Chris Peterson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
All across the state of Montana, high school football teams are preparing for the start of the state playoffs. And two of those teams happen to be Hi-Line schools Chester/J-I and North Star. The C/J-I Hawks (6-2) have probably the toughest task of any team in the Class C eight-man football playoffs, as they have to go on the road to play the top-ranked Centerville Miners (8-0), who are the defending eight-man state champions and winners of 20 straight games. “We know that no one is giving us a chance to win,” C/J-I head coach Jim Vinson said. “But I like being the underdog. We have absolutely nothing to lose and we are just going to go out and play as hard as we can, then see what happens.” The Hawks know from experience the strength of Centerville. Earlier in the season, the Hawks traveled to Centerville with hopes of an upset on their mind, only to limp away with a 42-6 defeat. “I know that the score ended up being pretty ugly the first time,” Vinson said. “But we had over 300 yards of offense. We just couldn’t finish in the red zone. We had six chances in the red zone and got no points. So we think that we can play with them, we just have to finish and take advantage of our opportunities.” The Hawks finished fourth in the Northern C conference. They clinched a playoff berth with their victory over Simms two weeks ago. Their only other loss on the season came at the hands of arch rival Sunburst by the score of 28-26. Leading the Hawks into the game will be star quarterback Tyler Han. Han has thrown 24 touchdown passes this season and ran for 10 more scores. Han's top targets are senior receivers Callan McKinley, who has hauled in nine touchdown passes, and Shay Richter, who also had nine touchdown receptions. However, the Hawks aren’t just a passing team. They have a strong running game as well that is sparked by junior running back Zack Melton, who has ran for 10 touchdowns this season. The Miners have their own fair share of talent led by Craig and Ryan Halko. Ryan Halko is the key to the Miners dominating running game, while Craig Halko is the top target for stellar quarterback Dan McGuire. “We have got to contain Ryan Halko and Craig Halko,” Vinson said. “They have an explosive offense and we are going to have to play really well defensively to give ourselves a chance to win. But like I said before we have nothing to lose and we are going to pin our ears back and let it all hang out.” Meanwhile, North Star (4-4 overall, 3-3 conference) will be participating in the Six-man playoffs after a fourthplace finish in the Northern Division. However, finishing fourth means that the Knights will have to do battle with Roberts (6-2), the six-man Eastern Division champions. The Knights go into the game healthy for the first time this season, as Josh Beaudry and Chaz Hornick return from injuries this week. “I haven’t had a fully healthy team all season long,” North Star head coach Steve Simonson said. “So they are going to see a different team than we have had all year long.” However, the Knights fate will rest on the legs of senior running back Adam Chvilicek. Chvilicek is the key to the Knights' running game and their offense. Yet, the Knights also throw the football effectively with senior quarterback Zack Halter and standout receivers Zack Rambo and Cody Jurenka. Defensively, the Knights will have three players to be concerned with when it comes to the Rockets, quarterback Seth Baldwin, running back Taylor Sidwell and tight end Ramon Hildalgo. C/J-I and Centerville will kickoff in Centerville on Saturday at 1 p.m. North Star and Roberts will kickoff in Roberts also at 1 p.m. on Saturday.