Thursday, October 24, 2013

Farson Fireworks

Troubled Quarterback by mdt1960
Troubled Quarterback, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
It may not have been a well-played game, but it certainly turned out to be a memorable one… a barnburner of sorts.

When I stepped out of the car in Farson for the Friday afternoon six-man shootout between Farson-Eden and Wyoming Indian, my excitement for the contest had diminished considerably compared to earlier in the week. Perhaps it had something to do with the cold wind blowing (despite being a sunny day), and given the 7,000 foot elevation of Farson, I should have expected it. I hadn’t slept well the night before either, making for a brutal five-hour drive in terms of staying alert behind the wheel. In a nutshell, I wasn’t exactly in a football-loving mindset when I arrived.

Thankfully, things turned around for me and like a snowball rolling down a big hill, by the time this game was nearing its completion, it had manifested into a huge event, one where I thought, “Wow, too bad there aren’t more people here to witness this dramatic conclusion.”

Right from the start, both teams came out scoring on their first possession. Wyoming Indian looked convincing in their quarterback senior Trevor Williamson. And when the Pronghorns of Farson-Eden lined up, I was stupefied to see that their starting offense was made up of juniors, sophomores and one freshman.

Following two quick scoring drives by each team, I heard one of the officials say to another, “Looks like we’re in for a track meet. Probably 72-70.”

I was doubtful if these two teams could put that many points on the board.

As the first half unfolded, the Pronghorns seemed to be gaining the upper hand over the Chiefs of Wyoming Indian; leading them by three touchdowns at the half to the tune of 39-20.

Game Officials by mdt1960
Game Officials, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
But, Wyoming Indian showed some spunk as they chipped away at Farson-Eden’s lead. With Farson-Eden’s advantage shrinking, Wyoming Indian’s intensity increased as well as that of the small crowd on hand. And, finally in the late minutes of the final quarter, the Chiefs managed to pin the Pronghorns deep into their own territory, causing a fumble in the end zone that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown.

A botched kick off return and penalty, found the Pronghorns with their back against the wall once again. The Chief defense notched a tackle in the backfield that was nearly a safety. With a minute remaining on the clock and on their own one-yard-line, the flustered Pronghorns called a timeout to regroup. As it turned out, the timeout was just what the doctor ordered as Farson-Eden called a play resembling the combination of a draw and counter. Junior running back Kelton Broadhead found daylight at the line of scrimmage and outran the Wyoming Indian defense down the home sidelines for the winning 79-yard touchdown (the longest touchdown possible on a six-man gridiron).

With little time remaining, the Chiefs tried to find one more magical moment, but Williamson was tackled behind the line of scrimmage as time expired.

It was a roller-coaster ride of a game.

As the field emptied out, I recalled the official’s casual prediction of a track-meet-like score in the early stages of the first quarter—he was more accurate than I ever would have given him credit. 128 points were scored between the two teams with Farson-Eden coming away with the win of 67-61.

Finally, I’ll credit the kids from Wyoming Indian for keeping their heads up during the handshakes that followed the game. They were ambassadors of good sportsmanship in the end. They had nothing to be ashamed of in their comeback. Yet, a couple of them were shedding tears following the handshakes. I thought to myself, “Who says Native American kids only care about basketball games?” The players from Wyoming Indian had given it their all.

As for Farson-Eden… look out for the Pronghorns next year. They might not just make it into the playoffs, they may go deep as every starter is returning.

Postscript:  This victory for Farson-Eden resulted in their first earned playoff spot since their program started up in 2009.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Meeting in the Middle

Six-Man Mecca by mdt1960
Six-Man Mecca, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
The MonDak Thunder is a six-man football co-op between the two schools of Westby, Montana and Grenora, North Dakota. Clark Fork is also a co-op between Alberton and St. Regis, Montana. The two programs played this past weekend in a six-man football game held at Reed Point. Nothing unusual here unless you start looking at a Montana road map.

It is 635 miles between Westby, Montana and Alberton, Montana. It’s a bit farther (665 miles) if you count the distance between the Grenora, North Dakota and St. Regis, Montana. As it turned out, it was only 434 miles from Westby to Reed Point and a mere 314 miles from Alberton to Reed Point.

One MonDak fan traveling from Grenora said he made the drive in about seven hours, but he also picked up a speeding ticket in Fairview on the way.
Nevertheless, it was only 121 miles for me—just a little over two hours which included a coffee and fuel stop in Red Lodge.

I was curious about this game not only because both teams brought stellar records to the contest, but I wanted to know how this game materialized in the first place when schedules were put together last spring. After asking a few questions to those in the know, I discovered the rationale wasn’t as mysterious as I had dreamed.

It really came down to filling a bye week and both teams were facing byes at the same time. In particular, Clark Fork hails from the understaffed Western Conference with only six teams. As a result, even with one out-of-conference, regular-season game, Western teams would end up with two byes in their schedule unless they were willing to consider some “creative scheduling” as Clark Fork engineered with MonDak.

Slashing Field by mdt1960
Slashing Field, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
And so it came to be. Two football teams representing the extreme geographic regions of our country’s fourth largest land mass state met in Reed Point on a Saturday afternoon. As it turned out, MonDak was the victor in a well-played contest of East vs. West.

I wrote an earlier post about how teams from years and years ago may have met halfway and played football in a middle-of-nowhere wheat field. I’m not sure how much truth there is regarding such folklore since I’ve never been presented with any particulars. Nonetheless, the Clark Fork vs MonDak showdown might be a modern-day version of such meetings. Thanks to improvements in communications and transportation, it will never have to be as primitive either.

Postscript: In true rugby fashion, the twenty-eight members of the MonDak football team wear jerseys that are numbered one through twenty-eight. There’s no one playing center wearing number fifty-three, or a defensive tackle wearing number seventy-five.

And twenty-eight is a formidable roster for a six-man football team.