Monday, November 22, 2010

Chinook Surrealism

Sledding Chinookers
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
There’s no getting around it—it was just a weird weekend no matter how I analyzed it. From the 600-miles of treacherous, winter driving to the 74-6 title game score, I couldn’t have imagined anything like it. Maybe it wasn’t a nightmare, but it definitely felt like something out of a strange dream.

Who would have guessed that anyone (even a Class AA team) would have a running clock on Wibaux by the end of the first quarter? Wibaux?!?!?! Had I not attended the game myself, I would have been certain that someone was trying to play a prank on me, or that the newspapers somehow transposed the score.

One friend of mine said in a text message when I reported the final score to him, “That’s epic.”

But, was it epic or was it a hiccup with epic repercussions?

Not to take anything away from the Chinook Sugarbeeters and their convincing victory, but even the handful of Chinook fans I spoke with were a bit shocked by the game’s outcome as well.

They should have been. After all, Chinook was the same team that lost to Fort Benton during the regular season; Fort Benton lost to Drummond in the quarterfinals of the playoffs; and, of course, Drummond lost to Wibaux in the semifinals. Chinook also had a hard fight with both Charlo and Power-Dutton-Brady in the quarterfinal and semifinal games respectively. So, whether or not one believes that Chinook or Wibaux should have won, it’s probably safe to say that most Class C fans thought it would be a closely contested game.

Yet it wasn’t—not by any stretch of the imagination.

Admittedly, I had not seen Wibaux play this year, but few would question any Wibaux team’s moxie this deep into the playoffs.

Horn Feet
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
So, what happened? Why did Wibaux look like toddlers just learning to walk and run while Chinook (for the most part) navigated the icy gridiron with a much higher degree of success?

From my vantage point, it came down to something as simple as football cleats in explaining the huge discrepancy between these two teams. My bet is that Wibaux showed up in Chinook with the same football cleats they had been wearing all season long, while the Sugarbeeters clearly made some adjustments for the ice rink that served as the title game. And, since it was their home field, they likely would have had all week to experiment given the winter weather that finally materialized earlier in the week.

In comparing images from Chinook’s quarterfinal game at Charlo with images from their title game with Wibaux, there are numerous key Sugarbeeter players wearing a different shoe. Most notably, Chinook’s running back, Ben Stroh—the same one who had his way all afternoon with Wibaux—had experienced a footware “upgrade.” On the “normal” field at Charlo two weeks earlier, he wore a typical Under Armour molded-cleat shoe, but his choice of footwear in the “hockey rink” title game at Chinook was an Adidas screw-on-cleat shoe with what appeared to be metal-tipped studs. (More importantly are those even legal? Click on the image below to see for yourself.)

Before the game commenced, Chinook school officials permitted me to walk out on the field as they were clearing it from the accumulation of snow that resulted in the night before and early in the day. In many spots it was like a rough ice skating surface with grass mixed in it—as if the Zamboni malfunctioned while it was smoothing an ice rink. Where the field was void of such conditions, it was hard as a rock. With camera equipment in hand, I gingerly strolled the field and considered the best footwear for the frozen playing surface—hiking boots equipped with crampons or, the next best thing, steel-tipped cleats.

And so it was, one of Wibaux’s worst defeats in history.

Sadly, I left the game feeling a bit cheated—convinced that the cleat choice of the day (or non-choice) rather than pure football talent or play selection was the most influential and dominant factor in the game’s lopsided outcome. I wondered how it was that two teams who had gone so far in the season, playing on the forgiving gridirons of grass were now asked to settle the final contest in alien conditions that neither had seen all year.

I also wondered if this had been a regular season game, would they have still played?

Making Way
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Like that strange dream, here were two teams about to clash for the state title game in a setting that was somewhat surreal. Tents with heaters emerged on the sidelines for each team, motorized equipment was employed to remove snow from the playing surface, the temperature was less than ten degrees Fahrenheit, the field was a frozen, hard surface, players wore extra clothing to keep them warm even if they were active on the field. And most importantly, that one small (nearly invisible) detail regarding cleat selection may have been the most peculiar element of the day.

About an hour before the game commenced, I followed a couple of Wibaux players onto the field as they tested their footing on the icy gridiron. Following a battery of quick accelerations, cuts, sudden stops and challenging each other as lineman do, one of them innocently said, “Man, this is gonna be weird.”

Nothing was more true about the day.


Anonymous said...

THANK YOU MORGAN!!!! It was hard to say anything to anyone that was not there without sounding like sour grapes for not winning!! We appreciated you observation more than you can know!! Our boys played hard all year and deserved a better chance at the championship and were totally unpreparred for the conditions there. Not to take away anything from the sugarbeeters for their win as they were prepared and we were not, but it would have been nice to have a level playing field!THANK YOU!! LIZ FRANZ-Wibaux

Morgan said...

As far as cleat regulations go, here's the official word from the Montana High School Association's Brian Michelotti...

Here is the rule in regard to Football cleats from the 2010 NFHS Football Rules Book:

Removable cleats shall conform to the following specifications:

(1) Constructed of a material which does not chip or develop a cutting edge. Legal material includes leather, nylon, certain plastics and rubber. Cleats may be tipped with low carbon steel of 1006 material, case hardened to .005-.008 depth and drawn to Rockwell hardness of approximately C55; the use of aluminum or ceramics is not permissible.

