CHINOOK — The Chinook Sugarbeeters were trying to make history, but it was history which wasn’t on the Beeters’ side.
Having never played for a state championship in football at any level, Chinook also had history working against it at halftime of Saturday’s Class C semifinal game with Northern C rival Power-Dutton-Brady in Chinook.
History says teams just don’t come back from 26-6 halftime deficits, especially teams that rely so heavily on the running game.
But Saturday afternoon was all about history for the Beeters and they overcame plenty of it by scoring 22 unanswered points in the second half to down the Titans 28-26 and reach this Saturday’s state title game where they’ll host Wibaux.
“There was no bout in our minds at halftime,” said Chinook senior running back Tyler Molyneaux, who missed most of the game when he re-aggravated a leg injury early in the first quarter. “Every day, our coaches preach about overcoming adversity. And we listen. I don’t think anybody on this team ever thought we were out of this game.”
Maybe not out, but Chinook’s backs were certainly up against the wall after the Titans shocked the Beeters by scoring on a 24-yard run on their first play from scrimmage to lead 6-0. And while Chinook dismantled P-D-B 54-6 back on Oct. 1, the Titans quickly served notice that the semifinal bout was going to be different.
“No matter how hard you work, how hard you prepare, these are kids and they may have come out a little flat,” Chinook head coach Matt Molyneaux said. “We beat them pretty good when we played them (Titans) in the regular season, and maybe we were resting on that a little in the first half.
“But a lot of that credit also goes to Power-Dutton-Brady,” he added. “They came in here and took it to us right away, and unfortunately for them, they lost two very good players to injury, or who knows what might have happened. But they played really well, and it was a hard-fought football game all the way.”
And the Titans did play well, exploding for three straight touchdowns to open up a big lead. After Chinook answered the opening score with a 28-yard Josh Jones touchdown reception, the Titans scored 20 unanswered to go into the locker room riding high.
And with Chinook being a predominantly run-first team, a second-half comeback was going to prove difficult, especially without its star running back hampered by injury. But that’s just what the Beeters did.
The comeback started with a quick interception in the first minutes of the third quarter by Robby Klingaman. And that’s when a new star emerged for the Beeters. Freshman Zach Molyneaux scampered 18 yards for the first of two huge scores by the younger brother of Tyler and the son of Chinook’s head coach. Zach’s first touchdown pulled Chinook to within 26-12 with 8:41 left in the third quarter, but the Beeters were just getting started.
Chinook’s defense came up big time-and-time again throughout the second half, and after the Beeters turned the ball over on downs on the Titan goal-line, Chinook’s Lane Schmitt and a host of Beeter defenders tackled Tiegan Johnson in the endzone for a safety, inching Chinook ever closer at 26-14 with 4:12 left in the quarter.
After allowing huge gains, especially through the air in the first half, Chinook’s defense stiffened mightily in the second half, getting three Titan turnovers, a bunch of three-and-outs and timely sacks on P-D-B’s backup quarterback, Kyle Pederson.
“That’s what we love to do here,” Josh Jones said. “We love to play defense. We got big plays from our ends, big hits from our linebackers and big interceptions. Everything just started to click for our defense in the second half, and that’s when you know and everything all of the guys on this team do to prepare pays off. We just kept fighting.”
And with the third quarter ending with Chinook’s defense on fire, the final stanza began with plenty of fireworks. Chinook’s workhorse fullback Ben Stroh, who got the bulk of the carries Saturday, broke off a 55-yard run, breaking multiple tackles on his way to the endzone to pull the Beeters to within six points at 26-20 with the entire fourth quarter remaining.
And with the Chinook crowd in a frenzy, the Beeters kept going.
Chinook got the ball back after a great pass breakup by Schmitt as it looked like P-D-B was going to score, then Zach Molyneaux went back to work. In just two plays, Molyneaux marched 49 yards, including a 34-yard run down the left side which resulted in the game-tying touchdown at the 7:54 mark. From there, Stroh powered in Chinook’s only successful conversion try of the day, and the Beeters had a 28-26 lead, their first and only lead of the entire game.
There were still tense moments as P-D-B had two more possessions in which to win the game, but the hero of the day, Molyneaux came up with one big INT at the 3:27 mark and Klingaman got his second pick with 2:15 left to salt the game away.
And when the final gun sounded, not only had the Beeters made some history, they had overcome the adversity the senior Molyneaux spoke off. Chinook shrugged aside a big halftime deficit, three turnovers and an injury to a running back who came into the game with over 1,800 yards on the season.
“You always have a chance. If you keep on fighting, you'll get it eventually,” Jones, who played three different positions on Saturday said.
The younger Molyneaux scored twice while gaining 122 yards on the ground and corralling the key fourth-quarter INT. Stroh chewed up 157 yards on 28 carries, while Chris Haider and both Jorell and Josh Jones led the Beeters in tackles.
As a team, Chinook outgained P-D-B 326-136 in total yards, with 298 of them coming on the ground. Tiegan Johnson was a force for the Titans, who’s only two losses this season came at the hands of the Beeters, with 74 yards receiving.
“We made adjustments offensively, and they paid off," coach Molyneaux said. "There were scenarios we worked on all week, because we didn't know if Tyler would be able to play.
“We made some adjustments on defense in the second half, particularly moving Zach over to cover Tiegan Johnson and those adjustments paid off. It was just a great effort by our whole team though. We had guys really step up in the second half. Can’t say enough about the way Ben Stroh played today, and I thought the play of our lines, offensive and defensive was really big. All those guys just played tremendous today and it made a big difference.”
And with one historic day complete, Chinook (10-1) now turns to another. Before Saturday, the Beeters had never played in a semifinal game, and now they’re hosting a state title game against defending state champion Wibaux (11-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. in Chinook.
“It means alot to everyone here,” Tyler Molyneaux said. “No Chinook football team has ever been here before, at any level of football. So to have a chance to play for a state championship, and have that game be at home, it’s something that everyone around here has been dreaming of. It’s something the whole town is proud of.”