriers from Terry (another team that recently moved from eight-man to six-man) delivered all the excitement that one would expect between two undefeated teams—especially the first half. Some might argue that perhaps the only difference between the two teams might have been an injury suffered by a key player for the Terriers in the second half—whatever the case, hopefully it’s not a season or career-ending injury for the athlete.

As a result, the combination of Savage and Terry should make the Eastern Conference very competitive in the upcoming playoffs. Expect the same next year too, especially from Terry in that they are only losing their starting quarterback Jerett Freiboth to graduation. (On a sidenote: Freiboth throws the ball with the greatest of ease.) Savage will lose three seniors to graduation, but the current junior class is composed of five players.

Lights On
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Applied Math
For all those 11-man football fans out there who look down their nose at six-man and eight-man football, here is a school enrollment and roster ratio comparison between Savage, Terry and my hometown Powell Panthers:
Enrollment (9–12)/Roster/Ratio
Savage: 29/12/.4137
Terry: 53/14/.2641
Powell: 500/about 50/.1000

If Powell had a turnout for football like Savage, they would have about 206 kids on the football team. If Savage experienced a turnout like Powell, they would have a football team with 2 players.

Speaking of key injuries and their impact on the six-man game: Great Falls Central Catholic starting quarterback, Kelby Depner was out this past week with a concussion sustained during their match-up with Denton in the previous week’s contest. Going into this past week’s game, the Mustangs (5-1) were heavily favored (their only loss to Denton) in facing a 3-3 Roy-Winifred team (last year’s state champions). As it turned out, GFCC lost their homecoming game to the Outlaws 43-0. In another scenario, perhaps Roy-Winifred is making another late-season dash for the title as they did last year.

Here's a follow-up story on the Savage team after their victory over Terry.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Chase Is Still On… Five Years Later

A Great Eight
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Five years ago, I took a special trip to Drummond, Montana with the hopes of photographing members of their Class C eight-man championship team—beyond the action of their games on the gridiron. Suffering from an upper-respitory cold combined with a 300-mile drive, I was determined to catch them at a mid-week practice in hopes of witnessing just a small bit of the ordinary in this extraordinary team and its players.

Clearly there was something special about that Trojan team as they drew nearer to their third consecutive Class C eight-man state title. Arguably, there were only two games that were ever in doubt during those three years and even that doubt was swept away by the third quarter. I also suspected that it would be a long time before I ever saw anything like this again in my small town football haunts—maybe never.

Most notably in my eyes was that Drummond was not only a team that went undefeated in three years, but handily defeated other undefeated teams. There was Belt, Harlowton, Wibaux, Big Sandy, Chinook, Stanford, and Park City—all undefeated teams that suffered great losses (many shut-outs) when they finally met up with the Trojans in the playoffs or title game.

For the record, from front to back in this photo; that’s Tyrell Cockrell, Chase Reynolds, Cody Alt, Petey Carillo, Clay Cantrell, Cody Baker, Eric McGregor and Alex Verlanic. Funny, I still know there names and remember how to spell them. How is it possible that the youngest of men can make a lasting impression on a middle-aged one?

Looking back, one could almost see them as immortals in the realm of eight-man football, but we can be sure that each of them has gone on to experience their own setbacks of humanness whether on the field or elsewhere.

In all three years Chase Reynolds was first team all-state on both sides of the ball, but it was clear that the other Trojan starters were all-state material as well, especially if they had been scattered amongst the other Class C teams—and perhaps even the higher classes. Nevertheless, many still joined Reynolds on the all-state team that was heavily weighted with Drummond talent.

Over Drummond
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
This past week, maybe an hour’s drive down the interstate from Drummond, University of Montana senior running back Chase Reynolds, broke a school record in notching his 54th career touchdown for the Griz. Having watched Reynolds play high school, it doesn’t surprise me too much but it does seem a bit surreal in that he came from such an obscure venue of the game. It will seem just as surreal if he is gainfully employed in the NFL by this time next year. Congratulations Chase. In the words of a colleague, “Strong work.”

As a footnote, Alex Verlanic is still blocking defenders for Reynolds as the starting center for the Griz.

Lastly, thanks to Drummond head coach Jim Oberweiser for allowing these photos to materialize on that October day back in 2005.

Other Drummond-Related Entries:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Plan B and Zenning in Bridger, Montana

Score Crowd
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Like some guy who just retired, I just sat there and watched the game—for once. Well, a good part of it anyway.

Plans for Great Falls Central to see their six-man showdown with Stanford-Geyser were nixed due to the loss of a friend and the resulting funeral to attend on Saturday. I considered the next best thing—the nearby Bridger Scouts were at home on Friday night for a six-man contest with Reed Point-Rapelje—a mere one-hour drive from home.

I’ve attended at least two other games in Bridger over the years, so this was probably more about a trip to get my weekly dose of small town high school football rather than attend a game in some remote location I’d never visited. Thus, my decision to sit and watch the game as the camera equipment was demoted to secondary.

But, strange things happen when you sit and “observe” from one location. You start seeing things that you might not see while moving about during a given event like a football game in Bridger, Montana—things that an image from a camera might not illustrate very well.

Anxious Parents.
Near the back corner of an end zone, I watched with fascination as a concerned Reed Point-Rapelje mother juggled a conversation with (what were probably) other parents while intensely watching the game. I suspect she had a son on the field. The group of parents were right at the back corner but as each play came up, this particular mother would drift away from them—perhaps only five or ten yards—toward the goal post and once the play ended, she drifted back toward the congregation and picked up the conversation again. This went on for at least an entire quarter.

A Scoreboard Community.
Bridger has a low-seated scoreboard that is placed on a small hill overlooking the gridiron. It is so low, that an adult could stand in front of the lower-positioned stats (such as the down or quarter indicator) and block a good portion of the displayed numeral. Further, the scoreboard is beyond the lighting of the gridiron floodlights and as a result, makes for its own “illuminated community.” Here—away from the gridiron’s lighted perimeter—is where you’ll find many of the students congregating, or as in the case of the younger kids, taking up their own football game just like any other Friday night football setting in the country.

While those approaching retirement consider the climate (as in weather) of what will likely be their final residence, I suspect one of the retirement home factors for me (when that day comes) will likely include the proximity to the settings and action of small town high school football.

Shoutout: Chinook Sugarbeeters and their resounding victory over Power-Dutton-Brady complicating the Class C eight-man North with a three-way tie for first: Chinook, PDB and Ft. Benton.