(2) The base and the tip of the cleat shall be parallel. The free end may be rounded in an arc with a radius of not less than 7/16 inch provided the overall length is not more than ½ inch measured from the tip of the cleat to the sole of the shoe. The cleat may be attached to a raised platform which is molded to the shoe. The platform may be no more than 5/32 inch in height and must be wider than the base of the cleat. The widest part of the cleat must be in direct contact with the platform. The 5/32-inch raised platform must be wider than the base of the cleat and must extend across the width of the sole to within ¼ inch or less of the outer edges of the sole. A single toe cleat does not require a raised platform that extends across the width of the sole. The raised platform of the toe cleat is limited to 5/32 inch or less. The 5/32-inch platform is measured from the lowest point of the platform to the sole of the shoe.

(3) An effective locking device which prevents the exposure of metal posts shall be incorporated.

(4) The cleat wall shall be at least 3/16 inch in diameter.

(5) The sides of the cleat shall taper uniformly from a minimum base of ¾ inch in diameter to a minimum tip of 3/8 inch in diameter.

(b) Nonremovable cleats are limited to studs or projections that do not exceed ½ inch in length measured from the sole of the shoe to the tip of the cleat and which are made with nonabrasive rubber or rubber-type synthetic material that does not have or develop a cutting edge.

Essentially, the cleats can have a metal tip as long as it meets the above requirements and also the cleats overall length should not exceed ½ inch.

Anonymous said...

I played at Chinook and i wore steel cleats every year. Please, just stop making excuses. You guys got smoked and that is that no way around it. You whine every time you lose a championship game get over it. Chinook was the better team and thats that.

Morgan said...

Anonymous... good for you. Were you on the team that "got smoked" at Drummond back in 2005?

I would have to disagree with you. Had there been normal playing conditions, or if Wibaux had been equipped with the same cleats (no excuse for not having them), I'm certain it would have been a game. And I'm not a fan of anyone.

Anonymous said...

I must say, a wins a win...Regardless of how it comes about, as long as both teams play the game, that is how the outcome was that day. It is quite shameful to lose that much at a championship game, but it is how it happened. We can all speculate over this or that, from obscure things such as what legal cleats a player was wearing or if this person had lifted more his freshman year, etc. etc., but all that matters is what team showed up to play on that particular day; not who beat who three weeks ago. Obviously, Chinook did and Wibaux didn't. Seems pretty simple to me.

Morgan said...

In any other game, I would agree with you that the choice of cleats is probably pretty obscure. Not this time. It was very significant.

But, you’re correct in that, “a win is a win.” No one is disputing that. Again, I’m not here to say that Wibaux was/is a better team. I’m just saying that Chinook was/is not that much better of a team as reflected in the final score. Surely any neutral-minded person attending that game would surmise that the footing was the most deciding factor in the game. In fact, it was such a deciding factor that play selection, overall athletic ability of the players, or even “what team showed up” paled in comparison. I’d make the same argument if the tables were turned. I’d go as far to say that given the proper footwear, half the teams in Class C (including those that didn’t make the playoffs) could have defeated Wibaux in the same scenario. Taking it a step further, try to imagine if the Sugarbeeters and Longhorns had swapped cleats at the half, or every quarter. Do you really believe the score would have been 74-6?

The subtle point that I attempted to make, that the latest anonymous just doesn’t see (or want to see), was this: the game conditions in Chinook were not even close to the typical environment that produced these two teams for the season finale. Though I didn’t see the Longhorns play any other time in the year, I’m pretty sure they didn’t go undefeated because they were sliding all over the gridiron every week just trying to maintain their balance.

If the football season started in mid-November and ended in February, I wouldn’t have any cleats to stand on. And, consider the validation for my argument in the “typical conditions” that are sought out in the location of the Super Bowl and the BCS title game every year—always played in a domed stadium or some mild-weather region of the country. I’m unsure, but when was the last major title game played on a frozen field? Even if it was played last year, we can be sure that such levels of play, opposing teams would have the resources to know exactly what the playing conditions would be like, so equipment choices would not be a major factor in the game’s outcome.

Admittedly, I’m not surprised by those who have chimed in here with a different outlook on the game. Wouldn’t any fan of a team that tallied 74 points against Wibaux want to own every point posted on the scoreboard? I have to wonder, if Chinook had defeated, say, Joliet or Absarokee instead of Wibaux, would these same people still be as earnest in owning the same score? After all, while teams come and go in the playoffs each year, the ’Horns are always a force to reckon with during the regular season and playoffs.

I made the argument last year that the Longhorns have become something of a standard when it comes to Class C football in Montana— Probably only Drummond (as of this last decade) can dispute that.

Speculation... what’s wrong with that? That’s what makes the game even more interesting. It’s pretty harmless. After all, years from now, the record books will still show that Chinook was the state champion in 2010.

PS: I’d like to purchase Chinook and Wibaux football t-shirts. If anyone knows how to go about this, let me know:

Anonymous said...

ANY GIVEN DAY!!!! Just because Chinook lost to Fort Benton in the regular season doesn’t' mean anything!!!! Have we not learned this with the Patriots in the super bowl against the Giants?? It was all about who came to play that day. He changed cleats because he added an extra layer of socks...wool socks!! He needed a bigger cleat to fit the multiple layers of socks. Not because they gave him super speed and agility!! besides you can take all of Stroh's touchdowns away and Chinook still outscored Wibaux...stop trying to find little excuses for the failure of Wibaux yet again.....

marinda said...

The Longhorns checked out the field conditions Friday before spending the night in Havre, they knew what they were going to be playing on. Both teams played on the same field, and Chinook only practiced outside and on the field for probably 30 minutes all week, literally. It wasn't like Chinook played on it all week. I think that even if the teams "switched cleats" at half-time the outcome would've been the same. Wibaux didn't show up to play. Period.

