Havre Daily News Sports
Even though it is only mid-September, it isn't too early to point towards big high school football games in Montana. On the Hi-Line, there is a huge battle to be waged in the Class C Northern Division in Chester.
Tonight, the upstart Chinook Sugarbeeters take their perfect 2-0 record on the road for the first time this season as they visit the 1-1 Chester/J-I Hawks at 7:30.
Although both teams have a long way to go before even thinking about the playoffs in late October, tonight's clash will have lasting implications for both the winner and loser.
"I think this is a very important game for a number of reasons," said Chinook head coach Matt Molyneaux. "For us, it will be a huge measuring stick to find out where we fit in this conference.
"And it is also a very big game for Chester because they already have one loss this year," he added. "So it should be a very close and entertaining game."
Indeed, the Hawks suffered a tough season-opening loss at North Star High School that has seemingly put their backs against the wall for the rest of the season.
Chester/J-I did rebound this past week with a route of Great Falls Central, but the damage that was done in the loss to the Knights was two-fold. The Hawks lost senior quarterback Kevin May to a sprained right knee. leaving his status as questionable for tonight's game with Chinook.
Still, the Hawks can persevere with a strong rushing attack led by stout running back Matt Wicks. Derek Fraser also played well in the absence of May a week ago, scoring three touchdown.
"There is no doubt that Chester is still a very good football team," Molyneaux said. "They have traditionally been a great running team and that is what we are preparing for. We expect them to come out and really try to test our defense."
This game for Chinook will indeed be a test. Although the Beeters are 2-0 in their inaugural year in Class C football, they have yet to face an upper-tier Northern Division powerhouse like the Hawks.
Chinook's wins have come in blowout fashion against GFC and Hays-Lodge Pole. Still, Molyneaux said that he likes the start his team is off to this season. He feels confident that it will play well in Chester tonight.
"Obviously we are very happy with the start we are off to this season," he said. "We are playing pretty consistent football on both sides of the ball. But we know there are areas we need to keep getting better, especially on defense.
"This game is a huge measuring stick for us as a team. But I also feel real good about our chances if we go down there and play like we're capable of playing."
If Chinook gets the production out of senior Chad Beck that it got last week against Hays-Lodge Pole, then the Hawks may be in for a long night. Beck rushed for a pair of touchdowns and returned a punt for another score. He also took an interception back for a score. Quarterback Adam Hayes has also been steady directing Chinook's eight-man offense.
"We are coming along really nicely and obviously we are off to the start we hoped for," Molyneaux said. "But this is a very big game and it is one that the kids have been looking forward to since practice started.
"Chester is going to be very physical and very tough on both sides of the ball," Molyneaux added. "But our kids are very ready to go down there and play a good football game against a good football team. It should be a very exciting game."
Tonight's Northern C divisional clash between Chinook and Chester-J-I is set to kickoff at 7 p.m. at Chester High School Stadium. The game can be heard in Chinook and Havre on 101.3 KRYK-FM