Morgan said...

Yeah, and the Giants beat the Patriots by how much? Don't remember it being very lopsided.

Honestly, maybe it's just me, but that's the lamest reason I've ever heard for changing cleats. I'd like to believe that someone was smart enough to say, "Hey, let's see what cleats give us the best traction on the field."

BTW... consider this: maybe losing to Ft. Benton was more significant than you state... had you won and been the North's number one seed, you would have ended up facing Drummond and had you won that, you would have faced the Longhorns in Wibaux sans the frozen field. ;-)

The DePriest Family said...

I agree - lets keep this game a good one for all of Chinook and not ruin it for those kids involved. Let them have their moment of glory for God's sake.

Morgan said...

Marinda... I was told by your AD that the field was cleared after the first snowfall earlier in the week, but when the Longhorns visited, it was probably snow-covered with additional snow, yes? The field was covered in snow early Saturday morning, hence the need for the snow removal equipment. Even if they had known the actual conditions of the field at game time, did they even bring the right cleats with them?

If you think sliding around like Keystone Cops is synonymous with "not showing up," I have nothing further to add.

Anonymous said...

You still dont take into account that there were more kids on the chinook team that scored then Stroh. Those players did not have "super power cleats"

Anonymous said...

Holy cow you are retarded if you think the cleats make a difference stroh is a beast and who gives a crap abotu the cleats its class c football not the nfl where you get new cleats for every game

Anonymous said...

I think that u are a sore loser and just can't face defeat. so call it what you want cheating or fixing the game whatever. If you ask me the wibaux boys just wern't ready for the cold and they got beat fair and square. If you ask me i would just call it a good ol county ass whoopin

chinook fan

Anonymous said...

can you refund the time it took to read that to my life as it was the worst thing i have ever read if you think that chinooks cleats caused the blowout win then your are a ra-tard. why couldn't the wibaux players get different shoes if thats the problem as far as i know they have access to the weather just as much as the chinook boys do. i think i agree with the guy above you guys just got your ass whooped

J. Petrick said...

I like how you and some of the people are saying "not to take away anything from the sugarbeeters but". Its like saying "no offense" but I am about to offend you. You are taking away from these boys efforts. There is no such thing as perfect conditions in Montana. Every team expects to play in these type condition at some point during the year.

What about the interceptions and fumbles, were those caused by a greased football.

Yes Chinook was not the favorite, but this is why a playoff system is needed. You play well during the season to get into the playoffs and then you play amazing to win the championship. Each game is won differently some with a lucky bounce. This game was not won with a lucky bounce. This game was won by capitalizing on the mistakes of the other team.

Also if you think all these kids from a small town have access to a endless selection of shoes you are wrong. These kids are lucky to get a new pair of shoes each year let alone for one game.

If there is going to be blame it should be how Class C has setup their bracket. Their is a reason why its call home field advantage. The problem is in this case it is not earned, it is assigned. Also I think it is the only Montana high school sport where the championship is not played at a neutral site.

I understand the frustration from a fan and parent point of view, but if you ask the players and the coaches if they lost the game because of field conditions and equipment I doubt that they would say yes.

Just a Thought said...

Wow some people need a life. Is there really nothing better to do during your day but make up stupid blogs and articles on how you think Chinook cheated. Those senior and junior boys were undefeated back in jr. high. Have you ever thought that just maybe they worked for that state title?? And just a F.Y.I. they didn't even clear the snow off the field till Friday. So how do you think they practiced on it?

Anonymous said...

I was at that game supporting our Longhorns the whole way. Unfortunately, Morgan is correct. We have such a great group of kids, it is too bad that the field conditions took the game away. It wasn't even a game. You are right about not having access to different cleats. It was especially difficult because our field in Wibaux is in perfect condition all season long and into the playoffs.
Take nothing away from Chinook, they won the big game. I hate to see "bad" winners on your blog. Win with class and quit trying to rub it in. No one is whining. This blog author isn't a fan of either side, just an observer. Being able to read this and see the merits of the points made doesn't say Chinook cheated or didn't deserve a win.
Our boys are still winners and we are so proud of them for all their accomplishments both on and off the field. We are truly blessed in this community to have such great kids!!

Morgan said...

Bad footing goes far beyond than just staying on one's own feet. Without good footing, passing, tackling, blocking and running the ball become much more complicated and problematic.

Sorry Chinook fans, but I'm not loyal to your team. And if some of you had read semi-carefully, you would have gleaned that I'm not loyal to Wibaux either. I'm an observer and fan of the game. I didn't drive 300 miles to cheer on Wibaux or Chinook. I drove 300 miles to see the Montana eight-man title game and these were my observations. I have no vested interest in either team. I understand that some of you are probably a little "caught up" in the big victory and it's probably difficult to contend with some outsider who comes along with doubts and reservations about the game's outcome. I understand.

Nevertheless, I'll say it as simple as I can. If the conditions had been more normal (i.e. autumn football weather) or if the Wibaux team had made a better cleat selection resulting in the same footing that Chinook clearly had, I'm confident the game would have been more of a contest. That's it. I'm not discounting the the Sugarbeeter victory—I just don't believe the lopsided score accurately portrays the difference in these two fine teams.

That said, I haven't referred to any of you pro-Chinook fans as "retarded" and I would ask for the same courtesy. If you can't make a rationale, semi-intelligent argument here, piss off and find another web site to sign your sorry ass anonymous self onto.

J. Petrick said...

My question is, do you know for a fact that all the kids on the team were wearing different cleats. Unless you know that for a fact you are making an assumption.

Yes you are correct in making the statement no one imagined Chinook winning by that margin of victory. Also you are correct stating that Wibaux is a much better team then the score sugguests. Finally you are correct to state the game could of had a different outcome by a different score if it was played in different conditions. Chinook could have played even better and maybe even had a shutout.

The way you are being baised is in your speculation. So if you are going to speculated and want to be unbaised you cant say one way or the other what would have been, only what has.

Lucky for us sports are not played on paper, they are played on the field.

Anonymous said... whoever wrote this blog.
I am 16 years old and i have never seen such a sorry excuse from an adult! Grow up! Are you shitting me? Cleats don't cause a 74 6 Victory. Look at the line up's and compare them honey. Chinook had and overall better line. They have had their eyes on that championship since last year. LET THEM ENJOY THEIR FREAKING CHAMPIONSHIP! Fair is fair and those boys played fair if anything wibaux had an advantage, tyler molyneaux (star running back) was injured and chris haider wasn't even able to play the game. Don't make your bull shit excuses just because wibaux didn't come to play. Chinook Sugar Beeters ARE the Class C 8 Man State Champions wether YOU like it or not. So you should probably quit making excuses!

J. Petrick said...

One last thought. When watching any game from an unbaised perspective you always hope for a good game. Its a championship game and you would always hope for a good game than a lopsided victory.

Back to the example of the Giants/Pats. That game will go down as one of the greatest superbowls of all time because of how close the game was. The other I will also remember is the Rams/Titans.

The other example I have from my perspective is Cats/Griz this year. I am a Griz fan and disappointed about the loss but I am not as disappointed as I could be. This is because at least they had a chance to win the game. They just did not take advantage of the chances they had.

I know as a Chinook fan I would have been just as happy if they had won by one point. Also I know Chinook fans have a little bit of chip on their shoulder because they have been hearing week after week how they did not deserve to be there or win the previous week.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way. Your little picture on your article is wrong. #40 is TYLER Molyneaux. NOT Matt Molyneaux..that's the coach. Maybe you should pay closer attention since you drove 300 miles and all

Proud Beeter Mom said...

It really makes me sad that people can't allow a High School Team of young men a moment to enjoy a victory. Do you not realize that your hurtful comments are read by these hard working athletes? Athletes who have dreamed about playing in a state championship game since they were in grade school. Chinook took a lot of pride in hosting the state championship game. Who could have predicted that it would rain on Tuesday which created a layer of ice and than snow later that day. The temperatures stayed cold which hinder the abilities of all who tried to make the field playable. The Beeters practiced in the gym for 4 days and had a brief practice on Friday once the field had been uncovered. Both teams live in Montana and they were not the only teams playing in snow that day. I am sure Helena Capital and Billings Central would like to play their games over as well. The proper footwear story makes it seem like Chinook went out and bought the team cleats. That did not happen and I know for a fact that the younger beeters that got to play the whole 4th quarter wore their regular shoes (because they didn't think they would get in because of the respect they had for Wibaux's team). I think part of Wibaux's problem was they didn't take Chinook seriously. They figured they had already played the championship game against Drummond the week before. Chinook learned the lesson of not overlooking a team early in the season when it lost to Fort Benton. I think speculation of could have, should have is fine among adults but with this wonderful computer age try explaining to a freshman football player that the comments made are not personal. Both teams had great seasons, but to belittle the effort the Beeters brought to the field that day is inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't believe the Chinook people. Evidently what we heard about poor sports, rotten fighting kids, and all is true. Sorry for you folks. Go blog in Chinook or better yet, how about the Havre Newspaper again. That was quite entertaining!

Morgan said...

J. Petrick: Don't know for a fact that all of them were wearing different cleats, but there were key players that opted for a different cleat in the title game—and good on them for doing so.

And if the game had been played in better conditions and the score was even more lopsided, well that would have made me a "believer" for sure and this entry would have had been something completely different.

My "bias in speculation" is based on the history of programs and watching all these teams and their coaches over the years at this level of football... nothing to do with "favorites." I can't see how it is much different than any commentator that we take for granted.

I like your point: "Wibaux is a much better team then the score suggests." Unfortunately there are several who have chimed in here who seem to believe that my take on it is that Chinook is not as good as the score suggests. For some, perhaps it's difficult to discern the two.

I also agree with your comments about those Super Bowl games and the recent Griz/Cat game. If one is a fan of a team, a convincing win is the cherry on top of the sundae, but not necessary to enjoy the sundae. You always take the win anyway it comes.

I certainly wasn't one of the critics who thought Chinook was undeserving of this title shot. They were on my radar way back when they notched that road win at Centerville during week one.

16-year-old: Like, you're all over it, Honey. You so put me in my place! How's that English class going? Thanks for pointing out the incorrect photo ID. I'm sure you could do a much better job. ;-]

Anonymous said...

okay "Morgan" I graduated last year. Ben stroh's upgraded cleats happen to be my old cleats which i happen to wear all last year, when we didn't even have a good record (4-4) I'm sorry that you think my cleats were made by god, but they weren't. They were made in china, by adidas and little asian people. I think everyone was shocked that chinook won by that much, but i played with those kids for four years, and their was no doubt in my mind they were ready to play football that day. If wibaux would have been more concentrated on the weather and conditions, rather than staring at their coach who tried to prove a point by wearing shorts, they could have been more focused. Lose with pride like scobey and charlo. I'm sorry that PDB and wibaux lost, but chinook was just better than those 11 teams they beat this year.

Morgan said...

Beeter mom... You give me way too much credit. I've belittled no one—only those who want to blow things out of proportion. I doubt that anything I say here is even close to the "hurtful" comments any "hard working athletes" hear when they line up on the ball facing their opponents in any given game—let alone from some 50-year-old armchair quarterback 300 miles away.

Wibaux taking Chinook lightly... I didn't get that from the Wibaux fans or one of the coaches I spoke with before the game. Did you talk to some of them too? They were all pretty up in the air on how the game would go. They believed they could win, but I wouldn't call it over-confident. They likely learned the lesson you speak about several years ago when they visited "lowly Drummond" for the first time in 2004. I was there.

Morgan said...

Graduate: "Little Asian people..." is that what they taught you in Chinook or did you learn that somewhere else? Classy, pure class. How's that swastika tattoo coming along?

Don't recall saying the cleats were made by God or even suggested anything like that. And golly-gee, wish I would have known you knew what was going through the Wibaux players' minds, I would have just sought you out—could have saved me a lot of time.

I didn't see anything that suggested the Wibaux crowd didn't lose with pride. What specifics did you see?

Anonymous said...

half the fans left at half time. And sayin chinook cheated because of their cleats, for real? After PDB lost they came up with all sorts of excuses, Just like you and the wibaux people. They were cleats, nohting else. It's a pair of shoes, doesn't make a football player better.

People will always make excuses and whine, BUT chinook got the trophy for 2010-11 Class C state champions not wibaux. Chinook would have knocked wibaux out with a pair of flip flops on, the way they played last saturday.

Lucas said...

what does the team of 2005 have anything to do with this conversation? you say your not a fan of either side...but clearly you favor wibeaux. i played on the 2005 team, we were good, drummond was better. same story goes for this game. wibeaux was good, chinook was better. im sorry you didn't get to see the game you were hoping for, but this win meant a lot more to the people of chinook than it would have to the people of wibeaux. GO BEETERS!!!

-Luke Whitney

Morgan said...

Lucas... just want to know if you're someone who really knows what the true definition of "getting smoked" is. Carry on.

Just curious, how do you come up with declarations like, "but this win meant a lot more to the people of chinook than it would have to the people of wibeaux?" Do you sit long and hard contemplating things like that? What's your rationale? Is it because Wibaux has won a championship before? Do you know people from Wibaux that have told you such things?

Anonymous: "And sayin chinook cheated because of their cleats, for real?" It's time to revisit English classes and learn to interpret what you read... again.

"Chinook would have knocked wibaux out with a pair of flip flops on, the way they played last saturday." Oh yes, they did seem sooooo invincible, did they not? Wish I could have made a handsome little wager with you on that one.

Anonymous said...

A fresh perspective on a game with less than ideal conditions and choice of cleats. I know for a fact that physically this is one of the smallest Wibaux teams I have seen in years,having seen them play Absarokee earlier in the year. Coach Bertelsen even said that Chinook was physically a bigger team than his. I have both played and coached in conditions similar to the ones in Chinook and the bigger athlete has an advantage in those conditions. Cleats do make a difference and the molded rubber ones have the advantage in those conditions. I coach with Justin Helvik, who played on a championship team in Wibaux and the conditions were similar when they defeated Medicine Lake, he told me he changed his choice of cleats for that game. Both teams were physically big teams and relied on a straight ahead run game for much of the game. Suffice it to say if you are the larger athlete the smaller athlete will look like they are on skates when they collide. Yes if the conditions were ideal Wibaux could have been more competitive and I actually thought they might win due to the experience factor. But congratulate Chinook for winning the title and leave it at that. I have coached long enough to know when things go bad kids have a tendency to get down and scores do get out of hand, even in a championship game. Dean Ashley

Tess said...

Coulda Woulda Frickin' Shoulda. WHO CARES! Home field advantage is part of the game. Any real football player knows this. As far as the weather conditions... are these Wibaux people without T.V's Radios and/or internet connection? How about reading a weather forecast or checking on the previous conditions in Chinook. I think if the Longhorns are the team they say they are they might have looked into those sorts of things. And had they, they'd realize we got about 2 inches of rain suddenly followed by 6 inches of snow and freezing conditions ever since. Our community did everything they could to Hoon Field to make it a "level playing field" as you like to put it. But the fact of the matter is we live in NORTHCENTRAL MONTANA.... its gonna flippin' snow. I think we could have put our boys in flip-flops and they could have outscored your Longhorns. We were bigger, faster & stronger. You could tell by the looks on those kids faces when they got up from a hit that they'd never been hit that hard in their lives. Are you blaming our hard hitting (something we've been known for all season) on cleats as well. Morgan, I'm sure it was disappointing for you to drive all the way up to Chinook and witness your team, not only lose, but by the biggest deficit in Montana Football History. But don't take away the fact that our boys came out to play. The bottom line is this: Wibaux has been highly over-rated this year and Chinook highly under-rated. We played, We won, Get over it!
And further more Morgan... if you could do math you'd understand that these kids could NEVER be apart of the 2005 team that lost to Drummond. We go to high school for 4 years and the 2005 football season was 5 years ago. And the majority of our kids are underclassmen... So what point exactly were you trying to make?
Quit making excuses. We teach kids that each day is a new day a new game. It doesn't matter what happened in the past, today is today. The bottom line: our kids won, yours didn't. The Longhorn football team played their hearts out, too. They have a lot to be proud of. They had a great season. Lets not make them look bad because you're a sore loser.

Tess said...

And Morgan: I don't care who you say you're a fan of. You claim to be an unbiased person, yet your sob story proves otherwise. We all expected a closer game, but that didn't happen. What exactly were you expecting to accomplish by writing this "assumption?" You are an instigator whether you admit it or not. This blog only makes assumptions, false accusations, and causes hard feelings. No one from Chinook EVER claimed that Wibaux were sore losers until you made them look that way. I'm not naive and understand that ALL Wibaux people don't necessarily share your views, but i'm sure they'd be happy to know how poorly you're "defending" them. I'm sorry some felt there was an unfair advantage, but we did all we could to make that field playable. Montana weather conditions have proven harsh in years past, we did the best we could.

The Wibaux players deserve so much respect and we gave it to them. By helping them up after each hit, by shaking their hands at the end of the game, and by showing up to play. You, Morgan, are causing an unnecessary battle between two communities in which you don't even live. Why? What is your purpose? Because we've proven your "cleats" argument is completely irrational. Is there another reason in which you have decided to cause an uproar among these people. And don't tell me its a private blog I can say what I want, because thats a lame answer. You can say what you like, but expect an outcome, expect people to be upset, and expect people to be on the defense. With technology today you knew both communities would be reading this and you capitalized on it. You're an adult you knew exactly what you were doing when you wrote this: Causing drama. So here you go!!! You got what you wanted! Now leave these kids and their families alone so they can celebrate a wonderful season!

Vincent Somerfeld said...

Not prepared for the conditions and having a level playing field would have made it a better game? Steel tipped cleats gave Chinook a 68 point edge, alright let us think this through. First off do we not live in Montana where it can be 70 degrees one day and the next -20? I mean lets get real complaining about the weather conditions and the field favoring one team is absolutely ridiculous! It snowed and the wind was blowing here in Bozeman for the state championship and no one cried about it saying it favored Bozeman High. Another point, the Class A game was decided 8-0 in favor of Miles City and there was a foot of snow. Welcome to football, and out door sport where athletes dare to brave the elements in a struggle against one another. That is what makes the game so great, it is outside in November, in Montana, so get used to it. As far as the cleat situation when I was still in high school and played 8-man football, my friends and I always had metal tipped cleats for three reasons. For one the had better grip on the field than the basic plastic cleats. Also the cleat themselves were replaceable if worn or damaged bringing me to my next point I owned the same pair for three years and made it every year; they just needed replaced cleats. When buying cleats you have options and choosing the cheaper plastic, non-metal tipped cleats is something that the buyer chooses; so do not try to blame Chinook for having them. I had the pleasure of playing in Wibaux twice in high school and once in Chinook and both towns offered different conditions and obstacles that had to be overcome. Whether the wind was blowing 45mph or it was snowing up north, we did not complain, they were just the better team, and it is sad that people have to stoop down to this level in order to justify losing. You lost again! If you want to solve the weather conditions to level the playing field build a dome until then deal with it.

Tess said...

well put Vincent!

Tess said...

Here's one more thing. A letter to our paper's editor this morning. From athletic director Paula Molyneaux. Just goes to show how much sportsmanship means to us here in Chinook, MT.
It was an amazing day on Hoon Field Saturday, Nov. 20, not only because our football team won its first ever State Championship, but also because we have a fantastic community who is willing to help whenever needed and in "sub-zero, OMG, we have a foot of snow weather."
I would like to take a moment to make everyone aware of the outstanding work force that appeared when needed. Many individuals and businesses worked diligently most of the day friday and saturday morning to assure that the two teams played on a decent surface, plus stayed warm in the process.
If you were at the game, you were able to witness firsthand the snow removal, tents and heaters that helped make conditions better for both players and fans. I am also proud to say that we provided the same comforts four our guests as we did our home team. So I extend heartfelt thank you to all who removed snow, brought equipment, set up tents, shoveled, and donated and set up heaters. Without this awesome community, the conditions of our field would have been unbearable. We could not have done this without you!
Thanks to the following for providing a work force and any needed equipment. You were instrumental in helping our football team make history on that memorable, but snowy and cold day. I hope that I have not forgotten anyone. Please know that everyone who extended a helping hand during this exciting even was deeply appreciated.
She goes on to thank 38 people and business that I will not list for privacy reasons.
But does that solidify the fact that we did all we could to make our field "fair" to play on?

Cocoa said...

Sorry - both teams are from Montana and if Wibaux was "unprepared" for the weather then they were unprepared for play the game. Snow in Montana in November???? Unheard of. I haven't lived in Montana in almost 15 years and even I wouldn't go to Chinook in November without being prepared for the weather and the ground conditions. Saying Chinook wouldn't have won if Wibaux had better shoes is about the same as saying Chinook wouldn't have won if Wibaux had played better. Can't blame it on the shoes or the weather. Seems like some of the players managed to overcome both obstacles and still play a great game. Wibaux may have had a better season, but if season stats were what really counted there wouldn't be much need for a championship game. Looks like Chinook showed up ready to play. They deserved the win and deserve recognition for being the better team on the day it really counted.

Morgan said...

Tessa... Agree about the remarks from the A.D. But, like others who have weighed in here, your interpretation of my post is just plain over-the-top... full of hysteria and over-embellished exaggerations. Talk about "uproar." Go back and read it again is all I can think of in response.

Anonymous said...

Morgan, the removable cleats that Chinook used during the game are the exact same ones that, according to Master Sports in Havre (where Wibaux stayed the night before the game) are "used by at least 50 teams in the state". The bottom line here is Wibaux thought this game would be a cakewalk. Why wouldn't they? They had just beat Drummond (perrenial class c power), Chinooks 1800 rushing yards/33 td's RB Tyler Molyneaux was hurt, everyone new that, and Chris Haider, another dominant player for Chinook, was suspended for the game. So, considering all of those factors it's easy to see that Wibaux thought all they had to do was show up to get the trophy. By the way, Have you bothered to call Coach Molyneaux or the AD at Chinook and ask them about the cleats or any other issue surrounding the game to get their perspectives on it? Believe me when I say I know them both pretty well and they are two of the most honest, hard working people you'll ever meet. A little research ahead of writing your "blog" might have showed that you were willing to put the time and effort into preperation for a product of yours the way Chinook was before the game. Next time, before blurting out a bunch of CRAP that will do nothing but hurt a group of people that take a lot of pride in what they do, do a little research and ask some questions, so you can write a little more accurate arcticle. This was completely irresponsible on your part and you owe pretty much everybody associated with Chinook football an apology. Are you willing to take the high road?

Anonymous said...

Excuses. It's all you EVER hear after a high school football game. You find a niche, and exploit it. What's your guys' problem?

I know for a fact, that if you take closer inspection of the 'illegal cleats', you will see it's not too hard to figure out. Stroh gave his previous cleats to Klingaman, to help deal with a foot injury, as they were easier on his foot (or so I'm told.) Jones, one of the other 'cheaters' looked to me like he was wearing Chris Haider's cleats from the season, seeing that he didn't have much use for them after he was ousted from his lifelong dream of playing in a state championship. The reason? Jones' old cleats were molded and were worn down by that time of the year so he exchanged them. But then again, who wouldn't? When you have just little stubs of rubber for traction, I'd trade up too! As for Stroh's so called, "new" "illegal cleats".... I saw those before the game and I must throw this out there, they were NOT new. They looked like they had been used for a season or two. Maybe not by him, maybe by someone else. Besides that fact, does Stroh ever really CUT or JUKE. He runs straight forward and if you get more than an arm on him, you'd slow him down. But Wibaux tried to arm tackle him and his insane wrestler balance helped him keep his footing. I was there, he was slipping too, as much as anyone else. You get momentum going and you won't randomly slip while running, usually when making a cut or juke, which Stroh doesn't use much.

Yes, it may have been a completely different game if it wasn't November, but that's part of championship football.

Morgan said...

I thought comment number two clarified the "legality" of cleats; that's why I posted it. Yet, many of you insist on accusing me of saying Chinook "cheated" when it came to cleats. Chinook won the game fair and square. They are the Class C eight-man state champions. Good on them. I just don't believe the score was truly illustrative of the difference between these two fine and well-coached teams—attributed to the contrasting overall footing each team possesed. Hurtful? Really?

Wibaux thought it was going to be a cakewalk and all they had to do was show up? Who shared this key piece of information with you or are you a reader of minds?

Anonymous said...

Proper footwear choice for any given playing conditions apparently does make a difference.

"... players from both sides have attributed the Giants' second half dominance to their selection of footwear."

Anonymous said...

Morgan, I have enjoyed reading your articles and viewing your pictures ever since I tripped across your web site 4 or 5 years ago. Your pics really capture the essence of small town football and the rural lifestyle. Your articles have always been positive writings about all the teams and places you've covered...until now! I know you believe yourself to be a "neutral observer", but it is clear in your past & current writings, that you do have a certain fondness and admiration for the Longhorns and their longstanding winning tradition. It is also obvious in this weeks article, that you had come to Chinook with a preconceived notion (bias) as to what kind of a game it should be. When the game turned into a route and it didn't meet your expectations, you felt the need to come up a with a hypothesis to explain it away as a fluke, or as you put it "a hiccup with epic repercussions". Your theory, is now being touted as fact by the Wibaux faithful, thanks to the power of the written word and the nature of the internet blogisphere. The problem here is that there is no truth to the allegations, but they will still continue to gain momentum as is evedinced by some folks referencing your article on other blogs, using your analysis to justify the assertion that Wibaux was robbed of a championship.

As for Cleat-Gate; I video taped most of the games for the team this year so I went back and studied all the games for foot attire. The tapes backed up what my son told me. There were only three players who were wearing different shoes than they did against Charlo and all the games prior. It was implied that this was a team (numerous key players) "upgrade" in footwear. The facts are that Robbie Kingaman was having foot problems, so Ben Stroh offered to let him wear his cleats and Ben grabbed a pair of lineman's cleats from a storage area. This change in foot attire happen the week before the PDB game. The game film confirms that Ben was wearing the cleats pictured in your article, and Robbie wearing Ben's cleats for PDB. Josh Jones was the only other player wearing a different cleat, which he borrowed from a sidelined player, because his molded cleats were wore down to the nubs. Thus, a case of musical chairs with cleats turned into the crime of the century.

About the field conditions; It did not get cleared for the first time until Friday. All our efforts went in to making it the best conditions possible, despite the God-given conditions we were delt. Nothing we did was to give a Chinook "the ultimate home field advantage", as some want the world to believe. Also, the football team practiced in tennis shoes, in the gym all week because of the weather conditions. They got onto the cleared field for the first time, for a half hour after school on Friday. Morgan, your assertion that "Chinook had all week to experiment on it's ice rink, so was able to make what ever footwear adjustments needed" is just not true. But these written words are all some Longhorn fans need feel cheated, and will forever feel that Chinooks win was not legit.

We have known this senior class of football players was pretty special since they were in Jr. High, when they absolutely dominated everyone they played. They had their eye on a state championship since that time, and all of us in Chinook KNEW it would happen. These kids dedicated themselve to the game, as well as year around weight training since they were in Jr. High. I am sorry that you went home feeling cheated by the outcome of this game, but it feels to me like it is the players & coaches of Chinook who are really being cheated because of the false accusations that are making the rounds, and that it will taint Chinook's championship in the minds of all those who chose to believe some of what has been written.

Congratulations to the Wibaux Longhorns for an outstanding season. Morgan, I look forward to many more stories and (excellent)pics in the future. Keep up to good work.

Cary Qualls

Power Pirate said...

Hi Morgan, thanks so much for shedding some light on this game. I have a brother who plays for PDB who played in Chinook the week prior, and sat wondering after that title game... mostly just if the northern C is that dominant this year, of if something else was a factor. Anyways, we love your articles and read them all the time. Thanks for all the photos and insight, you are great at what you do!

Roberts said...

As a coach it is your job to give your players the best advice to prepare them for a game. Wibaux is no stranger to late season games and weather can always be a factor. "If you don't like the weather in Montana then wait 15 minutes". Isn't that how the saying goes? I use to pack along 1 or 2 big bags of extra gear when I coached. Granted, you can't take a spare set of cleats for everyone. And, I've never been a fan of molded cleats. Just over ten years ago when I played, I wore the exact same screw in cleats as shown it the picture. Wow, seeing all these negative comments reminds me of our local paper.

Anonymous said...

so who going to be good next year

Anonymous said...

i herd is going to be good

Coach Yager said...

I think everyone was shocked by the score and looked for a reason why a state title game score would be 74-6. Looking for cheaters is a natural response, I still think the Patriots cheated when they beat St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl years ago. Back to the game, I know many of the people that worked very hard to clean the field as best as humanly possible, there was nothing more anyone could have done to make it any better. Montana has bad weather, not a lot anyone can do about it. Wibaux has been and is a well coached team, that can be the only explanation for their year in year out success. I remember when they whipped my high school football team 55-0 in the playoffs back when Wibaux played 11 man. However, their style was not an advantage in this title game. Simply look at the size difference and anyone who has ever played football would know that bad weather (muddy, snowy) benefit’s the bigger team, which Chinook was. Connlin Brown weighs well over 200, Josh Jones well over 200, Jorrell Jones well over 200, Cord Anderson almost 200, Ben Stroh almost 200, Tyler Molyneaux almost 200, Robby Klingaman almost 200. Chinook is simply a big team, they run the ball straight at you and dare you to stop them. And that worked against everyone this year. And that style is magnified in bad weather, Wibaux clearly was more of a “speed” team. I would guess they probably run a lot of screens and pass the ball efficiently, but that was close to impossible in the weather that day. As for Ben Stroh cheating, Morgan you probably should probably do some research on the kid, beyond the fact that he has never been accused of cheating before you might be interested to know that he has lost only 1 match in high school wrestling and was taken down only once last year (as a Soph). He dominated every opponent he faced last year and barring divine intervention, he wont lose again in HS. Any coach would want 20 Ben Stroh’s on their team, he is a good kid, a hard worker and immensely talented, nothing close to a cheater. You are entitled to your opinion, but the reason Chinook won big had nothing to do with cleats and more to do with the style of play. If the weather had been different, yes the game would’ve been closer, but we can look back on everything in life and say “if.” Chinook was a good football team, their record showed that, don’t take anything away from them. I honestly think you should call Ben and apologize to him.

Anonymous said...

i have only seen one person from Wibaux comment on here and they weren't being "sore losers" at all as far as i can tell. and they said that Chinook deserved it so just calm down. Chinook won. theres nothing anyone can do they earned it because they worked hard and so did Wibaux, obviously they both did all year since they played well enough to make it to the state championship.

Anonymous said...

Just throwing a fact out there. To whoever said "Chinook wanted it more than Wibaux" consider this. This past year made it three years in a row that Wibaux made the state championship and lost. So you don't think Wibaux wanted it just a lil bit??

Scott said...

Just to revisit this: Morgan did not accuse anyone of cheating. He wondered whether the cleats were legal. Then he researched and posted that they were legal. End of that discussion. It was an interesting bit of trivia that probably had a few readers wondering too, until Morgan provided the answer.

A 60-point spread might not be remarkable in AA ball, but in the title game a person can reasonably expect the score to be a bit closer. If Morgan sounded let down by the game's score, it wasn't out of some bias toward Wibaux, but a bias toward exciting, competitive games.

And congratulations to the champs on a great season!

Anonymous said...

Did you know this post was mentioned in the Slate podcast Hang Up and Listen. See more at

Morgan said...

"Poop Storm..." gotta love that.

Anonymous said...

Morgan, you continue to be an a_ _ ! Cancel your blog! All you do is come into communities and tear them up with your controversy. Just stay out of Montana and we will all be happier. You censor all blogs from your latest article and won't post anything that disagrees with you. Wow! What a big man you are!

Morgan said...

Nothing has been censored. I've only removed comments that were distasteful and thus, did not contribute to the discussion (and even those were few) Take a look at all the comments above and the follow-up too. The majority of them disagree with me (or as I see it, have twisted and misinterpreted what I posted). How is it that they remain if I censor everything?

"Tear down communities" ...oh yeah, nice drama.

Anonymous said...

If it were a team from Alabama, footwear would be an excuse. The real reason for Wibaux' shellacking is not equipment, they were out coached. Its Novemember - it will be cold and icy. Google - "what shoes to wear on cold and icy field" and go from there.

Anonymous said...

I was there. It was cold. Chinook outplayed Wibaux in every aspect of the game and both teams played on the exact same field. Chinook never gave up and played their hearts out. They won the game by a landslide and they are the STATE CHAMPS. End of discussion.